The Geranium Project (R&D) 17

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.

The Geranium Project (R&D) 16

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.

The Geranium Project (R&D) 15

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.

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.

 

The Geranium Project (R&D) 08

This week was supposed to be when I moved the VR into the space. Best laid plans and all that. I still need to sort out the internet for the studio and that’s delayed me for a week at the least. Life has intervened in other ways as well so part of the week was spent on the phone to Virgin Media.

I did get to the studio on Monday, continuing to work on the drawings I started last week,

Large Hydrangea August

Large Hydrangea August

adding some green to the big piece and working into the centre with black pastel and fingers.

One of six drawings made on Monday and Wednesday last week

One of six drawings made on Monday and Wednesday last week

As an example this is the development of the one I posted last week, another one looks like this now…

small hydrangea

small hydrangea

After this I got waylaid by virgin and decided to work on the VR at home for Wednesday and Thursday.

VR installation test

VR installation test

The first test I made works some of the drawings into a model of the installation space. The next two try to work the same drawings into the garden as a whole.

VR garden test

VR garden test

The latest has better materials but I’m still working out the problems with importing scale, establishing movement etc., should all be resolvable but I want to get it into the right ballpark before I bring the experts in.

2nd VR garden test

2nd VR garden test

this image and the next best illustrate the issue with scale

2nd VR garden test

2nd VR garden test

After 3 days away from the studio I continued to work on the large drawing, and did some further work on the small ones, but my major effort was to stretch some more paper on my new drawing boards.

large hydrangea

large hydrangea

small hydrangea

small hydrangea

And the studio looks like this.

Studio mid August

Studio mid August