#1059: Overview of SXSW 2022 XR Experiences & Events with Lead Programmer Blake Kammerdiener

There are nearly 40 XR experiences and special events programmed as a part of the physical SXSW festival in Austin, and I spoke with lead programmer Blake Kammerdiener to get the full run down of the 12 pieces in the XR Experience Competition, 21 pieces in the XR Experience Spotlight, and 6 XR Experience Special Events. [Disclosure: I was invited to serve on the SXSW XR Jury, which means that SXSW will covering my hotel from March 11 to 16th, which help me be in Austin covering all things XR for the Voices of VR podcast.]

Of the 33 experiences programmed in the competition and spotlight, 18 of these experiences will be made available by a new XR distribution platform by Eddie Lou’s Sandbox Immersive Festival called VAST, which the details posted at the SXSW XR Help Desk for SXSW badge holders and will be available from March 12th to March 20th. [I’ll try to update what will be available remotely through VAST as soon as I find out.]

Kammerdiener told me that music is a big theme this year with various pieces being shown as a part of the selection, but also a number of mixed reality & online music performances. See below for the full details.

All SXSW badge holders will get access to the online portions of the festival, but if you’re not planning on attending in-person, then the SXSW Online Badge costs $519, and includes many other things beyond the XR online experiences, like film festival screenings, SXSW keynotes and talk archives, & music shows, but also access to the VRChat worlds and online experiences.

The main SXSW website is kind of confusing and overwhelming if you’re only interested in the XR portions. There is a SXSW XR Experience landing page, but I found that this press release has more up-to-date and more relevant links and pointers. I’ll summarize them down below for own reference as I make my own trek out to Austin and plan out my schedule.

The SXSW COVID-19 precautions and are worth checking out if you will be there.

I’ll also ask others to post links to XR events or XR experiences on Twitter to help aggregate all of the XR happenings at SXSW, which you can get more information and context on that in the Twitter replies here.


This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to The Voices of VR Podcast. So in today's episode, I'm going to be trying to give a broad overview of all the various different XR events that are happening at South by Southwest, especially the XR competition, as well as the spotlight. So there's 33 different experiences that I had a chance to talk to the lead programmer, Blake Hammondator, to talk about each of the different programs as well as the surrounding events. There is an online portion to South by Southwest. So if you are not going there in physical reality, then there are going to be around 18 experiences that are available on vast. And that's a little over half of all the different program. And then there's a number of different online programs and events that are also happening within VR chat. So once you sign up, it's a little bit confusing, but I think if you get like a five hundred nineteen dollar online program, it gives you access to all sorts of other things, including the The film festival and music programs and a lot of the interactive conferences and the keynotes and lots of other stuff, but including also the online portion, which is a VR chat world. They can get access to there's special events that are happening in those different VR chat worlds, as well as different music programs that are happening and you'll get access to fast. It's a little confusing to sort all that out and I'll hopefully have a lot of the links down in the description that you can have a one stop shop to be able to help find all the different links into the programs and all the additional information. I was actually invited by Blake to be on the jury for South by Southwest competition, which means that they're paying for my hotel to be able to be there from March 11th to March 16th. I otherwise was not planning on going. It's not cheap to go to South by Southwest and it's still in the middle of a pandemic. And so I was a little bit hesitant, but given the opportunity to go, there's a lot of experiences that are not going to be made available online. So I figured I'd go and be able to both experience what's happening there, as well as, you know, see a lot of the stuff that I've been really looking forward to, like mirror shot and. Doing these mixed reality virtual reality experiences where they'll have these live concerts that are happening on Monday And yeah, lots of new music stuff that's happening here a number of different concerts that are happening online from room I've got a chance to see as a sneak peek and they're really pushing the edge of what's possible when it comes to immersive music So it's kind of a big theme this year in this year's program and yeah I just had a chance to talk to Blake about this year's program and some of the themes and highlights and specifically each of the different programs that are in competition as well as the spotlight and So that's what we're covering on today's episode of the voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Blake happened on Monday, March 7th, 2022. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:02:38.250] Blake Kammerdiener: Hi, I'm Blake Combardiner. I'm the Senior Manager for Film Festival Programming for XR and Film at South by Southwest. I oversee all of our XR Experience Exhibition and our XR Experience Worlds, presented by Fluff World this year, actually, which is pretty exciting, and then alongside a bunch of other fun film stuff.

[00:02:59.743] Kent Bye: The SXSW is having physical gatherings that's coming up here, doing all the normal things that SXSW is known and loved for in Austin. But there's apparently going to be also some aspects of the virtual XR program that's going to be available in a hybrid format. So maybe we'll start there with what's going to be available for people to see when it comes to the XR program this year at SXSW 2022.

[00:03:25.244] Blake Kammerdiener: Yeah, so first off, it's just so exciting to be back in person. And so we really wanted to be sure and do a big full focus on bringing South by Southwest back to Austin. We're coming in full force. We're kind of in great timing. We're really excited and people are excited to be here. So everybody's going to be around in Austin. But then at the same time, you know, we learned so much from last year when we put on our virtual event that we really wanted to bring some of those highlights and some of the great things to our audiences who can't be with us. And that includes a lot of the XR Experience programs or projects that we'll be playing. So one of the big hits from last year that we definitely are updating and moving forward with this year is our XR Experience Worlds. presented by Fluff World, and that's all in VRChat. So we'll have a new look on our VRChat worlds, where we worked with Vroom again, and they do such a great job, and they helped us build another super exciting world. It's so much fun. I can't wait for people to get in there to see it. So alongside that, we're utilizing a new platform called Bass, where we'll be hosting a lot of our 6DOF projects and 360 videos, and that'll be where you'll be able to go in and check out projects from our XR Experience competition and XR Experience Spotlight alongside one of our special events is actually going to be in there as well, where we're going to build out an NFT gallery, which I've been working on, which you'll be able to experience in Austin as well as in Vast.

