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Art, Virtual Reality, Resources

VR Painting 101: How Do I Become a VR Artist?

This is the question I get asked the most by fellow artists. I know being a VR painter can sound scary because it involves a PC, hardware you're not familiar with, and hella wires. But it's not that hard! This post is for artists who are not as tech savvy but want to learn more about painting and creating in VR!

I'll walk you through the things you need to know:
the terminology so you can understand what people are saying,
the tech involved,
the creativity apps for VR, and
- my favorite  VR artists you must follow! 

To answer your question: you just jump in and get painting! 


How Did You Get Started? 

I was exploring VR in early 2016, going to tech conventions and conferences, trying out every demo I could. Every person who worked in the VR industry, I spoke extensively to them, asked their advice. I didn't know of anyone else painting in VR professionally at that time (the Vive and Tilt Brush didn't officially release until Apr 2016). I knew I was made for this field. I dished out the money to build a new computer and got my hands on an HTC Vive! From there, I spent hours and hours in Tilt Brush, painting my days away. The rest is history! 

In short, I had the painting + comfort in tech to get started at the time that I did. I consider myself incredibly lucky with the timing of opportunities. 


VR Terminology, Part 1

  • Virtual Reality 
    This is when you are completely immersed in VR.
    Think: 0% opacity of the real world. 
    High-end headsets: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Playstation VR  

Job Simulator, an example of a virtual reality experience. One of my personal favorites! Notice how you don't see any of the real world. You are fully immersed.

  • Augmented Reality (sometimes called "Mixed Reality")
    This is when some aspect of the real world is visible (like Pokemon Go!).
    The AR content may or may not be integrated with the real world.
    Popular AR devices: Microsoft Hololens, Meta Glasses, your smart phones/tablets!

    NOTE: This is sometimes called 'Mixed Reality'. The nature of emerging fields is that the terminology isn't set in stone yet so things will be in flux in the coming years. 

An example of augmented reality, Holodog, a weekend Hackathon project I created with two other designers/developers. Left is my view using the Hololens — notice the digital dog is overlaid on top of the real life world (and doesn't exist IRL). Only I can see him in this scenario, using the Hololens. (Read more about our hackathon experience here.)

  • Errr..... Mixed Reality
    Combination of both real world + VR/AR
    Often used for film shoots or demo videos; videos to showcase content or use of immersive media. 

    NOTE: This is sometimes used synonymously with 'Augmented Reality' but means different things. The nature of emerging fields is that the terminology isn't set in stone yet so things will be in flux in the coming years. 
 This is an example of what a "Mixed Reality" shoot looks like. On the LEFT: This is what I look like during the shoot. I'm in a green screen room, I have a VR headset on. There is a 3rd-person camera recording me. On the RIGHT: there are apps that take the 3rd-person camera content + my VR content and outputs this view of me & my VR creation. (These photos are from the  Google Research blog  in the 'Headset Removal' experiment.)

This is an example of what a "Mixed Reality" shoot looks like. On the LEFT: This is what I look like during the shoot. I'm in a green screen room, I have a VR headset on. There is a 3rd-person camera recording me. On the RIGHT: there are apps that take the 3rd-person camera content + my VR content and outputs this view of me & my VR creation. (These photos are from the Google Research blog in the 'Headset Removal' experiment.)

  • "XR" or "xR"
    This is often used to categorize all the "R"s — virtual, augmented, mixed, etc. Some people are using this as an umbrella term for all the immersive techs.

Equipment You'll Need

  • Headset ("HMD" Head Mount Display)
    For the creative apps, you'll have to get either the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. You can do a search online to see what the differences between the Rift and Vive are.

    I have both and switch back and forth. I like the ease of tracking for the Vive. I like the ergonomics of the Rift. Both are not perfect, as early tech goes. 
     
  • A VR-ready PC Computer
    The computer has to have a top-notch video card. This is imperative! The best one on the market right now is the GTX 1080 Ti. I tend to invest in the best computer parts in the moment in order to keep it as long as possible from this point forward. You can always upgrade parts as you go, too. Your videocard must be able to run at 90 frames per second. If it doesn't, you will get lag while in VR and you will likely get nauseous!

    TIP: You can find already-built computers that will say it is "VR Ready." Do a search on its video card and make sure it's all good.  
      
  • Physical space in your studio or room to do some VR!

VR Terminology, Part 2

Tech Key Words

  • Frames per second
    I mentioned this in the HMD notes above. How many fps does your video card have to run?
     
  • 3dof vs 6dof ("Degrees of Freedom")
    This pertains to how much of your movement gets tracked. In 360 videos, you can look up, tilt, and look around you — this is 3dof and you are limited to standing in one place for this.

    In 6dof, you can do those things PLUS you can move forward/backwards, left/right, diagonally in space. 
     
  • Haptics
    This is when your other sense are engaged: touch, taste, smell!

Content Vocabulary

  • Agency
    How much control the user has in the experience

     
  • Presence
    The feeling of "this is sooo real!!!", like you are actually there in that VR world
     
  • "Experiences"
    A lot of people call VR experiences as 'games'. This is not always the case. It's often a hybrid between an interactive game or a film or something else. I've found that "experience" can be a broad, encompassing word.

Creative VR Apps

There are a few out there but I'm mostly going to mention the four popular ones:

Google Apps

  • Tilt Brush — This is the one you probably saw Glen Keane using! It's a lot of people's first VR experience, and it's one I often use to introduce new people to, too. It's the most intuitive, quickest way to prototype / ideate / play and doodle in VR! 

