Thought I’d do a quick post on the rendering process going into my VR piece. I’ve confirmed today that I’ll be displaying the piece on a Samsung Gear headset, which is considerably better than my iPhone 5. (Bigger screen, better resolution.)
The rendering has been a nightmare. I’ve learnt more about the process of rendering in the past month than I’d ever thought I’d know. I’ve gone through render layers, passes, batch edits, shell scripts, render farms, network rendering… all in the space of a month. I’ve had to find quick and creative solutions to ensure that my piece will be viewable.
Re-creating my VR piece has been the biggest struggle over the last 3 months. I’d originally made the environment as a Unity game for an Oculus Rift or an HTC Vive, however, due to not being able to get one for the show, I had to re-make the piece.
Early last week I managed to set up a number of farms to get the animation going:
From tomorrow onwards will be a similar story. I’m basically just running around with a memory stick looking for computers.
I’ll do a further post on the content of the VR piece and how I’ve found ways to get around the issues of equirectangular content creation.
How things can change! I was made aware by a few people who had tried the early tests of my VR piece that the environment wasn’t necessarily a Church to them. The comparison given was the U.S. Capitol building.
I spent a considerable time focussing on a religious setting after the influence my research paper had had on my practice. From the beginning I focused on the Internet as a physical space and the architecture within it. Hearing the users experience made me feel that the environment is comparable to both a political and religious setting, which, given the nature of the internet, I didn’t dislike. Though, admittedly it wasn’t intended.
I’ve kept what was originally designed as a church / chapel going against what I’d decided a while ago.
I’ve reflected on the Internet as a comparable institute to religion and still believe that its use and ability creates a similar social structure based on live information. For example, stories of discrimination, abuse, or any injustice are shared and commented on. These are seen and read by tens of thousands, creating a collective social view on that injustice. The main issue with this idea is that internet communities are more secluded than I’d originally thought. The stories of injustice I see on my Facebook timeline are personalised to the community I’m a part of. If I lived elsewhere, in another community, it is a different story. (Of course this is a simple and obvious reflection that can be seen in any community online or offline).
This couldn’t have been made more obvious by Brexit. Since Friday, Facebook (and most other social media) has been set alight with emotion both positive and negative. Some of the posts have been horrendous, some very enlightening, however, the best one I read was a friend from Nottingham uni. He wrote:
“……and proof that my newsfeed is a terrible measure of public opinion”
I don’t want to digress to Brexit, but this comment gives the perfect insight into internet communities.
Back to the religious comparison. This idea has made me realise that although the spread of information allows for quick solidarity and reaction to significant events. It is also tailored to you as an individual and therefore doesn’t give you the insight of all points on the spectrum. I’ve always felt that the best way to understand a story or an idea is to read from both ends of the argument. This is in some way lost by the monetization of the net, and its focus on your individual experience (This is mostly true for social medias).
I’ve gone slightly off topic but the idea of Gateway is to highlight the importance of the viewer’s input.
I will post some more recent examples of the VR experience I’m building in due course.
I started to build the door in late February / Early March but quickly realised a significant issue…. How was I going to get it into the exhibition space.. It was becoming too heavy to pick up and I hadn’t extended the legs.. I held off from building it until I had a plan.
After speaking with Jonathan and others about the possibilities, it seemed I was making a bigger issue out of it that it turned out to be. What was needed was some ruthless determination and hard graft. I took the whole door down for my open studios. It had been standing incomplete for almost 4 months! The best outcome of this was testing its ability to stand freely. Or at least that’s a good way of finding reason from inactivity.
I managed to get everything transported to Wilson Road on the 21st June. Luckily the BAs didn’t end up using the basement space, so I was free to work in there. I was working quickly, but not too quickly as to rush it. I’ve been slightly anxious about whether or not it would work. I still need to get on with it tomorrow, potentially to install a fake wall and screw brackets into the door to ensure its straight and doesn’t fall on any of the visitors!