[00:04:47.439] Kent Bye: Okay. So Vast, my understanding is that it's a project from Eddie Lau. I know he's been doing the Sandman VR festival in China that he's brought me out to one of the years, but I met him at Sundance a number of years ago, actually. And so he's been doing a lot of really amazing work with immersive storytelling in China, but apparently this is a new distribution platform as I guess there's other alternatives that have been out there in terms of museum of other the realities some of the festivals have been using and some people just referencing people off to Viveport or linking to links to Oculus platform. And so it's been a little bit of a mishmash of trying to get access to some of these remote experiences. And so maybe you could just explain how you're integrating with vast for. How people are going to, is it going to be like similar to the museum of other realities method where you're going into this immersive space and then downloading the program? Is it a similar thing where you're going to go off and download things from Viveport? So yeah, just trying to get a sense of how this is going to be all set up.

[00:05:41.307] Blake Kammerdiener: Yeah, absolutely. You know, we were excited to work with Eddie because he came to building the platform out of, like you said, working with his Sandman Festival. And so he built the platform with kind of a festival mentality in mind. And so we're just super excited to explore with him, you know, this opportunity. And it is a social VR platform. in there you'll be able to download each individual project as you'd like directly from the vast system and then you'll be able to watch it through the vast system as well and so this way but keeps everything nice and secure and at the end of the festival you know that'll be your last opportunity to see the project so if you kind of want to run it through the event it'll be up I I think we have it set from March 12th through the 20th is I do believe the date. So we kind of like a little bit offset there because we'll be opening in person on the 13th with a little preview on the 12th. And so we wanted to kind of fit within that, but then also give it a little additional opportunity after the physical exhibition closes on the 15th of March. And then you'll get a few extra days, like if you missed anything, you can go back and check it out for those who are in person as well.

[00:06:41.422] Kent Bye: One follow up question is how much of the program is going to be made available on the virtual platform versus what's going to be only in the physical installations at South by Southwest.

[00:06:52.487] Blake Kammerdiener: There's a good percentage actually so it's not everything. There are some projects that won't be available that will only be available in person. And while most everything you know like, don't quote me on this but I want to say like maybe roughly 70% of the program is in there. And then there's a handful that while they're not going to be in vast will be available to access. to our badge holders through various like the Oculus platforms and you go direct for some of them. There's some apps that you'll be able to go direct and get through their own websites, but for our badge holders and kind of listed behind our paywall.

[00:07:26.604] Kent Bye: Yeah, I guess I'm going to be there as a juror. And I'm actually, as I'm talking to you, I'm thinking about maybe I'll just bring a laptop and then be able to have like my PC VR rig because, you know, being there to see things in person has its advantages, but sometimes disadvantages when it can be difficult to see everything. So it'd be kind of interesting to have the hybrid type of experience while I'm actually there at South by Southwest as well.

[00:07:49.771] Blake Kammerdiener: That's actually one of the things I'm most excited about because across events quite often, you know, trying to get into the VR projects that you want to see can be challenging, right? And this actually creates a new level of access for not only our attendees that can't come, but for our attendees who can come, but can't get in, right? So there's like a whole new level of access there for these projects, which haven't had that access in the past, you know, sometimes almost exclusive, right? Because there's some longer projects who, you know, only 50 people might see it in a full event, but This gives that extra access that I'm really excited about for all of our attendees.

[00:08:25.987] Kent Bye: Okay. And are you going to be having meetups again, like you did last year in the VRChat worlds? And what are the other types of things that you're going to be having within VRChat?

[00:08:33.934] Blake Kammerdiener: Yes. So VRChat's been, it's, there's going to be a lot of fun stuff. We had a little bit more time to kind of work in it. We're going to have some of the similar things where we'll do some live in-person meetups. We'll do some live in-person like avatar based panel sessions. You can find all that at the contemporary XR version. Cause you know, we'll have several venues scattered through. But then we're also going to have some really cool live artist performances that you'll be able to find. We're going to have some like super cool parties. We're going to close it out with like an all night party where we're blending actually with a party that's happening live in France and Paris. So we're going to kind of bring the two worlds together. There's some super exciting stuff in there, I think.

[00:09:14.432] Kent Bye: And so there's something also new that I've noticed in the structure of the program, and maybe it's been there all along and I've just haven't noticed it, but you have like the competition for the different pieces that are in competition. And then you have a spotlight and then you have some other special, like the NFT gallery that you mentioned. And then I noticed that there was a whole new set of interactive prototypes that are going to be featured. And so maybe you could just give us an outline of the different categories of these immersive experiences that you're featuring here at this year's festival.

[00:09:43.994] Blake Kammerdiener: Yeah, this has been a constant evolution, honestly. We've always had a couple of pieces out of competition. And then we've had some years where most everything was in competition. And then last year was our first year to really do a hard split between a smaller number of competition films and then a larger spotlight section. And so this year, our competition film was being made up of, I think, 12 world premiere projects. And then our spotlight competition, we'll like an array of stuff that actually, you know, we took a little bit of freedom this year, I think, because so many projects at the start of the pandemic lost the ability to showcase their work to people who did not have headsets, you know, which is a large part of our attendee base. It's like one of the special things about South By and about being able to come in person and see stuff is that it opens your audience to a lot of these, like the non VR industry people or people who have already like adopted to the VR mediums. And so there's a different type of access. So we invited a few projects who people may have seen back pre-pandemic or just as a pandemic was getting started. And we're really excited to offer the opportunity for those projects to find new audiences and for our audience to be able to find those projects. So there's that. And then our special events section, because there's so many I don't know that the immersive medium is so wide. And there's, I don't know, there's just so many new things constantly evolving. We decided to add in our special events section. So we're doing one we're super excited about is our NFT gallery where we had several different curators come in and curate different selections of NFTs and they'll have some creator conversations there. or curator conversations where they'll come in and speak about the NFTs that they curated for their portion of the gallery, and that's throughout the 13th, 14th, and 15th as well. Then we're going to have some special events inside VRChat, like some dome-specific projects, like virtual dome projects, which are really fun and exciting, some other live-based events. as well as actually Miroshot. The band Miroshot is going to be doing one of their performances, one of their VR-based performances at a venue called the Hideout Theater. They'll have one night where they'll be showcasing it maybe five or six times, which will be super fun, super awesome, which was something we were going to do in 2020 with them. And we were all set and ready to go before the cancellation in 2020. And so we're really, really excited to be able to showcase their work here in Austin.