  • Blocks — This is used to create low-poly 3D models within VR. With a few primitive shapes to build from, you can modify vertices, extrude faces, scale things huge or tiny. This is a superb app to use to quickly create assets for VR because it is low-poly.
    (Being mindful of poly count is super important for extensive VR creations that will be turned into films/interactive experiences/games/etc.)

Oculus Apps

  • Quill — You might have heard of or seen clips from Dear Angelica. A lot of illustrators prefer Quill's brushes and functionalities. You probably have also seen a lot of amazing videos by the great Goro Fujita! New for early-2018: there's an animation feature now! 

  • Medium — This is a 3D modeling tool in VR. Think: sculpting with clay in VR! The extent of how you can model with Medium is incredibly impressive. I've seen very intricate and complex models molded in Medium and then 3D printed out. So beautiful!

If you'd like to explore more VR creative apps, 3Donimus compiled a really comprehensive list


My Favorite VR Artists!

Liz Edwards
@lizaledwards
https://lizedwards.artstation.com/

Danny Bittman
@DannyBittman
http://dannybittman.com/

Vlad "VR Human" Ilic
@vr_human
http://www.vr-human.com/

Micah404
@micahnotfound
http://www.art404.com/

Sutu
@thenawlz
http://www.sutueatsflies.com/

Anna "Anna Dream Brush" Zhilyaeva 
@AnnaDreamBrush
https://www.annadreambrush.com/

3Dominus
@3Donimus
https://www.youtube.com/3donimus

Steve Teeps
@Steveteeps
http://www.steveteeps.com/

Naam
@_naam
http://sketchfab.com/naam


Final thoughts...

I know there's a lot and can be intimidating! Hopefully this helped ease some of your anxieties. It might seem like we know what we're doing in this space, but it is honestly very experimental and hands-on.

So get a VR rig, grab your controllers, and start swinging some VR paint! I can't wait to see what you make!

Resources

Contact Form 7 + Bluehost + Google Apps

 When the webdev gods are especially tougher on you more than usual

When the webdev gods are especially tougher on you more than usual

In rebuilding my site, I ran into some issues with Contact Form 7 and not receiving test emails. It was one of those lovely moments at the end of my deving day when I thought to myself, "Ooh, I'll just finish up by testing the contact form so I can cross the 'Contact' Page off as 'done' — that will be an easy gimme."

Not. :(

Identifying the Problem

I've used Contact Form 7 for many years and never had issues. This time, I wasn't receiving several test emails. I've been out of the game for a while so I was thinking it might have been conflicting with the theme? Jetpack's contact form? funky variable issues with the form settings?

First step, I figured it was something wrong with the configuration of CF7. There are often server-side issues with the "FROM" address coming from outside/non-local email addresses, that is, your server may believe that a sender's @yahoo.com address is spam and will filter it out. Additional headers should be entered, etc. — instructions below. I tried tweaking several settings to no avail.

One of the things I did right off the bat was change the "FROM" values from [senders-email] to a real, existing email address I have for @estellatse.com. This way, my server will not flag visitors' emails as 'stranger danger.' (Contact Form 7 "Your message was sent successfully." but not receiving emails)

I kept refreshing my @estellatse.com Gmail, checked my spam folders, anywhere else the emails could have gotten lost. No avail after several tests, changing one CF7 variable per test. I was still successfully receiving emails sent manually, just not from CF7. Wtf.

Logging onto Bluehost cPanel, I check to see how the email account was configured and checked the webmail just in case. HA! FOUND YA!

 Gaiz. Where are we?  (LOST s02e23)

Gaiz. Where are we? (LOST s02e23)

Turns out my test emails were sending just fine (if CF7 says that the message was sent successfully, then it is indeed sending properly.) All 17 (lol) of my test emails were sitting in my webmail box. There was a problem with the hosting --> Gmail/Google apps portion.

I have my domain email setup with Google apps, which involves how my webmail uses Gmail MX Entry configurations.

Because I set the "FROM" to my own @estellatse.com email, the server believed that it is sending an email to itself and the webmail will then send the mail locally. That's the reason my test emails were stuck in the webmailbox (Can't receive mail from a web form). I had to configure it so that my email would process these emails remotely rather than locally.

How to Fix Contact Form 7 --> Bluehost --> Google Apps

This is how I configured the Contact Form 7 settings:

 contact form 7 settings

contact form 7 settings

Then, on the cPanel/Bluehost end:

  • Go to cPanel
  • Click on MX Entry
  • Select your domain
  • Go down to MX Mail Exchanger
  • Select Remote Mail Exchanger

After I did this, I was able to successfully receive my test messages in my Gmail/Google apps inbox. w00t! (They no longer appeared in my webmailbox because they were successfully sent out! No more stuckness, yay!)

These articles were extremely helpful for problem-solving this issue:

Art, Design School, Resources, The World Wide Web

Crazy Good Resource for Storytelling

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 2.07.00 PM
Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 2.07.00 PM

The Periodic Table of Storytelling

This site provides links to the breakdowns of various storytelling tropes: story structures, plot devices, character types, etc. On each of the character trope wiki articles, there's very descriptive breakdowns of the rules/expectations of those characters. It also comes complete with examples in film, literature, manga, animation, etc. It's a very comprehensive wiki.

I'll definitely be using this moving forward for characterizations! Looking forward to this!