The Geranium Project (R&D) 14

Monday morning was busy with visits and conversations around the future direction of the project.

Conversation with Sally Lockey, Project Director for ‘Right Up Our Street’, Doncaster’s Creative People and Places project funded through the Arts Council. Wayne Sables provided the introduction. Amongst other things we talked about potential opportunities to show the piece, when completed, in Doncaster. We also talked about the potential of the medium. Wayne feels there are loads of opportunities to put it forward in a variety of locations. Pressure to finish mounts!

By the time I display the piece in October I will have the three ‘rooms’ that the viewer navigates and a system for movement that is smoother and easier than the teleport I’ve used on earlier films. This week is going to be modelling artefacts to place in the spaces and building the third space for import on Monday. Then it will be refining the spaces and movement, working out instructions and display requirements and so on.

Very little practical achieved on Monday.

Did discuss a few ideas with Wayne around what might happen with the space, one thing I am seriously considering is the prospect of being able to move the separate planes of the photographic garden while in VR.

Tuesday I began a model to bring into the space, potentially to be carried around.

Wednesday I imported the start space into Unity, played around with using video in the space, it gets a bit laggy when the video is running, and essentially made it work as a set of three using teleport.

Thursday I made textures for the start space and continued with the model from Tuesday.

Friday I met with Andrea Berry to prepare for the presentations on the 11th October and imported the new materials into the opening space.

Projection Space

Projection Space

I have film of the new opening space but I forgot to copy it! I’ll preface the next post with it.

The Geranium Project (R&D) 13

Monday I decided to stay in the garden for most of the day – I planted the space under the trees with wildflower seeds – to get an idea of the space before I continued the VR work. It gets very wearing to work in front of screens.

Photo model of garden

I’ve built a model of the garden, to the scale I need to load into Unity, from a series of planes with photographs of the garden mapped to them. It makes for a very small file and should give a deliberately unreal/real impression of the garden when you stand in it in VR. Last week working with Iain Nicholls we looked a moving through the spaces with the movement determined by using your thumbs on the handsets. Fingers crossed tomorrow gives me the opportunity to try this out. You can see from the model above that I’ve got a walkthrough in the scene, this is the video.

Wednesday began as another day of frustration. Eventually I managed to get the garden working with teleport again and the new garden imports. I need to work towards improving it and to make the movement better. The day was truncated as I attended a talk on ‘Virtuality in Art’ at Leeds University. The talk was presented as a panel discussion chaired by Steve Manthorp from the University’s Cultural Institute, with Rhian Cooke, a recent graduate who is an Associate Artist with the YSI (Yorkshire Sculpture International), Andy Abbott, socially engaged Artist, Commissioner, arts worker who works with new technologies and Dave Lynch and Christophe de Bezenac who are Cultural Institute fellows at Leeds.

– some references …

https://rhiancooke.com/CV

https://www.brad.ac.uk/gallery/about-us/contact-us/andy-abbott/

https://www.leeds.ac.uk/forstaff/news/article/5904/cultural_institute_fellows

After presentations on their work discussion covered a range of topics defining visions of ‘virtuality’ a term that nobody really liked. The key points discussed were around the amount of control you need to relinquish to make effective work in the milieu because your audience is inevitably involved in the creative act. This involvement ranged from the prosaic, Cooke uses projectors and mentioned that small children will make shadow animals that join her work, to the entrapment that Abbot uses to draw in participants, games, ipads, tech generally makes people engage and he uses that engagement to generate future iterations of the work, and the neurologically generated and/or social dataset artworks that Lynch and de Bezenac make in dramatic fashion.

I take a couple of points from this as paralleled or questioned in my own work. Lynch and de Bezenac discussed the way they manipulate peoples agency, or at least their sense of agency,in creating works that people ‘feel’ they have directly altered by their presence or action. They also discussed the amount of direction you needed to give, with particular regard to the instructions you needed to leave out, for a work to function for the audience.

Friday was another frustrating day, but not without progress. I imported the new garden and spent the morning getting the normals aligned so all the material showed the right way around. Then I copied and expanded the teleport area so that I can move anywhere in the scene. I then tried to do a build and in doing so lost the teleport function. So I have an executable of the space that you can move in but I’d need a warehouse to be to walk it all.

I then found that if I tried to use a different file I couldn’t teleport at all. I closed down and reopened but teleport wasn’t available. In the end I had to completely shut down the computer and restart it so that I could teleport, from the same file that previously wouldn’t. Unity is temperamental.

I did manage to re-import the photo garden and then navigate the space using teleport so I can move between the two spaces. There are things I need to do besides work out the walking script and trigger some transitions between scenes, I still need to bring in the sides of the photo garden as collections of images, and I need to work out lighting.

The Geranium Project (R&D) 12

Monday 9th September. A whole day in the studio trying to resolve a scale issue with Unity when importing from 3ds Max.

I spent the morning trying to work out UVW unwraps on a model in 3ds Max and the afternoon trying to work out why the scale won’t translate to Unity from 3ds Max. The frustration is palpable. So that’s six hours with nothing to show but a set of questions I can’t answer. It’s back to school tomorrow! (I need to go through some tutorials to see if I can find the things I’m not doing.

On Tuesday afternoon I worked out that Unity is working at a 1:50 ratio against 3ds Max, so I metre in Max is importing as 50 metres in Unity. This means my garden was 6.5 km in Unity once imported.

Wednesday morning I was interviewed by Harlan at Axisweb for the website and for some publicity for the event I’m running on 11th October. It will stand as a marker for progress against the ACE project outcomes. In the afternoon I had further frustration, this time with updates to software that ate all my data.

I also made a new version of the real garden model, ‘realgarden_11_0919.max’ ready to try out on Friday.

On Friday I finally got the expert assistance I have planned for. There is an interesting dynamic working with other artists who tend to have opinions as strong as my own. Establishing the boundaries of working practice is the most important part of the relationship. The first thing we established was that frustration with software is universal, and that its best if you work to the same versions as your partners. I feel that I can see the direction of the VR segment of the project now, it will start in the ‘room’ – the physical installation – and the user (player) will progress through the video that is showing simultaneously in the space into a photographic version of the garden. From there the user can move through to the abstract drawing version. Now it’s a case of making it.

As an aside I’ve illustrated this post with images from the latest video, versions of which I’m filming and trying out on a regular basis.

The Geranium Project (R&D) 11

Another week of lots of work with apparently not much progress. It’s very easy to spend hours working on the computer and have little concrete to show for the effort. I’ve managed to use a particle system to put fog into one end of the drawing garden, and I did some work on Monday to add materials and so on.

I also had a look at one of the potential locations for a transition to another scene, or from another scene.

Over the next two days I worked on making a photographic version of the garden where the ‘player’ will start with a view to moving from there to the drawn garden.

Photographic Garden

A longer video of the garden with fog.

The Geranium Project (R&D) 10

After a week off and installing the computer and VR kit at the studio this week was back to it.

Kit in Studio

The kit has to be packed away securely each day, which takes about 30 minutes, as the studio is in a high burglary area.

So far I’ve got an animation working thanks to Luke, one of my assistants, and I resolved the teleporting issues I’d had while the kit was at home.

I keep thinking this doesn’t seem to amount to much for all the time I’ve had but then a visitor tries it out and I’m reassured that it appears to be impressive. There is an advantage in using an uncommon technology but there is also the problem that the work becomes about the technology or that the technology dominates the idea.

I’m simultaneously disappointed that I’m not further ahead and pleased with the progress I’ve made, not that that makes much sense.