InstaVR Interviews: Meet the VR Practitioners
InstaVR Interviews is a blog series where we turn the spotlight on our customers. We find out why they create VR, how they use InstaVR, and what the future of VR will look like. To read more interviews, visit the InstaVR Interviews homepage.
James Manttan, PM & Producer, DUSK Creative
Dusk is a collaborative team of passionate creatives, producers, designers and VFX artists who are used to creating a broad range of projects. Started in 2011, and based in Wellington, New Zealand, Dusk originated as a boutique Motion Graphics and VFX Production company. Now their services include creative thinking, campaign strategy, scripting, graphic design, VFX, animation and 360 VR movies.
James Manttan is a Producer and Director at Dusk. He works with brands to help them tell their stories. His work spans from conception to delivery, making sure all aspects of the project and product meet clients’ expectations. He has particular expertise in 360 video and immersive VR content, for which his team has created content across many of the leading VR platforms.
Dusk Utilizes Learnings from Physical 360 Projections as They Embark on 360/VR Projects
Question: How did you first become interested in creating VR?
Answer: We come from a background of doing installations. We’ve done a lot of installations where we do “Theater in the Round” or 360 projections, on the floor and the walls. Coming from that background as artists and storytellers, having a 360 canvas, allowing you to put on a headset, we quite enjoy. It makes sense as the next step for us, using the 360 space. You don’t graphically have the limitations of a physical room in 360 space — the lighting, the noise, the people in the way of your display. VR is a really, really nice way to showcase installations, as an archival thing or creating new artwork you couldn’t previously do.
We recently did a physical installation with six screens surrounding you at The Great War Museum, which is Peter Jackson’s one up in Wellington. It’s a public exhibition space where we put these in. It was six screens surrounding you with six chapters about The Great War. We’ve taken four of these chapters, and we’ve started to create the room in VR, using the screens.
We had this director from Singapore, that we wanted to really show this to, but the biggest problem was showing her the movie from the headset — touch, play, pause. If we had the InstaVR app then, you would just put it in, and then you can play. These are things we’re finding out using InstaVR. We can create our apps that can showcase what we’re doing in a really easy way to show the audience.
The Dusk team and crew on location.
Dusk’s Team Uses a Wide Array of 360 Cameras & Editing Software; “InstaVR is the first package that has pretty much everything we need”
Question: Can you discuss what 360 cameras you use for your projects? What editing software?
Answer: Currently, we use the Go Pro Omni. We’ve been trying to get our hands on an Insta360 Pro. We’ve also been using the a7S to shoot in low light. We also use the Samsung 360 camera, which is our location recce camera and is a massive part of our process to quickly look at shots and plan them.
For software, we use After Effects, Kolor, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, and Cinema 4D.
For VR, we’ve looked at having it custom coded, but it’s involved. We’re definitely looking to use a solution that doesn’t have to be done from scratch, but offers a bit more than some of the existing offerings. We looked at one where the functionality stops at a certain point and it doesn’t output to everything. That’s the thing that is a bit of a bummer. It does seem that InstaVR is the first package that has pretty much everything we need. It’s about having that customization and working across all platforms, with full video. It just seems to work really well, it doesn’t feel clunky.
GoPro is one of a number of 360 camera brands used by Dusk.
Dusk Takes Images from Paintings and Photographs of the Pink and White Terraces — New Zealand’s “8th Wonder of the World” — to Create Interactive Gear VR Apps
Question: Can you tell us about a VR project you’re working on?
Answer: In New Zealand, we’ve got a thing called the Pink and White Terraces. Which they’re now calling one the 8th Wonder of the World. Back in the 1850s, people traveled from all over the world, mainly England, to visit these terraces that would have only been captured in paintings and very few photographs. And then they were destroyed in a volcanic eruption.
Only recently it’s been found out that they weren’t so much destroyed, but the lake that was created in the depth of the volcanic eruption, had covered them. And so what we’ve been doing is taking images from paintings and photographs, and creating what they call the “White Terraces Event” in a VR landscape. People we’ve shown it have said, “That’s amazing. Did you photograph this? How did you photograph that?”
