The technology, music and entertainment industries collide at Austin’s annual three-in-one South by Southwest festival this week, so what should people expect this year at the nation’s most influential and talked about event? Each year, South by Southwest (SXSW) attracts more than 200,000 people to Austin, Texas, transforming the capital city into the nation’s playground for film, music and technology during the 10-day festival.
If you’ve taken a glance at the SXSW interactive schedule, you will be hard-pressed at deciding between which sessions you should attend. The lineup includes panel conversations, film viewings, hands-on industry workshops and even a BBQ Crash Course where you can mingle with some of Central Texas’ expert pit masters and other conference attendees.
If you aren’t ready to get your eat on, this year, the interactive festival will also play host to several filmmakers whose early careers it helped establish and who are returning this year with a more commercial bent on their films. Few have become as synonymous with SXSW as Chicago-based director Joe Swanberg, who became a leading influencer in the small-budget film movement with his SXSW premieres “Hannah Takes the Stairs” and “Alexander the Last.” This year Swanberg has returned with “Drinking Buddies,” a romantic comedy with a high-profile cast that includes Olivia Wilde, Anna Kendrick (pictured) and “New Girl” star Jake Johnson.
In the interactive and technology realm, here are some trends are expected to take center-stage at SXSW year with the introduction of new products and gadgets designed to bring out the inner-geek in all of us:
- 3D Printing: This tech trend will allow people to really see how the printing process works to create real fabricated objects through a CAD-like printer. People are touting this as the next industrial revolution and the future of ecommerce; just order the product you want and have it sent digitally to a 3D printer in your back yard to be created for you to pick up.
- Social TV: With the rise of multi-screen approaches and the convergence of social technologies like Twitter with live television, Warner Bros. is hosting a pitch session called, “Tell-a-Vision” that lets people pitch digital series ideas to executives, Rachel Maddow and even Al Gore.
- Wearable Technology: From Google Glass to Nike’s fuel band, people are flocking to gadgets that they can wear and that provide an extension to our human abilities. Several panels this year will focus on turning tech into a fashion accessory.
“Never mind the pouring rain – geek innovation is underway,” said the director of SXSW in his introduction for MakerBot Co-founder and CEO Bre Pettis.
With his opening remarks, Pettis discussed the promise of 3D printing, unveiled his upcoming MakerBot Digitizer replication product available in the Fall, and contemplated the future of the ongoing 3D product revolution. Pettis talked about one of the lessons he has learned via many years of attendance at SXSW Interactive and what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur in today’s market.
“I was making web pages for artist friends, shooting videos and putting them up on archive.org,” said Pettis. “I made all these friends and then I came to SXSW and started drinking with them. I started having dinners with them. If this is your first time, welcome and you are in for a great ride.
“MakerBot is unlocking the ability to make physical things. It works by drawing a picture, then drawing another picture in molten plastic. We are facing the next industrial revolution. The same way that Photoshop changed the way we approached photography, MakerBot is empowering people to make stuff and we are dedicated to the explorers for innovation. There is a renaissance going on right now. Creativity is now much more accessible.”
With limited physical space and the increasing demand for access to exclusive events, SXSW is partnering with video streaming production company NewTek and its TriCaster systems to take the show live to the web and give fans behind-the-scenes access to several events at the conference. For the first time, “SXSW Live” brings music showcases, keynote speakers, convergence panels and more through the Festival’s live-stream page at http://www.SXSW.com/live.
“Fans of SXSW want more live content,” says Russ Hull, Pro Media Tech Producer with SXSW. “By using three TriCaster systems, our production team is making some of the top festival content available to our loyal community members who aren’t able to make it to Austin this year.”