Category Archives: SPOKEN

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
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 2

Continued from Part 1....
Responses to the Peter Rubin/Wired article: “Inside Story of How Oculus Cracked the Impossible Design of VR”
Eight thoughts on The Displaced, a VR project by the New York Times
Norm Black VR exhibition notes
Norm Black: Before
A typical conversation (perhaps) about VR, circa 2015
Virtual Reality for Beginners/Simple Chart/Designer Project
Beach Road 360 VR short film PRESS RELEASE
Five things I Learned on my first 360 VR shoot:Ready for my close-up. NOT!
On to part 3!          

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 name of the book I am working on. The experiences and information in these posts will shape the book. Comments and questions are always welcome. Please note that the book will consist of two parts: Philosophy and Compendium. The Philosophy section will be theoretical, poetic and hopefully a source of inspiration. The Compendium consists, in part, of descriptions and explanations. In a very open and transparent sense, they can be paid pieces of content, as long as the subject is related to the topic. In the crowdfunding campaign these will be available as rewards. If you would like to discuss this before the campaign begins, get in touch. The pricing structure will be very flexible and besides writing about companies, softwares, aps and products, I would enjoy writing about a VR artwork , film or project that may not have budget. THANK YOU... And now, ladies and gentlemen, ... the blog posts you have all been waiting for! (Hey, who's driving this thing?) (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.) (see above) ( A bit about the book) (Netflix, obviously, are but one of the millions of companies that benefit from the art of cinemotography.) (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 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: 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 interested in 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! 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!) 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        


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 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    

Designers I have worked with…

I was recently reminded of how important the presentation of an object or idea is. I have often disregarded this idea or used it as a filter to separate people who are serious about my work from those who possibly interested in it because of an attractive presentation. With the I Ate Tiong Bahru book, for example, I avoided putting a nicely composed Tiong Bahru street scene or a plate of delicious food on the cover. Both would have been appropriate, but both would have attracted readers that might have been disappointed in the text inside. The stories in IATB are not "avante-garde" or challenging. The mix of styles, plus the way history, fiction, fact and food information are woven together  mean that the reader never knows what to expect on the next page. The  cover, perfectly realized by the photographer/designer Philipp Aldrup, was meant as a suggestive signal that the reader should be open-minded.I Ate Tiong Bahru book cover With the Voice of Pieces project, I ignore Design, just as I Ignore Art, Commerce,  Logic and more: the VoP Project is about creating an experience and an oral history more than anything else. Lastly, the original cover of Furikake was meant to be the "ugliest cover on Amazon. Designed it myself!
terrible book covers

Furikake once featured the ugliest cover on Amazon!