(That’s another health and safety issue to add to the list. Fear of being electrocuted, crushed, suffering motion sickness and / or an epileptic fit…. Hopefully someone likes the work (and none of the above happen):(
BUT overall I’m happy with the outcome as I successfully turned a fireplace into a door.
Below are some photos of the build.
I had my tutorial with Jonathan on Friday. We spoke about the logistics for the final show and the best way to present my final piece. Although I’ve had some breakthroughs in producing VR content in Unity and Blender, I’m still not entirely sure which would be best for the show. On one side, if I can get my hands on an Oculus or Vive, a PC based Unity build would make it possible for the viewer to explore the environment as they wish. However its proving difficult to get my hands on one for the final show, so I’ll have to consider a rendered equi-rectangular film to be shown on a google cardboard. (I could explore simplifying the Unity build to allow it to be app based, but it wouldn’t have the same impact as the PC version). It’ll most likely have to be a rendered film. There are benefits to both options, however conceptually and aesthetically it’d be better for the viewer to have full control of their movement.
Thinking through the presentation for VR in the gallery, there’s the important question of user experience. I’m apprehensive about the funfair/arcade-style queueing that I’ve seen at a number of exhibitions, but there’s nothing I can do about it. The emergence of the technology makes it currently very attractive to try no matter the context. This fact gives an added pressure to the outcome. Realistically, during the private view, I’ll have to be organised and if I were able to use the open world version of the work I’d have to restrict the time of each viewer’s experience depending on the interest. This can be done a number of ways though I’ve been considering a script that cancels all colliders after a certain period of time, forcing the FirstPerson to fall through the structures, ending the simulation. However, again, this is for the PC version of the work.
The other option is a 5/6 minute fixed animation on a loop. The biggest pro for this option is the quality of the final render and the fact that the headset will be portable (potentially multiple headsets). The biggest problem would be the battery life of the phones.
As for the physical door, I’m going to have to go at it with a Jigsaw and re-arrange it at Wilson Road. My other option was to try to borrow a horse box….
I’m currently working on my Symposium 2. The Research Paper settled my conceptual interests in the freedoms and restrictions of religion/spirituality and the internet. Within this I approached and considered addiction, identity, disembodiment and propaganda within this question. My interest in the relationship between user and device has been inspired by Nam June Paik’s work, which has evolved rapidly since studying his work in more detail for the paper. This time last year, we began to form our research questions, and at the time I didn’t expect it to have had such an impact on my overall practice. It has allowed me to consider the concepts in a purely academic context. ‘The Medium is the Message’, (Marshall McLuhan), and Virilio’s ‘Information Bomb’ have been important texts during this process.
In many ways, my concept hasn’t changed for the last 6 or 7 months. The idea of a Gateway, a device as access to an extension of physical space and identity. My interim exhibit ‘Congregation’ was also an attempt at exploring this idea. Aesthetically, I’ve tried to develop ideas from early in the MA such as trying to represent to multiple identities one holds online and the physical, 3-dimensional make-up of everyday information.
As i’m approaching the final weeks of the MA, I’m happy to be in a position where there are aesthetic and conceptual choices that can be made rather than rushing to finish. Though, I’m aware that its looking less likely I’ll be able to secure a headset for the final show, which makes the Unity experience I’ve been developing somewhat frustrating / partially obsolete. Depending on what happens with the headset, there may still be an 11th hour panic!! Mainly the issue of organising and rendering the film.
I’m still making changes to the work, and having been through a number of versions, in recent days, I can see significant changes happening before the final exhibition version.
Along this MA I’ve been investigating the 3dimensional internet and the addictive and spiritual aspects that the net consumer displays. We are creatures of habit, and many of those habits are reflected online. Whilst working on the research paper for Unit 1, I noticed the importance of religion in my artistic interests. I’ve been highly influenced by the old masters and specifically religious subject matter. The effects these works had on its audiences reflected their spiritual narratives.
