Category Archives: environments and cinematography’s second life.

Stephen Black’s VR-related posts Part 1

A partial compilation of my VR-related posts. This is mainly for my personal reference. Later I will create a "greatest hits of VR blog posts" and of course the best parts of these will find their way into the book I am writing about 360VR.


SPOKEN Eugene Soh/Stephen Black open notebook

Angelic Visions (this, at one point, was to be the title for a book on cinematography)

Towards a New Cinematography (same book idea, a different title)

Towards a New Cinematography (notes)... yet another name, for the same book idea, though this title signifies a more philosophical approach.

Beach Road short film (360 video)

Wall Clouding preproduction notes. Beach Road was called Wall Clouding in preproduction.

Virtual Reality for Beginners/Simple Chart/Designer Project (a bit naiive)

Stephen Black exhibition at Mettle Works Art Space

Norm Black: Before Probably the first exhibition of VR art in Singapore.

Norm Black VR exhibition notes

The Cinematography Book/Notes and a Reviewer (again the book has a different title!)

The Cinematography Book/Notes and Eugene Soh

The 2016 Sudden 360 Festival (360 Videos on Youtube)

everything (one of those unusual little projects I sometimes do)

Secret Donut World: a deck of 52 playing words

A brief introduction to Michael Naimark, media art guru

Virtual Reality for Artists Workshop/Michael Naimark/Objectifs

A typical conversation (perhaps) about VR, circa 2015

Riffs on Vive/AsiaVR’s VR Development Bootcamp at DigiPen (part 1)

(at the bottom of this post are links to the topics presented, as well as links to the speakers and related articles)
A big virtual hello to you! Welcome!
I would like to sincerely thank HTC Vive, AsiaVR and the host/co-organizer Roy Koo for putting together such an impressive workshop. Wow! My background and the reasons why I was so excited to attend the VR Boot Camp follow the notes. NOTES (not in any order...)
VR hand controller

