Sundance Film Festival Showcases Online Content

For the first time at the festival more than half of the short films, known as "shorts," will run online. It's a milestone for an industry that's been reluctant to release its wares on the Web before making them available in theatres.
The Sundance Film Festival has long played host to innovators by tapping into the imagination. Now coordinators are tapping into the Internet to showcase video blogging, podcasts and short films.

This change reflects a shift in how filmmakers view the Internet. In the past, many were nudged into having their work streamed on the Web. Today, few need persuasion. "Hollywood is changing and the Internet is becoming the great conduit and it no longer takes a theatrical to promote your movies," said Christopher Coppola, president at Ears XXI, an independent movie studio in Hollywood. "With the Internet I can gauge the budgets of my future films, depending on the number of people who purchase DVDs."

Coppola has tapped the Internet for more than four years to screen and promote his movies, and now streams live video and creates content for blogs, and podcasts. This year, Sundance Online hopes the additional content will serve as a virtual extension of the festival, said Joseph Beyer, associate programmer, Sundance Film Festival producer, Sundance Institute Online. "We're trying to reach an international audience. Last year we had people from all over the world on our site," he said.

For the first time at the festival more than half of the short films, known as "Shorts," will run online. In fact, about 50 of 73 are available for viewing. It's been rare for filmmakers to let the public view their original content on the Web.

The 2006 Sundance Web site underwent a complete overhaul to make navigation easier and to bring the Sundance Film Festival online. Improvements include faster downloads, sharper graphics, an expanded help section, and weather and news updates on the home page. "We're super excited to be using Flash 8 codec this year," Beyer said. "We think it's an amazing upgrade to Flash video and we're extremely pleased with the results."

The films are being offered in 700 K speed, for high-bandwidth users. It gives them a much larger video window to enjoy the shorts in.

Beyer said the festival will interview former Vice President Al Gore on Tuesday. "We're the only outlet getting a video interview with him," he said. "And that's because he really believes in the power of the Internet to spread the message of global warming."

Robert Redford's Sundance Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the development of artists founded in 1981, created the Sundance Film Festival, which is held each January in Park City, Utah.

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