• Published: Oct 31st, 2016

Leftover Woman screenplay receives Honorable Mention!

Recently, I’ve been focusing more on my screenplay, LEFTOVER WOMAN. I’m encouraged to report that an early draft of it has received an Honorable Mention! I really appreciate the encouragement!

Here’s some info from the 10/26/16 Hedgebrook Press Release:

“As a Humanitas philanthropic partner, Hedgebrook receives funding from the Woolf Pack, a powerhouse community of 100 women in Hollywood. Humanitas Executive Director Cathleen Young describes the Woolf Pack’s genesis: “Named for Virginia Woolf’s renowned essay, A Room of One’s Own, which explores the needs and challenges of women writers in a male-dominated world, the Woolf Pack now comes together twice a year, to support a non-profit engaged in social change. From the overarching Humanitas mission to change the world one story at a time, stems the Woolf Pack’s mission to unite and support women authoring change.”

The Woolf Pack heartily back the Lab with their contributions. Members include: Shonda Rhimes, Ava DuVernay, Jenji Kohan, Mara Brock Akil, Lena Dunham, Danai Gurira and Mindy Kaling, among many others.

Chosen from a talented applicant pool of 226 screenwriters from around the country, this year’s five Screenwriters Lab participants are: Ellie Foumbi, from New Rochelle, NY; and Jessica Chou, Desha Dauchan, Gabriela Garcia Medina and Bianca Asibu from the Los Angeles area. Honorable mention semi-finalists are Megan Swertlow, Ana Brown, Caroline Keene and Carol Liu.”

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  • Published: Aug 24th, 2016

Weeks 10-present: Aug 24

Some recurrent health issues required that I postpone my VR updates. But I’m climbing out of my fog today. In fact, much happened behind the scenes while I was off the air. Let me try to recap.

The last two weeks in France, my technical producer and I raced to make maximum use of the hardware loan we had. After rapidly prototyping several scenarios we know we would like to eventually feature in our final piece, stitching them in-house and watching them in our GearVR headsets, it became abundantly clear to us that we wanted to create atmospheric experiences more so than intensely interactive ones while still promoting inclusive understanding.

1. Finding Compelling Visual Experiences:

@Ossigirl, you’ll be glad to know we were able to find a water channel to recreate the transitionary voyage I had initially envisioned as a part of our VR experience. The ride is smooth and quite breathtaking from our test. However, we’d need special effects to minimize the presence of the people and the boat. I have a few other post-production things to try with this batch of footage.

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2. Being Talked Down to as a Woman:

This 3-part prototype was interesting to produce. We recorded the dialogue and then audio produced the monologue of each character (what they are thinking in their heads). We then shot in first person POV from both characters as well as in 3rd person. The effect of taking on the identity of a character is quite immersive and convincing. We developed this as a technical test for whether our content would be interesting in this format. We will continue designing the interactivity of how the three pieces intersect and will break this out in a more detailed upcoming blog post.

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3. Field Interviews with Women in Tech

Following prototype 2 above, I spent a day with women working in tech to conduct field interviews about their personal and professional experiences in a corporate environment. This deserves its own full-length post. Briefly, I’ll say the takeaways I had with these brave souls who shared their most troubling experiences in the years they have worked in tech offices is that everything we have read about is absolutely true and absolutely deserves our continued attention. What is particularly interesting as the women tried to self-reflect on actionable insights:

Women-only conferences and mentorship programs are not helpful enough.

Corporate action requires training not just for those on the receiving end of discrimination, but those in the majority who must both understand and be part of the change. 

It is not a women’s issue, but a human issue requiring both sides to get involved.

4. Transportive Locales:

Something we wanted to feature in our VR project was transportive locales that expressed the inner yearnings of our character and to visually take the viewer to those places when the character was otherwise physically impeded. To that end, we sought out a beautiful sunflower field. There is a person who appears in this scene on the left, if you look closely.

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5. Constrictive Locales

What if a character were constrained to her room? This would allow the imaginative explorations to be further affecting on the viewer. Visuals are still in post-production and will be posted soon!

6. Post-Production and Interactivity

I still have a host of footage to process since my return. We’ll be bringing these seemingly disparate pieces together to feature in our full-blown VR experience. Stay tuned.

  • Published: Jul 20th, 2016

“VR Movie Magic” Week 9 – July 20, 2016

So it feels a little like the early silent film days. I’m faced with this incredible technology and all I’m trying to do is master tricks. Reminds me of the time of the Méliès brothers, putting all the spectacular phenomenon they could on film, like this lady performing the serpentine dance in Paris in 1896.

So, why focus on “tricks,” you might ask? I’ll get to that in a minute. First, a recap of this last week:

I want to thank Intel for a temporary hardware and software loan towards the research and development of our project. This week, we received a Gopro Freedom360 rig, Autopano software and an Intel+NVIDIA powered station to stitch and render with. In exchange, we are testing all we can to design a 360 narrative video experience that provides compelling interactive choices for the viewer. We added other basic components to create our VR filmmaking arsenal, like tripods, sound recorders and lav mikes (we definitely look forward to complementing our project with 3D sound).

At the moment, I’ve been taking the equivalent of the early silent film steps aforementioned. First, I played around with perspectives. Below, we capture our surrounding countryside in spectacular 360 panorama in a “second person” test talk about nature. Second person here means acknowledging the viewer’s presence. You might think of an instructional video for reference.

We then experimented with “first person POV,” enabling the viewer to feel like a character in the story. While we were able to capture the effect of a character body (that the viewer can see when he/she looks down), we also experienced some difficulties with the seams of our stitch, which we will continue working on perfecting. Note the ghosting below.

