Tag Archives: VR

Steve’s VR Startup

I began working with VR in 2002, with a software development kit for children, the CDK. The Creative Development Kit allowed inexperienced children AND serious game developers to create games and projects, using our models and commands. The CDK was studied by the Singaporean Ministry of Education and used in schools throughout Singapore, as well as in the Singapore Science Center.  I took a hiatus from VR to write books, one of which has become a best seller in Singapore. I also  began research f0r a book on digital cinematography/VR/art, co-produced/curated SPOKEN, a virtual gallery with Eugene Soh and wrote/co-produced/starred in a 360 short film called Beach Road. In the middle of 2016, I decided that the time was right for my VR ideas. This blog is filled with posts about research , seminars, meetings etc. I am now refining my pitchdeck for presentation to investors/VCs. I would prefer to bootstrap, but for this company, at this time, that is a challenge that would seem to take a long time to solve.
................... Here are the basic questions investors want answered: What is it? What problem does it solve? Who is making it? Potential audience? What work has been done? How will it grow? Business projections Resources needed Reference Schedule Describe yourself Skills Here is what I can share publicly at this time. Potential audience? One billion (yes, that is a 'b') What work has been done? Extensive pre-production  including: research, research research, paper mockup, paper grey box mockup, troubleshooting  bootcamp with trusted associates, started theoretical command sequences for programmers, UI design(fonts, layout color patterns) How will it grow? I have compiled a list of personal connections and carefully selected industry leaders (mainly bloggers and journalists). These people would form a base for testing. Additionally, when the time is right, a press release will be sent to the VR media and notification give to VR social media groups. The user base will grow through these channels as well as through word of mouth. Other methods of promotion have been planned. In addition to meeting a need, the project is fun to use. Though the project is simple and functional, the user experience will feel like the best parts of a five star restaurant, Cirque Soleil and driving a Ferrari. Business projections: Huge If you would like to know more or be a beta tester, feel free to get in touch. Onward!   SB      

Stephen Black: VR startup in Singapore. Why?

An outline of reasons as to why Singapore is the place for Stephen Black's planned  VR startup.
  1. As Creative Director/Producer for the CDK, a CG-generated VR project for a Singapore-based joint venture, SB became very familiar with Singapore's working environment, including government policies and business practices. (The CDK is described more fully elsewhere on this blog.)
  2. As a long-term resident based in Singapore since 2002, and the author of a bestselling book about Singapore (i ate tiong bahru), SB has a familiarity with Singapore as well as a personal and professional network.
  3. The government of Singapore provides support for VR and VR-related startups. https://www.spring.gov.sg/Nurturing-Startups/SEEDS/Pages/spring-start-up-enterprise-development-scheme.aspx VR in Singapore
  4. As a teacher of VR-related educational software in the Singapore educational system, SB has experience "in the trenches", regarding the demands of institutions, schools, teachers and students. The Singapore Ministry of successfully tested the CDK and  presented the results at an international educational symposium.
  5. Singapore is a regional hub, with strong connections throughout Southeast Asia,India, China and Japan. This fact, combined with SB's living experiences in Japan, Hong Kong, Paris, New York and Bali create a strong  possibility for an active beta network that will be an influential force for global take-up.
    two male avatars in a very red gallery

    Stephen Black and Eugene Soh in the virtual lobby of gallery.sg, the location for the SPOKEN exhibition

    6. Safe and stable, Singapore has trustworthy legal and business infrastructures. 7. English: yes! Other languages? Yes, yes, yes and yes! 8.Singapore's multicultural population is also very smartphone savvy.

stephen black start up

Two hundred percent. Ten thousand percent. Whatever it takes.... I am finalizing a pitch deck now and calmly, but urgently, looking for a Unity/C# person who works hard and dreams harder. VR and more. NOW.

