Venice Film Fest’s VR Section Rebrands As Venice Immersive

The virtual world just got bigger at the Venice International Film Festival, which has launched its largest selection of XR (extended reality) projects to date.

A total of 75 in-person experiences are being showcased on Lazzaretto Vecchio, a small island across from the Lido, where 5,000sqm of exhibition space have been dedicated to 360° videos and XR works using headsets as well as installations, live performances and virtual worlds. It ran from September 1-10.

The full line up of 43 immersive works from 19 countries – 30 in-competition, 13 out-of-competition, as well as one film screening – will be presented on the aptly named Venice Immersive Island (an actual Venetian island, Lazzaretto Vecchio).

“We are staging the largest ever immersive exhibition ever in the world,” says Liz Rosenthal, who has co-curated the competitive sidebar with Michel Reilhac since 2017. “It truly is massive. You have to see it to believe it.”

Formerly known as Venice VR Expanded, the rebranded Venice Immersive “intends to acknowledge the growth of immersive media beyond the technologies of virtual reality and to include all means of creative expression in xr” including a collection of 20 stand-alone works, 11 installations, seven 360° videos, five vr worlds on platform VRChat, and one feature-length screening (U.K. documentary We Met In Virtual Reality by Joe Hunting).

“We were confronted with the decision of hybrid we wanted this edition to be and discovered, through a survey of the field, that they wanted it to be almost 100% physical with very little online,” he says. “The main reason is that when you make content available online, you are de facto distributing the experiences. As a major event, we need to support the rights owners, producers and artists as they try to start selling this content, which remains very difficult.”

The first VIM – Venice Immersive Market, a part of the Venice Production Bridge, also ran from September 1-6, and there was be a presentation of the immersive projects selected for the Venice Gap-Financing Market (September 1-4).

“The work we’re showing sits in a more artistic entertainment space than a pure gaming world and the storefronts that exist for the headsets tend to be more geared towards gamers,” adds Rosenthal. “So the biggest challenges reamin curation, exhibition and distribution. Advances there would drive development into the area.”

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