Propaganda is rarely used positively, but I’d argue that each and every religion has created a prolonged style of propaganda throughout history. The difference between this subject matter and that of more infamous examples of propaganda is its ability to shape the minds of individuals and the running of societies in positive directions. Clearly this is very debatable and one could argue that Christianity, Islam, and Judaism have in fact spread as much hate and violence as they have peace and serenity….
Anyhow… delving too deep into the make up of popular religions is dangerous territory, and I don’t particularly mean to cause offence so I’ll stop there.
My interim piece last year ‘Congregation’ has pushed me to look further into the internet user as religious practitioner. The piece I’m developing for the final show has been focused on the idea of the device as a gateway into a data-driven spirituality that connects global societies with media and live information. These connections overlook the barriers of religion and belief and with the inclusion of so many users, allow each person to access, engage and manipulate the media and information they want. Throughout the masters I’ve looked at the spectrum of a users internet habits and the potential extremities. Like in anything, there are extremists, this is true to say for any religion, belief or spirituality. I’m having a change of heart as I try to iron out my thoughts with this final piece. I’ve focused on creating a Chapel or Church most likely based on my own background in Christianity, however, this was an error.
My research isn’t about religion and therefore I shouldn’t have focused so hard on this setting. As I focused on the Church, I began to expand on the idea with specific references to Christianity. Since my initial project proposal my interest has been in the prospects of Virtual Space and Digital Identity. I looked at architecture, addiction, anatomy, consumer electronics, propaganda and the imbalance between physical and digital. After the Research Paper, I began focusing on spirituality as a prime example of the way an identity can interact with the internet. Somewhere between this research I became fixated on the idea of a religious setting for my final piece. I have now changed this aspect to reflect a more abstract approach to what constitutes spirituality and what better reflects the practice I’ve developed over the past 2 years.
I’ve focused on the simple idea of representing the internet in 3D space. After changing the environment dramatically from previous test shots, I’ve had a lot more success with my VR environment. I decided to look back at my previous works, most notably the ‘Signals’ and ‘Streams’ works I’ve developed. I took this aesthetic and dedicated my time to re-creating it in VR. Below is a small screen recording of the environment. My overall dream of texturising each line with live media has unfortunately been dampened for the final show, but I will continue to work on this after I finish the MA.
There is a lot of work to be done, but this better represents where I hoped the digital side of my piece would be at this stage.
Ed has managed to design a beautiful looking circuit board for my final work.
THANK YOU ED!!
It’s currently bare but its an exciting step forward. Particularly the fear of death.
I’ve been making some big changes to the VR side of my final piece. I’ve (just about) got over the fact that incorporating live news media won’t be possible s0 I’m having to go down other routes. If I’m honest, It’s a real blow. I wonder if I’d continued more ruthlessly with three.js at the end of last year rather than getting interested in Unity whether the outcome would have been different, but time is running out and I can’t afford to keep experimenting without a certain outcome. At least I know that with funding I can do it. Whether that funding went towards hiring a programmer to create a unity script using CEFGlue and scraping browser data, or just buying Coherent UI.
Anyway, I’m over it, and going with Plan B.
I’m going to create video collages of browser screen grabs and news recordings. This does allow more flexibility with the narrative on misinformation and religious technology and media usage.
I’ve been trying to design the chapel for the piece, and have decided to give Cycles render a rest for the design process. Blender Render gives a simple model-like finish. These are the native models without any texturing. I want to complete the basic infrastructure of the level before focussing too much on detail. These details will include altars, figures, pews, satellites and monitors. I hope to begin the texturing at the beginning of May.
I should mention that I’m unsure about the presentation when in VR. Part of me wants to put all the focus on the interior. I’ll decide when its more complete. Conceptually it makes more sense to stay inside the Chapel, but aesthetically, its nice to be outside…. A lot to think about.
The model is far from done, but these are the Blender Renders as of lunchtime today:
Actually…. I have made a change this then…. i added a window.
I’ve placed the new model in Unity and here are a few screenshots of it in action. (Lots of work to do). As explained before these are process photos, so theres currently no textures or lighting other than the smokescreen.