Category Archives: Singapore

red dot SAD (Stories, Art, Digitalia 2002-2017)

red dot SAD is a collection of stories, essays and images created during Stephen Black's fifteen years in Southeast Asia, mainly in Singapore. An American who has also lived in Tokyo, Manhattan, Hong Kong and Paris, the book documents a creative life that knows no boundaries.

Topics include virtual reality, performance art, network television, food, music, photography, and art projects of all kinds. Physical locations range from an abandoned "haunted" hotel to facilities stacked with IT machinery, from wet markets and beaches to construction sites, the Singapore Biennale, and government built housing complexes. For those interested in Singapore and anyone who enjoys visual arts and well-researched, dynamic writing.

red dot SAD is also an experiment. Presently the book is about 150 pages. Eventually the book will be printed on paper. Those who buy the earlier editions of the ebook receive the updated versions free of charge. For more information on how red dot SAD is re-inventing Amazon and crowdfunding, click here.

To see the current list of topics, click here.

red dot SAD on Amazon

Reviews of i ate tiong bahru, Black's bestselling book are here.

Interviews with Stephen Black and descriptions of his other books are here.

minimal book covers

red dot SAD (Stories Art, Digitalia 2002-2017) book by Stephen Black

Hummingbird vs. Helicopter

The following is inspired by a piece by Gerald Leow on display as part of his solo exhibition at Chan+Hampe Contemporary until June 25.

On a material level, Manifold is simple: a dynamic, radiating metal sculpture made of copies of the same jagged line. These lines are like flattened appendages of a predatory insect, or sentences written in a spiky font. The pieces are colored asymmetrically; seven tones shifting between purple and orange. Manifold is bold, yet delicate-- an opening and a threat. Leow has been quoted as saying that he wanted to create works which are poetically violent. He has succeeded. Manifold is a beautiful but deadly tropical flower, 76 x 76 x 17cm.

The “edginess” of the sculpture is literal; the aggressive shapes on the edges of the lines form negative spaces which complete the piece. These edges are appropriated from the font and logo used by Judas Priest, a heavy metal band. Leow, who studied sociology, has a body of work based on the logo and the conceptual possibilities of heavy metal subculture. With Manifold, however, the link to heavy metal is not obvious, thankfully. Appropriation can be a one-trick pony; what is insightful and magical initially can later become an unrewarding burden for both artist and audience.

The exhibition’s title adds another dimension. I am Time Grown Old to Destroy the World refers to a comment Robert Oppenheimer made in 1945, when he witnessed the detonation of his brainchild, the first atomic bomb. The phrase is from the Mahabharata, specifically the Bhagavad Gita. A passage of 700 verses, the Gita documents the exchange between Prince Arujuna and Lord Krishna as they discuss war, duty and moral confusion.

contemporary sculpture in Singapore

Manifold from Leow's exhibition at Chan+Hori Contemporary Gallery in Singapore

Southeast Asian artwork made of mild steel, automotive paint and western pop culture. It is real.  It has universal significance. Manifold is an artwork worthy of its most serious sources of inspiration: the Mahabharata and the atomic bomb.

…………………………………………30……………………………………

I am elaborating upon this essay, including other projects of Gerald's as well as some of our collaborations and personal experiences. The result will be included in red dot SAD which is updated periodically.

