REFRAMED BLOG: Resident Harmeet Chagger-Khan on the sounds of drawers, walking the plank, and the ethics of creating immersive worlds
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.
Artist, creative producer and filmmaker Harmeet Chagger-Khan tells us about the third Reframed residential which included trips to Sony Playstation VR Studio and Vision 3, and talks from industry experts Simon Wilkinson (Circa 69), Emma Hughes and Catherine Allen.
You know when you walk into a place like Sony Playstation VR Studio in London, that they value creativity in the workplace. You’re greeted by a state of the art building complete with living moss wall in reception and an impressive Board Room that doubles up as a motion capture studio. Stylish interior aside, we were there to learn about creating audio in VR games from Sony, leaders in interactive audio landscapes for VR environments.
Stephen O’Callaghan (Head of Sound, Tools and Technology) took us through the workflow for designing, authoring, implementing and testing ‘what does a drawer sound like?’ Yes, that’s right, a drawer. And guess what? It sounds nothing like a drawer. This is because when you’re dealing with sound in VR and environments where a player may be faced with an infinite set of possible interactions, you can’t just create audio that is representational, you have to think about sounds as events that trigger actions.
Having absorbed the theory and the mind blowing level of detail that Sony goes into, we then road tested some of their VR games to see how it works in practice. By thinking about how the player may turn her head, what the acoustic environment is, what distance they are from the sound, what force they may use to carry out an action, you create a richer immersive environment for your player. The devil really is in the detail.
In the afternoon we visited Vision 3, an award winning company creating content for Hollywood Studios and high profile clients in 3D, VR and AR. Carl-Heinrich Havemann (Director of International Partnerships) and Chris Campkin (Content Creation) took us through the often tricky process of negotiating client expectation in a genre that is still evolving (which in general means there is a real generosity of spirit within the field in sharing knowledge and expertise). We then played the rather infamous Richie’s Plank Experience where the player gets to walk a virtual plank 160m above the ground. In reality they walk a plank that’s only a few inches off the floor. While some of the cohort were completely relaxed, others of us were literally paralysed with fear. The power of VR – tricking your brain into believing that the VR world is real.
On our second day we were back at Lighthouse, where we heard from Simon Wilkinson from Circa 69 about the role of the audience in Transmedia storytelling, which creates a story or experience across a multi-platform universe which includes multiple real-world locations, mobile and online technology, and immersive media. In the work Simon produces, the audience has to solve a puzzle and thus must be invested in the work for what can often be a significant period of time. This results in a super rich experience in in different mediums and layers, but also means that it is hard to scale up to reach big audiences. Fascinating stuff.
We wrapped up the residential with VR Producer Catherine Allen, who talked about the logistics of VR exhibition and touring, how audiences engage with VR, and what makes a good user experience, from tech that works to clean headsets that don’t smell. By the end of this session we had unpicked the biggies of ethics and diversity within immersive media content and production, from the content we choose to retell and the ethics behind simulating experiences to trick minds. A lively debate ensued around gender stereotypes and cultural norms, image, identity, white privilege, unconscious bias, artificial intelligence, social responsibility and imagination. Ultimately we as producers, makers and directors hold the power to create powerful immersive media that can challenge these norms, offer different points of view, understand the complexities of human nature and tell compelling stories.
It’s a brave new world out there folks and we’re ready to take it by the reins and challenge the status quo…
Find out more about Harmeet and her project Elixir of Life.
ABOUT REFRAMED PROJECT DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME
Over five residential sessions held at Lighthouse, seven individuals/teams each develop a project idea working across interactive and/or immersive formats such as VR, games, augmented reality and 360°.
Participants learn about the fundamentals of story, technology and audience when working with immersive and interactive content, and gain an understanding of the current financial and distribution landscape.
Find out more about the Reframed Project Development Programme and the projects, participants and professional contributors taking part.
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