The best virtual reality from the 2017 tribeca film festival


Virtual reality is far from what anyone would call an established medium, but at events like this week’s Tribeca Film Festival, it’s a mainstay. Since awarding early VR journalism pioneer Nonny de la Peña a grant in 2013, the Tribeca Film Institute has developed a full-fledged interactive art section known as Tribeca Immersive, where all but one of this year’s 30 experiences involve virtual reality.

At last year’s festival, I grouped the best work into “cinematic” and “interactive” categories — cinematic usually meaning 360-degree video or animation, and interactive meaning anything that offers some control to participants. But these catch-alls no longer seem relevant. Many creators are now working within specific genres, like live-action documentaries and experiential installations, and a lot of experiences excel in one area, but don’t lend themselves to traditional ranking.

So what should VR festival awards look like in 2017? I loosely adapted some new categories from the Proto Awards — VR’s (much, much smaller) version of the Oscars. This system may not last long either, but it’s the best way I’ve found to capture the show’s varied experiences.