YiFei Boon from Unity giving a presentation

Quentin Staes-Polet, the Director of Unity for Southeast Asia made the observation that VR is not yet defined, pointing out that, historically, it took cinematography about 15 years to develop. He mentioned the  Lumiere brothers and the early relationship between storytelling and cinematography that can be exemplified by movies like Trip to the Moon. Quentin also mentioned that Pokemon Go was made with Unity. Because VR is so new, there is a need for evangelists of all kinds. The task of building a new media/artform/business model is so great that co-operation is understood to be more  beneficial than competition; Sony and Oculus given as an example. Viveport Vive Cinema How ready is your computer for VR?
YiFei Boon.... "Content is King, Frame Rate is Emperor."
YiFei opened his presentation by saying that this an era of learning, experimentation and patience. He touched upon real time story building. Speaking of buildings... The viewer's head is now the camera! VR is 4D! I just discovered the work of Albert Hwang, who works with VR, art and dance.
Alright, I will continue with more link riffs and notes in another post. What follows next is a list of presenters and topics, and after that is my background.
PRESENTATIONS NVIDIA VRWorks: Accelerating and Enhancing VR Experiences. By Delia Hou, nVidia  Unity best practices in VR / Introduction to Editor VR. By Yifei Boon, Unity3D  GPU-coding for custom animation and effects (with Live HTC Vive Coding Demo) By Martin Eklund. (Look out for his upcoming Art Plunge crowdfunding project) Achieving Presence in VR. By Joe McGinn, DigiPen Institute of Technology Singapore   (A TechCrunch article on Presence) Asset Creation Process for Front Defense. By Ethan Tsao, Fantahorn Studio (HTC Vive) VR Game Development Experience Sharing. By Douglas Lee, Fantahorn Studio (HTC Vive) Related article: VR and game development is not a grocery store by Joe Radak on Medium) An Engadget article on a Breakdown on the costs of Character Development, by Jessica Conditt New Era of VR / Vive X, the Accelerator Program. By weiging, HTC Vive
Thanks for stopping by! Stephen Black
............... My background and why I attended the workshop.... From 2002-2007 I was deeply involved with a SDK that used cute characters to conceal a very powerful  3D engine that was also very user friendly. As creative director, I worked with concepts like polygon counts, commands,animations and the many little things and properties that make up a 3D World with great presence. Unfortunately, the day of the premiere of that software (at the Singapore Science Center, as part of the Planet Games exhibition), the CEO and lead developer passed away. For the next four years I carried on,with no financing and no ability to clarify the IP issues, this in spite of the fact that there had been great interest by the Ministry of Education, to say nothing of the fact that the company had been set up as a joint venture between IDA, Kadokawa Publishing, Mitsubishi and Dentsu. I was, however, able to teach 3D gamemaking to a great variety of people, from Malay pre-schoolers to Yangoon programmers to Singaporean senior citizens. The realization that mobile was going to be a huge factor to contend with was the final deciding factor to close the door on the SDK. In 2007, Amazon released the Kindle and it was immediately apparent that if I was going to fulfill my lifelong dream of writing books that the time had come. Writing and art would be excellent pursuits to follow until I could find a situation in which to continue my 3D adventures. I have not yet mentioned Secret Donut World, which is a collection of 3D characters and environment. David and I started SDW as an artistic activity that would also be the basis of a 3D friendly IP property. We are now reviewing Secret Donut World, in light of VR, VR storytelling and physics engines. We are excited! David Severn is a British artist and illustrator whose work can be seen here. My books, including the bestselling i ate tiong bahru, are introduced here. Also on my blog you will find artworks, photographs and posts full of notes that I am compiling for my book called Cinematography 8.0: light, color and motion in the age of VR, AR, AI, CG and drones. SPOKEN is a gallery built with Unity by Eugene Soh (The Dude) and curated by myself. It features a diverse mix of writers and artists. As a filmmaker, I am extremely interested in the undefined frontier that is VR storytelling. Working with hiverlab, I was able to produce, direct and star in Beach Road, which was featured in the 2015 Brisbane Film Festival and nominated for Best Experimental Film at the 206 Las Vegas VR Fest. (Oh yes, I should also mention I have worked as  a music producer. Finally, I've worked in various capacities, for CNN, Cartoon Network, Fuji TV, Fox and France 2.)

CINEMATOGRAPHY 8.0 light and motion in the age of VR, 360, 4K, 8K, AR, AI, CG and drones

In Praise of Shadowsby Junichiro Tanizaki. Written in 1933, when traditional Japan was contemplating a future full of Western modernism. (50 pages) Towards a New Architecture, by Le Corbusier. Published in 1923, when traditional Western architecture was contemplating a future in which mass production was revolutionizing architecture and society. (320 pages) Cinematography 8.0 by Stephen Black. Created in 2017, when lens-based cinematography was contemplating 360 VR , as well as AR, AI, 4K, 8K CG, lens/computer imaging systems and drones. (280 pages) Reviewers of C8.0 include professional cinematographers, editors and theoreticians/artists such as  Stelarc. ......................
So... Cinematography 8.0... most certainly will have a theoretical and poetic component;the first section of the book. But the tools of  contemporary cinematography change quickly and are  extremely dependent upon economics, unlike pen and paper or paint and canvas.  SO.. there is a second part of the Cinematography 8.0. This second half, a compendium, may eventually become a book project unto itself. The compendium will be something like a combination of  encyclopedia and product guide. The entries will be written because of  their relevance to the title of the book OR because they have been commissioned. That is to say, I am looking forward to working with  production teams, individuals, software makers, camera companies or anyone with a product, movie, concept or software connected to the theme of C8.0.  This section will be done on a first come, first served basis and the pricing will soon be determined. The rates will be displayed as part of the crowdfunding campaign for C.80. Another way of saying this is that I will write, for hire, about anything or anyone related to VR for the second part of the C 8.0 book, the compendium. The crowdfunding campaign is expected to start soon, mid-December 2016. If you would like to get a head start on having a description written about your C8.0-related topic, please get in touch with me through this blog.  Thanks. Note that the book cover used for the header of this post is not the final version.  

