Geranium Project (R&D) – December Open Event

‘Geranium’ 02/12/2019

Introduction

‘Geranium’ began as a room, approximately 5mtrs by 4mtrs, that depicted a garden as a drawing and by projection onto one wall. The audience can explore the drawn surfaces which include text and interactive elements, watch the filmed garden where shadows drift across the lawn suggesting people, and listen to the birdsong and poetry playing in the space. It has turned into a more confined space that channels you towards and through the projection into a Virtual world.

The Geranium Project:

There is a purple or pink flower with five petals, it has long palmately cleft leaves that are broadly circular. Drifts of these used to grow in my mother’s garden and in my own garden now, and I’ve always loved them. For a long time I’ve had a blind spot about the name, when I see the flowers I’m suddenly at a loss but when I can’t see them I can remember. It has reached the point where my wife refuses to tell me what they’re called. This is why the project is called geranium, after this lethologica (an inability to remember a particular word) I’ve suffered from for a number of years. I have wanted to create a space that tells a story since I completed my MA in 2005 and became fascinated with non linear narratives or stories that can be navigated by the audience. My intention is that encountering this space, listening to the poems and hearing snatches of the narrative offers one or two clues that can be explored through an online space or using virtual reality. I see the project as an opportunity to find out how to best present the idea to an audience and to use that initial audience to help refine the experience so that it becomes coherent and strong enough for exhibition.

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Late again with the blog post. My excuse is the febrile nature of the world currently and the difficulty ignoring it. On Monday 25th I had a catch up meeting with Wayne Sables about where to take the project next. I am determined that I’ll have a new set up completed for a weekend event after the election!

These videos give a sense of where the project is and where it’s going.

The major thing to do with the physical installation is to get some light into it wirhout interfering with the projection, so on wednesday I got some Christmas lights and installed them along on wall.

I worked out that my issue with the VR world gardens having the same textures was because they were copies, essentially Unity appears to ‘instance’ copies as a default. I had to reload the gardens as separate files to maintain their differences.

I made a layout drawing to help me position the gardens so that the world functions as a circle, the idea being that you follow the succesive gardens and end up back where you started.

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After a desultory effort at last weeks blog due to a truncated week this week was better focused and, eventually, more productive.

This is a better photograph of the drawing begun last week, I’m hoping to be able to interpret this into a 3d model for the hedges in one of the garden versions. The main thrust of the week was developing the interior of the installation upstairs while preparing for an event in mid December where the new installation and the VR need to be presented.

I spent Monday doing some work on the drawing and installing the projector for the new installation. I’ve raised the height to limit the shadows now that I’m not having the revealed texts, and need to limit the width of the projection to the eight foot square backcloth that you will be able to walk through. Doing this on a shoestring means that I’ve used a drip cover I had as the projection screen, after testing I’ve had to paint the centre of it white so that the video shows up better. The next stage is to limit the space, making the environment more oppresive and confining. This will limit the audience to two or three at a time, but that will (may) allow for the ‘player’ to leave the installation and enter the VR world.

Alongside this we had a heavy frost on Tuesday so I took the opportunity to photgraph the garden and on Wednesday I adjusted the VR to make the frost garden. The two pictures below show scenes from within the ‘frost garden’ in VR.

colour adjusted garden

Frost Garden in VR (the ground is icy now)

On Friday I worked on the installation, using the ‘Snow Line’ scultpure to build up one side of the installation.

Composite views of the new installation

Lit view of the new installation

Lit view of the new installation

The installation is taking shape now and I’ve created a couple of niches where some interactive elements will be installed – I need to introduce some lighting and at a low level and the sound needs significant work.

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Just started to write this weeks blog and realised I didn’t post last weeks!

This is a very bad photograph of a drawing I started on Friday. I missed most of the week as I was away for a few days. So all I had time to do was hide the gaps in the installation and give it an extra coat of paint.

This is an equally bad video of the installation in its current state.

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The video shows the work I did on the virtual environment last week. I reordered the layout of the gardens and made a pathway from one drawn garden to the other. I altered the 3d model of the new garden, with the splashes, to use high poly models in unity for a better finish. It still needs work and more coherence. I’m thinking now of having alternative routes through the space and denying the ability to return.

building the new installation

This is Monday morning’s work on the new installation set up. By the end of the day all the panels are up, the next stage is to paint it all and attach the screen to the bar at the back. The idea is that the viewer enters the space, explores the alcoves (which will be sculptural) with the video projected to the back as before, and can then leave the space through the video, replicating the experience in the VR world. I’m also building a model of the studio so that is the space you begin in and then you view the installation in VR as in life but passing through the video takes you to the new spaces.

