Annecy 2021: XR side, “a small revolution is underway” [interview]

Arnaud Miquel, coordinator of [email protected], answers our questions about the program for this 2021 edition and the porosity between video games and the world of extended reality.

The selection is once again very eclectic. What can we expect? And do a theme or at least techniques emerge from the different films?

Among the 75 projects registered (including 28 carried out by women), 9 were selected. A selection marked by the diversity of forms and purposes. Committed films that bring us face to face with today’s world with Dislocation, Replacements (Penggantian) or 4 Feet High, works that make us breathe, with the ardor of a little investigator in Madrid Black, or the fantastic quest of a child in search of his sister in Paper Birds. Also, approaches that always push narrative limits further thanks to Entropia recoding, the aquatic adventure of Biolum or the interwoven stories of The executioner at home, which question our shadows and our humanity. And for the first time in this selection, a graduation film, Strands of Mind. Whether in Annecy or in the other major XR festivals, 2D and 3D digital animation confirm their preponderant place in the selections because these are the techniques that allow the most freedom of creation and immersion. Today, these are the only ones that actually allow a full 6 DoF (six degrees of freedom) experience.

Regarding WIP XR [work in progress], we will have two projects at opposite ends. Ascenders is an extremely fun adventure, bordering on video games. Wheras’ Immersion, Augmented Nature puts all the dreamlike potential of animation at the service of a story about biodiversity over the seasons.

Do you feel an evolution in the works that will be offered, in quality as in quantity? The XR seems to take more and more place in Annecy. Is the market coming to some form of maturity?

We are relatively stable in terms of quantity (between 75 and 90 animated works received per year) and a more irregular quality depending on the year. 2019 and 2021 are very good years! On the market and future of XR: VR works represent the majority of Digital Experiences pitches received in recent years, but fewer partners willing to finance are fewer than for more traditional works. The key to the future of this industry lies in the adoption of dedicated practices and tools by both the general public and professionals.

This is why in Annecy, we have a transversal approach including at the same time an official selection of the Festival which allows to legitimize this form of creation, a spotlighting on the market to help the projects to find partners, a “sharing” approach. of knowledge ”through conferences and WIPs to make professionals aware of these creative and technological issues, and finally an exhibition for the general public to make as many people as possible discover what virtual reality is.

Regarding access to helmets, how did you adapt to the health crisis?

We have reviewed all our procedures for accessing the works in order to comply with sanitary rules: limitation of the number of spectators simultaneously in the room, rental of disinfection equipment between each spectator … In 2019, the competition brought together more than 4 000 spectators. We should be on just under 1,000 this year.

What can the general public find at the XploR Zone?

A large selection of immersive works offered by our partners. For example, on the occasion of the tribute to African animation, France Télévisions will present Atomu, a multi-user experience by Shariffa Ali and Yetunde Dada that plunges us into the heart of a Kenyan myth of the fluidity of genres. A “Made in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes” stand, including two works by Atlas V made in their Lyon studio Albyon, will highlight works that have marked us over the past two years: Gloomy Eyes, Cristal for the best work in 2019 and Battlescar – Punk Was Invented, Special mention from the 2020 jury. Disney + will present an augmented reality experience on the universe of Luca, the latest feature film from Pixar studios. Finally, Arte Digital Experiences will offer a selection of works from their large catalog, for young and old.

The keynote aroundEvolver is obviously eagerly awaited, in particular thanks to its synopsis and in the name of its executive producer, Terrence Malick. I am very curious to know to what extent the “Malickienne” work can be transposed into VR…

For a decade, Terrence Malick’s cinema has taken a more intimate and experimental turn. We are delighted to see a director of his stature embrace virtual reality animation as a tool in the service of his creative ambition. This keynote will be the opportunity to tell the origin of this artistic adventure between the United States, England and France and to unveil some first images of the project. It will also be an opportunity to present the vision of Atlas V and Orange behind the technological and creative challenges of this extraordinary production.

The conference on the collaboration between video games and animation is particularly interesting. Are bridges getting easier and easier?

This is a trend that we are noticing on several levels and which should be confirmed in the years to come. By becoming one of the major sectors of the cultural industries, the video game has established itself as a creator of an unparalleled universe which some broadcasters and producers are appropriately seizing. Conversely, some video game studios have a cross-media reflection of their IP in order to reach different audiences and enrich the story. This is notably the case of Ubisoft, which has divisions dedicated to the production of films and series or VR LBE (Location Base Entertainment) experiences. It is also a trend in Africa where producers seek to jointly develop comics, animated series and video games. Finally, and this is undoubtedly where the main challenges lie ahead, more and more animation studios are experimenting with real-time software (historically reserved for video games) to build their animated projects. Both in terms of production pipelines and renderings, it’s a small revolution that is underway.

All the programming of [email protected] is at find on the festival website.

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