SXSW 2021 Online Reveals XR World Featuring Virtual Austin Venues and New Programming

With just two weeks away, today South by Southwest® (SXSW®) Conference and Festivals unveiled the SXSW Online XR World and more programming as part of the 2021 event experience. Taking place from March 16th through the 20th, the XR World will feature a condensed artist representation of Congress Avenue and the Red River Cultural District, using the SXSW 2021 look and feel but virtually.

The experience will showcase live panels, Meet Ups, special events, a selection of 360° videos from the Virtual Cinema program, as well as 2D video feeds of SXSW programming. 

The famous Austin venues recreated in the space include the historic Paramount Theatre, the Contemporary Austin, Mohawk, Empire Control Room & Garage, and Cedar Street Courtyard.

SXSW worked with world-renowned artists and the social XR events studio VRrOOm to design and produce the festival’s virtual edition, which will be hosted on VRChat. 

The complete Virtual Cinema Program, including previously-announced Virtual Cinema Competition and Virtual Cinema Spotlight projects, will also be accessible and downloadable via the VRrOOm store online. The VRChat worlds can be experienced on PC, PCVR and Oculus Quest headsets.

SXSW Online XR Programming includes:

SXSW Live Sessions 

  • Making of Reeducated: A VR New Yorker Documentary: Reeducated is a first-of-its-kind 3D 360 VR documentary about detention in Xinjiang, China, guided by the overlapping recollections of three men who were imprisoned together at the same facility. Filmmakers Sam Wolson and Ben Mauk discuss the making of this project and the difficulties of reporting on Xinjiang that led them to working with firsthand witness accounts, animation, and VR. 
  • Shared Space: A Conversation About XR Public Art: Join New Frontiers Curator Shari Frilot and XR artist Nancy Baker Cahill to discuss XR art in shared public space.
  • Performing for New XR Audiences: A discussion about the future of theatre and performing for new audiences, from the team of Finding Pandora X, SXSW Spotlight program feature and winner of the Lion for “Best VR Immersive User Experience” at the 2020 Venice International Film Festival.

SXSW Virtual Cinema Special Events

  • Backstage Tours of Mount Olympus: Come take a tour of Mount Olympus, the stage for the Finding Pandora X! The team will take you through this beautiful world created in VRChat.
  • Dream (United Kingdom)/ Director: Robin McNicholas
    Special access to a live, online performance set in a virtual midsummer forest. The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), in collaboration with Manchester International Festival (MIF), Marshmallow Laser Feast (MLF) and Philharmonia Orchestra will stage a live performance using motion capture as the culmination of a major piece of cutting-edge research and development (R&D).
  • Theon Cross – ‘We Go Again’ (United Kingdom)/ Director: Crispin Parry
    Virtual avatar of Theon Cross performing We Go Again. This project was devised by British Underground and produced by FKB to combine our two areas of interest at SXSW – new music and immersive technology. The motion capture was filmed at the world famous Abbey Road Studios during our Jazz re:freshed SXSW sessions. (World Premiere)
  • Welcome To The Other Side (SXSW Special) (France)/ Directors: Jean-Michel Jarre, Denis Semionov: Electronic music pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre teams with French VR startup VRrOOm for a trailblazing concert-spectacular set in the virtual environment of the planetary landmark Notre-Dame de Paris. Also, for the very first time, experience excerpts from the show at your fingertips in the new standalone app for Oculus Quest! (World Premiere)
  • Welcome To The Other Side – After Party: Welcome to the after-party of electronic music legend Jean-Michel Jarre’s NYE concert spectacular in a virtual Notre-Dame! Enjoy the concert replay on a gigantic screen, enter each track in 360 and sip a cocktail in the Zeppelin hovering above Paris!
  • Welcome To The Other Side – Cryptoart: Following the electronic music legend Jean-Michel Jarre’s NYE concert spectacular in a virtual Notre-Dame,  explore the crypto art exhibition based on the concert highlights, featuring digital pictures and videos authored by the French artist. (World Premiere)

Meet Ups and Parties

  • French Immersion, A Deep Dive Into the French Ecosystem: Meet in VR with “la crème de la crème” of the French directors, artists and producers. It will also be an opportunity to chat with some of the XR experts interviewed for “FR//XR: A Handbook for Immersive Producers” and to learn more about the program French Immersion, initiated by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the US.
  • IDFA DocLab’s do {not} play Meet Up: In this special edition of IDFA DocLab’s do {not} play meet other SXSW festival-goers, drink across time zones or join the 24/7 dancefloor of Distance Disco. Please make sure to use Google Chrome and a desktop computer/laptop.
  • VR/AR/XR Developer Meet Up: Come join the SXSW annual developer meet up for those working or interested in working in immersive development!
  • XR Industry Meet Up: Meet with other XR industry professionals.
  • SXSW Online XR Opening Party: Special performance by physicist and artist Byrke Lou.
  • Intermission party: With an exclusive AV set featuring never before heard tracks from Miro Shot’s upcoming album and collaborations from within the Miro Shot Collective.
  • SXSW Closing Night Party: Join other XR aficionados and SXSW Online passholders of all stripes for a closing night celebration.

Poster Gallery

Check out the SXSW Film Festival Poster Gallery, on view in SXSW Online XR. The winning Poster design will be announced on Friday, March 19.

Art Program

Legacy- Artist: Nancy Baker Cahill
In Legacy, a VR and AR experience in 360°, Nancy Baker Cahill addresses the current discrete but connected threats of climate change and gentrification. The artwork illustrates these entropic forces by animating an abstracted tree as it twists, breaks apart, and coalesces.  (World Premiere)

Virtual Cinema Competition

  • Biolum (France, United Kingdom)- Director: Abel Kohen, Screenwriter: Jon Rowe, Producers: Igal Kohen, Katharina Weser, Paul Kirsten
    Biolum is an interactive, narrative VR sci-fi experience which immerses you in the mysterious beauty of deep sea life on a dive that takes a shocking turn for the worse. (World Premiere)
  • (Hi)story of a Painting (United Kingdom)- Directors: Gaëlle Mourre, Quentin Darras, Screenwriter: Gaëlle Mourre, Producers: Charlotte Mikkelborg, Gaëlle Mourre
    (Hi)story of a Painting journeys into the story behind La Grande Jatte, an iconic painting by Georges Seurat that we all know but don’t actually truly know… until now. Follow us as we learn how Georges went from underdog to world-renowned artist. (World Premiere)
  • Of Hybrids and Strings (Australia, France, Germany)- Director: Lauren Moffatt, Producer: Fabbula
    Of Hybrids and Strings is a fabulatory immersion into possible human and non-human connectedness. In a forest, at night, one becomes strangely entangled to plants and creatures. Until the forest starts to crystallise… (World Premiere)
  • The Passengers: Her & Him (Canada, France)- Director: Ziad Touma, Screenwriter: Nicolas Peufaillit, Producers: Ziad Touma, Oriane Hurard
    Enter the thoughts of one of the Passengers, and help them face a pivotal moment in their lives. Welcome aboard an interactive VR experience, in which your gaze and voice influence the story. (International Premiere)
  • Poison (Republic of Korea)- Directors: Meesol Yi, Cooper Sanghyun Yoo, Screenwriter: Hyunsoo So, Producer: Wooyeol Jeon
    Through Poison, an immersive VR experience, users are expected to feel the intelligence of the virus and its danger intuitively. Our primary goal is to let the people be alert, be aware of our enemies, and think about what we can do for our lives. (World Premiere)
  • A Promise Kept- Directors: Ken Winikur, Ariel Efron, Screenwriters: Susan Abrams, Ariel Efron, Kelley Szany, Ken Winikur, Producers: Susan Abrams, Kelley Szany
    This gripping virtual reality experience takes you on a journey back to the notorious Auschwitz killing center with Holocaust Survivor, Fritzie Fritzshall as she fulfills her promise to the 599 women who helped save her life. (World Premiere)
  • Reeducated- Director: Sam Wolson, Producers: Ben Mauk, Sam Wolson, Nicholas Rubin, Matt Huynh
    Reeducated takes viewers inside a “reeducation” camp in Xinjiang, China, guided by the recollections of three men who were caught in what is likely the largest mass-internment drive of ethnic and religious minorities since the Second World War. (World Premiere)
  • Samsara (Taiwan)- Director/Screenwriter: Huang Hsin-Chien, Producer: Tsau Saiau-Yue
    Samsara Episode 1 VR explores the concept of the Embodied Cognition. In this experience, the audiences will be transformed into different beings’ bodies and experience the world from entirely new perspectives. (World Premiere)
  • Space Explorers: The ISS Experience Episode 2: Advance (Canada, United States)- Director: Félix Lajeunesse, Screenwriters: Félix Lajeunesse, Paul Raphaël, Producers: Felix & Paul Studios in association with TIME Studios. The largest production ever filmed in space, Space Explorers: The ISS Experience is an epic four-part immersive series that invites you to join eight astronauts on life-changing missions aboard the International Space Station. (World Premiere)

