On the set of Social Animal’s 360-degree interactive music video, my friend Giuliano Bekor had me evoke Sunset Blvd’s Max Von Mayerling in an editorial spread for BlackBook Magazine. The video, which I directed and which was produced with my colleagues Matthew Forrest and Guy Shiffer, is the first of its kind in a new interactive format that I designed. It is technically, at the size of six Imax screens, the biggest music video ever shot. Most people, however, will engage with it on a much smaller screen online or on a personal mobile device. A few hours after these photos were taken, I will be directing the fabulous Macy Gray, who sings the classic song “Whatever Lola Wants” with the Deron Johnson Ensemble in a party scene that represents New Media’s arrival on the Hollywood scene. By moving the cursor, audiences will have the unprecidented ability to look around the room as they choose, checking out the party scene, which is populated by a variety of characters from the earliest days of cinema to the latest 3d avatars. These photos, whatever one may think of my modeling ability, seem oddly appropriate since Sunset Blvd, a favorite movie, concerns characters from the silent era who find themselves thrust into the new media of their time, talkies. Lets see if the addition of interactivity on video has as powerful an impact as the addition of sound had on the movies.
This video project is composed of a sequence of recreations of a 10 second scene from the television show, Full House, overlaid with a set of sound loops from the scene’s original music. The crews who re-shot the scene were recruited through Internet message boards and Craigslist, and each of the original 10 crews were paid $150, using a commission of New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc., for Networked Music Review. The project included participants from Austin, Cincinnati, Chicago, Dallas, Denton, London, and San Francisco.
Television in Three Dimensions, Modern Mechanics, February 1931
A DEVICE which can produce a 360 degree picture by television through a stereoscope scanner has been invented by Leslie Gould, a radio engineer of Bridgeport, Connecticut. With Mr. Gould’s television system it is possible to televise a boxing match, a play, an orchestra, or any other spectacle whose scene of action can be compressed into a reasonable space.
The new invention makes use of neon tubes of various sizes and colors, depending upon the magnitude of the image. The spot on which the television subject is located is scanned by beams from two rotating arms, as shown in the drawing above. At the extremity of each arm is a scanning drum containing a photo electric cell, which picks up the images to be televised.
The scene which is going to be televised must be flooded with a great quantity of strong light. Each electric eye catches the light reflected through the apertures in the revolving drums from the light portions of the body, and flashes to the transmitter the electric impulses set up by the variations in light.
I am shocked and saddened to learn that Shawn Mortensen, the Los Angeles pop culture photographer, died last night, according to several websites (SuperTouch, Daily Swarm, ThaIndian News). I had the privelidge to work with Shawn on a commercial campaign recently and we discussed his book and the possibility of collaborating on personal projects. Shawn was a great photgrapher and a good sport. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.
I’ve always been a mixed medium artist but my first love was the movies. Social Animal is located on the old Warner Bros. Hollywood Studios on Formosa Street just south of Santa Monica Blvd. Built in 1920 and called The Hampton Studios, the studio was purchased by the Mary Pickford Company in 1918 and renamed Pickford-Fairbanks Studios in 1919 following the merger of Hollywood’s “First Couple”. Fairbanks early classics “Robin Hood” (1922) and “The Thief of Bagdad” (1924) were made here. The name above the main gate became United Artists in 1921 although UA did not take ownership until 1928. UA controlled the studio until 1939 when Samuel Goldwyn became a partner and the studio was renamed The Samuel Goldwyn Studios. Goldwyn acquired complete ownership in 1955, after a long and bitter court battle with Mary Pickford. Frances Goldwyn, Sam’s widow, left the studio to the Motion Picture Home, who sold it in turn to Warner Bros. in 1980.
Walking around the studio, I’m reminded that many of the far off places that I saw on the screen, places like Frank Loesser’s New York from Guys and Dolls, were actually filmed here, the place that I go to work everyday. Luck IS sometimes a lady and, G-d willing, life sometimes works out nicely nicely.
Aaron Koblin’s collaboration with Takashi Kawashima, Ten Thousand Cents is a digital artwork that creates a representation of a $100 bill. Using a custom drawing tool, thousands of individuals working in isolation from one another painted a tiny part of the bill without knowledge of the overall task. Workers were paid one cent each via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk distributed labor tool. The total labor cost to create the bill, the artwork being created, and the reproductions available for purchase are all $100. The work is presented as an interactive/video piece with all 10,000 parts being drawn simultaneously. The project explores the circumstances we live in, a new and uncharted combination of digital labor markets, “crowdsourcing,” “virtual economies,” and digital reproduction.
Did you hear the one about the coder who was stuck in the shower? This joke killed them at ETech. This year I was honored to be invited as a guest speaker to present a sneak peak of Social Animal’s 360 degree interactive music video at the ETech emerging arts showcase, a platform for artists to present their vision of the intersection of art and technology at ETech 2009.
ETech is the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, O’Reilly Media’s flagship “O’Reilly Radar” event. It is a technologist’s R&D lab, workbench, and playground, specifically designed as a conference to expose new ideas and to learn from the people behind them. ETech is the only place for first access to the innovations and disruptions that are changing the way we live and do business – access people need to stay ahead of the curve in their respective workplaces. This year’s theme at ETech focused on how the way we live is changing — through policy, technology and ideas.
ETech is better experienced than described but I was pleased to be able to spend time with other artists who employ a technology approach like Aaron Koblin, who talked about making art with lasers (I drove up with said laser in our backseat), Alex Bisceglie and his partner in innovation Nick Spears, with whom I’ve been cooking up a collaboration involving video to be displayed in his wonderful spherical display, The Orb, and the guys from Uncommon Projects. Also really enjoyed talking with Nick Bilton from New York Times R&D, who convinced me that my quaint love of paper may not influence the company’s delivery method moving forward.
I’m creating more and more for interactive narrative these days and the terminology can be confusing to people. Below is a link to a simplified example by Simon Norton, a comic strip in which the characters climb out of their frames and reposition themselves when you click on them. This idea has been of interest to many people and Simon and I agree that there is great potential for this idea to be taken further, which is part of what I do at Social Animal.