Category: Short Films

Guomundsdottir on the strand

I went to see the Bjork’s VR show in Somerset house in London. I had heard mixed reviews about it but as not often in London decided to pop down.

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It was ok. It wasn’t so much the work, which was good but the way it was presented. I couldn’t help feel like I was on a conveyor belt, until the next group come in shortly afterwards.

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The piece that had the most lasting effect on me was ‘NOTGET’, Bjork as moth giantess, quite eerie and spooky as she got bigger and bigger and almost took over the circular space.

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Note to Self:

  • Sat on circular chairs most of the VR pieces were on Samsung smart phones in Samsung VR headsets. The NOTGET piece was on a HTC headset wired from the roof and hooked up to a local PC.
  • Presented thus, it becomes apparent what a nascent technology VR is and I wonder if it will ever take off as an entertainment platform outside of gaming circles. Maybe Augmented Reality has a better chance.

Aspera in Bestia

I nipped over to London last Monday to put up my Interim video piece ‘Slouching towards Bethlehem’ at Wilson Road, Camberwell.

Slouching towards Bethlehem

“And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

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The piece is a continuation of my exploration into 3D orbits, spherical environments + investigation into unfurled textures and the essence of objects.

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The ‘Beastie’ as object is dictated to by an authoritarian computer voice.

The looped piece of electronic music is taken from a track called ‘Time’ from the album ‘Ghettoville’ by my favourite ‘Afro-futurist’ musician Actress.

“Oh, you are such an ugly beastie..”

the ‘Beastie’ unfurls the textures that constitute the 3D object, revealing the essence of the virtual object and in turn itself. Still there in its spherical world, going round and round and round, ad infinitum…

Catastrophe

Samuel Beckett is well known for such famous plays as ‘Waiting for Godot’ and ‘Krapp’s last tape’, but some of his lesser known pieces or short theatrical sketches are just as powerful.

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Catastrophe isn’t well known, but it always struck me as one of his most powerful pieces for stage. It’s his most political and also supposedly his most optimistic.

Its a short work consisting of one scene, in which a director and his assistant discuss a mute figure they are preparing for a performance: he is a dehumanised character, like a tailor’s dummy, at the mercy of their direction; his only gesture of independence is to raise his head at the end of the play – an act of resistance in the face of oppression. Its dedicated to then (1982) imprisoned Czech playwright Vaclav Havel.

“There’s our Catastrophe, in the bag!”

Harold Pinter: ‘Catastrophe’.

Note to Self:

  • Man as Mannequin/Object.
  • Person unfurled.

Hail Fellow Well Met

After a chance remark on the Low Residency I decided to revisit a short film I was exploring, a kind of Rural/Tech Sci-fi Wicker Man. It may be more feasible to explore now via different technology/approach as a very short piece.

“If any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic…then many of us live in an age of almost Mystic Wonder”.

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“Come with us West, to the very edge of Europe, there we will build another kingdom of Zeros and ones”.

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“The Fates lead those who will, those who won’t…they drag”.

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“You must awaken the the dark wonder that lies within your savage Pagan heart”.

Cardboard Reality

I finally got around to getting my hands on a Google Cardboard VR headset. Cardboard is a low-cost, easy-to-get virtual reality viewer that transforms a phone into a basic VR headset.

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Film Auteur Werner Herzog had been ranting on about VR [1],

“What reality is the cockroach at my feet in the kitchen experiencing? It is not my reality, we only share the same space.”

so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

Is Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality really a new 21st century art form? With not too much bother I assembled the Cardboard viewer, its a cheap alternative to the myriad of other viewers out there…HTC Vive VR headset, Durovis Dive, Homido, Samsung Gear VR, Carl Zeiss VR One, Cmoar, OSVR, Fibrum, HTC Vive, Sony Morpheus, Oculus Rift DK1 etc. The Oculus Rift and Sony Morpheus (which is more game orienteted) looked the most promising to me.

Anyway back to my poor man’s version, the cardboard…I downloaded a few apps that looked interesting.

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First up was Bjorks Stonemilker, which was good, especially the way she seemed to jump out from her own body and into a new position…but I managed to ‘break it’ by trying to take a screenshot whilst it was playing, but this was interesting in itself as it threw up some code and ‘inner workings’ as to how it might be made. Stonemilker was directed by Andrew Thoamas Huang and produced by VRSE.com. They seem to be ahead of the pack in the VR game, Chris Milk is a former video artist who runs it.

The next x3 pieces I watched were all produced by VRSE, ‘Take Flight’, a marvellous short excursion into the heavens above New York City. ‘Evolution of Verse’ that takes you face to face with a foetus in the womb, quite amazing, and finally ‘Catatonic’ a creepy wheelchair ride through an insane asylum. All three were fairly amazing, you the viewer being immersed directly into their environment. Catatonic was the most unsettling, as when you swivel 360 degrees and look up directly at the orderly who is pushing you in the wheelchair right above you…you realise its not an orderly anymore!

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So how does film making for VR differ from traditional film making? some main points below;

  • You can’t frame a 360 shot
  • There are no cuts
  • Death of the Close-up?
  • The character can know you are there, and be right beside you
  • The main protagonist sacrilegiously cuts through the fourth wall, and makes a direct connection with you via eye contact
  • You must try and draw the viewers eyes to the different places they can look at and explore
  • Scale. Object sizes aren’t always in real-world ratios. Sometimes certain scale ratios are based on what feels right, rather than what would be mathematically correct
  • Focus on movement that matters, so that movements are computed in real time to adjust to the viewers perspective
  • Sound. Directional binaural sound
  • Don’t overload your rendering machines, Oculus headsets show images at 90 frames per second which is a huge computional burden. Reduce the load in a CG production, mathematical bounding boxes are calculated around objects, if the viewer isn’t look at something in particular, then it doesn’t render

The Cardboard was the best $10 I ever spent.

Note to Self:

  • Not sure how this impacts on my making, if at all, as the technology seems to be customised or else priced out of reach.
  • There is a great 360 degree camera called ‘Neo’ by a company by Jaunt, but they aren’t even for sale, they envisage leasing them out to interested parties in the future.

The Fly-Away

I happened upon a recent article on Drones. Newer models will automatically return home when they have just 10% of battery power remaining, but there was a quote that caught my eye and fired my imagination…

“There is also whats known as the ‘fly-away’, where copters, literally, inexplicably disappear. The unit itself just does its own thing, It can be up at 60 metres and all of a sudden it would just head out to sea and you never see it again.”

This bizarre gremlin, the fly-away may be linked to solar flares, the same phenomenon that makes your car appear to drive in a field beside the road on sat-nav screens.

A solar flare occurs when magnetic energy that has built up in the solar atmosphere is suddenly released. Radiation is emitted across virtually the entire electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves at the long wavelength end, through optical emission to x-rays and gamma rays at the short wavelength end.

So every so often when this magnetic energy is released into the atmosphere it effects a drone, not many, just every now and again. The Drone disobeys the interface, the pilot’s joystick is ignored and it will simply fly away of its own volition. It does what it wants. This can be explained away by the magnetic energy, but I like to think there is an inherent flaw somewhere. That every so often a Drone has an innate urge to act upon the call of the Solar Flare, to ignore its predetermined machine nature, and like a bird migrating, it follows some invisible magnetic trail out across the ocean, knowing it will ultimately cause its own demise but nonetheless has to follow this compulsive solar signal that overrides all else.

I bought a cheap camera Drone to explore an idea based on the above.

Note to Self:

  • Drone: Sort batteries, experiment + see if camera footage quality is usable?