On Thursday I painted the new installation with an undercoat and worked on the VR world, but only after bailing out the buckets on the top floors.

I tried out making a photographic garden with all the planes mapped as videos, I don’t have the processing power.

I had to remove the videos because of the continuous glitching.

After Thursday the VR space looks like this…

The positive thing about the experience on Thursday is that it helped me resolve an idea for the arrangement of the gardens. I’m now thinking of four gardens, possibly arranged seasonally, which gives me a target for the modelling and textures I need to make.

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This week has been about rebuilding and thinking. I’ve decided not to attend the VR section of the Aesthetica Short Film Festival, even though its just up the road in York, because I don’t want to get over influenced by anything I might see. Equally I’m not at all interested in FPS or general RPGs. I think I need to solve the problems I have now rather than find new problems to further cloud the issues I encounter.

One of the key things I found during my open events was that the piece lacks coherence for an audience, there is no target so there is nothing that guides a user through the navigation. If you’re not going anywhere in particular it’s difficult to know which way to go, or what to be drawn towards.

The list of things I need to do begins with the rebuilding of the installation and the need to make textures for the VR environment. I began by taking the space apart this week.

Installation piled up in the studio

I then laid out the new arrangement and cut some wedges to position the panels on Monday.

New installation layout

It doesn’t seem a lot to have achieved in a week.

Alongside this I did some work on the VR space but won’t have video showing the changes until next week.

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Student feedback on geranium – aesthetic

Still considering the feedback from the open night and the first group of students. At the same time I need to keep working on the things I know I want to achieve with the space.

I’ve noted before that the difficulty is to keep in mind the developments I want while taking on board advice and comment, especially about the experience of using the space.

Student feedback on geranium – technical

There are not really any comments on the technical aspect of the space, barring things I already noted myself. The sound needs a lot of work and the experience would be more comfortable with a wireless headset.

When the students were around last Wednesday a few of them broke a maquette so I’ve had to repair it. I left it until Monday after cleaning the joints. I’ll have to finish it on Friday.

broken maquette

repaired maquette

I also worked on the next iteration of the garden, the new ‘trees’ from the splashes work ok and will probably withstand much more detail and a better material finish.

The next phase, after the group of students on Wednesday is making some new materials from the drawings. I will also make some short video clips to try out the video garden.

On Wednesday I had the final group of students around to the studio, they once again confirmed the feelings of each group that has visited the space. The main thing I take from this is that nobody wants to criticise and people are basically nice.

Last group of students visit the studio

There were a few more comments placed on the board that confirmed the things written above them and spoke very positively of the experience.

I got another video that indicates that as the file size rises the space tends to glitch a bit more, I need to find out if this changes when I ‘build’ the space as an executable file.

It also gives a first view of the new space, in this case added as a ‘next door’ to the drawn garden.

Having got the visits out of the way I’m able to move forward with the things they highlighted, firstly I need to revisit the installation, reorganising it to make the space more enclosed and changing the interior to reflect the VR space more obviously.

new installation layout

I started to play around with arrangement of the space that can provide the more claustrophobic feel.

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Following on last Friday I’ve got a group of students coming this week. Monday was spent cleaning up the current file as much as possible. I’ve kept a copy for my visitors to see on Wednesday.

Presentation to Students from Barnsley College 16/10/2019

The visits start with a brief presentation that covers the studio (axisweb, insurances, precarity, etc.,) and then the ACE project and it’s gestation. This is followed up with a chance to try the VR and look at the installation. I then get people to feedback on the big boards.

Student feedback 16/10/2019

The students were generally positive about the work but there were a range of views about the validity of VR as an art form, how well the installation worked and whether the two elements worked together. So far I’m pleased that the feedback reflects my own feelings about the next steps for the work.

I’ve got a couple of videos of students using the space so I can get information about how it is used.

At the moment I still need someone to instruct the ‘player’ as they negotiate the space.

Do I insert instructions into the space, and if so should they be written or spoken?

After Wednesday I spent some time working on the new version of the garden, finally resolving (as best I can) the splashes into 3d models

The video shows importing, scaling and positioning some of the new models. There is still a good amount of work to do.

