The Tribeca Film Festival's pageant of immersive projects kicks off Friday, with new tech spectacles on display and a virtual wing you can visit from home.
The Tribeca Festival's annual Immersive showcase returns Friday, bringing an abundance of virtual reality and experimentations with next-gen audio and augmented reality -- even the premiere of a gigantic holographic display.
Over the last five years, Tribeca Immersive has grown into one of the biggest US events showing off the latest interactive storytelling in tech-forward formats like virtual reality. This year's exhibition includes a long lineup of VR, plus projects based in AR and binaural 3D audio.
There's even a holographic film showing off a new 65-inch display by Looking Glass Factory for the first time. It takes the pint-sized version CNET last looked at and stretches it out to cinematic scale.
This year's Immersive selection, which opens Friday and runs through June 19, also straddles the liminal state of the pandemic life now, with one foot stepping back into in-person norms and the other still standing in the virtual replicas of events during the COVID-19 lockdown. Tribeca Immersive holds in-person experiences accessible only in the fest's Lower Manhattan stomping ground. But the exhibition also has a virtual wing that can transport you from your home to a fanciful gallery of VR pieces, if you have a $5 ticket (but also a relatively expensive VR setup).
"We have learned and evolved over the course of the past two years, so that both the physical presence and the digital presence are equally important," Casey Baltes, the vice president of Tribeca Games and Immersive, said in an interview ahead of the festival's opening.
Conceptually, 2022's Immersive program curates its two dozen pieces across four themes, according to Ana Brzezińska, Immersive curator. They comprise motifs of nature, society and identity, art and memory, and "tomorrow," she said.
The virtual Immersive environment reflects those themes too, Brzezińska said. Tribeca commissioned VR artist Dani Bittman to build the space, creating an "Alice in Wonderland experience" that presents its 12 projects on view when you explore its periphery.
Most of Tribeca Immersive is installed at Spring Studios, the festival's central hub. But two in-person pieces take place elsewhere in the city: A VR project called Evolver taking place at a stand-alone space near the southern tip of Manhattan, a project that involves well-known auteurs like director Terrence Malick as a producer and Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood providing music, and a site-specific piece called Mushroom Cloud NYC / Rise you can unlock on a pier on the Hudson River, which incorporates augmented reality and an NFT.
The Spring Studio's main space is where Looking Glass' giant holographic display is screening Zanzibar: Trouble in Paradise, a lusciously shot documentary short about women who farm seaweed on an African island as they grapple with impacts of climate change.
The Spring Studio's installations also include some projects exclusively available there in person:
Other Immersive projects are available both in person and at home:
And finally, a few projects are exclusive to the virtual Immersive environment:
To access these from home, you need a VR headset that connects to a computer and can run programs through Steam because Tribeca Immersive's exhibit was built in the Museum of Other Realities, a Steam-powered VR environment.
The Oculus Quest, the country's most popular consumer VR headset, isn't enough on its own. If you want to use your Quest to explore Tribeca Immersive, you'll need to connect it to a pretty powerful laptop or PC with its Oculus Link feature.