At the moment I am using this blog post as a way of remembering things, looking at my life from a different perspective. I would like to make time and come back and write about more of the designers and design experiences later. For now, I present you with just the minimum  of info. If you are one of the brilliant designers listed below, please know that whenever I see your works, I am very appreciative and feel very fortunate to have worked with you. THANK YOU! The Eighties! Mr. Xerox Machine... Oh, was I happy working with copying machines.!(Am happy!) New York City, Rochester NY, Tokyo, Toledo, Ottawa Lake... the errors, the unevenness, the paper jams, "double exposures"! This video...well...I would love to work on it again... And yep, Paul Dodd, the drummer, has helped me with a design project or two, including the logo for blacksteps, my "sleeping" company. Paul's work as a painter, however is what makes him one of my favorite Artists. Danceteria/No Se No...The designers at these places made a great impression upon me, though I did not know them personally and my involvement with Danceteria and No Se No was only very rarely featured on their posters, almost nonexistent. Izumi Inoue He did the layout and cover for a book I was working on, something called Tonbow, which needs to be rejuvenated. It was my first time to experience the power of self-publishing, though I only made a few copies. Izumi was/is a magician! Galerie NW House-Endo-san or someone she knew made the postcards for my exhibition. They were simple delights that we put stamps on and mailed. Tokyo/SPP/Barae..... Barae is a post-butoh dancer/actress. In the early Ninties, we operated an art space together, something called SPP. Our own design work was copy machine/collage style, with one exception. The W postcard was a luscious postcard and the text was in Japanese and English. I must find it and scan it. Working on that was my first lesson in wabi-sabi. Also, whenever Barae had a performance, she worked designers to make chirashii; the results were gorgeous. Terry Jones. Five minutes when he came in to oversee a story about Stelarc featuring my photos of Stelarc. I-D Japan He will not remember me. At the time I did not know who he was. But he knew what was and--wasn't-- working with the layout. The Nineties! Sadato's 1992 CD cover Never met the designer. Would like to shake his or her hand. Sadato, where are you? David Bothwell. It was always a treat to work with David and Alice and hang out in their office in Hong Kong. SO PROFESSIONAL! They did the flyer for a photo exhibition of mine, as well as the VHS packaging for Yallah, the Sadato VHS. And then there was the delightful craziness of posters for Hans, the Birdman. David did the cover of Obama Search Words. Roy Chan wowed us all with the look and feel of SPOKEN. Roy also created a postcard for an exhibition I did in Tokyo, that seemed to "inspire"a travel agency poster: the look and feel was exactly the same. Makiko Kuno. Su go ii!  I watched Tamala being born. Network TV. Sally Howard. Stefanie Pfeffer,who is now doing all kinds of interesting motion design in Europe Lawrence?--all from TNT/Cartoon Network in Hong Kong. And, the staff who worked with me in the promo department at Fox in Tokyo...yes, I have been very lucky. One of the projects I did, the sales tape launching Cartoon Network in Japan, was featured at the Promax Awards. In TV, designers and graphics people make it happen!And, sometimes, it is Stuart Rankin feeling! Kumiko Akiyoshi. Unfortunately I cannot now remember the name of her friend who was also a great designer. I do remember she drove a Corvette when she took me to see the restaurant in Kabukicho that we c0-designed! David Severn, an artist, he did the drawing for an upcoming book of mine called Flame Magnet. We are also hoping to re-energize the characters we created for a virtual game space called Secret Donut World. The dawn of this important millenium of ours... Well, things started in Tokyo, when I worked for Fox, then in 2002 where I was with the Youtube-like company (before Youtube that was also a Second Life-like company (before Second Life).CDK Landing page Though I was Creative Director, most of the packaging was handled by those who worked with  characters.Agaricus blazeii murrill note book cover I need to retrieve the emails exchanged with the woman who designed the cover of the ABM Notebook. She was great. I say "was great" because, sadly, not long after we finished this project, she was taking photographs and was fatally hit by a car. It was also around this time that I met the very talented Peter Dean, now a good friend. We worked on something for something like a joint venture between Canon and the gaming/video company I worked for. Kinda experimental, which was a surprise for a company that big... THE DEAN on Facebook. To be continued!  

SB Projects at the start of the Year of the Monkey (February 2016)

So... recent projects, soon to be completed projects,projects that have been on hold. Challenges and dreams. I Ate Tiong Bahru 2 Yes, the sequel to I Ate Tiong Bahru has been one of the projects simmering on the back burner...It is very very likely I will do a Publishizer project once I examine all the pieces that are nearly in place.(I SET IT UP AND THIS IS THE LINK!) Once concern is that many of the people who seem to have enjoyed the original book are of an age and lifestyle that don't involve Paypal and that sort of thing. Plus, with the sequel, I'd really like to connect with those who may be comfortable speaking in a Chinese dialect. Any thoughts are welcomed! priest painting the sky I Ate Tiong Bahru Audiobook Really...this could go live any day! ArtReview Asia review of IATBcover of Artreview Asia Voicemaps I have Tiong Bahru mapped out, as well as Bali, Yangon and a surprise or two. Bali Wave Ghost After three years+ of doing the starving artist thing,it's time to work on the net net and synergize so as to secure maximum ROI. Bali Wave Ghost in a Periplus bookstore SPOKEN SPOKEN needs to increase its really is an incredible piece of work:a virtual gallery built by Eugene Soh and filled with contributions from an extremely diverse collectino of artists and writers.
two male avatars in a very red gallery