[00:12:03.880] Kent Bye: Yeah, I've been in touch with Roman of MirrorShot for a number of years, and I'm really, really looking forward to being able to see some of the first performances for myself, at least. I know they've been doing this kind of like secret shows where they've had these kind of hybrid playing live music while at the same time you're immersed within VR. So this hideout theater that's going to be there in Austin, I guess on Monday, and there's going to be like five or six shows. So I'm looking forward to being able to see what he's been up to. And also wrist brand is another thing that he's been working on as well.

[00:12:32.035] Blake Kammerdiener: Yeah, absolutely. And we're super excited to have them down. I've been waiting for it for so long.

[00:12:37.297] Kent Bye: Yeah, me too. Well, um, maybe we should dive in first with the competition and then maybe just kind of talk through things and maybe a good way to break this up is by genre from like 360 video to like live performances. And we'll start with. the types of experiences that require people to sign up, because those are always the ones that are the hardest to see. So maybe we'll start there. I know I saw there was a gumball dance. That's going to be a VR chat immersive theater from the ferryman collective. And so maybe you could just start with gumball and then go from there from other either live ticketed performances.

[00:13:12.832] Blake Kammerdiener: Okay. This is going to be fun for the jury. I know y'all are going to have a great time with this. So we're starting with our competition because they're going to have a lot of apples and oranges here, right? So you're going to have to compare and contrast. Dumbbell Dreams being the first one. It's a live theater performance we're super excited about. It's like a performance for three people at a time. We'll be doing several different performances each day. And so it's just like a fantastic, like amazing world that they built in VRChat that just instantly drew me in and, you know, a lot of fun puzzles. It's like a really fun, interactive, new way to do theater, to have a live performance, honestly. And I'm so excited for people to see it. Let's get into some mix stuff. Okay. Because that's the main one that's ticketed in competition, right? We'll get to some other ticketed in the other sections. Let's see. Chalk Talk Code Talkers is super interesting because it first came to me as like a kind of 360, mobile 360 project. And they'll be showcasing it that way, but they'll also be showcasing it in headset. It's going to have a really amazing installation, I think. It's going to be super touching. It's pretty short, but it's it had so much depth to it. It's a story about a troop of Choctaw First Nations group that went in World War I and were sent kind of to the front lines. And then all of a sudden, some of the heads hear them speaking in their native language and Instantly thought that they could use this to help save many troops as they were going through and they ended up actually utilizing it because I know a lot of people are familiar with the Navajo code speaking and World War Two, but this was actually a precursor to that and World War One, it's just beautifully done. Then we're going to have, let's see here, going back through history, I guess, is kind of a good genre. History of a Painting. This is the second episode of that. We premiered the first episode last year. It's just a really beautiful deep dive and an old artist into their painting, into their work, and into their history. And this is, like I said, second episode of a series. And I'm really excited for people to be able to see this. Then we're going to go into On the Morning You Wake to the End of the World, which This was produced by Atlas 5 and by Oculus, and this is a piece that was a long time in the works. Some people were able to see a small preview of it at Sundance, but we're being able to showcase for the first time the full project. And it's about the 38 minutes when Hawaii was given a warning of nuclear threat was imminent. And it is beautiful and touching, and I'm excited for people to be able to see that. Weird Times 360 video from the VR for Good team, really wonderful way to explore mental health issues and some of the ways that people internalize themselves and some of the things that can bring them out of that. It's a very touching piece. Then let's see. Yihyang Jiang, Carving with Memories, is a look at how places hold memories. And it's a beautiful look at how people grow and change and then how these places can actually help mold one's person as they grow. Then, let's see, Komez Alefo. All right, this is a telling of a Holocaust survivor story, kind of in a different way that I thought that was really interesting and from a different point of view from a survivor who fled, and it's about his journey through that space and time. Very beautiful piece. Then, let's see, more on the comic book style illustrated pieces. We'll get into Lustration VR, which is a series out of Australia. I do believe we're playing two episodes. I can't wait for people to see it because it's a super crazy journey through an alternate reality as someone travels almost through Purgatory, if you will, in a sense. And then, let's see, Black Ice VR, sci-fi, crazy, beautifully illustrated project that, again, you know, in that comic book style that I'm excited for people to see. And then we have back to more 360 artists related piece music based Megan the stallion. Welcome to the hottie verse is a great way of showcasing how musicians are moving into VR and utilizing VR to express their art. I think there's four songs we'll be showcasing videos for within that. And then with that, Red Ants VR is just like a super fun little piece. Again, how musicians are taking VR, using it to show their music in a different way. And it's super short, it's super simple, and it's freaking amazing. And how you get to interact with them and interact with the music itself. It's great. And that is competition.

[00:17:49.120] Kent Bye: Is there Paradise as well?

[00:17:50.901] Blake Kammerdiener: Oh, Paradise. Thank you. Audio. I knew I was missing one. That is an audio, immersive audio project done by Gabo Aurora and Darkfield. People do it together actually. So they built a new app for it. It's going to be super interesting how people react and how it changes for everyone. And I'm super curious. I honestly am super curious to see how, if people will do it multiple times and then see how the reaction is on each side. So can't wait to see that.

[00:18:18.430] Kent Bye: Yeah, I know that I've had a number of different dark field experiences and they've been doing a lot of this binaural audio experimentation. So I'm excited to see, I mean, there was a number of years ago, there was the Bose AR frames that I think helped to put a lot of spatial audio pieces. So I'm glad to see that there's still at least some spatial audio experimentation that's happening here. And it seems like mostly VR and maybe there's some AR pieces that are out of competition and spotlight, but were there any AR pieces that were in competition?

[00:18:45.897] Blake Kammerdiener: You know, it was funny originally, No, no, I'll just say, I'll say no. Originally I thought there was one and then it was submitted kind of as one, but then I realized it wasn't really AR, but it's a beautiful piece and more on the 360 side, it's great though. So no, no AR in competition outside of that.

