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.
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.
I’ve been looking for a way to do this for some time and FINALLY have made some headway. I’ve wanted to re-create the effects of a projector within Blender. These, as many of my tests are, are very simple and have no conceptual framework. These is proof of process and essential for me to look back at how my skills in this area have progressed.
Looking at the work I’ve done throughout the MA, the impact of the screen and device on the user is an essential element. This interaction between you the physical and what the device presents, the digital has been a perfect example of the imbalance between these polar opposites. I felt that I best achieved this through my work at Digital Meze, especially as it seemed to sum up a lot of images I had created beforehand that focused on the user and the television, or computer monitor.
‘Monitor’ projected a live stream of BBC News into an altered CRT Television to highlight the complexity of misinformation in the news. Using live news feeds in my work has been an interest of mine for some time, and although this conceptually worked, however the way in which it was presented through ‘Monitor’ wasn’t quite what I’d hoped.
In these tests, I’ve textured spot lights with images and increased the emission value to create the effect. I’ve tested this with screen captured videos of live news feeds but the render time is slow, and will take a while to display the examples. Whether its possible to stream a live news feed within this is not yet known but it feels as if its a crucial step to execute further work.
BLENDER’s CYCLES, UNITY + THREE.JS: