This is the start of my production for the UEA collaborative writing project. In the process of making these visuals I was thinking about design rules used in graphic image making using colour, scale and composition.
Blending these rules with the use of virtual space and no practical limitations including gravity.
These designs were produced with the purpose to discuss narrative structure with my writing partner.
Because both writing and image making processes are starting from scratch I think this is an important step to thinking and generating content for myself and the writer.
The use of lighting and shadows inside of the environment gives more consistency to the objects from a set perspective.
They make me question why the objects are there, the composition they are presented in and who am I as a user?
This image of the scene shows one of the cubes highlighted as a single colour without shadow complexity.
It made me think about the relationship between objects in the space and the potential for the typography to be presented in the layout.
With this animation I introduced sound which gave the scenes a different perspective and direction for the narrative structure.
When gaining some feedback from viewers there was a feeling of relaxation because of the colours and physics used in the environments. This is because of the slower pace and perspective that I was thinking about.
This is a screenshot to give a view from my perspective as the designer role in the experience.
A short while after my initial meeting with My writing partner, Gus sent me a draft of his writing for the character description.
Nanlita from the illustration course is also working with Gus. We talked about our aspirations on the first meeting and established that we were all interested in creating an experience that focuses on the connection between the viewer and the linear narrative.
Because we have quite a unique opportunity to work as a group of three we decided early on at the first meeting that me and Nanlita would collaborate with Gus to produce a collective body of content. I chose to do this realistically because we could potentially create better content collectively while I am also working on my other projects at the same time.
On our second meeting as a group we brainstormed some ideas for the development process and discussed our practices.
I was talking about my recent interactive exhibition space and we discussed the potential with creating something similar but with the context being around the written story.
This was an important opportunity to discus our ideas on the design roles we would each have. I would be focusing on the digital design process along with having an element of curation in terms of how that content is displayed in that space.
Nanlita was interested in creating animations so this seemed like an interesting fit.
Usually as an illustrator I would be creating content that goes alongside a structured brief or written story. It’s an interesting position to be presented in an environment where the visual design process is being crafted alongside the written narrative. Gus pitched his ideas for creating a story that described the linear narrative focussing on the mental state of the character changing because of a fictional drug being used by the character.
This developed after discussing my initial designs of virtual space, colour and pacing at the start of the project.
This image is the process of me showing the potential of using virtual space in VR or as a game environment. This allowed us to gain a good understanding of what we can create by playing relevant games and showing some of the design process.
This is some gameplay of a canceled video game called PT (2014). We looked into this title because of its use of small environments that create an immersive and suspenseful atmosphere to exist in.
The experience is very personal to the individual user because different outcomes happen on each play through unlike with a film. User choice and outcome is an element I always find interesting because it creates new and diverse narratives that are designed to be shared and talked about.
These are notes from another recent meeting. We established that the old man character based on the description from Gus was working in a coffee shop in the narrative. I discovered from the writing that he is fired and starts taking the fictional drug that triggers the mental world states which the user experiences.
A key design choice I brought up was narration. I think this was an interesting aspect because when combining visuals with audio in a virtual world this creates an immersion disconnect between the real environment that we consist in and the fictional narrative.
Critically the main problem at this point was that I would have to design a fully 3D environment with 3D objects and interaction in a very short amount of time with some logistical challenges with how the display would be presented. As a 3 week project I would not have the time to develop a piece of work on the same scale as Norwich 2.0 or Reconfigured.
We tried to set out some realistic goals for the process of production to give a rough outline and make sure we are all on the same page about what roles each of us engage in covering some basic logistics.
Because the design of the event allows for user choice and consequence. I think Gus made an interesting choice basing the written narrative in a 2nd person perspective because it puts the user in the shoes of the character while also being immersed in the environment through the visual content.
Full draft available here.
Nanlita was focusing on creating figurative characters for the story based on the draft information. At this stage we began experimenting and exploring ideas of physical presentation for the actual event. Of course this image is extremely rough in terms of presentation but we were thinking about the objects around the VR headset and how they can provide a further context. The story is based in a coffee shop so having objects like a coffee mug grounds the narrative.
We started to think about the time period and if it changed after entering the environment. We ultimately decided not to take that path though as it is confusing to the end user. This was more of a thinking process rather than presentation.
