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Halcyon- Third Year Project.

Updated: Jan 17, 2023

For my final year at university, I want to further my abilities in VR, zine-making, and experimentation. As well as learning to put myself out there.


First thoughts:

- make something immersive and/ or interactive

- could be VR?

- add soundscaping

Sketches


Furthering this I had the idea of creating a comic in VR. I thought it'd be a cool way to combine, immersion, VR, and comics. My idea is the following concept: A tired overworked human romanticises the carefree and relaxing life of their cat. I know it will be something people can relate to given how stressful day-to-day life can be. A way to highlight how important the little moments of solace we get really are and how they push us to keep going.


Some visual inspirations I initially looked into:

Neko Atsume is a mobile game about collecting cats and decorating your space

Stardew Valley is a farming simulator, you can have a pet cat or dog, I particularly like the cat graphics and animations.

Animal Crossing is a cosy life simulator game about day-to-day life surrounded by animal villagers that you can interact with.

Just cats in general!! I have been using a lot of reference photos from this specific account on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/simabossneko/

Research


I watched a bunch of comics in VR but unfortunately, I cannot link all of them because they're most accessible in VR instead of normal youtube so instead a VR comic that already exists and inspired me to make mine:


https://youtu.be/CkEK0-TwkOI This video specifically (it was re-uploaded but the original belongs to Daniel Peixe) inspires me a lot I like the feature of clicking to proceed. He also makes a lot of tutorials for making animation and such too which are super handy


Alternatively, here are some artists using VR that I have seen

Goro Fujita on youtube

Matt Schaefer but specifically this video https://youtu.be/WTl8kpCn4ls


As well as some very useful videos on quill I wanted to include as reference:


Using rigs and cameras in quill:

Low poly art modelling in Quill:

Performance-friendly detail painting in quill:

Making cinematography in VR:

This video is about precision techniques:

This is mostly a refresher but was also a very useful one so included it too.



I had a consultation about my idea and decided it is something I keep working on throughout the year so I can spend a reasonable amount of time on it rather than rushing it. I don't know if I'll finish this before the end of uni but I want to see how far I can get anyways. I know it's a big project but you know what they say, go big or go home!

Consultation notes


To start working on this I'd need to create designs of characters, environments and such.

Whilst doing this I realised I could decide on a character design I liked, which gave me a little difficulty, but then I realised to make the experience as immersive as possible I could make the story revolve around you. So you are the character instead. You just go through a specific experience and interact with it rather than say, watching it happen to someone else.

Sketches:



Research:

A little bit of research about the phrase 'Halcyon days' as I thought it was fitting to my project. Halcyon days from my understanding is about a calming period of time during the winter when storms are not occurring. It can also be a nostalgic time in the past that felt idyllic. This is based on an old Greek story where a halcyon bird had the power to calm rough ocean waves and stormy waters just so they could rest and make a nest. So nowadays it means a sense of peace or tranquillity.


I felt it really fit the energy of what I was trying to do with my VR experience and was very inspired by it, I wanted it to be the name of the cat character in my comic as well as the title as I felt it was fitting.


With this in mind, I was able to start making in VR! I got a headset for Christmas and decided to play with the software TiltBrush. While it is good software it doesn't do what I fully wanted to do for the actual project. (Like bending objects, animation, playing with opacity or sound. Which I can do with Quill, I just need to get a computer for this!) However, I thought it was pretty good for making a mock-up to show roughly what it could look like for now.


Developmental

Here's some progress work, this is the first skeleton of the room that I made:

Here is further progress on this:





I think they're okay but a little flat. I am going to talk to Serena, the VR technician about booking a few sessions of Quill and start working after the current deadline and to work on things I couldn't previously. Since using my own headset I have been able to get a good grasp of what I am doing and how to do it I just now need to use Quill for better results.


My aims are to make textures (or images that I can add in as texture) and combine them with the objects for a less flat-looking environment. I will also be soundscaping to highlight both the feelings of being overwhelmed and peaceful. Once I have been able to start this I can then add subtle animation (boiling animation) and lighting to make the environments really feel a little more alive.


In a tutorial with Marian, we were talking about textures and she mentioned Charlie and Lola, I used to love the show as a child and always thought the textures were very cool so decided to look up some images for reference:




I scanned in some textures that I could import and use later here:





Developmental

Here's some soundscaping, all sounds have been located from Pixabay, it is a site that has free-to-use stock images, music and sound effects:

So what I've done here is gather sounds that could realistically happen in this environment, edit them to create the right atmosphere for the background and then create a separate audio file of emotional sounds, so sounds that would be used to enhance and create emphasis on how I want the viewer to feel, for example, I will make a piece that is overwhelming and loud to really push the feelings of anxiety, as well as creating a pathetic fallacy with the weather and noise outside vs the noise and emotion inside.

Here is an MP3 sample of the soundscape so far, this sample is just the beginning of the soundscape, I will later develop this :


I also drew a draft cover of my zine to accompany m VR experience:




Evaluation :

For this project I wanted to create something that was immersive and interactive, I thought that VR was a good option for this as well as it being something I enjoyed and had fun with during my last project. I wanted to try and further this by experimenting with another project. In my previous project, I made my childhood living room in VR. This time I wanted to try and make a comic experience in VR. This comic would be about the experience of having anxiety and being overwhelmed but finding comfort and tranquillity with a cat. I am going to do this by adding animation and soundscaping too.

Whilst doing this I have also been helping the year group run stalls and sell art for our degree show fundraising. I realised just how much I enjoyed being to help run stalls as well as being able to meet new art-loving folk this way too. It gave me experience doing something I hadn't really done before. I have worked but this was different to running an art stall. I hadn't done this before. I also made some art for these stalls, such as sticker sheets and prints. I found that making sticker sheets was something I very much enjoyed and will definitely continue to do.

I'd say my most enjoyable parts of this module have been the art stalls, and being able to use a new medium to create art. The reason I'm so drawn to VR is being able to create art in a gestural manner whilst still remaining a digital piece, as I do very much enjoy working digitally too. However, Tilt Brush (the software I'm currently using) cannot do all the things I need it to do. Although saying this, I still wanted to create a mock-up in this programme to help learn and speed up my process whilst this was what I was lucky enough to be able to use at home (I acquired the headset over the Christmas holidays) The ideal software for this project is called Quill, with Quill, I can create animations with sound, bend objects and even play with opacity. I don't currently have this software at home as it requires a computer and my current laptop is old and doesn't support said software. I know this is the ideal software for being able to enhance the immenseness of my project even if it does become more of an experience over a comic, while this was the original intention, I'd rather prioritise the experience and emotions that are made to feel as this in itself is still a narrative, just not one within panels.

In the future I am going to talk to Serena about Quill and book some sessions to really start getting my VR experience properly started, I also intend on getting an actual computer as soon as I can as this can help speed this project up if I can also work on it at home, as well as accessing art software this laptop struggles with.





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