December 20, 2017
Featured: Mez Breeze
Mez Breeze's crazy-large-and-hodgepodge stimulus pool of creativity
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your artistic background?
Sure thing! I’m Mez…Mez Breeze [make sure to say that in your head just like the famous James Bond quote 😉]. I’ve been writing, constructing, and developing an absolute boatload of digital art/fiction, VR and AR experiences, games, experimental storytelling, interactive fiction, regular dead-tree books, and 3D sculptures for over 20 years now [yup, I’m an oldie]. I also like to regularly, and incorrectly, [ab]use square brackets. My background includes having Degrees in Applied Social Science as well as Creative Art and Writing, and I’ve tinkered in everything from electronic literature to analogue drawing/painting/installations, and now VR sculpture/illustration. I also produce and direct projects too - I’m a bit of a mixed bag all up.
What kinds of creative projects inspire you? Do you usually think of in terms of storytelling when you make designs?
Things that inspire me the most when designing aren’t really other creative projects, but are instead are drawn from a crazy-large-and-hodgepodge stimulus pool. Right now anything from biological/ecological/permaculture systems [eg birdwatching] to insanely-voyeuristic pop culture absorbing [eg bingewatching] are helping shape the odd evolutionary critters that are currently creeping out of my subconscious, seeping down through my Vive Controllers and into a VR space.
Creative VR projects that have inspired me greatly in the past [when I first got my hot l’tle mitts on my Vive and Rift and was massively jumping into any and all VR Experiences I could find] were those that had a looser, flexible storyline or execution, like Surge [an amazingly immersive short video clip and a great one to start novices out on], LoVR [gorgeous and poetic], Firebird/La Peri [stunning] and Gnomes & Goblins (Preview) [a lovey critter-based experience showcasing the amazing storytelling potentials that VR holds]. In terms of thinking in storytelling when making designs in VR: it depends entirely on whether I’m experimenting [otherwise known as “faffing about”] or constructing assets for use in specific projects.
What are some VR projects you are working on?
VR projects I’m working on right now include a VR Adventure in the long-running Inanimate Alice Series called Perpetual Nomads, and a type of VR Cabinet of Curiosities called WonderRoomVR which features a set of my VR sculptures. I’m also currently creating hybrid sculpture/3D model/illustration combos too using MasterpieceVR [more about that later], Tilt Brush and Google Blocks.
What aspects of the creative VR space are you most excited about. What would you like to be able to do in VR?
So I’m *incredibly* excited about so many of the potentials of VR [and AR too] – I’ve been waiting patiently for a while now for hardware to play catch-up to theory. There's so much that's different when creating in VR and AR from other mediums, especially in relation to narrative progression and structuring. In terms of my own work, it's been gobstonking to observe best practices forming around standout VR experiences and learning from these. There's been so much hype about VR being a way of perpetuating empathy [ref: Chris Milk's famous catchphrase of VR being capable of creating an "...ultimate empathy machine"], and there's so much scope for VR to be just that, even with the hype. I remember when delving into VR for the first time back in the 1990's when VRML was the shiny new thang, and being so freakin’ excited by it. Strangely enough, the creative and technical challenges that VR creators faced back then are surprisingly similar to those today: high-end performance issues, mainstream adoption hurdles [ref: Gartner Hype Cycle], dealing with platform/industry fragmentation. The skills VR Creators need range from knowing how to handle spatial storytelling, to understanding emotional intelligence, to having the ability to formulate story experiences that take into account various hardware and platform limitations like FoV constraints, tethered headsets restricting natural movements [gimme gimme gimme a TPCast!], hardware-specific limitations like the screen-door effect etc. So basically in terms of what I want to be able to do in VR, I’d like to see issues like these addressed first, and then have at it with more user-friendly tech centred in a less fragmented industry – then I can push all this to its limits, as I’ve been known to do in other creative avenues [*cough*].
Tell me a little about some of the pieces you've made in MasterpieceVR? What is your approach to creating in 3D? Is 3D art new for you or do you have some experience working with 3D programs?
*Internally squeals with insane-level-excitement at this question*…
*Proceeds to stop myself writing an essay-length answer due to aforementioned kerrazy excitement*…
Right now I’m using MasterpieceVR at every available opportunity. I’m having such an awe-inspiring time experimenting, problem-solving, and setting challenges [like my decision to not use any reference images at all for any work when sculpting in MasterpieceVR, ie that everything I create has to spring freeform from my noggin, which is awesomely difficult]. Another challenge I’ve set is making sure I don’t just use the application to make works in my now signature free-flowing style [ie heavy use of brushes to craft a fluid-like effect], like here:
…but that I also work at developing more traditional VR sculpting/modelling skills as mine need a tonne of work at the moment, as the only prior 3D modelling [or sculpting] experience I’ve had is working in Tilt Brush and Blocks - but that doesn’t stop me from creating works-in-progress like this guy:
What aspects of the application do you like and where would you like to see the program go?
I love how intuitive the interface feels, the way MasterpieceVR just allows you to sculpt/paint in VR almost effortlessly, how easy it is to produce an insane amount of variations of the same work, and the overall haptic nature of creating with[in] it.
In terms of where I’d like to see the program go, some features that would really make workflow easier would be an Autosave function, the ability to organize saved files and collate them [would be especially useful when working with loads of different versions of the same work], refining the Selection>Copy>Paste process, the inclusion of layers, and having more granular control when sculpting.
What is your general approach to creating in VR? Are you still experimenting with what's available or are you looking for specific tools to help you express your ideas and designs?
I’ll never stop experimenting – that’s the best part of it, learning the ins-and-outs of the tech, trying out new tools and pushing them beyond their design parameters – that’s what floats my boat [so to speak]. My general approach to creating in XR in general [and VR in particular] is through flexing the scope and reach of it, especially in relation to storytelling and how it can stretch traditional boundaries.
I think of VR as an embodied storytelling medium, with super-potential to impact an audience in a personal, almost intimate, way.
The way I'm approaching it is to use the haptic intensity of it, the concentrated nature and experiential quality of VR, to produce projects that really leave a mark [and create internal excitement squeals too].😊