This is an experimentation with me creating the animation using Nanlita’s content. This was a good mid project experiment to focus on what we can improve of for the final outcomes.
The figure of the character inside of VR we agreed was interesting but does not provide the correct context because to some extent you are taking the place of that character with the story being narrated to you. It made more sense to focus on the environments in future.
This animation is available in VR on Google Chrome.
I showed this content to Gus and he really liked the initial experiments. This was a good grounding point in the project because we could all understand each others process in creating the narrative and set out realistic goals for the rest of the production time.
We regularly touched base at coffee shops because they are a key part of the narrative in the story. I feel it was good to research that environment along with it serving as an active place for communication.
These are some notes expanding on the physical presentation. We were mainly talking about user experience and how the space can be introduced to audiences through a simple presentation that acts as an introduction to the narrative.
It reminded me of my previous collaboration for storyville’s On The Road in terms of the power physical objects represent.
The notes in this section were focused towards the VR content and it’s active purpose in creating the narrative.
Colour theory was a large point of discussion based on my initial Reconfigured animation. At points in the narrative which are calm or positive the colours reflect blues or greens. A negative could be represented by reds and blacks.
The artwork in coffee shops can vary but in this case the designs in this shop felt like they are referencing systems and processes for making warm drinks and the social aspect they play into conversations users have.
These are some developed still images created by Nanlita focusing on the environment as mental states.
“Drugs Are Like That” is a very strange short anti drug film made in 1969. The film uses many metaphors to show the affects of drug use supposedly targeted towards children, specifically 8:10.
I find the animation techniques and aesthetics used in the design are very interesting because of the time period it was created. It’s based after the beat generation and contains lots of film and grain with some uncomfortable imagery used to educate children.
In a contemporary atmosphere it’s not relatable and incoherent.
I have read some of “Junky” by William S. Burroughs (1953). It’s a novel based in the beat generation specifically the experimentation and addiction to psychedelic drugs.
The time period has a very distinctive theme of jazz and experimental culture. This is also expressed very well in Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road” which was originally written on a single scroll of paper before being published.
These are photos from the exhibition when it was live. My role at the event was very hands on and interactive with the viewers and participants, talking with them about the narrative and development of the project.
This is one of my favourite parts of having VR as an experience because it allows me to communicate directly with my audience and share conversations between me as the designer and the users talking about their individual experiences while using VR.
The event was designed for individual or multiple users. The physical arrangement gives some perspective into what the active VR user is experiencing so that they can feel confident with talking to us and the other viewers. It’s inherently a very social experience.
After receiving my feedback from the review group just before the event was live there were some very interesting topics brought up for discussion. In particular the idea that the user had an emotional reaction to avoid eye contact with an illustration at the section when the ex manager is staring the user while inside of the linear narrative.
It was also positive to understand from the group that motion sickness was not an issue which is a massive hurdle to pass when creating any VR content because pacing is essential otherwise the user will feel sick and won’t want to stay in the environment for very long.
The most interesting part of this to me was the duration of time people actually spent inside of the VR animation. I expected most users would experience 1-2 minutes and then put down the device but in practice the large majority saw the full 5 minutes of the animation with some wanting to come back later to gain perspectives they may have missed previously.
This showed me that motion sickness was largely not an issue and the experience had a strong enough element of replay value towards player/user interaction.
Going forward in other projects I expand these skills to introduce more interactivity and player choice depending on my audience. I think animation was a good choice for the ampersand live audience because it does not require any experience unlike with a game.
I think this image shows how the narrative of the users experience inside of the headset expands through the real environment.
In most group situations one member would try the experience and then the friends of that group went afterwards creating conversations of their unique experiences.
The visuals in Alice in wonderland (1865). were a natural inspiration to me when designing the content for our animation. The focus on the sense of scale and perspective in Alice I found interesting to think about when using VR.
These are the notes from the end of the pre production stage. When designing the content I finalised a set of assets which Nanlita needed for the animation.
At this stage it was important to figure out key images of interaction between the narration for the user.
The first stage of animation testing was motion sickness and user experience.
This particular animation works okay when displayed on a screen in 2D but as a VR experience it’s very bad because the image is constantly moving right while the user will be moving left or any other direction.
The fish are used as a metaphor in a large section of the written text. The animation at this stage was quite bare, disjointed and non interactive but it’s interesting to look back at when progressing the content.
