REFRAMED BLOG: Dee Harvey – five things I learnt developing my VR project on Reframed
Throughout our Reframed Project Development Programme 2017, we’ve asked the residents to tell us about the immersive/interactive projects they are developing, and share their experience of taking part in the scheme.
Dee Harvey, writer and interactive producer, and the founder and Chief Creative Officer of VR company, Cloud Rupture, wraps up her time on the programme with her favourite takeaway from each of the five residencies.
Dee Harvery: At the start of the Project Development Programme, I agreed to write a blog about the final residency, but now I am looking back as a Reframed alumnus, it seems more fitting to write about the whole experience, rather than just its end.
At the first of our five Lighthouse residencies, Matt Locke of Stoythings gave us a talk, which included a ‘5 Things I Learnt’ blog. I loved this. So to use the same structure in my blog seems particularly fitting:
1. Proprioception is your body’s sense of its own movement and position in space
On our very first day, we were given an introduction to photogrammetry, led by the very clever Paul Hayes and XO Labs. In the course of taking photographs of things that made very poor subjects for photogrammetry (why must I always try to be clever and arty? WHY?), I learnt the wonderful word ‘proprioception’.
Working in VR means that you have to think about the physical experience for the whole body: What senses will be used in your experience? What kind of body will your character have, if any? What interactions will be available to them? Thinking about proprioception is helping me to answer these questions.
2 (a). The olfactory bulb has a short circuit to the memory centres, not filtered in the same way as other senses
At our second residential, we were lucky enough to meet Grace Boyle, founder of The Feelies, who specialises in immersing people in stories using all of their senses. She talked to us about our sense of smell and its unique connection to memory. When Grace told us about this, I had an “aha!” moment. People often remark on how smells “bring them back” or transports them mentally to a particular time in their past. It’s easy to laugh about Smellovision, but when working in Immersive Media, it’s worth thinking about all of the senses when designing your experience.
The other thing Grace taught us about smell seems obvious once you know it:
2 (b). All perfumes need a rotten smell in the mix
Scents made up entirely of sweet smells aren’t particularly pleasant – you need a bit of a stench in the mix to make a perfume that people like to smell for long periods of time.
3. Sound for film is like painting, sound for games is like puppetry
Our third residential was held at the Sony offices in London.
Stephen O’Callaghan, who explains audio like a being specifically designed to be an audio explainer, taught us that when designing sound for games or immersive experiences, we should think in terms of events and parameters. Instead of trying to think of all the sounds you need to have in your scene, think of all the events that happen in the scene and then work out what sounds are associated with that event.
This brings us to the third thing we learnt: sound for games is like puppetry because the decisions about sound are executed by “puppets”, which are the processes you design to create sounds depending on what happens within the game. Very different from designing for film, which is more like painting, because you can create a fixed soundscape that plays out along the film’s timeline.
4. If you don’t understand how people make money out of the thing you are making, you are going to lose control of it
Our fourth residential was very intense. We did a lot of work on budgeting, raising finance, and strategy. Of all the things I learnt that week, this one comes to mind most often. Mike Brett from Archer’s Mark came to talk to use about Notes on Blindness and the companion VR piece, Into Darkness. He was very open about how they had put their finance plan together, recounting the full story of the production from conception to release and beyond.
His advice about understanding the business model behind what you make is very useful. As a creative, it can be easy to bury yourself in writing or designing. The stuff that is really fun and that I’m best at. But if you want to get things made and out to an audience, it’s crucial to understand the commercial realities of your medium. I might actually adopt this as my motto.
5. A Lego lucky charm is worth having in your pocket when you pitch
The fifth residential was all about the pitch. We came, we practiced, we fed back to one another, we pitched. My abiding memory of that day is of mutual support. Over the four months we were on the programme together, we went from seven separate project teams to a group of cheerleaders and friends. I feel so lucky to have met such a wonderful cohort on Reframed, and I know that we will support each other’s creative work far into the future.
I was on a team of one, which on pitching day made me feel a little exposed. My excellent pals Tom Bowtell and Elliott Hall offered plenty of support. Before I went up to pitch, Elliott gave me the Lego man his son had given him as a lucky charm. I put it in my pocket and it definitely worked.
So, we learnt about perception and senses, we learnt about money and strategy, and we learnt about each other. What a wonderful few months.
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