Acclaimed virtual reality works “On the Morning You Wake” and “Paper Birds” take bold artistic risks

Cool animated VR projects on display at SIGGRAPH often steal the show at the Animation and CG Technology Conference, held in Vancouver this year. We recently had the opportunity to meet the creators behind two of these inspiring projects — The morning you wake up (to the end of the world) — and paper birds and discover their inspirations and their reflections on the use of the medium:

In the morning you wake up is a powerful and well-crafted VR documentary by Dr. Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio, Archer’s Mark (Notes on blindness), and Atlas V. It allows viewers to get a more personal and intimate look at the reaction of Hawaiian citizens to an emergency alert about a ballistic missile threat on January 13, 2018. Marc Bret remembers how the whole project started after getting an email about it from Susanna Pollack (EP and President of Games for Change) in 2018.

“She had worked with the MacArthur Foundation and Princeton University to explore ways virtual reality could help the public engage with the complex issue of nuclear security, and she contacted us after seeing our previous virtual reality project. Notes on blindness“, Brett tells us. “What followed was a long process of development which, with the help of former Princeton doctoral student Tamara Lilinoe Patton, led us to the events of January 13, 2018, when the Hawaiians received this text message that read, “Ballistic Missile Threat Incoming Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill. The immediate horror and subsequent aftermath of this message was the creative inspiration of the project.

In the morning you wake up (to the end of the world)

Once Brett and co-creator Steve Jamison established the emotional and narrative core of the project, they spent months interviewing those who experienced the events firsthand, as well as talking to experts in the field of nuclear weapons that could shed light on the wider social. , the political and military architecture that had brought us here. “We used these interviews to create a three-act audio structure for the project, then began creating a preview of the environments for each scene (which would then be rendered in point cloud art direction), and blocking out the actions. .for each character (each of which would be shot using volumetric capture techniques),” he explains. The core creative and programming team was probably around 50 people. With collaborators in the UK , in France and the United States, the production brought together citizens of three nuclear-armed countries, each with their own stories of the dangers and injustices associated with nuclear weapons – and the responsibility of concerned citizens to shed light on these issues.

The producer thinks things are moving incredibly quickly creatively and technically in virtual reality. “It’s both exciting and disconcerting,” he notes. “New tools are constantly emerging, and as a creator, that means the storytelling possibilities at your fingertips expand exponentially. I guess the biggest challenge I see from where I sit is how we protect a space for truly independent VR creation, even as the biggest VR projects begin to rely on these familiar spaces of franchise IP.Like the world of cinema, virtual reality is a delicate ecosystem, and we must protect (and fund) the space for independent thinkers, writers and artists to thrive if the art form is to reach its full potential.To me this is intrinsically linked to creating and supporting a distribution network solid so that this type of independent project can reach the widest possible audience.

Brett argues that there is something truly liberating about working in an emerging medium where technical and creative possibilities evolve over the course of the project. “Compared to linear film, which is such an established creative form – with rules that can sometimes seem hard to defy – the best VR projects take into account that you’re essentially laying down the track even as you speed through it.” “When it’s going well, it’s an amazing experience. I love that people have seen and responded to the project in a way that shows it’s made its mark, to both creatively and impact-wise.

Here is the trailer for the documentary:

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A mystical musical journey

paper birds, half of our interactive story about a young musician in search of true inspiration, was another big VR hit at SIGGRAPH this year. Produced by 3dar (dark eyes) and Baobab Studios (Baba Yaga, Namoo, Crow: the legend), the project features the voices of Ed Norton, Joss Stone and Archie Yates and premiered at the Tribeca Festival in 2021.

heller german

Producer, director and screenwriter of the project heller german (who is also the CEO of 3dar) says there were a lot of thrills he wanted to bring to his labor of love. “Inspiration is a combination of moments I’ve had and literally every scene is that,” he says in an email interview. “The first wanted to evoke what it felt like to cross a bridge in India before sunrise on a windy day and the last is from when I got lost in the woods when I was little. Everyone invisible comes from what I experienced with music during shamanic sessions in Brazil. paper birds is a collection of sensations with an underlying story thread of self-discovery.

Heller and his team of approximately 25 people (and 25 support staff) started the project in September 2018, began producing it in September 2019, and finished it in June 201. “We produced the project in Argentina, using standard 3D animation tools,” he says. “Our toughest challenge was that it was done entirely during the pandemic. We were all remote and faced with the circumstances of the world. It was quite difficult. What I like the most is the music! I love how the music turned out!

Asked about the state of virtual reality, Heller says: “It’s happening! When mixed reality hardware hits the streets, it will be a game changer. This is going to be a big jump in the VR timeline. In terms of advice for beginners, I would say, “Always try things inside the stand, inside the VR headset”. You might have great ideas that look amazing on paper or in your head…but when you build them inside virtual reality, it might not be what you expected. Storyboard VR in TiltBrush!”

Heller says he always knew he wanted to work in this brave new world. “I used to go to the supermarket with my mom and use karate to fight enemies in my imagination,” he recalled. “I’ve always wanted to bring fantasy to reality and that’s why virtual reality is exciting. But mixed reality is even more exciting. That’s what we’re going to do next. What I love about the working in virtual reality is that you’re always creating something that hasn’t really been done before. There can be innovation in any decision you make as a director. So many uncharted territories to discover. This makes it very exciting!

Watch the trailer below:

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