Last month, Comcast Ventures trekked to the snow-capped mountains of Park City, Utah to explore the growing virtual reality presence at the Sundance International Film Festival. In addition to hosting virtual reality demos at a Comcast NBCUniversal event with VR portfolio companies Baobab Studios and NextVR, Comcast Ventures also supported "Giant", a VR short that transports a viewer into the experience of a family struggling to survive in an active war zone.
"Giant" joined part of the festival called New Frontier, which highlights the work of independent artists working at the convergence of film, art, media and technology. Celebrating its 10th anniversary at Sundance, the New Frontier installation housed dozens of projects across all spectrums of virtual reality in one location, providing festivalgoers with a full day of the most cutting edge VR experiences from top filmmakers from across the globe.
Inspired by true events from the direct personal experiences of director and co-creator Milica Zec, who grew up in war-torn Serbia, "Giant" transports the viewer into the family’s makeshift basement shelter, where two parents attempt to distract their daughter by telling a story about a giant - to combat the noises of bomb blasts outside. In order to make the experience feel real, the team combined a live-action performance shot in front of a green screen with real actors, inside of a real-time game engine that allows the viewer to look around, a milestone in VR filmmaking.
"We had an amazing experience at Sundance Film Festival New Frontier and came back overwhelmed with the response we’ve received from the press and the public," said Milica Zec, director co-producer of "Giant." "Many people were crying after watching it, and many said that it changed their viewpoint on wars, on their own safety, on the world. What’s more is that those conversations became discussions about the state of the world, and the role we ourselves play in it, which was the very purpose for which we created this project in the first place."
Since its premiere, "Giant" has been lauded as a seminal expression of the potential of virtual reality as a storytelling vehicle, and has been featured in numerous press outlets as one of the top VR experiences at Sundance 2016.
Hear more from the team on "Giant," the state of virtual reality and VR predictions for Sundance 2017.