Stephen Black and Eugene Soh offering guests a drink in the virtual lobby of, the location for the SPOKEN exhibition

INSEIN I recently spent almost ten days in Yangon. I created images with a digital camera. I would like to exhibit them and create a book.The images use Yangon as a starting point... airline map sing to Rangoon I Ate LaPhet Thoke Conceptual art meets culinary research. A booklet co-created with Sayuri Okayama. IMG_3604 la phet thoke in styrofoam w Joe 19th st Beach Road This 360VR movie also needs to find a bigger audience.
360 video still from Beach Road

The Independent Archive in Singapore

Towards a New Cinematography Have been thinking a lot and soon will put pen to paper, digital style. plus another project or five... AND I WANT TO SPEND TIME WITH MY MOM AND DAD AND BROTHER AND DAUGHTER!

Eugene Soh: ATM, Jesus and a laptop

Eugene Soh! The Dude! One of the artists in Singapore that always makes things interesting and makes interesting things. Intelligent but without pretensions, Eugene is also a geek/hacker with a sense of humor who knows how to keep it user-friendly. I have been very lucky to work with him several times. SPOKEN is a gem of a project that has been chugging along on the digital underground for over a year. There is plenty of SPOKEN info elsewhere on this blog. These photos are from Eugene's presentation about The Second Coming, his show at Chan-Hampe gallery, which starts on February 18, 2016. Finally, I have to say that Eugene shared a video which is probably the most moving Singaporean film I have seen.
man making a presentation

Artist Eugene Soh presenting his work at Canvas, in Singapore. December 30, 2015. Feel free to use these images but do include the following websites: &

IMG_2631 IMG_2633 IMG_2634 IMG_2635 IMG_2636 IMG_2637 IMG_2638 IMG_2639 IMG_2640 IMG_2641

Norm Black: Before

Norm Black is the name of my exhibition at Mettlework Art Space, from September 3-6, 2015. I will be showing a VR short film created with Hiverlab, a virtual gallery created with Eugene Soh and involving 40 artists and writers, a conceptual piece with kuehs and black and white prints of Tiong Bahru. I will do a reading. 3how will play, at least once Finally, there will be appropriated photographs of the bottoms and sides of anchored ships Please note: Norm Black is also my dad's name. He sells books. I always thought his name would be a great name for a book, band or exhibition. NORM BLACK FACEBOOK PAGE OK, first an explanation of what 's going on. Norm Black is being put together very quickly as I soon hope to return to an almost hermit-like existence while I complete a novel called Bali Wave Ghost. I have been planning to start writing on September 10. Less than two weeks ago, Beach Road went online. It soon became apparent that many small screenings would need to be arranged, as opposed to renting a theatre or art space. A VR movie is meant to be viewed with a viewer, also called a HMD. Which means many HMDs have to be bought OR many Android phones have to be found so that they can fit into the Cardboard viewers which Hiverlab has. Moving the story along, I put out a call, looking for spaces. Boom! Dennis Tan,  who is very familiar with Mettlework and Bruce Quek from Mettlework both responded. So that's how it started. The work to be shown/what's happening: Beach Road VR movie (5 minutes) SPOKEN Virtual Gallery 3how Sept. 3, maybe another night or two. 3how on FB Depth images Taste, Trial and Error (kueh: edible sculptures/conceptual art)thumb kways Dissolving Tiong Bahru (experimental black and white prints) Words were the first VR: a reading by Stephen Black Sunday, 7pm -9pm Plus a surprise or two... Exhibition Hours: Thursday, September 3  7pm-11pm Friday 10 am- 3pm Saturday 10am-11pm Sunday 10am-11pm Location: 50 Lorong 17. Closest station: Aljunied Questions: Stephen Black: bookmerah %at & gmail