The Annecy XR program looks to the future

For the past six years, the Annecy Animation Film Festival has sought to anchor virtual reality producers within the global animation community.

After launching a dedicated storefront in 2016, introducing a full contest in 2019, and keeping the VR component active for two years of hybrid and online-only editions, this year’s comeback will highlight spotlight eight VR projects in competition, alongside three work-in-progress screenings, a pitch session and a series of high-profile talks dedicated to the future of the medium.

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“Our program reflects the diversity and richness of virtual reality today,” says Arnaud Miquel, XR program manager. “Annecy has always been a place of experimentation, and from the moment artists take up this medium to do something new, we want to support them and give them visibility.

On the competition side, the scripted short “Kidnapped in Vostok” by Jean Bouthors and the immersive documentary “Affiorare” by Rosa Schillaci will have their world premiere in Annecy, joining acclaimed projects such as “Samsara” by Hsin-Chien Huang, “Marco & Polo Go Round” by Benjamin Steiger Levine. » and « Glimpse » by Benjamin Cleary & Michael O’Connor in a tight selection with clear criteria.

“We can consider live action, but there must be a contribution from animation in the artistic development of the work”, explains Miquel. “Even the most experimental titles remain narrative. They share a goal and are more than interactive games.

A similar ontological concern is at the center of this year’s massive industry program, which aims to strengthen and enshrine VR animated film as a viable standalone medium.

“Animated virtual reality is at the crossroads of the hugely popular and lucrative animation and video game industries,” says Miquel. “We are dealing with relatively new professions and new technologies. Traditional training is not always highly developed in this area, so those with the skills are drawn to one pole or the other. We want to help people develop their careers [in this new field.]”

The three work-in-progress screenings will indeed serve as case studies exploring this point from an artistic perspective. Mathias Chelebourg’s gothic experience “The Canterville Ghost” can accommodate up to one hundred participants at a time, opening up as both a work of authorship and a shared social experience; the presentation of “Wallace & Gromit VR Experience” will focus on the adaptation, not only of well-known IP, but also between stop-motion and virtual reality; and “Nana Lou,” focusing on mortality, will show how immersive projects can tackle major questions in a dynamic way.

For other practical concerns, Annecy will host a series of conferences on June 14 under the title “Back to the future of VR”. The four conferences will cover financing, technological innovations, professional training and general troubleshooting, all with an eye on future developments.

“We are in an ever-evolving field,” says Miquel. “Our partners are looking for the right business models, the right distribution models and the best ways to attract audiences. It is therefore very important for us that Annecy tries to take some responsibility to help answer these questions.

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Ryan H. Bowman