Pivot(al) Conversations Part 1

Over the weekend Simon and I had our first mentoring meeting with Avril Furness.

For me, it was really great to have a conversation with someone who is intimate with writing and storytelling in 360 degrees. It was a crucial chance to be able to air some of my concerns and struggles with finding a compelling narrative that would work with our broad theme of repeating patterns in history, linking this diaspora of voices and the abstract Fractal imagery and technology that Simon is working on.

What are you trying to say?

One thing became clear quite quickly – that Avril wasn’t just a brilliant 360 Director, but had extensive experience with being a creative director. She was quick to triage where I was coming unstuck – that our theme was just WAY too large and ambitious, and that we needed to simplify things down and focus on one simple idea to pursue.

We bounced some possibilities around over the conversation, but her advice was for us to step back from the fractals and fractal theme, and just do some concept work and blue sky thinking, and just see what stories we wanted to tell.

She also suggested we take some time out to look around at many different kinds of art and look for inspiration to see what really got us excited – which is something I’ve heard before, and I’ve used in the past, but frankly you do need a reminder when your eyeballs deep in your own project.

What are others doing with Fractals?

Avril also suggested we explore how others have used Fractals to illustrate a point or tell stories, and found some great examples.

What is already possible/being done with fractals in VR and 3D?

The top video “Like in a dream” was a huge inspiration for Simon from the start with our project and pursuing this Fractal imagery. But it was great to see where others had been forging ahead in the VR and 3D world with fractals:

How and why are fractals important? 

So, I added this as it’s something that I’ve sort of been digging into on the side anyway as part of this project. It probably deserves it’s only post at some point, so for now I’ll just pop this video Avril shared, here which is a nice summary for those curious about the story of fractals:

Fractus: A new brief

Fractus is a VR experience that explores the repetition of history through a powerful audioscape inside a wonderous, infinite fractal universe.

What R&D can teach you

When you pitch a project it’s perfect – in that small paragraph vagueries are glossed over, and ideas sound pithy, streamlined and even…easy.

It’s only when you start to unpack an idea, when you begin to drill down into the nuts and bolts, that you realise you’ve actually built a house out of cheese and only brought spaghetti for a hammer.

And that’s OK.

Because more often than not (once you’ve stopped panicking), after you’ve taken some time to explore how this baby idea may actually grow into a concrete piece of art, you end up discovering  and learning all sorts of things about yourself, your artistic process and your idea that you never knew before.

So what have we discovered through our R&D so far?

  1. Fractals are hard to code. If you want to learn more, check out Simon’s blog series.
  2. Fractals are SO beautiful – people want to look at them and are genuinely excited to play with them in a VR space.

With both these things in mind, and a realisation that we are time limited on this project, it seemed much smarter to concentrate on the fractals rather than add additional illustration and animation requirements to the project. To this end we have refined our brief:

A new brief

Fractus is a VR experience that immerses the viewer in an ever mutable universe of thought, colour, noise and passion. Exploring how our heritage shapes us and how we in turn mould the future.

Viewers are invited to don a VR headset in a curated space and enter Fractus.

The experience is presented as a navigable abstract, fractal world. Viewers can hear a steady soundscape which they can tune like a radio by making gestures in the air.

As they tune and change the soundscape, the fractals themselves react, shifting and dancing in sync with the audio, voices then begin to subtly drift into audibility at certain “frequencies”.

These voices come from many times and places throughout history and they speak candidly about their experiences and feelings towards others and the great events of their day.

As the viewer tunes into more of these voices, they discover similar themes that play-out through the epochs, tying our own experiences to our predecessors in ever-repeating patterns just like the fractals that roll off into infinity around them.

At the end of the experience viewers should feel a sense of wonder at the beauty and scale of the fractal landscape and intimacy with the voices who spoke to them. From a cognitive rather than an emotional view, they should find in equal parts that there is hope in the future, as well as warnings to be drawn from the past