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April 07th, 2021 | by Mathieu Gayet

"Looking at the accessibility of the event is exciting" - Blake Kammerdiener (SXSW)

A place of culture and innovation, South by Southwest (SXSW) offered a 2021 online edition that was just as rich and passionate as usual - and particularly interesting for the XR industry. Between conferences and virtual exhibitions, the festival confirms its place among the great events of the year.

Feedbacks on a virtual 2021 edition with its XR and Film Programmer Blake Kammerdiener.

Building a live event - with an international scale

Blake Kammerdiener - This time of year is always interesting because it's all about looking back at this event, what was great, what we did right, what we can improve upon in the future. All of the programming is really well received, even though it was on a smaller level than we've done in the past. It’s strange but there's way more restrictions with an online edition! So we really condensed the program in a beautiful way. I think one of the great successes was bringing together multiple platforms, utilizing all the different assets out there in a cohesive way for everyone. From the mentors, the conferences, on desktop and mobile, VRchat…

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SXSW Online 2021

B. K. - It's all about looking at our audience, what they need, use, and then how to define what we have to do - we need them to come together in one place. One of the biggest and most important things about SXSW is that we are working with different groups of creators - from all industries. Music, tech, film and everything in between. I'm super interested to see what the industry will bring to the table to bridge that gap between real life and online presence in a seamless way. It's going to be a huge part of the future of hybrid events. It's too soon to say what we will keep from this for the next edition - in 2022 we will be back to the physical edition - but the online festival is definitely part of our discussion. Especially for the XR section.

B. K. - One of the keys is honestly to be able to bring together the community who came before to Austin and then a new international community - and to bridge everyone together. Building an online event is also gathering a wider and different audience. I used to run all over the world to meet everyone in the XR world, new people etc. But this year we had a chance to let new creative people in, some of them that couldn’t travel, people with mobility issues. Looking at the accessibility of the event, and really broadening the accessibility of them in that aspect, it is really interesting, fascinating and exciting.

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VR Theater @ SXSW, live music and video games

B. K. - This year was quite special of course, starting with our submission period which was much shorter. In open submissions, the numbers of projects we received were a little bit less. However I was able to attend more events in different parts of the world and really be able to connect with the creators one-on-one a lot through markets and other online festivals. I found that super valuable, even to discuss projects in early stages, which won’t be ready in 2021.

B. K. - As for 4 FEET HIGH by Maria Belen Poncio, we had a chance to present her project simultaneously in the XR section and Episodic Pilot competition. It came to us quite organically - we played her original project in 2019, so we knew about it. We actually had a couple of other little hidden gems in terms of cross pollination like that, with POTATO DREAMS which was selected in 2017 as a short documentary, and came back this year in VR and feature selection. It stayed stuck in my mind. For these selections, sometimes we select projects that are already online. In example with WEBBVR: The James Webb Space Telescope Virtual Experience. We found it like a really unique idea as part of a good cross program project.

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REEDUCATED (SXSW 2021 Virtual Cinema)

B. K. - It was the same thing with Jean-Michel Jarre - quite an organic conversation as we went through the process. VRrOOm was creating our worlds, and of course I attended their previous virtual concerts in 2020 (in June and New Year's Eve). In terms of being able to showcase music in a new and interesting way, it makes sense to welcome this event at SXSW. And at the same time, it allows us to showcase all aspects of the XR world.

B. K. - Literally every single year we talk with the crew who runs our Gaming section. We actually stay close in collaboration. I work closely with them on the VR selections for the gaming awards as well. To work together, it is always something that I'm interested in - that makes sense in terms of bridging again the different creative aspects and creators in a nice, beautiful, organic way. I definitely foresee more of that in the future.

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4 FEET HIGH (SXSW 2021 Virtual Cinema)

Virtual Cinema Competition

Jury: Myriam Achard, Jesse Damiani, Liz Rosenthal

Gaming Awards

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