Responses to the Peter Rubin/Wired article: “Inside Story of How Oculus Cracked the Impossible Design of VR”

On March 27, 2016 an article appeared in the Design column of Wired magazine. The article was written by Peter Rubin and is entitled  The Inside Story of How Oculus Cracked the Impossible Design of VR. It can be found online here. My relevant background information. I majored in Photographic Illustration, with a minor in Film and Video, at the Rochester Institute of Technology. I 've worked extensively as a visual artist/photographer/videomaker as well an employee (in all areas of pre-production, production and postproduction) for companies like CNN, Cartoon Network, Fuji TV and France 2.  Many moons ago I was a guinea pig for testing a nonVR viewing headset- I chose Fire Walk With Me, by David Lynch.I have worked on 3D gamemaking kits and taught 3D gamemaking classes. Recently, I worked with hiverlab in Singapore to produce Beach Road, a short VR film which was featured in the Brisbane Film Festival and nominated for Best Experimental Short Film at VR Fest 2016 in Las Vegas. This post is one of several in which I compile notes for a book on "the new cinematography", where lenses and computers function as one. I am also a writer. Selections from Peter Rubin's piece in bold. I use the article only as a starting point and hope I have not stepped on anyone's copyright to toes... if I have, just let me know and I will remedy the situation immediately. After nearly four years of work, Luckey and his colleagues are about to share their long-gestating dream with the world. The Oculus Rift arrives tomorrow, and anyone who finds one on their doorstep must have an absolutely seamless experience. With all the momentum that VR has right now—the millions of people who are aware of it, the billions of dollars poured into it—Luckey would hate to see it stall because of something as pedestrian as a long wait for a driver update. The article is extremely well written and this proves why. VR is both a dazzling, bloodless  industry and a baby being born. Peter Rubin has given us a face, a glimpse into the unknown and a problem we can all identify with. The description of Luckey and his tests is great on many levels. THE FIRST EVIDENCE of Carbon’s influence came before the acquisition, when Oculus released its second developer-only kit. That headset, the DK2, not only added new capabilities—most significantly, the ability to have its position tracked in space and a display technology that kept images clear even when users moved their heads quickly—but, with its rounded corners and smaller, less forbidding eyebox, it was immediately friendlier than its predecessor. “We don’t want the robot mask on your face,” says Nirav Patel, an Oculus engineer who helped design the motion-sensing brain of the Rift. “As we went from DK1 to DK2, we had in mind that we needed to overcorrect for that.” Questions/Thoughts: The DK2 had the ability to have its position tracked in space.  Timewise, how does this compare with mobile phones, which also have this ability, correct? The technology and thinking that created this ability amaze me and I would like to learn more. ... a display technology that kept images clear even when users moved their heads quickly me a geek, but I love me a little bit of math talk. The time between head movement and image stabilization was what fraction of a second? Audio Such an important part of the VR experience, yet so far we haven't heard anything about this....(pun intended). Ah!...another piece by Peter Rubin that describes audio and mentions the math on lag. Mentions the importance of 'presence' as well. You could custom-fit a 3-D-printed headset, but that was for naught if it didn’t lead to a good time in VR. As an artist, I would enjoy seeing these. The idea could also be expanded into masks/VR viewing devices...these would be worthy of an exhibition and would also offer exciting possibilities for interactive theatre. Specifically, for the clearest focus in VR—integral for achieving and maintaining “presence,” your brain reacting to a virtual experience as though it’s real—a headset’s lenses must be centered directly over your pupils. That interpupillary distance varies from person to person, and what Bristol characterizes as being “the 5th-to-95th percentile” of adults spans a range of more than half an inch. Problem! Math! And, in the next paragraph, Solution. Wow! “After you’ve used one of these for a while and you understand that it has this power to teleport you to a different world, you sort of look at it a different way,” says Atman Binstock, chief architect at Oculus. “This is the last thing you’re going to see before this magic power kicks in, and when you come out of this other world, it’s the first thing you’re gonna see as you take it off—and it has to be a comfortable part of this transition.”