[00:19:02.374] Kent Bye: Yeah, well, I'll be there. You actually invited me to be a part of the jury. So I'm excited to be able to watch all these and to deliberate with my fellow jurors, Lauren Hammonds and Nani Dela Pena. And Nani is actually going to be inducted into the South by Southwest Hall of Fame, which is really exciting for her to have her work be honored in that way. So. Warren, the former curator of the Tribeca Film Festival, now at the Time Studios Productions, working on different VR projects and whatnot. So excited to watch all of these pieces. And I guess, you know, there is this, like you said, the apples and oranges, how do you compare One genre, one strength, and you know, is it the emotion? Is it the technique? Is it the innovation? Because there's so many different genres. And so it's always interesting to see like, when you start to compare these next to each other, I'd say probably from looking at these pieces and knowing some of the work, but also looking at things like Tribeca, Storyscapes and Sundance and Venice and IDVA, DocLab, you know, there seems to be an aspect of storytelling that is the consistent through line amongst all of these pieces. And so at the end of the day, it's how well did they tell the story with the medium and how strong was the story and how is it a story that could only be told within the medium, I think is probably another thing that comes up, but. Certainly there's different things that are focusing on agency or embodiment or emotion or puzzle like things. So I think there's a lot of aspects for how to talk about these experiences, but at least it's always interesting to watch these pieces and to have that kind of deliberation process.

[00:20:32.375] Blake Kammerdiener: It's actually one of my favorite things that we're super honored to have you. We're so excited about our jury this year. We think that the three of y'all are top of the class in terms of your points of view and your experience within the industry. And it's actually like, I look forward to hearing that conversation every year because it's different with every jury and to see what each and every jury member picks up on is just so, so fascinating. And to hear that conversation, and you're right about there is the threat of storytelling and we've always brought in kind of one more element when we're looking at stuff in terms of just like artistic representation and artistic interpretation of the medium, because especially, you know, this year there seemed to be a lot of music and audio based stuff. And it's like, how do those artists now move into this medium, take that and help evolve and push the medium forward in a new way. It's super exciting. So I'm excited for that conversation.

[00:21:19.892] Kent Bye: Yeah. Yeah. And as I look back through the experience spotlight, like you said, it's interesting because some of these have appeared up for three to one year ago, or some of them are brand new, haven't shown anywhere. So I've probably of these that are listed, I've seen maybe half of them. And others that are new to me that I haven't had a chance to either see, or that just haven't shown anywhere yet. So maybe we could just go through the experience spotlight and talk through some of these experiences, because like you said, these are not the ones that you've elevated to the realm of competition. And maybe before we start to dive there, how do you determine what goes in the spotlight and what goes in the competition? Is it your own pre jury of you think it's a stronger piece or some of them have premiered already. So maybe it's a factor of something that isn't like a world premiere, but what are some of the things that you factor into figuring out what goes in the competition and what goes into the spotlight?

[00:22:10.679] Blake Kammerdiener: That's a tough question, because honestly, better is not the right word. This whole selection is what I consider the best of what is around right now. And these are all projects that I think are all strong that I want to share. So it's not about what is better. And I did have a starting point, and that starting point was at a world premiere. So that's the first and foremost. And that was the biggest, most important thing, where I was able to start look and be like okay these are world premieres I can start with these and there we go right and there's like you'll notice a couple world premieres in the spotlight section but for instance and we'll start with Beat Day. Beat Day is a platform where this is kind of the world premiere their VR side of the platform but they have already been out there it's a Taiwanese social platform actually for music performance which is super exciting, and the VR version is just beautiful. It's, I think, utilizing volumetric capture of the artist, and it's really, really, really well done. It's brought out by HTC Studio. And so that was one of my thought processes there, is like a version of this has been out for a little while, and this is a new iteration. It is a world premiere of this new iteration, which is super exciting. That was more of the type of way that I was looking at it, as more of like it's access in different ways. Another one of those is Brianna's Garden, Then AR version premiered at Tribeca this last year, right? In June, I think. But we're super excited about it. They've added new content and new captures. And this is about Breonna Taylor's family speaking about her and honoring her. And then they've also created a VR version in Altspace, which we're super excited to premiere as well. And so that was there. So it's like it's a world premiere of a new format and a new version for the project. So we're very excited about it as well. That is another one that you're going to want to get in on for sure. So we'll have both the AR version with the new content, as well as the alt space version. So that's really like how I first looked at it whenever I was kind of dividing up the competition. I was like, make the selections, bring it what I want to showcase to the world and to our audience, and then divide it out, starting with the world premiere and kind of moving from there.

[00:24:21.821] Kent Bye: And so maybe we'll continue to go through some of the other pieces and say a few words, just like you did on the competition. Love to hear your initial take just to help set the context for some of these pieces.

[00:24:32.789] Blake Kammerdiener: All right. Let's see here. Composition. This one, this one is very different than most anything else that's on the floor. And it is an art installation by Vincent Morissette in collaboration with FI in Montreal. And it's a table. with projections and blocks where he's created a soundscape or a composition, if you will, that individuals can, as they move and play with the blocks, change the composition. And so it's different for everybody. And every time you play it, it's going to be different because as you interact and play with each block, it's going to change the composition that you're going to listen to. super excited about that. Then let's see here, Gondwana is a project based out of Australia where they went and mapped this beautiful forest region in Australia and then created a website that feeds data to it where it shows and mimics and plays with what is the weather patterns and everything that's happening there. And it's a 24-hour piece that feeds into it, beautifully made, like hand illustrated. So

[00:25:37.984] Kent Bye: Really excited about that. That premiered at Sundance where it's like 100 years of simulating the impacts of climate change over the course of 24 hours. So you're apparently going to be showing this as 24 hours piece as well. And it's going to be available generally online, which I don't imagine you're going to have the VR exhibition open 24 hours a day, but have it start and stop maybe near the beginning. So, well, for me, the last part of that was really interesting just to see it as it's changing, but.