This was followed by playing with “first person without a body,” different from second person in that you are still a character in the scene, just without a grounded body. In the following case, the camera was placed at a low level to simulate a child’s vantage point as she looked on at her parents. It was hard shooting on slanted horizon [image below is a crop of a spherical video. Earlier images were screenshots from Go Pro VR player].

My friend and technical partner at game development studio Tintash, who has graciously lent his support towards some initial R&D, also helped us consider how we might deploy gaze-based and hot-spot based interactivity in our developing narrative. At the moment, I’m writing specific scenarios to test unique interactive functions.

Regarding resolution, we’ve decided to aim for 8K so that we have high enough resolution to also be able to distribute on PC eventually. This coming week, I’ll pay homage to Méliès and do the equivalent of some of those early silent film tests to reproduce visual tricks that will probably be totally underwhelming in 100 years (like seeing an 1896 serpentine dance on youtube in 2016). Well, it’s the beginning of VR and we’ll just have to start at the beginning to inject some whimsy into VR 360 video narrative storytelling. I’ll keep you posted!

  • Published: Jul 11th, 2016

VR Week 8 – July 11

Well, it was 41 degree C (or 105 degrees F) weather this weekend as the Tour de France wended its way past me. On my end, it’s been a week of technical stops and starts. After importing some raw footage tests to stitch in both Videostich and Autopano, I realized I needed to create more consistent settings during shooting. I am waiting for the arrival of my new rig before I attempt some further tests.

I’ve also run into some challenges with the first person POV camera prototype. We’ve discovered that the existing technology of the cameras we’d be able to use for the prototype would not enable us to achieve a high enough desired final resolution. I’ve decided I will therefore turn to an existing gopro rig that would yield the necessary resolution as this is going to be very important for the longterm playability of the final app.

In thinking about the story elements and virtual world, I’ve found Tony Parisi’s diagram from Learning Virtual Reality helpful in terms of where to place the objects and field of action in relation to the viewport.

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I’ve been exchanging some small gaze-based selection VR app tests with my game developer friend to continue iterating on the interactivity aspect of my piece.

More to come once my equipment arrives!

  • Published: Jul 2nd, 2016

VR Week 6 – 7 | June 27-July 4, 2016

I have some new ideas about interactivity, which I’ll need to test. Things have been moving at an organic pace, but now that I’m in France, I feel the need to introduce some order to the next few weeks.

Goals for this week: I’ll be visiting a demo of a 3D audio company to start figuring out audio recording options. I’m going to experiment stitching some old test footage shot with go pro freedom 360 in Videostitch this weekend (during R&D, I’ll be comparing Videostitch with Kolor and Autopano to see which one works best for my needs). I’m also going to figure out how to finish on both mobile and PC platforms, if this is going to affect my progress thus far. While I continue to assemble resources and team members, I will also need to further flesh out the script and story this week. It should be interesting to design the narrative script - I’ve tried in the past to come up with a good system and hope to improve it this time round.

  • Published: Jun 20th, 2016

VR Week 5 – June 20, 2016

I hopped on my flight to France, where I’ll be spending most of the month of July to build and the first person POV camera as well as shoot test footage. Before leaving, I tried to crystalize my creative ideas into a new logline (see below) and revisited my production schedule. I also shared WILD with some test viewers. Interestingly, one viewer commented that the moment Reese looks at her mother, he thought she was looking at him (when in fact Reese sort of looks through you to her mother on the other side). The fact that there is some confusion here made me think I might make use of tools like voiceover to guide the viewer better in my own VR project.

Latest project info!

  • Published: Jun 13th, 2016

VR Week 4 – June 13, 2016

I spoke to my game developer friend at length about interactive 360 video. I want to research the feasibility of three different technical possibilities in the VR video interactivity. I’ve been interested in the GONE piece by Skybound Entertainment, specifically its usage of hotspots. What I like about the series is its narrative immersion, but it is positioned more as a mystery than a story where you enter a character’s perspective. The other piece we discussed was WILD, its use of “movie magic” - or simply, gazed based selection - to induce the appearance of Reese Witherspoon’s mother. We’ll continue to break down other examples. It’s great to have a sounding board during R&D.

My project ideas have been advancing, coming to me in isolated visuals for the moment. The VR video will feature a channel of some sort (either a corridor, or, funding allowing, a 360 video set in nature, perhaps a canal). I’d like to replicate one scene from an ancient Chinese poem about a river way showered by multi-hued peach blossoms. I asked a friend versed in Maya how this could technically be achieved. I think if I’m able to grab some good footage during my summer month in France, I could possibly use it for this transitionary scene.

A shower of multi-hued peach blossoms, but more realistic than this one, crossed with the waterway below. Can I make this happen in VR? Inspired by the poem, Peach Blossom Spring, by Tao Yuanming

Crossed with a waterway

  • Published: Jun 6th, 2016

VR Week 3 – June 6, 2016

I was gone most of this week for a retreat/observance, but was able to establish some communication to begin building technical partnerships for production. In Week 2, I connected with a 4K camera company to collaborate on a first person POV VR camera and in Week 3, I was able to get more cost information. It remains to be seen whether I will use first person shooting or not, but I’d like to factor this into my R&D — it would be really cool to be able to shift perspectives between characters or even just to shift from 3rd person into 1st person. The camera company also agreed to spend time during the month of July to build the camera, during which time I could shoot tests. This week I also reconnected with a college friend who is interested in 360 video and comes from a gaming background. After Bernie Yee’s talk at Oculus Launchpad, I really saw the value of connecting with people from gaming to factor in their unique expertise. We will work out the details in the coming weeks.

My current project design in a nutshell


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