I ran into a lot of problems on my first iteration of the underworld. I originally wanted the whole world to be made of water and to take place at sunset. I made a few rookie mistakes that caused my program to crash continuously. I imported 3D models of skeletons I found online but failed to realized they were all rigged. After placing 8 of them in the scene my unreal wouldn’t open without crashing – making it hard to fix the problem.
2 days later I was able to open it long enough to delete the skeletons and then I changed the landscape to gold for good measure. Then I decided I didn’t really like my version of the underworld anyways and decided to start from sketch.
Over the weekend I’d tried a VR experience in a trippy mirrored world where your a robot with people dancing and praying to cats and you shoot cats of your hands. I loved the mirrored visuals in the world. I realized that this was what I liked so much about the water and maybe I could just use a mirror instead and it would take up a lot less of my computer’s energy. I played around for a bit and realized I could almost achieve this with a sky filled with clouds and highly reflective marble. It wasn’t exactly mirrored but it actually worked better.
With this new color palette I reverted back to my reference images and was struck my the one with hands coming out of the wall of a tunnel. Very creepy. But I wanted to make my world beautiful too like the reflected cave reference.
I found a 3D asset of hands (this time making sure they weren’t rigged or animated) and made a black and white version. I then planted them as foliage throughout the world. In my opinion the final effect was mysterious, disconcerting and beautiful and evoked everything I wanted my version of the underworld to. In this whole process I think I did my first application of my teacher’s advice of thinking smarter not harder in Unreal.
This week we were tasked with exploring Tiltbrush, Quill or Medium. Tiltbrush was one of the first programs I’d tried out in VR so I thought I would try Quill out instead. I quickly found out that I am much fonder of Tiltbrush than Quill. Using Quill after Tiltbrush just felt so flat. It lost a lot of the wonder of painting in 3D. There were no shadows and the background was a flat white. If there was depth I couldn’t see it well. I’m sure much of this preference has to do with my artistic ability. I’m not the most talented painter and my frustrations of painting in Quill were the same as those I have of painting on a canvas. It seemed so much more serious, it wasn’t really transporting. I was so disheartened with my Quill whirlpool I didn’t save it. I have the fbx files but it’s not worth finding the image.
My inspiration for what I wanted the whirlpool to look like was Anish Kapoor’s whirlpool made with the blackest ink.
This is basically what my Quill whirlpool looked like:
Obviously I wasn’t very happy with my result. I decided to revert back to using Tiltbrush in order to make a whirlpool I wasn’t horribly embarrassed about. And using Tiltbrush is just so fun. I blocked myself off an hour to explore all of the different backgrounds and effects. It feels so magical. I love the different backgrounds – painting in space just makes you feel more free and you can appreciate your squiggles even if it’s only because of the effects. I used the splatter brush to make the water and it added a lot of depth. I didn’t realize how important the shadows were to helping my brain process the depth and height of what I was making until I didn’t have it in Quill. I used the smoke as the foam on the water and snow as for water sprinkles.
I tried out using the audio reactive brushes and they were AMAZING. It was so pleasurable.
Assignment: Read excerpts from Walter Murch's In the Blink of an Eye.
Read Jessica Brillhart's In the Blink of an Eye series on editing in VR.
Not coming from a film background I found the Murch reading especially illuminating. I never really thought about the psychology behind the editing of a film, thinking of how it can correspond to blinks and emotions. I like the way he described editing as not so much a putting together as it is a discovery of the path.
I’d heard that you shouldn’t apply technical film concepts to virtual reality (and have seen some jarring VR pieces that fail to do this) but it makes sense to me that one can apply the psychological concepts, the big ideas behind what you want a film to evoke and how you can use it to lead the viewer.
That being said, I think that can be said about any piece of successful art whether it be a film, a book or a photo. Immersion is a concept that in theory should apply to all art. You want the viewer to be transported somewhere else and to arouse emotion. If done successfully “the flow of events feels natural and exciting at the same time”. However, at least for the time being, this seems to be substantially harder to do in virtual reality than in film because you are not only trying to create a fluid visual and emotion path but a fluid set of experiences. As Munrch mentions “from the moment we get up in the morning until we close our eyes at night, the visual reality we perceive is a continuous stream of linked images” but our reality is not only visual. From the moment we get up in the morning until we close our eyes at night our whole experience of reality is continuous: linked images, linked sounds, linked touch, the only thing that may not be continuously linked (at least consciously) are our thoughts and emotions.
It seems that when editing in VR you have to think in layers. Jessica Brillhart described her technique editing in VR as moving world to world – using the most probable potential experiences to inform the next. She calls it Hero’s Journey: the rotating of worlds around each other to match up POIs and empty spaces. You want to cut where the eyes of the visitor most likely are and match it to a similar view or frame.
Black point is where “the visitor” starts out looking.
White is where they end up looking.