[00:26:05.035] Blake Kammerdiener: I know it's just super fascinating, right? It's super fascinating. Okay, let me change back. So then, composition, Genesis, all right. Genesis played Venice, it's played several others, and it's a super fast evolution. Like speaking of Gondwana, this is another super fast time-lapse version of evolution and about the story of the world as it evolves, like beautifully crafted, beautifully crafted. A project that also played at Venice has been online for a little while as well, Goliath playing with reality. is a super touching story about the spectrum of psychosis and, you know, one person's experience of his psychosis and how he deals with it. And it's just, it's gorgeous. It's beautiful. It's so touching. Then let's see here. Green Planet AR. This is very exciting. This is one of the AR pieces that you'll be able to see only in person at the event. And it is the AR companion piece to the next series in the Blue Planet series with Sir David Attenborough. And this is their AR companion to that. Very excited. It's a massive piece, and they're bringing a component of it to South By, and I'm excited for people to be able to see it. are currently doing a run in Piccadilly Circus in London as its first run, and so there will be a North American premiere for that. Liminal Lands by Jacob Steenson. We played a project of his back in, I think, 2019 about the kuaio'o, which was the bird in Hawaii that went extinct in the 80s, actually, that they recorded the last song of it. It's very haunting, very beautiful. Look it up. Liminal Lands is his next project, and it's a landscape in south of France, I believe, and it's artistic simulation of the kind of the changing and everything that's happening there. Then we'll go through, let's see here, Lips of Taiwan, which played Kaohsiung Film Festival, is really an exploration of women and their women's sexuality. It's a very beautifully artistic project out of Taiwan. Another piece out of Taiwan, Madam Pirate, Becoming a Legend. from Serendipity Films, this project's historical look. It's really cool because they did a really interesting blend of hand-drawn animation and 360 video capture that they blended together that was super cool. Another project on Spotlight that has been around for a little while that maybe some of the industry has seen, but again, opening it up to our other audience, is Minimum Mass by Rocky Saeed. It's a story about, you know, losing a child to miscarriage. So it's a very touching story and actually was honestly has been one of my favorite pieces for a long time. And so I'm, I'm really excited to be able to showcase that to our audience. Paper Birds from the team behind Gloomy Eyes. So good. You know, we played the first episode last year and then we'll be playing the first and second episode this year. We're very excited to be showing that. They do such beautiful animation and such touching stories. Surviving 9-11, 27 hours under the rubble. This was honestly like one of the best 360 videos, like most touching 360 videos I've seen in a long time. I know it's been out and live for a while, but again, wanting to be able to showcase it to our audience who don't have access to headsets. It's a documentary about the last survivor who was found trapped underneath the rubble during the 9-11 attacks and, you know, beautifully crafted. The Choice premiered at IDFA and it is a women's rights project based actually here in Austin and they were super interesting because they were set to record it right as the pandemic hit and so It's been developing since then, and it's such an important topic here in Texas. As many people know, Texas politicians like to make it hard for women's rights and like to take away women's rights from them. And it's, you know, we are definitely here to showcase the other side of that and help support everyone who is doing so. Then let's see here. The sick rose. Beautiful. It's gorgeous. I played Venice as well. It's a fable, a story, little claymation, like handmade, painstakingly beautiful project. It's just so gorgeous. Then I guess the last thing is going to be our UK, Canada.

[00:30:26.534] Kent Bye: Before you go into that, you have the persuasion machines that was originally announced. Is that still there?

[00:30:32.159] Blake Kammerdiener: I missed that. Sorry. I would go switching between my list. Yes. Persuasion machines. All right. This originally premiered in Sundance 2020, and then was scheduled to play with us in 2020 as well afterwards. and then has never played anywhere else since then, once the pandemic hit. And so, you know, it's more relevant today than ever, right? So it's about all of the connected devices and all of the smart stuff that connects our worlds to, for us and for everyone else also. So that one, I was instantly excited to be able to show that because of how the relevance for it has grown and grown and grown. And literally only a handful of people ever saw it in Sundance 2020. That's it.

[00:31:15.998] Kent Bye: Yeah, I saw it and I'm glad that it is going to have more airing because it's talking about surveillance capitalism essentially and creating an embodied experience of that. So always happy to see as many artists as possible cover that as a topic. Cause in my mind, it's one of the key. And one of the co-directors is also one of the co-directors of the great hack, which is a Netflix documentary. So building upon that documentary ideas and. investigating the social media and surveillance capitalism. So very well done. Happy to see it again, actually. So looking forward to see if they updated it or just to experience it again. But you were about to go into some other social programs that I guess have been announced more recently, some of the prototypes, and maybe you could get into some of the other experiences and aspects that you have either as part of the spotlight or maybe as an adjunct to the overall program.

[00:32:04.280] Blake Kammerdiener: Yeah, absolutely. You know, in the past, we've done several different types of iterations of this, where we've been able to take like a handful of prototypes, give them a space in the floor, and then give them also an opportunity to speak about it in our conference. These are the projects of the future. And so it's always fun when you're able to give them that opportunity to meet new investors, meet new collaborators of all sorts. Like, I won't go into all of them, but some of the very big successful projects that have gone through over the past five years that have been made and, you know, been very successful across the festival landscape actually started their life here in this type of program that we've done across several years. So this year, we're going to have five prototypes on the floor. They are all going to be able to speak in the conference as well, connecting with XR Summit, which will take place on the Monday and Tuesday, the 14th and 15th. I won't get too deep into these because, you know, these are early projects that I really just want people to come see, learn more about, and see if they can find their next collaborators to help push these through to the next level. But we're going to have a project called Future Rights, a project called Acorn, a project called Alone Together, and a project called Gloaming, and then Radio Ghost. And these are also going to be kind of Across the spectrum, different types of apps, some audio stuff, as well as VR, some live performance. You will be able to experience some of these early versions on the floor, including the live performance piece. So that's, again, going back, that's our second live performance piece, actually, as part of the program, which we're excited to have. So do come out, do check those out. You can find out more information about them online. You can find out even more information about them at their sessions. I do believe it's actually one of our first sessions on Monday the 14th. That's where you'll be able to learn all about those. And this year we've worked with several different groups on doing this. This year it's called UK and Canadian Immersive Exchange. And it's really all about co-productions between two countries. It's like countries coming together to help produce new art and help support these artists in new ways. So that was kind of the direction we took on this one this year.