The potential of VR as a collage medium

Various notes without a single topic, but all related to the possibilities of immersive art and text. CG and 360 possibilities are innumerable and exciting...but aren't there also untapped resources in the traditional 2D artforms? What if someone like Virginia Fleck had a way to easily, and dramatically, present her works in VR?   I am just thinking out loud here...would love to hear your comments. OK...some links related to this. Oh yes... the image used at the top of this post was "borrowed" from the blog of Skarred Ghost, who is doing some amazing things with VR and full body presence.   Here is a link to one of his superb posts: on https://skarredghost.wordpress.com/2016/12/28/how-to-show-a-video-in-a-texture-with-unity-on-android/ ......................................................... Netflix home theatre in the Oculus.  http://techblog.netflix.com/2015/09/john-carmack-on-developing-netflix-app.html " The screens on the Gear VR supported phones are all 2560x1440 resolution, which is split in half to give each eye a 1280x1440 view that covers approximately 90 degrees of your field of view. If you have tried previous Oculus headsets, that is more than twice the pixel density of DK2, and four times the pixel density of DK1. That sounds like a pretty good resolution for videos until you consider that very few people want a TV screen to occupy a 90 degree field of view. Even quite large screens are usually placed far enough away to be about half of that in real life. The optics in the headset that magnify the image and allow your eyes to focus on it introduce both a significant spatial distortion and chromatic aberration that needs to be corrected. The distortion compresses the pixels together in the center and stretches them out towards the outside, which has the positive effect of giving a somewhat higher effective resolution in the middle where you tend to be looking, but it also means that there is no perfect resolution for content to be presented in. If you size it for the middle, it will need mip maps and waste pixels on the outside. If you size it for the outside, it will be stretched over multiple pixels in the center. For synthetic environments on mobile, we usually size our 3D renderings close to the outer range, about 1024x1024 pixels per eye, and let it be a little blurrier in the middle, because we care a lot about performance. On high end PC systems, even though the actual headset displays are lower resolution than Gear VR, sometimes higher resolution scenes are rendered to extract the maximum value from the display in the middle, even if the majority of the pixels wind up being blended together in a mip map for display. The Netflix UI is built around a 1280x720 resolution image. If that was rendered to a giant virtual TV covering 60 degrees of your field of view in the 1024x1024 eye buffer, you would have a very poor quality image as you would only be seeing a quarter of the pixels. If you had mip maps it would be a blurry mess, otherwise all the text would be aliased fizzing in and out as your head made tiny movements each frame. The technique we use to get around this is to have special code for just the screen part of the view that can directly sample a single textured rectangle after the necessary distortion calculations have been done, and blend that with the conventional eye buffers. These are our "Time Warp Layers". This has limited flexibility, but it gives us the best possible quality for virtual screens (and also the panoramic cube maps in Oculus 360 Photos). If you have a joypad bound to the phone, you can toggle this feature on and off by pressing the start button. It makes an enormous difference for the UI, and is a solid improvement for the video content. Still, it is drawing a 1280 pixel wide UI over maybe 900 pixels on the screen, so something has to give. Because of the nature of the distortion, the middle of the screen winds up stretching the image slightly, and you can discern every single pixel in the UI. As you get towards the outer edges, and especially the corners, more and more of the UI pixels get blended together. Some of the Netflix UI layout is a little unfortunate for this; small text in the corners is definitely harder to read. So forget 4K, or even full-HD. 720p HD is the highest resolution video you should even consider playing in a VR headset today. ................................................... http://alexchu.net/Presentation-VR-Design-Transitioning-from-a-2D-to-a-3D-Design-Paradigm ..................................... Dragon Front Card Game https://www.oculus.com/experiences/rift/999515523455801/ (Interesting in terms of card size/distance from viewer) For a card game, Dragon Front was an exhilarating experience that mixes the tense moments of high-level strategy play with the full-body escapism of VR. Yet after a few turns going back and forth, you start to completely forget that you're even playing a game with a headset on. The competition starts to feel as natural as a physical table-top experience, while the Rift just becomes an interface for your virtual showdown."
After just 10 minutes or so of tutorial playing, I was able to grasp the game's lengthy turn-based combat and try my hand at a real one-on-one fight with another human being in VR. For a card game, Dragon Front was an exhilarating experience that mixes the tense moments of high-level strategy play with the full-body escapism of VR. Yet after a few turns going back and forth, you start to completely forget that you're even playing a game with a headset on. The competition starts to feel as natural as a physical table-top experience, while the Rift just becomes an interface for your virtual showdown. Dragon Front makes you forget you're playing a VR game
Dragon Front has a couple fun quirks to amplify that sensation. For one, your opponent's face shows up as a omnipresent floating mask above their fortress, and it will mirror the direction of their gaze and facial expressions in real time so you can feel as if you're sitting across the table from the person. Dragon Front also relies on in-game voice chat so you can talk to your opponent as the game progresses.
So Dragon Front may not be the most immersive VR title out there or one you could show your parents to convince them of the technology's potential. But it's certainly a unique rethinking of the VR approach, one that will most certainly catch on as headsets like the Rift start becoming a more common way to play a wide variety of games and not just first-person experiences. ........................................................ MIKE ALGER!  
Great  piece by Vincent McCurley

From Vincent's article: Download the printable VR Storyboard template PDF via DropBox or just grab the image below. (THANK YOU VINCENT!)

VR Storyboard Template
Jessica Brillhart, VR Filmmaker http://www.jessicabrillhart.com/about/