We’ve used it to help re-imagine how you look at spaces. And showing it on CAD is one thing, but showing it on the Samsung (Gear VR) app is a really nice way to do it, to build a story around it. Using InstaVR, we explore ways that we can tell that story, deciding is it a standalone app or do we use markers (hotspots) to make it interactive, which is where we want to go with it.
Laptops on set allow for quick review before moving on to set up the next scene.
Dusk Has Captured Beloved Te Papa Museum Exhibit, and is Working on Turning it Into a 360 Gear VR Experience
Question: Any other active projects you can share details on?
Answer:Another recent one we’ve done, which has been well received is Te Papa, our national museum. We filmed an exhibition that has been there since the launch of Te Papa in 1998 .The exhibition was called “Golden Days”, it was all about being a New Zealander.
They have a film where you sit down in these chairs and all these things happen around you. That got torn down among a lot of public outcries — “How dare you take down something that’s been there so long that should stay as part of the cultural landscape” What people don’t know is that we captured that whole thing in VR/360. As if you’re sitting down there and watching it. The way we want to show this is in an app, put that in the Samsung Gear, using InstaVR. Everyone we have shown using the InstaVR app has been blown away. No navigation to the video, they just sit down and revisited a part of our history.
A little down time between scenes being shot.
As 360/VR Starts to Become More Popular in New Zealand, Manttan Discusses Some Non-Traditional Ways to Use VR, Such as Museum Curators Being Able to Archive What Was in the Museum Prior to Renovations
Question: It sounds like you’re doing a lot of public facing tours of popular tourism spots now. Is your 360/VR focus going to expand?
Answer: The take up of 360 in Wellington, and New Zealand itself, is getting there. But clients are still a little unsure of putting a lot of money into it. We’re finding that we’re needing to create a series of different experiences to take to our clients and show them. So we researched… How can we output these? How can we use these? How can we do tours?
We’ve been constantly looking at InstaVR, and what you guys have been doing leading the charge there. It’s been great. And that’s why I engaged with you guys.
As soon as we introduce or show people the power of what they can do, they respond. Like Te Papa is definitely having us back in, because they’re doing a lot of refurbishing. We can do a walk through with the curators behind the scenes, not even as a public facing product, that they can go “What was in those cases? How many did we fit in that room? How was the layout of that room?”
And they can sort of physically walk through it (using VR), and see how it was, what was up on the walls… VR is a very powerful tool. So we’re trying to work with them a little more around documenting the whole museum, but not necessarily from a public facing point of view, but from an archival point of view for curators and future curators, and the museum itself to log through what they did before.
The Dusk team uses a variety of software tools, such as After Effects and Photoshop, prior to upload to InstaVR.
Dusk Strives to Make VR that Gets People Talking, and Even Drives More Real World Visits Because of the Virtual Experiences
Question: What’s next for Dusk and your use of InstaVR?
Answer: Another project we are currently working on is virtual tours of interesting laneways in Wellington so visitors of the city can get a taste of the cool funky surprises that you can find while down the laneways. We have just finished filming a 360 behind the scenes music documentary for one of New Zealand’s top young Alt Pop bands Draz Project. How we can use InstaVR to output and promote this will be really interesting. We need to get it on headsets across stores that supply VR headsets.
Our biggest plans moving ahead with VR is to lead the crafting of content within VR and 360. Take an approach of what the audience is going experience. Is it a learning experience, if so how can we make it amazing or relaxing? We don’t want the user to experience just a walk through a gallery, there needs to be another experience. Something that makes them want to tell more people about the experience, where they learn how amazing it was to visit some place that maybe now they want to go there, help with a decision. We find these days more and more of our audience are time poor and heavily rely on reviews and content to make decisions for them.
The pick up of 360 VR is fantastic but there still needs to be a easy work flow for artists, creatives and sales people to showcase their work.
VR/360 is starting to increase in popularity in New Zealand.
Thank you to James Manttan and the team at Dusk for this interview!