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Sundance 2012: Redford’s New Frontier all about film innovations

January 25th, 2012 Posted in Arts and Life

Story & Photos by Ben Hansen
Special to Hard News Café

PARK CITY—New Frontier at Sundance has always been a launching pad for new ideas, from subtle changes and impressions to technological advancements that actually change the process of filmmaking itself. The spotlight in these events shines prominently on new artists, giving them the necessary platform to advance their works.

Festival founder Robert Redford met with reporters during the Sundance Festival’s opening weekend to express his continued devotion to this essential part of his film festival.  He chuckled as he stood atop a stairway overlooking the crowd full of journalists. “This feels weird,” he said. “I’m not an emperor,” and descended the stairs to a more intimate setting with the group.

His passion towards this piece of Sundance was fully evident.  “When we started this, the idea was that we should never sit on our laurels. The festival wouldn’t be here without New Frontier. If ever we couldn’t continue to do this, then there is no reason to be here.”

The 2012 New Frontier event was moved to the Yard location on Kearns Boulevard this year, closer to Festival Headquarters and the Eccles Theater. The availability of space in a larger and more open floor plan seemed to please even Redford himself, as he jested, “Last year was horrible!  It felt like we were either in a fun house or a nightmare house!”

A number of artistic and technological pieces were on full display for the public to participate in. While there were a number of great ideas present this year, the technological contributions seemed to command the most attention.

The company Molleindustria gave their contribution through video games, with the very creative “Radical Games Against the Tyranny of Entertainment,” which allow players to take on profit-mongering giants such as oil, fast food and the military.

“The Hunger in Los Angeles” by Nonny de la Peña is the high-point of this year’s displays. The idea behind this interactive experience is based on hunger problems in the United States. A fully immersive world has been created through the use of creative computer programming, a body-tracking system, head-mounted optical goggles, and live audio—all of which allow users to be submersed into a simulated experience. Individuals who participated in this exhibit donned the equipment and stepped into the world of the food bank line at the First Unitarian Church. This experience gave users an ability to step out of their shoes and into those of a less-fortunate person, witnessing a hunger crisis first-hand.

The project demonstrates the capabilities of technology for the future of movie-making. de la Peña’s motion capture engineer Tracy McSheery opened the door to possibilities: “At any point, you ARE the camera. Our goal is to be able to do a pre-visualization before the movie, to give you a chance to work out dialogue, explosions, etc. With this software and equipment, it will take one to two months and a couple of people to work this out, and then visualization becomes reality.

“Timing, camera angles … all can be hammered down and shot from any perspective with this,” McHeery said. “What we are trying to avoid is a director having to say, ‘Oh, that was a $50,000 shot. Now let’s do it again!’ This is an affordable way to iron out good ideas in advance.”

One must wonder how the ideas presented at New Frontier this year will affect not just the entertainment industry, but consumer products. If these ideas are now in an infant state, it will be fascinating to see what is waiting around the corner .

New Frontier at the Yard is open to the general public as space permits until Saturday, Jan. 28.



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