Project Update #2

At this stage, I have succesfully gotten a prototype running inside of Unreal Engine. The 3D models and character rig are being finalized, so far now Flower is totally static.

I have created comprehensive keyboard controls for the lighting of the stage, as well as controls for the visuals being played on the screen below the table.

(Note that the frame rate is dropping due to the screen capture software I was running).

Currently, my main objective is to get my character fully rigged and functional with two to three different animations to cycle through during the performance.

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On the other hand, I have continued to keep the performance art element of my work through social media. I have begun to leak videos of the performance through Flower’s Instagram account. The videos appear to have been shot on an iPhone inside of the performance space. This is aimed at making the audience believe that this is in fact a “real” performance.

 

Comprehensive Artist Statement:

Flower, is a live electronic music performance taking place inside of Unreal Engine. The artist, Flower, seeks to comment on the fabrication of identities in the music industry. As a rejection to the “perfect” bodies of big name pop stars, Flower presents themself in a grotesque but organic way. Their image amplifies what these manufactured pop culture personas try to hide, our own physicality.

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Project Update #1

In a Frankenstein-esque moment of creativity, I finished the design of my virtual performer. Their name is Flower. There appearance is grotesque and often confusing, but overall still welcomingly human. Modeling on top of a sculpting base mesh, I was constantly thinking about the logistics of having this being exist in the real world, and what factors would influence their general design, the clothes they wear, and the way they move. With many of their features being quite slimey and tentacle-y in nature, Flower is forced to wear a rain poncho in order to prevent any damage to their DJ equipment.

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Project update #1 also marked the start of Flower’s social media presence. In reality, it’s a campaign developed by myself in order to generate a real following. My goal in the campaign is to make Flower seem as self-sufficient and realistic as possible. Instagram posts, tweets, and general updates are designed to be very colloquial and believable. Of course, if Flower ends up attracting a following, it is of the utmost importance to me to maintain character and ensure that the real identity of Flower is never exposed, as this would break the universe I have constructed around the character and inevitably ruin the true meaning of my VM 470 project.

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Flower and I will continue to develop their live show in Unreal engine, and hopefully create a truly unique musical performance. So far I have done a few very basic stage designs, like the ones below:

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From here on until project update #2, I will be finalizing all of my 3D models and assets and making progress on the scripting and design of the Unreal level.

VM470 Project Proposal

Background

Last year, I co-directed and did vfx for a short music video. The video was for a song I made under the moniker, Girl. This video depicts two android like characters, with human bodies and TVs affixed to their heads. Both appear to be lost in a limbo like setting, with no indication of direction. They approach their newly given life but lack of purpose in different ways; one has a slow and somber acceptance, and the other wildly acts out and embraces their physicality. It’s not particularly deep from a conceptual standpoint, but it grapples with issues of identity in a digital context.

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For the most part, I do 3D design and motion graphics work. As a hobby, I write and produce electronic music. Music has always been a part of my life but has taken a back seat to visual art ever since I started college. Since then, I’ve been looking for ways to fuse both forms of art into immersive audio/visual experiences. The problem is that these experiences are almost always a music video of some sort, devoid of any interactivity.

Concept

The concept I’ll be exploring in my VM 470 project is something I’ve been grappling with for the past year or two now and has manifested itself in most if not all of my work. On the surface, it’s focus is primarily about individual identity, especially in digital culture.

I’ve been fascinated with the idea of fabricating identities to substitute one’s own, and how this idea is not all that far from what we do everyday. In regards to our social media presence, we are essentially creating a non-existent, digital persona that often serves as our “first impression” for most people we encounter.

Our culture even goes as far to idolize these digital personas, whether it be in social media, music videos, or movies. Fictional individuals are glorified as they often represent the being that we so desperately want to be but can’t. What we want is the image, the body, and the personality, yet we are physically unable to achieve any of these. We are always going to be disappointingly human, and I think that’s what drives people to create their own digital identity, offering an escape from their own physicality.

The question I am trying to answer is, at what point can these digital personas be perceived as real? Are they actually? Is it a matter of perspective? When you have millions of fans that go to “live” concerts for a fictional, 3D-animated pop singer, is that the point at which it becomes real? When you introduce yourselves to people with your Instagram handle instead of your name, is that the point at which it becomes real? These examples are hard to approach, as it can be argued that none of these are instances in which a digital persona is actively trying to become real.

I think where a lot of attempts to create a believable digital persona fall short, is that they are not tangible, and they can only be experienced in a controlled setting of a video, a social media profile, or a concert. My project will bring an element of interactivity, making the digital persona have some have some semblance of life or tangibility. It is up to the “audience” to decide whether or not they’d like to treat the persona as a living being.

The project/goal:

Create a self-produced, live electronic music & visual set, performed entirely by a digital 3D character. The setting will more or less resemble the format of Boiler Room or Just Jam, both internet-based DJ programs. The character is a grotesque, nondescript mass of flesh that will be controlled live to create the illusion that they are the one performing. I will essentially be behind a curtain, controlling the character and visuals through a game engine, and performing the musical set through Ableton Live.

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If my project was just this digital performance part alone, then it would be arguing directly against what I’m putting forward conceptual. This is a controlled performance being experienced strictly in front of a screen. Now, what brings the digital element into the real world is both the sounds and the design of the . I would really like to use the exhibition space to create an immersive environment that blurs the division between the digital element and the physical element. I want the exhibition space to be designed in the same way that the digital space is. I want to tangible elements of the room that emulate the feeling of touching this slimey, squishy, grotesque ball of flesh. I want the audience to have to towel themselves dry when they leave the exhibition space. The screen that displays the digital performance will be 1:1 with physical scale to make the audience feel as though they are there. The audience must feel the disgustingly human element of this digital performance.

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This project is attempting to flip these constructs of false identities on their head by creating a fabricated icon that embodies what’s really behind these fabricated icons; fleshy and malleable human bodies. Fusing production design, 3D art, and live musical performance into an immersive experience is my ultimate goal.

Production Schedule:

Resources:

Cert Prep: Unity Materials, Lighting, and Effects – Lynda Course

Unity 3d Tutorial Realistic Soft Bodies – Youtube

Unreal Essential Training – Lynda Course

Sep. 17 – Oct. 1

  • Concepting/Asset Design
  • Unity/Unreal engine training
  • Interactive logistical planning

Oct. 1 – Oct. 17

  • Software training
  • 3D asset finalization
  • Early interactive implementation

Oct. 17 – Nov. 21

  • Software training
  • Working prototype of interactive element
  • Set/performance development
  • Production design concepting

Nov. 21 – Dec 5

  • Refined prototype of interactive element
  • 3D asset polish
  • Set performance finalization