Self-portrait as a Game

Hong Kong 1995: to pay the bills you work as a promo producer for Cartoon Network/Turner Classic Movies. At a wild party in a hair salon on a Sunday morning,  a beautiful Japanese woman says you should meet Seki, because, “he’s a genius.” You:
  1. Get Seki's contact info
  2. Thank her and misbehave
You show up at Seki’s. Your eyes immediately become glued to:
  1. Seki, a short, charming man with a moustache; part Mr. Magoo, part card shark
  2. The wireframe mode of a lens displayed on his laptop
  3. The postcards of rabbits on Seki's wall
The Handover of Hong Kong from Great Britain to China is over and you have become a freelancer. You get a job as a producer for CNN, a music program called Worldbeat. You  go to Singapore to cover the WOMAD Festival, with the help of a fantastic assistant and a great cameraman. As you get back onto the plane to return to Hong Kong, you think:
  1. I ‘m never coming back here again.
  2. What a fascinating multicultural, cosmopolitan first world country.  A truly desirable and charming place in which to reside!
You are now in Tokyo, to  set up and manage the six television channels operated by Fox, who have just set up operations in Japan.That contract ends and you write a movie script and search out ways to produce the film. Eventually you have to leave and re-enter the country for visa reasons. You go to:
  1. Shanghai
  2. Singapore
Singapore is where has Seki set up his $3.2  million  startup. The company has two divisions: one is doing something like Youtube; a platform for user-generated video content. (This is three years before Youtube.) The other division is creating a 3D/VR software for game development. The software is educational and entertaining and you have never seen anything like it. Seki asks you to join him, for a reasonable salary and a stake in the company. You:
  1. Join Seki
  2. Return to Tokyo to make a film
October 24, Singapore Science Center. Two years after joining Seki, the gamemaking software will premiere as part of the  three-month long Planet Games exhibition at the Singapore Science Center. You set up a small table with a large monitor and big CPU. Next to you is a large maze made out of plastic sheets;  something called AR Pacman. You and the AR Pacman team are the ony exhibitors in the Future section. Finally after more than ten years of hard work, Seki’s dream is a reality. The morning of the premiere, Seki:
  1. Dies from a heart attack
  2. Announces plans for the IPO
...to be continued....

Tiong Bahru Mouth: A Couple Descending

Tiong Bahru Mouth

This post documents progress on Tiong Bahru Mouth, which is a collection of short stories and a visual art project, both by Stephen Black. Visual art, in this case, means photographs, videos and 360 videos. There is also a haiku component which is hidden on the internet. PHOTOGRAPHS http://www.blacksteps.tv/tiong-bahru-mouth-images/ VIDEOS Coffee and Light Tiong Bahru Mouth Wakes Up Jian Boh Shui Kueh at Sunrise Tiong Bahru Teochew Kueh Tiong Bahru Teochew Kueh glutinous rice packing Galicier Counter at CNY Two Friends in a Hardware Shop A Couple Descending  

Cinematography 8.0: VR (best of blog posts 2016) part 3

the previous post:
Cinematography 8.0: VR (best of blog posts, 2016)part 2
Five things I Learned on my first 360 VR shoot: Pioneer/avante-garde/visionary… flop!?
Five things I Learned on my first 360 VR shoot: just because you can…
Five things I learned on my first 360 VR shoot: The Director is Blind
 
Beach Road short film (360 video)
Five things I learned on my first 360 VR shoot: Bobsledding vs. Skateboarding
360 Videography: What would Matisse do?
the first name for Beach Road was Wall Clouding...
Wall Clouding
Wall Clouding preproduction notes
Angelic Visions Notes
cinematography_cover_221116_576_1024_v3
Immersive Environments/VR: Notes on Art and Cinematography
SPOKEN Machinima Notes
SB & 3D (Why I’m excited to be in Eugene Soh’s virtual gallery project)
SPOKEN (virtual art gallery and writing project)
               

Cinematography 8.0: VR (best of blog posts, 2016)part 1

Cinematography 8.0: light and motion in the age of VR, AR, AI, 4K, 8K, AI and drones... the working of the book I am working on. The experiences and information in these posts will shape the book. Comments and questions are always welcome.

http://www.blacksteps.tv/stephen-black-vr-art-books-and-singapore/ (Hey, who's driving this thing?)

http://www.blacksteps.tv/riffs-on-vives-vr-development-bootcamp-at-digipen-part-1/ (If you know nothing about VR content, take a few weeks and really go over this. If you have been making VR content, especially CG-generated, this is a great review of state of the art in 2016.)

http://www.blacksteps.tv/riffs-on-viveasiavrs-vr-development-bootcamp-at-digipen-part-2/ (see above)

http://www.blacksteps.tv/cinematography-8-0-light-and-motion-in-the-age-of-vr-360-4k-8kar-ai-cg-and-drones/ ( A bit about the book)

http://www.blacksteps.tv/he-once-hitchhiked-morning-chat-with-reed-hastings-ceo-netflix-disruption-culture-people-and-leadership/ (Netflix, obviously, are but one of the millions of companies that benefit from the art of cinematography.)