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The Geranium Project (R&D) 16

The video shows the run through as it was on 7th October 2019. This week is about getting some feedback to help determine progression. I have meetings with collaborators today and Wednesday and then an open event on Friday.

NOTES From Wednesday 09/10/2019

Mike Stubbs studio visit 2:30 pm

Look up Geoffrey Shaw, MS commissioned him in Australia, from HK University. Very experienced in VR, particularly dome tech.

Look up Drawn Code, commercial VR and immersive installations, based in Liverpool, have made portable VR installs.

Question why you need a built environment and why it would need to be more permanent, does the built environment have any intrinsic value?

Look up Society Art Technology (SAT) – Montreal they have a dome with 16 cameras, there is a 1-2 week timescale for converting media to run in the dome or it has to be specially made.

Would the installation work as another structure, dome, variable (adjustable)?

For the presentation:

Don’t show the whole video on the VR slide, if you give people the experience they won’t try it out. Maybe bring them back if there is no time for all to try it out.

In the installation:

Bleed the drawing onto the back wall, it makes more sense for there to be something under the projection.

Move the projector up and keystone it to the screen. The text on the back is not happening now so the waist high installation is redundant.

It needs a better sound quality for exhibition, but the installation with the film and sound forces you into your own space. A quiet kind of space, peaceful, spiritual?

Practically you need to tell people how to engage with the piece, how long does it last? Should people stay as long as they like or for a defined period? Does it have a start and a finish time? Put a notice up informing people of these things.

For the VR experience:

Ask people if they have used a headset (VIVE) before. Expect them to say yes even if they haven’t. Use the full headphones not the buds.

Before people wear the headset give them the instructions for movement, showing them the hand controller and how to use it. Be explicit about the direction of movement using this and that they can walk through the screens at the ends of the gardens.

Tell them that they may feel a little motion sickness or vertigo and to let us know if they want to stop.

Increase the speed, or at least the ability to accelerate.

Aside – Look up Damian Murphy from York St. John’s and remember John Stopforth.

Look up NOTES ON BLINDNESS – VR Documentary, about 6 years old was shown at FACT.

Are you going to the Aesthetica Film festival? VR section.

Check out ‘Eyes of the animal’ a VR experience staged in Grisedale forest by Marshmallow Laser Fest and ‘Ocean of Air’, used breathing to nvigate and change size.

You should stage the VR in the garden! – A precise location would help the spoken word element. Keep Writing!

I’ve copied my notes from the meeting verbatim so I have a legible record of the thoughts and suggestions I’m receiving. I have two boards in the studio on which people will write their opinions, suggestions etc., as they experience the piece(s).

There was a suggestion today that I exploit the sensation of VR, the motion sickness, by having tunnels between the spaces – rabbit holes. After thinking about this I’m inclined to keep away from this approach. The two key things I want for the space are that it is not attempting realism and that it is not a game space, it’s not about the ‘wow’ effect but is rather about reflection and calm.

Friday I tidied up the space a litle more before visitors came to the presentations. We had about a dozen people who mostly came for Andrea Berry’s very good presentation about her installation.

I separated and re-rendered the videos for the installation, the six minute version is too large to embed here and set the space up as a close to finished as possible.

The evening went well in terms of the reactions to the VR piece and the installation. The latter is seen increasingly as a thing apart from the VR and I need to work to reconcile this. The best suggestions (closest to my own feeling) recognised the need to make the installation more confining and have it reflect the VR world much more closely, the suggestion is that there should be sculptures in it that are also in the VR world.

I have two groups of students booked in for next Wednesday and the Wednesday after to get a bigger selection of opinions.

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This is the screengrab from the end of last week. The new ones, below, incorporate the slide movement from VRTK.

On Monday Iain Nicholls showed me how to use VRTK to put slide movements into the space instead of teleport and how to change the speed to make it slower, the normal movements tend to operate at game speed. So now I’ve got to spend some time looking at the content and the narrative to make the space work as an experience.

The space functions quite well after orientating the passage through the sections, but needs something happening inside it to generate more interest. Sound needs to be introduced and some animations.

Ian and Luke working with VR

Tried out the new film in the installation.

The rest of the week spent adjusting the installation to create a light lock and to fine tune the Virtual space. In between I tried to work out the content of my presentation for next Friday.