I have been concerned with health for as long as I can remember. In 2000 I wrote a book about a medicinal mushroom. My partner and I worked on a permaculture farm in Bali a few years ago. My diet is far from ideal, and I should exercise more, and work harder to be a vegetarian. Overall, though, my health is pretty good.
So... I am also very involved with AR... And, I wanted to test an idea, using a lighthearted approach to talk about the Corona situation. At breakfast I mentioned a few ideas to my mom, and an hour later, we had the result above.
Yes, it could be edited. The sound drops out. The camerawork is amateurish. The truth is that I didn't realize I was recording.
But there is a charm to the video, and a few concepts that I do not want to analyze too much.
The software is called FaceReplaced, and it is in beta. One result of this was that, at first, it appeared upside down when we put it on Facebook... Somehow, even that seemed appropriate for these times...
Thanks to Catchar, I discovered the FaceReplaced app. I installed and in less than 5 minutes had a very interesting little video. The following gives you an idea of what FaceReplaced can do but, yes...I hope you are viewing this on a mobile phone, as it seems to be upside down. This is a normal little hiccup for an app in beta. THIS BUG HAS BEEN FIXED.
FaceReplaced works exceptionally well, with no installation friction, and almost no learning curve.
I am now thinking of a way to get Bubiko in FaceReplaced, so that she can read sections from her book about AR. The challenge is that Face Replaced works best with real 3D objects, and at the moment, I only have Bubiko in 2D (paper) or as a digital adventurer in 2D videos and photos.
From my TV and gamemaking days, I have some familiarity with compositing. Although it is almost certain that I will never become a compositor, I sat in on Hugo's seminar. I think I retained about .001% of the technical information that Hugo shared, but observing his workflow and troubleshooting tips was inspiring.
Conrad and Alexa presented like the professionals that they are. They completed each other's sentences. They kept the topics moving. Perhaps they rehearsed and planned for a long time, or maybe they just improvised so informatively because they knew their subject so well. They showed clips and explained the stories behind them. If there is an Addams Family Hall of Fame, Conrad and Alexa should be in it.
Animated movies have their own unique characteristics, but they also act as "containers" for other art forms, music being the most obvious example, drawing being another. However, successful animated characters are the result of combining drawing, sculpture, programming and... dreaming. Animated characters are often realistic, but they can ignore the laws of physics. Dreams and animation need no logic.
Having said that, the more a VFX operator/CG artist/animator studies reality, the better. Noticing the almost imperceptible muscles movements of the human body results in all kinds of possibilities, especially when one must make a character react to something unexpected. The following clip was shown by Theodore Tye, as part of his excellent presentation entitled Beyond Eye Darts: A Closer Look at Acting for Animation:
This masterclass, through the analysis of clips from animated and live- action films as well as acting theory, takes a fun, in-depth look at the study and execution of both comedy and dramatic acting for animation.
Following is one of the clips shown to exemplify a reaction worth studying.
I have just settled down after travelling for over two months. I am still processing all that I learned and experienced at VIEW and an other post is on its way.
It was unexpected, suddenly having a brief discussion about cancer treatments with Professor Daniel Zajfman, the President of the Weizmann Institute of Science. Unplanned as well; Professor Zajfman was being interviewed right in front of me. What I happened to overhear was a phrase that went something like this: “Historically, cancer was perceived as one disease. Eventually, we understood that there are many kinds of cancer. Now, we realize that cancer, just like every living being, seems to be unique.”
At first, the presence of Professor Zajfman at VIEW was surprising. The VIEW website is a striking collection of the latest animated movies, CG creations and award-winning Hollywood technical talents. Why would a physicist whose career focuses on atomic and molecular physics be making a presentation..He seeks to understand the astrophysical conditions found in star-forming regions, as well as working to solve the riddle of star formation. VIEW also focus on exploring the increasingly fluid boundary between real and digital worlds. Professor Zajfman listened attentively, gave me his card, and that was that. Unfortunately, I had no chance to attend his talk which was entitled What is Why and Why is it Important?
A woman warrior riding upon a flying dragon the size of a 747.