http://www.blacksteps.tv/facebook-livewhat-would-andy-warhol-do/

http://www.blacksteps.tv/notes-on-my-first-two-facebook-live-shoots/

http://www.blacksteps.tv/vr-what-would-picasso-do-notes-and-links/

http://www.blacksteps.tv/what-should-the-new-york-times-sound-like/

http://www.blacksteps.tv/aspects-of-vr-in-bali-wave-ghost-the-novel-by-stephen-black/

http://www.blacksteps.tv/mee-young-photography-project-internal-logic/

http://www.blacksteps.tv/the-cinematography-booknotes-and-eugene-soh/

http://www.blacksteps.tv/the-cinematography-booknotes-and-a-reviewer/

http://www.blacksteps.tv/kind-of-the-vr-state-of-the-union-as-of-march-30-2016-part-1-of-2/ (Things change so much and I became so busy that writing the second part didn't happen)

END OF PART 1

PART 2 IS HERE

Stephen Black: VR, Art, Books and Singapore

This blog post chronicles some of the activities I have been involved with since 2002, when I began being based in Singapore. Previous to 2002, I lived in Manhattan,Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong.I have a BFA degree in Photographic Illustration from the Rochester Institute of Technology, with a minor in Film and Video and have been employed by companies such as Fuji TV, Cartoon Network, Fox, MTV, France 2 and Turner Classic Movies. I have directed, created promos and written scripts in addition to my activities as a photographer, artist and writer.

2002-2007

Creative Director, Producer, Cameraman, Instructor and Writer for WalkerAsia/Compudia/Blacksteps

This story is quite cinematic but to simplify, the CEO who was the guiding force of WalkerAsia and  Compudia passed away unexpectedly, without a succession plan in place. The business plan of WalkerAsia was to be something like Youtube--but at the time we were unaware of Youtube, as it began 3 years later, in 2005.The business plan of Compudia was to create a platform that included email, chat, character licensing and a very very powerful educational/gaming SDK that was both simple enough for inexperienced children and advanced enough for professional game designers. CDK Landing pageI formed Blacksteps to to carry the project forward. However, despite the fact that Compudia had been set up with over $3 million dollars worth of funding and had positive, working relationships with the Singapore Ministry of Education, the Singapore Science Center  and other Singapore agencies, as well as the beginning of public acceptance, issues surrounding the IP made further successes impossible.

I then decided to spend more time with art and began writing books-- a lifelong dream of mine. (My father was a book salesman.) I was certain I would return to VR once mobile technology stabilized and VR headsets were finally accessible to the public.

Details about the books I wrote can be found elsewhere on this blog. The titles include: The Agaricus blazeii Murrill Notebook, Obama Search Words, Furikake, Contact With Shadow, Bali Wave Ghost and i ate tiong bahru which is a national bestseller in Singapore.

The following projects are VR-related

Secret Donut World is a collaboration with David Severn a British artist/resident of Japan. The Secret Donut World characters and the world they live in are designed specifically for VR. We are now reviewing SDW in light of recent stabilized technologies, such as those which made Pokemon Go and Job Simulator possible. We are preparing materials for partnerships, licensing and investors.

lance from Secret Donut World

Flame Magnet is go! Art by David Severn

SPOKEN www.gallery.sg Inside of a virtual gallery(Unity) built by Eugene Soh are a number of works which I curated. There was also a writing component. Participants were from all over the world, some very famous, some not. More details can be found on this blog.

Cinematography 8.0 light and motion in the age of VR, AR, AI, 360, 8K and drones is the title of a book work in progress. Information is available elsewhere on this blog.cinematography_cover_221116_576_1024_v3

3how: the Riverwalk Session As co-founder of 3how, I am fortunate to work with exceptionally talented people of all kinds. The musicianship on this album is outstanding and the recording technique provided valuable experience for future audio projects, VR included.

a circle with veins

3how: a table in front of a wall

Lee Wen: Ping Pong Go Round and Seasons Without Seasons Although SWS is not 360, the idea of 360 space was one of the concerns while shooting and editing

Beach Road Produced with Hiverlab, this short film was featured at the 2015 Brisbane Film Festival and nominated for Best Experimental Film at the 2016 Las Vegas VR Fest.

360 video still

Stephen Black sits in a parking lot. Image is in 360. Beach Road is a coproduction between Stephen Black and hiverlab

Norm Black was the name of a photo exhibition and the public debut of Beach Road. 3how performed. 2015

ay4ya-woman-with-vr-goggles

The Sudden VR Fest at Ay4ya art space at Isetan, Wisma Atria, Singapore.2016

Informal and full of surprises, the Sudden VR Fest was organized by Stephen Black and included the participation of Hiverlab, Lionel Chok/ImmersivelyPicture Perfect Productions,  Jo Joshua/Viziofly and Aram Pan. Related post:  http://www.blacksteps.tv/the-2016-sudden-vr-festival-360-videos-on-youtube/

jo-joshua-at-the-sudden-vr-festival

w-lionel-chok-at-isetan

jo-joshua-pointing-at-jane-the-sudden-vr-festival

Riffs on Vive/AsiaVR’s VR Development Bootcamp at DigiPen (part 2)

Part  1 of this post is here, and includes the list of presenters as well as links to their companies, topics, etc.