[00:34:05.973] Kent Bye: Quick follow up on the prototypes. I know that like Venice Film Festival and the XR portions, they have a parallel track of the market or the projects that are in development that are seeking funding. And so this is kind of a similar thing where the prototypes are things that are not quite finished yet, but are still in development. Is South by Southwest moving into more of a development track or is this things that you just wanted to feature that you thought was interesting and just to get more attention to things that need finishing funds or whatnot?

[00:34:34.060] Blake Kammerdiener: Yeah, we don't have a true market actually, which is kind of a one different thing, but because those are so helpful and we're all like literally our primary goal at South by Southwest is to help creatives of all types achieve their goals and making that art is a huge component of that for so many people, but this is kind of our way in the XR side of things. To go there. It's not a true market, but it's our mini version and that opportunity for those people with these projects in the works. Yeah. To grab finishing funds or to meet new collaborators to like tweak or finish or evolve it to the next phase.

[00:35:09.706] Kent Bye: Okay. And I see that each of these are all listed as the XR experience program at congressional ballroom. So I'm assuming that these are all the competition spotlight and prototypes are all mashed together. Is there any way that you differentiate them on the floor as people go and see them, or is it pretty undifferentiated as you go and see any project it's hard

[00:35:28.638] Blake Kammerdiener: It's pretty under differentiated and it's actually we build it in a different way. It's like one day I hope you come to me and be like, oh, I noticed this. I noticed this. We want it to make sense when you go through, but we also want a sense of discovery, just like a lot of times on the VR chat side and on the virtual side. Right. So we build an exploration. So much of social VR is about exploration. We kind of do the same thing on the floors is to create this like flow for people to explore and evolve and find new projects that they maybe wouldn't have just like searched out. Right. So they'll go to one piece of like, I know I want this. And then they'll be surrounded by these others that like spark interest for one reason or another. Super exciting for this year. I think I'm super excited. We start building on Thursday. I'm so excited for it.

[00:36:10.780] Kent Bye: Okay. So there's going to be all the creators are building out their installations and everything. And that's, I guess, one of the things that I've noticed a lot of the different festivals have put a lot of effort in building out installations and Southwest Southwest has kind of been in the middle. Sometimes people go all out and building the full on installations. And sometimes it just. is just a booth for people to walk in and go into the experience. So I don't know if you have a range of approaches that people have been taking in terms of trying to create a magic circle before you go into the experience to create a full on installation.

[00:36:42.087] Blake Kammerdiener: Yeah, you know, we are always like across the board, we leave it up to the artists because so many artists have different ideas of how they want to engage with their project. But one thing that we always do say is like, in some form or fashion, try and engage the audience outside of the headset, because there's so much time, you know, waiting and, and South by is different in that we don't do like time slots where people are like getting their tickets and then coming in. It's like our doors are open to our whole audience. And sometimes our audience is just there to like, walk through and, you know, soak it in. And so But it's up to each artist. Sometimes they want that mystery. Sometimes they want a little less. And sometimes it's just like a new artist, right? So they've never done this before and it's their first experience. And so they're going to come here and they're going to learn about it. So it's all about mixing that range of artists and where they're at in their experience as well. And so that's a lot of the difference you're seeing is that.

[00:37:32.128] Kent Bye: Yeah, I guess that's a good point because I remember going into say Tribeca where they have a system where you get an hour or two or sometimes two and a half hours to be able to go in and it's kind of a free for all. You go in there and everybody's like going in to try to like pre-register for different stuff. And sometimes you can go in and miss a lot of the stuff that you really wanted to see. So there's trade-offs between the different ways of trying to balance that. And the good thing about the South by Southwest is that if you really, really, really want to see something, You can wait in line. I remember there was an experience about Mars. That was a couple of people were lined up for almost the entire day. And it was pretty remarkable for them to just wait just to see that one experience.

[00:38:12.510] Blake Kammerdiener: But yeah, early in the morning for that one.

[00:38:15.992] Kent Bye: Yeah. Get up early. So I guess the combination of the runtime and how many seats per the booth, you can say in terms of one, two, four or multiple will dictate how fast people will be building.

[00:38:27.957] Blake Kammerdiener: And I will say this, so like we do have a system where in our system, like you come in in the morning and you can sign up for your slots and then you can come back and you can leave and come back. But then we're also going to have these waitlist lines. And so that's kind of how that it's like a dual system. And so it works kind of both ways where you don't have to necessarily wait in line all day for a 20 minute piece. But then sometimes if it's worth it for you, you can, and you can get in that way. So it's not like it's sold out necessarily all the time. And usually it's worked out pretty well. It's worked out pretty well.

[00:38:54.653] Kent Bye: Okay. So people should come up early then you should come early.

[00:38:58.597] Blake Kammerdiener: It'll be open from 11 till six on the 13th, 14th and 15th.

[00:39:03.262] Kent Bye: Oh, okay. So then it sounds like the online portion is going to be running even longer then.

[00:39:07.006] Blake Kammerdiener: Yeah, exactly. And so that's one of the things I'm super excited about is giving people that extra opportunity to see some stuff that they may have missed.

[00:39:13.714] Kent Bye: Okay. So South by Southwest is coming back and still the pandemic is ongoing. I guess numbers are improving around, but maybe you could just briefly speak about some of the different COVID precautions that you're taking in order to create a safe space for people to gather from basically around the world pandemic still happening. So what are the ways in which that you're trying to keep this experience as safe as possible?