Murch mentioned how blinks and cuts can go hand in hand. That there are places in a conversation where the viewer feels as if they can’t blink or they’ll feel as if they missed something and there are places where they want to blink in order to process what they just experienced. Where one feels comfortable blinking is where the cut will feel right. Based on the Hero’s Journey in VR where one feels comfortable looking is where the cut will feel right.
Initially when making my first Unreal environment it was pretty minimal because I didn’t have a mouse. No mouse = no easy movement = no extra things. I quite like how it turned out though. Once I attained a mouse I only added a few more pieces to the scene. It looks like this weird surreal glass structure in the desert somewhere. It’s Daliesque. I like the emptiness of it all. A staircase that leads to a golden platform supporting a framed smoking statue.
Trying the Vive or the Oculus at festivals is cool but you have to wait in line for everything and the lines for the best pieces are usually already closed. It takes about 2 hours to watch 3 things and you know that strangers are most likely snapping you gesture around in the air with a screen strapped onto your face. Cool to try, I’ll take it, but not the best experience.
This week I finally got my hands on an Oculus to use in the privacy of my school (at least here I know the people snapping me) and with a whole day to play. It was my homework for my Worlds on a Wire class to get comfortable using an Oculus, production laptop setup and all, and watch/experience the Oculus story studio Emmy-winning short Henry and their newest piece Dear Angelica. Best homework ever.
I liked them both very much. Henry was very Pixaresque, which makes sense. Apparently a whole team from Pixar transplanted to the Oculus Story Studio. There was no dialogue, only funny noises. It was interesting to see some of the things I’ve been talking about in my classes like sound to direct attention and different modes of interaction in “real life”. When the piece started, Henry is on your left shuffling around in another room. You hear him and turn to him, aware of where he is even though you can’t really see him. A ladybug buzzing around also got you to look behind you. These two sounds really made you explore the whole room even thought the majority of the action happens directly in front of you. Sometimes Henry made eye contact with you and it felt pretty genuine even though it came from a cartoon. This was one of the small interactions of the piece. Eye contact is important in VR, if done correctly it enables presence. I’d seen a VR animation short before, Invasion, by Baobab Studios. Maybe because this is because it was my first but I think I liked it better than Henry, mainly in terms of storyline and characters. It made me laugh more.
Now Dear Angelica, really blew my mind. I hadn’t seen anything like. It was like a story created perfectly with the Tilt Brush. It was longer than anything I’d seen in VR. It was a story about the memories a girl had with her mother, a recently deceased actress. It was magical and dreamlike. Memories were painted all around you in a tangle of different colors. The interaction provided was subtle but so much more effective for me. The visual part of the story, the painted colors, grew faster in the areas that you were looking at. It utilized all 360 space successfully, a hard feat, so watching it in a spinny chair is a must. I’m drawn to the medium of VR because of its dream like feeling. Dear Angelica felt very much like being in someone else’s dream to me. It was beautiful and masterfully done. My only complaint, which could very well be something for all VR pieces or the Oculus in general, is that I couldn’t fast forward or rewind. Maybe there are reasons for this (nausea) and I don’t think it would normally matter but the first time I watched it the tracker lost the headset and after fixing it I wasn’t able to jump back in where I left off. When you pause it you can start where you left but when a problem arose I couldn’t. The piece was long and I was 3/4 of the way through when this happened. But luckily it’s novelty does not wear off and it is so visually beautiful that I didn’t mind watching it all over again.
I did a little extra exploring after finishing my assignment. I ended up in Altspace. It’s kind of like a virtual reality chat room. I’d heard about it on the Voice of VR podcast, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in VR. Altspace was kind of weird. You start out in this room in a forest with all of these other avatars (which are real people) around you. You can do ‘activities’. I watched a Reggie Watts comedy show. There was a whole new social etiquette and considerations. In AltSpace, in the center of ITP’s floor I guess the Oculus microphone picked up all of the sound around me. I couldn’t hear it so I didn’t know which is an interesting note but I assumed that’s what happened when I was muted at the Reggie Watts show….. I could still listen to what everybody was talking about though. People were trying to talk to eachother, some people weren’t responding. A guy went over and talked to a girl because that’s what you’re supposed to do I guess. It was painfully awkward. She was a university researcher and he had a strange accent and I think I overheard him say he was in Saudi.
Back in the room in the forest I went to go and try to listen to a group of guys talking in a circle, a lot of Northern Californians. They kept moving and it took me a second to realize they were avoiding me because of the noise emanating from me, at some point I had become unmuted. I definitely blushed in my headset. It’s so strange when you think about it, feeling embarassed because you haven’t figured out the rules yet by people you don’t know and you can’t actually see but you can hear that are located in different parts of the world simultaneously. I will make it back to Altspace to explore more, but it’s very weird and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Very interesting though, there’s so many more worlds to explore in VR.