The fish in this scene is very under exposed because of how active the background is, however the improvement has been in the aesthetic being more cohesive with the real world environment.
I started taking photos of coloured reflections because they made me think about how the potential of the psychedelic colour aesthetic could be used in the animation environment.
The natural texture of the colours alongside recognisable objects like the cigarette on the tarmac floor and double yellow line reference to a specific, roughly contemporary context of it’s time period and location.
I experimented with manipulating the previous photos to create specific scenes based in 3D environments using Photoshop’s 3D working space. This changed the original design of the photos into 3D constructs whilst retaining a similar aesthetic.
I do think I need to be careful with creating coherent aesthetic designs when using the figurative illustration content from Nanlita’s skill set. Both consist of completely different visual identities, however I think they can work alongside each other for different roles.
These are designs that are more focused towards 2D design when deconstructing the 3D structures.
I think they serve a different purpose than to be used in the 3D space. Like with posters they can be used to promote a limited perspective on the narrative to entice viewers into an experience.
This was the first draft of the VR animation after testing for motion sickness and pacing between visual, narration and player perspective. The visual output is optimised for 3D space so it does not relate as well when seen on a 2D screen.
At this stage I was quite happy with the content I have designed and curated for the space but I feel like more of the scenes need to be more animated for the longer sections, in particular the fish sequence. The ending feels a bit out of place and flat which is something I can work on.
All of these animations can be seen and moveable when viewing on Google chrome to give a better sense of what I am talking about.
I tested this version with Nanlita and Gus using VR to give me some feedback leading up to the final build. Some good points were the size of the figurative images on the backgrounds both agreed they were too large so this was something to address for the future builds.
Before our meeting Gus had a presentation where he presented the video to UEA students in a formal presentation environment. I asked him to describe the audiences feedback and reactions:
“They appreciated the overall concept of VR and found the changing colours and perspective both interesting and well thought out.” (Gus Evans, 2017)
This video is a progression from the previous fish scene during the narration. I have animated and coloured the illustrations from Nanlita to work inside of the composition. When in VR it feels like the fish are swimming towards you as the user while the narrative is verbally described.
This is a wire frame experiment on After Effects showing where the effects of the animation would overlap the still image process created by Nanlita.
The wireframe is represented here next to the effects presented on the left side showing an active function with the moving image.
I find this interesting to reflect on because it visualises the active process.
This is the perspective of animating the scene on After Effects without the wire frames.
This is a progression from the previous ending effect.
The output is more interactive and is paced better in comparison. An altered version is in the final animation reflecting the blue colour of the drug and choice at the end of the scene.
This is the final version of the animation. I decided to title it “A new perspective” because i’m assuming most of my audience at Dove Street will be new to VR so the perspective is a major part of the narrative.
For me this project has allowed me to focus the skills I have built up over the past year with VR.
As said previously you can experience some of the VR effects using google chrome viewing this video but it’s not to the same extent when it was live.
During the setup at Dove Street I made an initial setup which I wanted to talk about. We decided to set out the introduction on the table which then continues into the animation so that other viewers can be introduced to the story.
The other items are there to introduce the story as well.
The background images give some perspective into what the viewers would be seeing inside of the animation but not giving away any of the linear narrative.
I made some live tests with the VR setup to get some initial reactions. Because more people have now been exposed to VR it’s good to talk about how the narrative works.
It was great to see the emotional reactions to the story.
Photo taken by Nanlita Kanmuang.
The experience of using VR is incredibly hard to explain to someone who has never used it.
I created these images to communicate the experience. The 3rd person perspective of the user being inside the narrative content is illustrated as a 2D image, this is important because when communicating the event commercially with my website or social media for example those users will either be using smartphones or computers in a 2D space.
These are more variations of the 2D designs. I think the major difference between this project and “Reconfigured VR” from year 2 is the expansion of using VR as part of my practice rather than an experiment. Having a year since then to develop my understanding of the technology has allowed me focus more on the design of the interactive narrative alongside my technical process.
In relation to industry focus, having talked with many studio directors it should be beneficial moving into areas of UX/UI design and narrative based exploration used in game design. Talking with developers like David Ranyard about the importance of the relationship with designers, bringing both skills of coding and design together in a collaborative environment is where I am working towards in this side of my practice.