[00:39:35.315] Blake Kammerdiener: Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, we have been constantly in touch with our local health authorities and we have created a very comprehensive COVID safety plan that you can find on our website. And we have been evolving that as we move through and as we go through. But to attend South by Southwest, you need to either be vaccinated or you can choose to have regular testing. That period of testing you can find on our website. We'll also be requiring masks inside of our venues, across our hotels and convention center and theaters as well. Again, check out the website, check out our COVID policies. And, you know, we keep those up to date regularly, regularly updating. So.

[00:40:11.737] Kent Bye: Okay. I'll definitely check all that out before I make my own way to Austin. I guess South by has always got multiple things going on with the film and music and interactive. That's pretty similar this time that usually the music stuff is the big thing. That's usually second. And then the first part with the film interactive and the immersive shows that you have are going to be the first part. And then the second part is like the regular music festival.

[00:40:34.642] Blake Kammerdiener: And then also check out, because we actually like one of the ways we extended it, the immersive work is we actually are doing several exciting projects in the XR experience world in that second half as well. So it's like the expo will close down after the 15th, but then we're going to do some dome shows afterwards. We'll have some more parties, mostly more music based stuff as well, but it'd be a lot of fun.

[00:40:57.693] Kent Bye: And I don't know if you or other folks at South by have been tracking some of the live music scene within places like VR chat, but it'd be cool to see at some point in the future, the shows that have been taking place within these virtual worlds, but somehow featured at the music festival portion, because there have been quite a lot of interesting, a lot of club scene DJs, but also like live music. that's been experimented with within VRChat, which has been quite a growing and vibrant scene. So I don't know if it's at the same scale of things that we programmed as a musician at South by Southwest, but I imagine at some point in the future, we'll be having bands that are maybe playing primarily within VR, but are being featured at South by. I think that would be cool to get there at some point.

[00:41:38.863] Blake Kammerdiener: I definitely see a future where that could be the case as well.

[00:41:41.753] Kent Bye: Well, I guess as we start to wrap up, I'm just curious if there's any themes or things that tie this all together. When you think about this program this year and if there's any stories or if you see it as an additional incremental progression and innovation, or if there's other things that were standing out for you when you're looking at this year's program.

[00:42:00.518] Blake Kammerdiener: You know, it's funny because we're just talking about music, but there's a evolution in musicians coming into the space and figuring out new ways to show their work. And then audio itself, right? Just how audio has evolved. That's a theme that kind of evolved as well. And then also just like history, right? There's just so many of these like historical pieces, whether it's about the history of individual history or about overarching history, you know, like Genesis or something like that, you know, and Don Juana. Those were a couple of themes that came out, but also we don't really program to themes. It's just like, sometimes just stuff emerges as you go through it all, you know? So it's just, those were definitely some of the, a couple of the things that popped out, but across the spectrum, I guess, of art and theme throughout it, I would say across the program.

[00:42:46.694] Kent Bye: Awesome. And for you, what do you see as the ultimate potential of virtual reality, augmented reality and immersive storytelling and what it might be able to enable?

[00:42:57.457] Blake Kammerdiener: Uh, that's such a big question. Um, so I think that actually like a theme, I will say a theme across all the South by Southwest this year is actually like the metaverse and what people currently think that is and currently think that that will be. I have a different take on that. And I think that with AR, VR, It's actually going to blend all of our reality right and how we can use it in so many different ways to help deepen our help deepen storytelling and it's funny I'm excited about mirror shot right and how they blend reality right from the real. to the like half real, half VR to the full VR, right? And to see that, but I think that that is just like an early version of what the immersive arts will be doing and how it will be evolving and enhancing our whole world experience and our whole reality. And that's kind of what I see. The true metaverse will be actually the blending of all of these different layers of digital reality on top of our current reality. And I think it can help in so many different ways from connecting people who could not be connected before, connecting thought, helping those who struggle in different ways. So I think that's a good additive to our future.

[00:44:10.824] Kent Bye: Very cool. Yeah, definitely looking forward to that Mirror Shot premiere on Monday the 14th. And two quick shout outs. I think I mentioned briefly that Nani de la Peña is going to be inducted into the South by Southwest Hall of Fame. And also Celine Tricot, who is an immersive VR director of both Sand Ladies VR, but also The Key, that won at Rebecca Storyscapes as well as at Venice. And she's also a LARPer. So I'm very curious to hear about her live action role play. I've seen lots of photos of her in different costumes on her Facebook, but just to hear her take on how she thinks of immersive storytelling and being a lucid dreamer, but also thinking about the medium of story when it comes to these immersive experiences, and especially the live action role play, I think is going to be a pretty key part as we move forward. And I'm really looking forward to hearing her keynote at South by Southwest. I'm really glad that she got curated to be able to do that as well.

[00:45:01.562] Blake Kammerdiener: Thank you so much for mentioning that. I really appreciate that. We're so excited to have her. She's Just a force to be reckoned with. And she's constantly evolving what she's doing, her projects and the way she's evolving them. And like now she's working on a game studio, like all of this and all through a social good lens as well. She's just like doing so much for the medium and I'm super excited that she's going to be our keynote. She'll be on Monday the 14th as well at 1 PM.

[00:45:27.102] Kent Bye: Right. Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the immersive community?

[00:45:31.348] Blake Kammerdiener: I cannot wait to see y'all both in person and virtually and get your headsets ready. Let's go.

[00:45:37.976] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, Blake, thanks so much for joining me here on the podcast and I'll relist the dates in my wrap up. Cause I don't have them all on top of my head, but it's coming up here this weekend. And there's going to be a difference between the online portion and the physical portion. So the physical portion is going to be actually a little shorter, but if you do have a headset, so it'll be, it sounds like from March 12th to March 20th or so somewhere in that timeframe within the next week. And then over the weekend, when it comes to the physical showing that's at the congressional ballroom. At South by Southwest.

[00:46:06.888] Blake Kammerdiener: So look in the Fairmont hotel. Sorry, we meant to say that. I meant to say that earlier. It's all in the Fairmont hotel.

[00:46:12.810] Kent Bye: Awesome. The Fairmont hotel. All right. Well, looking forward to getting back to some of my physical conference coverage and checking out all the latest and greatest of XR and immersive storytelling at South by Southwest. And I guess I'll see you next week at the end of the week and at South by in Austin and looking forward to seeing other folks online in the metaverse.

