Playing with Tiltbrush

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.

Much better.

I tried out using the audio reactive brushes and they were AMAZING.  It was so pleasurable.

 

Here’s some great space painting music:

 

Murch & Brillhart

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.

The Glass House

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.

 

Exploring Worlds

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.

The whole shebang: the controller, motion tracker, headset and Xbox controller.

 

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.

Henry

 

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.

Different Avatars in Altspace

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.

 

La Llorona

Llorona from Oriana Neidecker on Vimeo.

Now this is a true story.  It happened to my friend’s aunt’s boyfriend.  She showed me a song he wrote about it.  I think his name was Paul.   Paul moved to San Francisco in the 70’s.  He was a musician and wanted to make it big.  Straight off the bus he went to Golden Gate Park.   He spotted the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen sitting under a tree near him.  He pulled out his guitar and started playing hoping to get her attention.  A crowd gathered around him but she didn’t even look. At nightfall some guys came up to tell him they dug his music and offered him a place to crash.  Paul asked them if they knew anything about the girl.  They happened to know a lot.  All three of them had tried to win her over themselves.  Her name was Maria.  No one really knew where she came from. She sold drugs in the park most days to keep herself afloat. All the men wanted her, and some women too.  But all you could really do was buy drugs off of her. She thought her beauty granted her enlightenment and she was above everybody else.  They told Paul not to waste his time, she wouldn’t be into him.

But Paul couldn’t get her out of his head.  He went to the park everyday to play his guitar hoping she would notice him.  Eventually his hard work paid off and she granted him a date.  He found out later that she didn’t even care if he was a good guitar player.  She just thought he was almost as good looking as her so he must be enlightened too. They had a whirlwind romance and eloped.  I think they got married in that famous chapel  in Vegas. When they came back from their honeymoon they moved in together and for a while thing’s were going really well.  Paul doted on Maria and they spent their days laying in the park.  But after a while Paul missed making music.

He joined a band and spent all his time jamming with them.  They started playing these crazy parties where everyone would drop acid and dance all night.  This drove Maria crazy, she was so jealous of how much time he devoted to his music.  He was always on tour and she felt abandoned.   He was back in town one time for this big Halloween party and Maria just snapped.  She gave Paul’s band a whole batch of bad acid and they all went insane.  None of them ever came back from their trips.   Obviously Paul thought she was crazy and left her and left San Francisco.  She took the rest of the bad acid herself and disappeared for a while. A few years later people started seeing her at parties, she was always high and crying for Paul.  Apparently she goes around shows recreating that night and offering bad acid to anybody that’ll take it.  Honest to God, true story. That’s why you should never take drugs from strangers, you never know where it’s coming from.

Anne Sexton’s Cinderella

Out of all of the Cinderella readings of this week I was most intrigued by poet Anne Sexton’s Cinderella. It offers a much darker view of this pervasive fairytale and mocks it’s simplistic ending. In class we talked about how one of the attributes of the fairytale or the folk tale is that they  usually use sparse language, are non-descriptive and offer no psychology behind it’s characters motivations.  Good is good and evil is evil and how each character came to be good or evil is never questioned or discussed. In Transformations, a set of poem’s based off of Grimm’s fairytales, Anne Sexton casts a shade of grey over the characters and offers alternate interpretations and endings of the tales.  As a poet she doesn’t shy away from visceral descriptive language either. Snow White is beautiful but stupid, repeatedly not learning to accept deadly gifts from strangers.  Briar Rose, is depressed and suffering from the trauma of sexual abuse .

Cinderella is more of a lesson on the irrationality of happily ever after. Cinderella starts off with an introduction addressing our new ideations of “happily ever after” winning the lottery, marrying rich or making it big.  Then we get the known Grimm Cinderella story.  Cinderella is emotionally abused by her step-mother and her step-sisters.  However her father remains living in this version and completely neglects Cinderella allowing her to become the maid.  He showers the others with gifts and gives Cinderella a twig.  Cinderella makes it to the ball with the help of her magic tree and it’s birds. She captivates her prince who embarks on a quest to match her left gold shoe to it’s owner.  Again for him the only thing that matters is the size of his dream woman’s feet.  He’s excited by the “lovely feet” of Cinderella’s two sisters and happily departs with both of them before realizing they mutilated their feet to fit in the shoe.  Cinderella’s is a perfect fit.  Then they live “they say” happily ever after.  Sexton uses language to denote the superficiality and improbability of this.  Cinderella and the prince “like two dolls in a museum case” never deal with all of the unpleasantness of life.  They never fight. They never age. They never get bored.

 

I’ve read the poetry of Anne Sexton before and I’m a fan of her confessional style and her poetry (also why I chose this Cinderella story). I know that she struggled with depression for years and began writing after she was first institutionalized.  She supposedly first began writing poetry as a form of therapy.  Transformations turns fairytales on their heads introducing taboo topics like incest and suicide and it is interesting to approach them knowing Sexton’s background (she was said to have dealt with sexual abuse herself).  She was beautiful and intelligent.  She was a model before eloping with her husband. She suffered from multiple mental breakdowns and eventually took her own life. There was no happily ever after for her, not even close.  I can imagine her reading Grimm’s fairytales through her own disillusionment and taking it into her own hand’s to create a more “realistic” version of them.

In some of our other reading’s different scholars talk about the flexibility of fairytales and how they could adapt to address issues of a time or in a community.  Sexton took this to the extreme and used them as an outlet to express her dark world.  Hailed as a feminist poet maybe she also made them as a warning to other women.  Unrealistic expectations are said tp contribute to depression.  To me Cinderella, at least the Disney version that is most prevalent in today’s culture, is the epitome of unrealistic expectations.

Words That Stick

 

Words That Stick from Oriana Neidecker on Vimeo.

(Rough draft video, final to come with full working suit)

After countless hours spent soldering and coding the final version of our Pcomp/ICM interactive bodysuit is ready.  I have to admit I was nervous about how the project would end up looking but Elizabeth dances so beautifully she really brought everything together.  Tomorrow we present our interactive performance piece.

 

THE CONCEPT

We wanted to create a piece that comments on the unique lexicon that has been cultivated and utilized specifically towards WOMEN & those who experience misogyny, and explore the violent and prohibitive effect it has on their often marginalized or reduced roll in society.

We wanted to focus on the language used during the election (by our President Elect, Donald Trump).  For our project we had a plethora of sound bites to draw from.

In the performance a dancer is lit up and is dancing.  The user has a controller with four buttons that when pressed release Trump sound bites and controls the dance.  In the end the dancer is slumped over on the floor unable to move, before she rises up of her own volition and is no longer affected by the actions of the user.

The Audience members/users are responsible for pressing buttons, which have an immediate impact on the dance. However the dancer is responsible for a fifth button “clear”, that triggers a new set of empowering words by iconic women.

 

TECH DETAILS

We used four neopixel strips, one for each limb that is remotely controlled by a controller that we made and powered by an arduino. There’s a button associated with each neopixel strip and limb.  The strips all start out as blue and then with each button press that strip turns red and then finally turns off.  We achieved this by making a toggle in the arduino code so each button state cycled between colors. screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-1-45-28-am

With each change of the color of a strip the performance is affected.  At blue the dancer has full movement, at red her limb stiffens and she no longer has a range of motion and when turned off it falls limp and is unusable.  When a button is pressed it also serially communicates with p5 and releases a Trump soundbite.

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There is a secret 5th button, the override button, this button (which will ideally be on the dancer herself) repowers all of the strips with white light and renders the other four buttons useless.  With this the dancer regains her agency and ability to dance.

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