Virtual Cinema Spotlight

  • 4 Feet High VR (Argentina, France)- Directors: Maria Belen Poncio, Rosario Perazolo Masjoan, Damian Turkieh, Screenwriters: Greta Molas, Javier Correa Caceres, Elisa Gagliano, Rosario Perazolo Masjoan, Maria Belen Poncio, Delphine Agut, Ivana Galdeano, Gabriela Vidal, Producers: Ezequiel Lenardon, Marie Blondiaux
    Imagine your last year of High School in a wheelchair. Cast List: Marisol Agostina Irigoyen, Florencia Licera, Marcio Ramses, Natalia Di Cienzo, Francisca Spinotti (Texas Premiere)
  • Finding Pandora X- Director: Kiira Benzing, Screenwriter: Alyssa Landry, Producers: Kiira Benzing, Lara Bucarey, Chris Dawes, Alyssa Landry
    With the passing of ages, the Gods of Mount Olympus have faded away until only two remain: Zeus and Hera. Now they are in danger of disappearing if they can’t recover the box of hope that Pandora removed. (North American Premiere)
  • Meet Mortaza (France)- Director: Joséphine Derobe, Screenwriters: Joséphine Derobe, Mortaza Jami, Producers: Oriane Hurard, Quentin Noirfalisse
    An immersive experience telling the journey of an afghan refugee. (U.S. Premiere)
  • Namoo- Director/Screenwriter: Erick Oh, Producers: Larry Cutler, Eric Darnell, Maureen Fan, Kane Lee
    A narrative poem brought to life as an animated VR film, and an ode to a grandfather’s passing, this story follows the journey of a budding artist — and his tree of life — from beginning to end. (Texas Premiere)
  • Odyssey 1.4.9 (France)- Director: François Vautier, Producer: Jeremy Sahel
    A breathtaking VR journey into the visual heart of A Space Odyssey. A personal tribute unveiling the secrets of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece. (U.S. Premiere)
  • Once Upon a Sea (Canada)- Director: Adi Lavy, Screenwriter: Heidi Miller, Producers: Ina Fichman, Nimrod Shanit
    Once Upon a Sea is a stunning, immersive trip to the Dead Sea region, the lowest place on earth – and it is our call to action. If nothing is done, the Dead Sea as we know it will be gone for good. (North American Premiere)
  • Paper Birds (Argentina)- Directors: German Heller, Federico Carlini, Screenwriter: German Heller, Producers: German Heller, Federico Carlini
    Paper Birds is the story of a short sighted child with an exceptional talent for music. He must find his way through the world of darkness to bring back his sister, taken away by the shadows. 
  • Potato Dreams- Director/Screenwriter: Wes Hurley, Producers: Mischa Jakupcak, Wes Hurley, Mara Auster, Jonathan Caso
    Russian mother and son narrate this innovative 360 documentary which traces their nightmarish past in the USSR. (Texas Premiere)
  • Under the Skin (Brazil, China, Germany, Luxembourg, United States)- Director: João Inada, Screenwriters: Thamyra Thâmara, Andressa Núbia, Jon Thomaz, Rafael Cruz, Raull Santiago, João Inada, Producer: Diogo Dahl
    Under the Skin is an interactive VR documentary that brings users to Complexo do Alemão — Rio de Janeiro’s most notorious favela complex—during a surprise police operation, meeting residents who face police abuse and structural racism. (North American Premiere)
  • WebbVR: The James Webb Space Telescope Virtual Experience- Director: Chad Smith
    Join the James Webb Space Telescope in orbit beyond the Moon and explore the universe from its perspective. Planetary systems are born, galaxies form, and stars emerge from within colorful nebulas—all before your eyes.

In addition to full access to SXSW Online XR, passholders also have access to the full range of content available during SXSW Online including Film Festival screenings, Conference Keynotes, Featured Speakers, Mentor Sessions, Networking Meet Ups, Music Showcases, Comedy Festival Showcases, Creative Industries Exhibition and Professional Development.

For more information on everything SXSW Online has to offer, please visit


Source: SXSW