Virtual Reality for Artists Workshop/Michael Naimark/Objectifs

I must thank Objectifs and Michael Naimark. Wow! For the past few years I have been taking notes and making blog posts for a book about cinematography in the age of VR, AR, AI etc.  Suddenly, I learn about Virtual Reality for Artists, a workshop organized by Objectifs. The workshop is by Michael Naimark, whom I know nothing about. I do sign up immediately, however, as he was Google's first resident artist. I walk in early.Michael is writing something on the whiteboard: https://medium.com/@michaelnaimark/vr-cinematography-studies-for-google-8a2681317b3#.ra9zaxwfd WOW! I introduce myself and make it very clear that I am working on a book about  VR cinematography and had no idea of his work. "Not here to steal your fire and will credit you always". Michael, from the "artist as bridge school" seems fine with the situation. ((Note: That link above, in which Michael explains  a VR test he did, is an absolute must for anyone serious about VR.) So, without further ado, I present my notes. They are in no particular order, a fact that becomes immediately obvious. .................................. Transmedia Nodal point http://thomas-schwenger.de/index.php?ch=kh&sub=sub_tt&pg=npe http://www.vrphotography.com/data/pages/techtutorials/technotes/nodalptalign-tn.html Matterport http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertadams/2016/09/07/virtual-reality-is-about-to-revolutionize-these-three-industries/#3ae6fc4a7228 "So much is undefined" "First word art, last word art" Branching movies interactive movies intimate space Camera based reality Camera based reality + modeling The Rocky of VR Daydream........................... point of view Modal VR   Tango https://www.cnet.com/news/googles-tango-phone-a-preview-of-2017-augmented-reality/ http://www.theverge.com/2016/5/12/11663654/google-project-tango-expansion-vr-indoor-mapping-android Nolan Bushell on the future of storytelling https://www.engadget.com/2016/10/12/atari-co-founder-launches-modal-vr/ Kevin Kelley poverty porn The Czech? interactive movie made by changing lens caps on projectors. scenes of same duration https://books.google.com.sg/books?id=zVUEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA31&dq=Kinoautomat+Raduz&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwju7L2W_PDQAhXIOI8KHdgpC8EQ6AEIKzAD#v=onepage&q=Kinoautomat%20Raduz&f=false bullet screen Driving While Black The realities of arcades. User centered design Imax VR Ghostbusters https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Naimark IMU first person POV VR journalism directed attention 65 % SNAP vs. Google Glass Camera that Changed the World Pan, tilt and roll-camera directions hyperlapse- take out the wobble Hollywood vs. Silicon Valley Facebook VR camera stabilization Magic Leap Hololens size of display is arbitrary Action cams Anything where hands are involved The feeling of being there Robert Flaherty Documentary Richard Deskin Occlusion missing data bulls eye steadycam artists you don't have to fill the whole 360 vr. cinematography studies  #3 you should see the whites of her eyes ears are easy to fool. eyes are hard to fool the content's relationship to the medium a mixing board, to "duplicate" reality flight simulator multiple viewers in a shared space VR..the intimate space, right in front of you Gamers know this Cineoramas 1900 Paris Exposition Representing people in VR Equirectangular sections; the map makers' problem orthoscopic: everything is is scale no zooming first person point of view walking together How the West Was Won intimate language nadir hole ambisonic sound Riftcam http://riftcam.com/#why180 Google Killed a Donkey binaural microphone Jean Ropuch Richard Leacock Cannot look around; cannot sway. Navigation Manipulation Cinematic branching https://books.google.com.sg/books?id=hRtBAQAAQBAJ&pg=PT77&lpg=PT77&dq=cinematic+branching&source=bl&ots=yuz5O7_Q6T&sig=GrJaO7CvY_kh_5D4kMgkF8b8PrQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjJnd-v-_DQAhUSSY8KHYvRBfQ4FBDoAQgwMAQ#v=onepage&q=cinematic%20branching&f=false http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/AlexanderFreed/20140909/225281/Branching_Conversation_Systems_and_the_Working_Writer_Part_2_Design_Considerations.php ears easy to fool; eyes difficult Abel Gance 1927 Napoleon Jeff Lynch   ???? Matterport    

A brief introduction to Michael Naimark, media art guru


(the photo used at the top of this post was obtained from Pinterest, where the following credit was provided: Michael Naimark, media art guru. | KR8V | Pinterest | Medium Art, Aspen and Michael O'keefe I did not create the image, am using it without permission and I hope that is OK. )

On December 10, 2016, I was fortunate to attend a small workshop conducted by Michael. Michael was extremely informative and his personality allowed everyone to ask questions and share information freely. I have a separate post about notes taken during the workshop. It was great!

This post serves as an introduction to Michael's work.

His website:


The following is from his website:

VR-Related Presentations & Publications (1981 - 2016)

Selected News Upcoming Dec 10: Visiting Instructor, “Virtual Reality for Artists”, Objectifs Centre for Photography and Film, Singapore Upcoming Dec 7: Opening Keynote, “The Digital in Cultural Spaces”, National Museum of Singapore. Oct: #5 in "25 of VR's Greatest Innovators," Polygon. Oct: "VR Interactivity: Some Useful Distinctions," Medium.com. Oct: Invited Presentation, Digital Futures Program, Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto. Oct: Opening Keynote, First VR Creative Doc Lab, Canadian Film Centre, Toronto. (news story) Oct: Opening Keynote, "Weird Reality: New and Independent Visions of Head-Mounted Art and Code," CMU. Sep: Quoted, Pioneers of Virtual Reality Art, Financial Times, London Sep: Guest presentation, USC Cinema "Technologies of Presence" class of Scott Fisher. Sep: Guest presentation, UC Berkeley Haas School of Business "Social Media and Social Movements" class of David Evan Harris. Jun: "VR Cinematography Studies for Google," Medium.com. Apr: Quoted, "Fantastic Radio Show about VR, c.1992," Boing Boing, Apr 25, 2016. Feb: Presentation, "Cameras, Interactivity, and VR", NYU ITP.

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! 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 cinemotography.) 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