[00:46:33.098] Blake Kammerdiener: Thanks so much. Can't look forward to it.

[00:46:35.348] Kent Bye: So that was Blake came and dinner. He's the senior manager from film festival programming and XR and film at South by Southwest. And he's overseeing all the different XR experience exhibition and XR worlds. So I've remembered different takeaways about this interview is that first of all, well, if you're like me and trying to get a sense of what's happening at South by Southwest, this is a great overview of all the different events and. the actual experiences and all the associated events. There's actually a press release that got released called XR Experience World Unveiled for South by Southwest 2022. That press release actually links off to all of the information that is available for the South by Southwest. I'm also going to be mirroring a lot of those links within this post down below. So if you want to get a quick hit of both the links to the XR experience competition and XR experience spotlight, and all the different special events and the different talks that are happening and the keynotes, like both the Celine tri-car, as well as the one that's from Neil Stevenson is actually happening on Wednesday, March 16th at 1. But all sorts of other events and programs that are happening, everything from the NFT gallery to. Different VR chat events the dome experiences. There's a number of different concerts room has actually been doing a lot of really amazing innovation within VR chat and Highly recommend the schedule to check those out It does look like if you do want access to this the lowest cost is like five hundred nineteen dollars But you're getting lots of other stuff that's aside from the XR if you're only interested in the XR stuff. I Probably not worth it, but there's also like online films and access to the talks and music shows And so there's lots of other stuff that's happening there that goes above and beyond just the access to the XR program And if you do want to get access to over half of the different experiences, then it's a good way I'm looking forward to checking out the vast. I haven't had a chance to see it yet It is interesting to see the online experiences actually opening before the physical version. There's going to be access to 18 of the different experiences on VAS starting on March 12th and going all the way to March 20th. And the version that's happening in physical reality is only happening March 13th, 14th, and 15th. That's only three days, and that's on the third floor of the Fairmont Hotel of the Congressional Ballroom. So kind of a short run when it comes to the XR program, but there's going to be more of an extended run online. So I'm going to be very curious to see what those dozen or so experiences that are not made available and be sure to prioritize those because you'll be able to have access to the ones. If you have access to a PC VR rig to be able to jump into the vast and get access to the downloads and. There's actually three of those experiences that are released on Oculus, like Paper Bird, Surviving 9-11, and Goliath are all available, so you can actually check those out right now if you'd like to. All great experiences if you haven't had a chance to check them out yet. So I'm excited to be there as a juror, along with Nani de la Pena and Lauren Hammonds, just to be able to check out the dozen experiences and helping to discuss what the latest innovations, both from an artistic expression, but also storytelling and all the, just using the affordances of VR in a new and different way, or just in a way that's particularly effective. So like I said, there's no like objective way of figuring that out. So it'll be interesting to have those discussions with the other jurors to talk through a lot of those things. And yeah, lots of different other experiences that are there. There's 21 different experiences in the spotlight, including the new program that I'm not sure if I've noticed this before, but the prototypes, the ones that are still in development and to get a sense of some of the project, including one of those is a live performance. The other live performance is the gumball dreams, which I'm looking forward to seeing the latest from the ferryman collective. And yeah, the other really big things that I'm looking forward to actually is the mirror shot that's happening on that Monday, March 14th. There's a number of different shows that are happening at the Hideout Theater, which is at 617 Congress Avenue, just to see what Roman has been able to do with blending like a live music performance with a virtual reality experience. And so to hear the live music, but be seeing different virtual representations. Also, very much worth checking out the latest innovations like Oxymore from Jean-Michel Jarre and the team at Vroom, which has been doing lots of really amazing stuff when it comes to these immersive music videos. You actually walk through a number of different spaces. It's like a world hopping type of experience where you're walking through these different virtual worlds while listening to the latest album from Jean-Michel Jarre, which I think is coming out in September. So it's a bit of a sneak peek of his latest music. There's also minotaur dreams of a lunatic, another room produced piece, and as well as some other 360 video dome experiences are actually being shown within VR chat. Interestingly enough, because dome experiences require a lot of space. And if they don't have the space, it could start to offload some of those things within a virtual reality environment. So there's actually a special events listing of all those different events. Very much looking forward to the keynote by Selene Tricart on Monday, March 14th, just to hear what she has to say that is going to be recorded. So I may actually catch that as a recording, cause that'll be made available for people who are attendees to be able to watch some of those talks afterwards, because there's not a lot of time actually, when it comes to the different experiences and I'll probably end up focusing on doing interviews there, but I hope to catch that talk and maybe catch up with Selene as well. So hopefully that gives you a nice overview of the different program this year, some of the trends, also just talking about the things that they're looking for in terms of programming these different experiences. Storytelling is a pretty big theme, I'd say. But one of the things that Blake said is also ways that they're expanding the form, depending on whatever the context is. In this case, there seem to be a lot more music related experiences that are programmed this year. And so I'm really looking forward to seeing what the latest innovations for music representation. Like I said, this team at Vroom and what Jean-Michel Jarre and what they're doing. I mean, that's probably if you're remote, that'd be one of the things I'd highly recommend checking out just to see the latest of what's happening with kind of blending this world exploration within VR chat within music. It's what I've seen, at least some of the most innovative and cutting edge stuff. Their piece that they did at the Notre Dame was I think visually and aesthetically doing a lot of really innovations when it comes to like projection mapping on the lights and everything. But in terms of just using the medium of VR to be able to walk around and to be embodied, some of the stuff that they're doing is some of the most cutting edge stuff that I've seen out there so far. So definitely check that out. And yeah, if you are going to be at South by Southwest, give me a shout out. I'll be there from March 11th to 16th, and I'll be mostly focusing on all the different XR related stuff, trying to check out all the different experiences and then talk to the different creators and yeah, just participate in all the XR community there. So that's all that I have for today and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast and if you enjoy the podcast then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a listener-supported podcast and I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue bringing this coverage. So you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voicesofvr. Thanks for listening.

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