Perceptive and sagacious. Atman Binstock cares about his product. The work that has gone into the aspect of Oculus device-as-part of the-entering/leaving-VR-experience will likely receive little publicity. I assume it will be so well-done that it will be taken for granted.

Related to this, I am guessing that there have been discussions, if not research, into making the Rift "impervious" to real world sounds.

As I wrote in the April issue of WIRED, everyone’s time with high-end VR has been chaperoned. It happened in a staffed kiosk somewhere public: a movie theater, an installation, a show like Comic-Con or SXSW. If a headset was uncomfortable or a PC froze, someone was there to help you. But now that that technology is finally coming into our homes, those minor annoyances threaten the growth of the industry. Early adopters tend to be ready to contend with setup woes or crashes. General consumers? Not so much. For VR to reach critical mass, there’s no wiggle room: It must be as simple and stable as possible.

Again, for those sitting in the back: For VR to reach critical mass, there’s no wiggle room: It must be as simple and stable as possible. Amen.

We’ve had more than a century of seeing information in basic gridded layouts; newspapers, websites, mobile phones, even TVs hew to this paradigm. Just because you have the luxury of navigable 3-D space doesn’t mean you have to reinvent that particular wheel—especially when you’re introducing people to an entirely new environment.

Just because you can, doesn' t mean you should. Yep.

Three menus in front of you—suspended in midair and positioned an optimally comfortable 2.5 meters from your eye—show your recently played games and experiences on the left, all available games in the center, and a list of your friends on the right.

Alright..we've learned that when we "step into "an Oculus VR experience, we are entering a luscious living room, and there in front of us are three menus, including a list of friends. Wow. "I'm living in the future..." David Byrne

There’s not even anything hovering behind you waiting to wow you with the promise of 360-degree space. That may seem like a missed opportunity, but it would still be VR for the sake of VR. Also, the perceptual data that Oculus dug up didn’t support it. “Once you start to get outside a 90-degree field of view, you start to turn your head,” Mitchell says. “Imagine we used the space behind you for important stuff and you have to go back all the time—you’re going to start to get tired.” And fatigue is an enemy of adoption.

BOOM! As a VR filmmaker, this  statement confirms what I have thought/experienced. 360VR is really good at creating a front-based viewing experience of 90 degrees. To me, VR is Big Cinema! People do not want to have to turn around for extended periods. Sometimes, yes, but only if it pushes the story. For example, we watch a ball being thrown over our heads and have to look behind us to see where it went... and discover a bad guy is there. With proper set up, it could be very effective. But I doubt many viewers will want to constantly turn around to watch scenes of long duration. However there are no rules, VR filmmaking is a frontier...just make sure swivel chairs are always handy!

Home will evolve through software and product updates. CEO Iribe teases the idea of digital pets and personalized decor—and of friends showing up.

If that sounds familiar, it should: Home will likely be where the impact of Facebook’s acquisition first becomes visible. In one early prototype, users could find picture frames around the Home environment displaying their Facebook photos. “We haven’t gone with any of that stuff for launch,” Mitchell says, “but there’s a huge opportunity to bring people’s experience outside VR into VR, and we’re going to look to push the boundaries of that in the future.”

For the umpteenth time: wow! WOW! Second Life without the high barriers to entry! By bringing nonVR experiences-and memories into VR, the sterility will disappear. Heartwarming kitchens, fashion runways full of real people, neutral meeting places for argumentative groups with different viewpoints. VR could be like TV! Or real life!