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24th May 2017




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Paste's Unofficial Guide to SXSW 2017

While most associate SXSW with music and film, the nine-day event also gives attendees exclusive access to some of the most influential people in the tech, design, journalism, government and health industries.

Last year, SXSW screened more than 100 movie premieres, including Sausage Party and Midnight Special. For the 2017 festival, 84 world premieres and 51 films from first-time directors make up the 125 features set to show.

You can find the full lineup online, scheduled by categories like “Narrative Spotlights,” “Episodic” and “Festival Favorites.” Some of this year’s most eye-catching screenings include the documentaries Bill Nye: Science Guy and May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers, directed by Judd Apatow.
One of the most anticipated headliners of the year, Song to Song, is a drama directed by Terrence Malick and starring Rooney Mara, Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman and Cate Blanchett. Premiering on opening night, the modern love story is set in Austin itself and the mile-long cast list features the likes of Val Kilmer, Florence Welch, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Black Lips, Iron & Wine, Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes, Lykke Li and Neon Indian’s Alan Palomo.


Netflix working on technology that allows viewers to choose plot points

Netflix, the TV-streaming company behind hit shows such as The Crown and House Of Cards, is working on ways to give viewers control of key plot decisions.

A source said: "We’re doing work on branch narratives so you are actually making choices as you watch. All the content will be there, and then people will have to get through it in different ways.

"We’ll see how it plays out. It’s an experiment. We’ll see if it gets much success. For creators, it’s new territory."
Actors would film numerous alternate plot segments in advance, letting viewers choose which route to take through the story.

The most complex versions could turn back on themselves, so viewers could in theory watch dramas that are "infinite.”
Netflix will run a trial with choose-your-own-adventure shows for children later this year, based on an established character.
If they are successful, it will use the format for TV programmes aimed at adults. It has not said whether it would apply the format to established series, or use it exclusively for new ones.


100 demos, 50 pitches, and a year with AR and VR: What we’ve learned

People are blown away by the level of immersion and the experience of getting transported to another place. But while companies are still debating controllers, tracking, resolutions, and wires, there is no doubt that the technology is now ‘good enough’ for people to feel completely immersed in another world.

Despite the incredible experiences that people are having in VR, however, consumers are not excited enough to go out and buy headsets.

Companies and investors are waiting for a big breakthrough. Until something spurs a bigger user base, AR/VR companies will not be making a lot of money. That makes it important for early-stage VR and AR companies to ensure they have a plan to survive and continue developing great products until the early majority are more easily able to try VR/AR experiences.

The VR (and potentially “mixed reality”) apps that people will spend the most time in will be social. Humans have an innate desire to be social, and tools for communication are incredibly valuable.

Interestingly, the younger folks who try both AR and VR tend to be more interested in VR, while older folks see more commercial promise in AR…

As we look towards the technologies that will affect humanity the most over the next decade, we firmly believe augmented and virtual reality will change the way we work, play, and live.


Europe’s virtual reality sector has grown to nearly 300 companies

The first European Virtual Reality landscape research shows that games are the most competitive space.

User input technology — focused on interactions in VR by brain (BCI), body, eye, feet, and hand — has many premium players, such as the Swiss-based company MindMaze that raised $100 million, the largest amount raised in one round by any European VR company.

Companies in VR post-production are developing 3D tools, and leading American software companies have acquired several of these startups over the past two years: Google acquired Irish Thrive Audio, Facebook acquired Scotland-based Two Big Ears, and Snapchat acquired London-based Seen/Obvious Engineering.

More than half of the companies included in the landscape are based in the U.K., France, Germany, and Sweden. Overall, France is taking the lead in VR in continental Europe.

“The VR industry is booming and not just in the U.S. or Asia. The old continent has known a slower start, but definitely got up to speed during the past two years,” says Leen Segers, cofounder and CEO at LucidWeb, in a statement. “The VR gaming segment remains the most competitive space but is surely challenged by a large number of companies focusing on user input or 3D tools. We feel very excited for the future as we see local and international investors are clearly investing in these segments, too.”


Adobe's path to entering the Virtual Reality story

For filmmakers, the blending of creative and technical aptitude has been beneficial. But there’s a limit, one that has more elements than the kind of rigs you use, or the headsets they will eventually populate. In the center of all of that, there is software. Until recently, the pioneers of Virtual Reality storytelling, especially live action, were using the digital equivalent of baling wire and duct tape to tell their stories. For the Adobe Video Team, it was hearing multiple times that video creators were using Premiere to edit VR that sprung them into action.

Last April, Adobe announced it would release VR editing capabilities into its Premiere Pro software. But to get this far, the team had to be comfortable with a whole list of ifs.

If audiences are going to be interested in Virtual and Augmented Reality stories, beyond the initial novelty, really good narratives must draw them in like any other media.

If filmmakers are going to create those great immersive stories, they need to put their energies into inventing new possibilities for the headset.

If that is going to succeed, an even wider range of creators, both professionals and enthusiasts, must experiment with, and ultimately deliver, content that audiences need to consume and want to discuss.

If creators are going to do that, they need intuitive software that will enable experimentation and iteration close to real-time and at high capacities.

If all of that happens, software will become, as it so often is, a quiet center of the Virtual and Augmented Reality revolution. Adobe and their partners’ would want to be there for that, of course. As one of the leaders of a powerful crossover market (enthusiast to professional editors), the chance to ease users from the flat screen to a spherical one ensures they would keep pace with a rapidly changing creative need.

The state of play, and understanding how to create a whole world, that’s the magic Adobe is trying to capture.


Visual Effects made the return of some iconic Star Wars characters possible

Rogue One’s visual effects mark a further evolution in the use of digitally created actors.

Peter Cushing, a British actor famous for playing such iconic parts as Sherlock Holmes and Victor Frankenstein, died in 1994. But that didn’t stop Lucasfilm and the Lucasfilm-owned digital effects house Industrial Light & Magic from reanimating his likeness so that Star Wars’ villain, Grand Moff Tarkin, could make a convincing new appearance in Rogue One.

Director Gareth Edwards has already begun to explain the process, telling that as the idea of including Tarkin in the story developed, John Knoll, the film’s visual effects supervisor, convinced him that instead of recasting Tarkin, it would be possible to create a credible performance that would look as if Cushing himself had stepped back in front of the cameras.

The creation of a believable CG human — which has long been considered the holy grail of the visual effects industry — has presented a challenge for even the world’s most skilled VFX artists and companies.

To accomplish the feat, the filmmakers hired Guy Henry, a 56-year-old British actor whose long, lean frame and physiognomy bear a resemblance to Cushing’s. Henry played the part of Tarkin on set, then the VFX team took over to transform him into Cushing.

The work on display in Rogue One is an impressive new example of the potential for creating CG human characters, and it will no doubt spark plenty of debate about how, and why, CG humans could be used in future movies.


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