A rat who cooks in a three star restaurant in Paris.
A mouse whose best friends are a dog and a duck.
The tortured soul of a giant robot.
A captured clownfish.
Animation is the art form in which ideas like these become the foundations of global economic powerhouses.
Besides toys, the animation industry sells food products, books, health products, clothing, banking services and more. At VIEW 2019, I was very fortunate to listen to, and interact with, some of the most successful men and women in contemporary animation.
It is difficult to say who impressed me the most, but Thomas Schelesny would be in the top of the list. His presentation about the dragons created for Game of Thrones was extremely impressive.
However, after his talk he spoke to a few people, including students. He discussed the idea of being an artist. Egos were discussed. Mr. Schelesny did not mention his Emmy. What he did speak about was the professionalism needed to keep things moving. The dragons of GoT were an extremely expensive undertaking that required seamless interaction between a number of companies all over the world. These companies, for the most part, rarely work with other companies. The production schedule was dangerously short.
Mr. Schelesny exemplified the traits that are usually found in the best soldiers fighting the worst wars. He was a leader who stayed focused and thought of all members on his team.
Those watching Game of Thrones saw a beautifully choreographed and realistic battle of flying dragons. Those aware of what was happening behind the scenes , with Thomas and the Image Engine Design, saw a very different battle; one equally thrilling but real.
The goal is to prepare for the possibilities of AR cinema.
This post documents a simple test. The Bubiko model used for the Tech in the Tenderloin event was used. Two locations: a garage and an open piece of land. The objective: to gain an understanding of what a “stage” can be in AR. AR is a new medium; to use the established techniques of theatre, television and movie is to fail to grasp the uniqueness of AR. Performance art and dance provide clues.
Notes: Spark used
Occlusion not a concern at this time
Ambient light a constant
Size and scaling of Bubiko purposely varied
Bubiko was created by Stephen Black and Sayuri Okayama
iPad used; no manual controls nor color correction
Status: Completely shot, soundtrack and voice acting completed.
Needed: budget for graphics, final edit, audio mixing and promotion.
This video was meant to be an inhouse experiment, but due to time restrictions, is being used as an introduction to Lotus Mountain. A proper 4K rough cut will be ready by SXSW, as well as a detailed booklet for press and distributors.
The assistance and support of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Kandao were invaluable in the production of Lotus Mountain.
Stephen Black is an independent artist/producer/writer committed to finishing Lotus Mountain.
Next to me is Mari Goround, probably the only Asian in the audience. We’re in the balcony, the “cheap seats” that cost us a hundred and six bucks. We wish we’d bought drinks. And eaten. Below us are couples and groups of middle-aged Caucasians. Some pink hair, some green hair, some went-to-my-stylist-this afternoon-hair, grey hair, no hair. To my right, a guy in a tee shirt that says: I can’t keep calm. I’m from Toledo.
Soon, Grosse Pointe Blank will start. Afterwards, John Cusack, the movie's star and producer, will answer questions. We're hoping John will autograph a book called Ernie Banks, Home Run Slugger. It was the only Chicago Cubs book we could find. Only yesterday did we learn that John would be here. My hands are still pale red; I just checked the backstage door again, hoping John would be there, and in a good mood. A long shot, I know. All I saw was the Ohio Turnpike and an empty, long white bus in a parking lot full of nothing but dirty snow and black ice. The wind was freezing.
With that autographed book, Mari hopes to crowdfund a film about Yosh Kawano. Yosh took care of the Chicago Cubs for six decades. Inside the Ernie Banks book is an envelope containing a paper describing Mari’s documentary idea. Four images on the paper: Yosh’s famous white fishing hat, now in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Then, a baseball card of the 1958 Cubs, with a yellow circle around Yosh. Next, Yosh’s smiling face in front of the American flag-- his obituary photo. The last photo: the Manzanar internment camp. Yosh was one of the over 100,000 Americans interned during World War II. Anyone 1/16th Japanese or more was given six days to pack and get on a train, with no destination given. Yosh was released early so he go fight in New Guinea and the Philippines. He won combat medals.