If you are working with VR, I would also like to let you know about a book I have been working on: you can be part of it!

Thanks again to Vive and AsiaVR for putting together such an inspiring event!

OK, again, these notes are in no particular, and in some cases I am just sharing fragmented thoughts and or links.

The Nvidia Funhouse was introduced by  Delia Hou, nVidia , in her presentation entitled NVIDIA  VR Works: Accelerating and Enhancing VR Experiences. I was captivated and took few notes. This article from GEforce, however, summarizes what Funhouse is and talks about the back end.

A brief description of Funhouse, from Youtube:

NVIDIA VR Funhouse highlights what NVIDIA Pascal-based GeForce GTX 1080 GPUs can do for VR. Built using Epic's UE4, VR Funhouse brings a new level of immersion to VR by enhancing what you see, hear and touch through a combination of great graphics, fully interactive audio and simulated physics.(the red coloring is my doing; I want to emphasize this...) As for the following clip, I reluctantly have to say that, as one who has produced hundreds of promos, this one falls short...)

Now...this video has got the FUNHOUSE HEAT! https://youtu.be/fUL610qR6WM

Finally, from The Verge:

Nvidia's VR Funhouse is a tech demo to test your PC's limits

Another presenter was Martin Eklund, from Space Plunge. Part of his presentation was about GPU-coding for animation and certain effects, but the highlight for me was Art Plunge, which is now in a Kickstarter  campaign.

Douglas Lee, from Fantahorn Studio (HTC Vive)shared his experiences in VR Game Development

Related articles: 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

Weiging, from HTC Vive, gave a presentation on the New Era of VR

Another presentation: Asset Creation Process for Front Defense. By Ethan Tsao, Fantahorn Studio

Vive X, the Accelerator Program.

Discovered this...(ultimate empathy machine?NOT! But would thrilled to be proven wrong.)

Joe McGinn, from DigiPen Institute of Technology, shared insights into  Presence in VR. "Presence" is what it is all about. Immersion. The technical side must become so good that it is invisible. One glitch, one dropped frame and the illusion vanishes. Joe's talk highlighted ways to put the "real" into virtual reality.

A TechCrunch article on Presence

I would like to deeply thank all of the presenters and the organizers. Starting from 2002 I was deeply involved with VR, gamememaking and educational uses of VR. In 2007, because of unforeseen circumstances with the company that I was employed with, as well as new opportunities, I shifted my focus to art and writing. The Kindle (a device built by a megacompany; a device dedicated to only ebooks!) was launched in 2007 and with it, my book writing began. I've since written five books, including a Singaporean bestseller. My plan was to wait until mobile had stabilized and VR  was almost ready for mass adoption..and here we are! This bootcamp brought me up to speed. Some things haven't changed:  although computational power has increased,  graphics are still a challenge. I was thrilled to discover, with an open mind, the state of physics engines and haptics. Now we have HMDs and hand controllers! WOW!.......It's 2017... I have characters, artworks and ideas for VR experiences and am more than ready to help define VR cinema...

Let's go!

SB

vr-haptic-demo        

everything

You are probably here because you received a piece of paper from me.   HELLO   I am writing this on Thursday, November 24....  a very full day. Probably on Sunday I can come back and fill this page full of descriptions and links about my projects. For now... SPOKEN at www.gallery.sg this was created with Eugene Soh and is full of art and writing. It requires a 10 meg download, which is free. Beach Road You'll need a VR viewing device to see this short film which was featured at the 2015 Brisbane Film Festival and nominated for Best Experimental Film at the 2016 Las Vegas VR Fest. Descriptions of my books including videos and reviews. Please consider taking a look at my crowdfunding projects for a Tiong Bahru poster AND a book on the way that technology has affected cinematography. And, scattered throughout this blog are posts about art, post full of photography, short stories and posts about all kinds of things.   THANKS FOR STOPPING BY!   Stephen Black