Grosse Point Blank ends and John, seated and wearing a black baseball cap, is answering questions. He’s talked about music, about politics, about the movie business. “They were open to ideas then... Like, we could talk about Dan Akroyd’s character wearing a woman’s Kabuki costume. Wild things like that. Now, committees plan everything. They film different endings and take surveys to decide who gets a happy ending or dies or falls in love or whatever. It’s discouraging. Great art can't be predicted.”
Next, a woman approaches one of the mikes and suggests to John that he should marry her daughter. Then he’s asked about his most challenging role. “Max,” he answers. An attractive woman asks John if he’d like to meet her and her friends afterwards, in a karaoke bar. The moderator moves things on, points to a man at the mike on the other side of the room.
"John, what about the World Series? I'm a Cleveland fan ".
Even from here we see John’s eyes flash. “Biblical! Grampa Rossy got hit in the face with a ball, comes back with a solo homer! Seventeen minute rain delay before the tenth... it was like Moby Dick!” John starts describing the wild ups and downs of the " most greatest world series ever.” A baseball has 108 stitches. Last time the Cubs won the series was 108 years ago. Coincidence? I think not.”
Mari looks at me. Soon, we will sneak her into one of the lines of people who paid a hundred and twenty five dollars to be photographed next to John. I will then go outside, by the backstage door, and wait.
Hi , I am Stephen Black and I'd like to thank you for reading this.
First, Mari Goround is a fictional character. The idea of crowdfunding a movie about Yosh Kawano is a good one, but I do not know of anyone doing that. I would be happy to develop the ideas above into a script. For now, I am hoping to write more, as well as develop my ideas about AR software and Augmented Reality movies. I'm also planning to be in Austin for the SXSW festival next month. If you can help keep the balls in the air, or just want to wear an attractive, unusual (and comfortable) tee shirt, click here. THANK YOU!
PS. The story above is was extracted from a longer version, half of which is posted here.
PSS I just discovered Ansel Adams photographed a baseball game at Manzanar! I do not know if Yosh was at Manzanar; I read a newspaper article that a family from Washington State was sent there. As Yosh was born in Washington, perhaps he was sent on a train down there also.
Hello! An update... and a request for support. I know the world is a goofy place and that a film is a luxury, in many ways. But I am now, with a great team, making a short 360VR film. The setting is the city of Shenzhen, the Silicon Valley of China. The film is about a couple, one of whom is a robot, but the film is ultimately about relationships.
Additionally, we are also in postproduction for a documentary on the city of Shenzhen itself.
Your help would make these two projects the best that they can be. We documented Shenzhen for 24 hours on August 18th. The documentation actually started on the 17th, which was Chinese Valentine's Day. That inspired the second short film, called Lotus Mountain.
I will write and do some Facebook Live broadcasts soon. If there were more time, I would do a crowdfunding campaign.
Stephen Black holding a Qoocam 360VR camera at the 2018 Maker Faire in Hong Kong.
Leo Wei, on the left, demonstrating a Kandao camera at Hong Kong Polytechnic
But we discovered the deadline for the Sundance Film Festival is this month, as is the deadline for a major European VR festival.
We are looking for sponsors and perhaps there is a way to sell it later. VR is a frontier, and there is no way to predict what will happen. For what it is worth, my first VR film was shown at festivals in Brisbane, Las Vegas and Singapore.
If you would like to support, the easiest action with the most value is to buy one of my books, probably i ate tiong bahru. It is a bestseller in Singapore.The paperback version is 17.88, and the ebook and audiobook versions are less than that. If you want to support more, please send me a private message. If you have a company that has a product that could appear in the movie, I am very happy to talk about that as well. Thank you very much for reading this!
At the 2018 Maker Faire at Hong Kong Polytechnic
Stephen Black holding a Qoocam 360VR camera at the 2018 Maker Faire at HK PolyU.
In the next post I will write about the great production, music, art and acting talents who are involved.
Oh yes... Beach Road, my first VR film, was a co-production with Hiverlab that has been featured in VR film festivals in Las Vegas, Singapore and Brisbane.