Floria Sigismondi’s Rihanna Video

Not to be confused with Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer.”

Commit this name to memory: Floria Sigismondi.

Floria Sigismondi

Floria is a director of one feature film, The Runaways, many music videos, and many commercials. She’s set to direct an adaptation of the Alejandro Jodorowsky comic book Bouncer, which is probably going to be the biggest meeting of cinematic imaginations in history. Remember those twitchy Marilyn Manson videos from the nineties? That was her. Also visually brilliant videos for David Bowie, all of Jack White’s bands, Justin Timberlake, Sigur Ros, Katy Perry, Interpol, and many others.

Floria creates psychedelic candy for the eyes. I consider her a peer to Fellini, Maddin, and Lynch, a true master of cinematic color and texture. Her work, even her commercials, represent an artistry that belongs only to her. I’ll watch anything she makes.

Floria’s latest project is the first-ever music video shot in IMAX, Rihanna’s “Sledgehammer,” the theme to the new Star Trek Beyond movie.

Our world would be more beautiful if Floria Sigismondi directed a lot of huge movies and VR experiences. I’m just saying.

I’m Surveying People About Smoking Weed and Using VR

I’m curious about how the consumption of marijuana (which is legal in my home state, prevalent in Seattle, and impossible to avoid clouds of in my neighborhood) is related to the creation and enjoyment of VR. I’ve thrown together a quick survey for VR makers and users who might also consume cannabis. I’m not a statistician and this is totally unscientific, driven by nothing more than my own curiosity and desire to blog about it. If you’re into VR and/or weed, please take a moment to remove your headset, set down your bong, and take the survey.


“Going to the Feelies this evening, Henry?” enquired the Assistant Predestinator. “I hear the new one at the Alhambra is first-rate. There’s a love scene on a bearskin rug; they say it’s marvelous. Every hair of the bear reproduced. The most amazing tactual effects…”

“Take hold of these knobs on the arms of your chair,” whispered Lenina. “Otherwise, you won’t get any of the feely effects.”

The Savage started. That sensation on his lips! He lifted a hand to his lips; the titillation ceased; let his hand fall back on the metal knob; it began again…

–Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, 1932


CNDY Factory VJ Night

IMG_2179I got around to visiting CNDY Factory last night and it was way cooler than I expected. Proprietor and visionary Tim Reha is creating an epic production facility and creativity incubator in this former clandestine pot growing space on Dexter. Last night CNDY Factory hosted a gathering of video artists, vjs, and VR enthusiasts. We demoed a MIDI DJ tool that a developer named Gus McManus created with Unity. Several attendees declared Gus’s creation “dope as fuck.”  An Oculus Rift Vive modded with a front-mounted sensor captured your hands and translated them into robotic hands in VR. When you slipped on the headset you entered a space defined by an easy to use GUI–buttons, crossfaders, etc.–that you could use to manipulate various loops and effects. To put it more simply: the tool let you become a DJ in virtual reality. Everybody who took this tool for a spin loved it and laughed at how fun it was. I promised Tim I’d come back. I can’t wait to see what happens next in this wonderland of VR/audio/video art.


So I was a little wobbly with my terminology when describing Gus’s DJ tool. Gus sez, “This is a mixer I designed using Oculus Rift, Leap Motion, and Unity. It is controlling Ableton Live via MIDI.” Check out the clip below to see it in action. At the risk of stating the obvious, everything you see on that monitor is what Gus is seeing in VR.


Wednesday VR News Aggregation

This week I’ve been conducting interviews with fascinating people all over Seattle for the article on VR that I’m writing for Seattle Met magazine. One consistent theme I’ve discovered is that everybody is drinking from the same fire hose of VR news, developments, and meetup invites, and everyone feels like they’re missing out on everything that’s happening. I just take that as a sign of a robust scene. Here are a few items I picked up this week that I thought were worth consuming.

Make Way for the First Generation of Indy VR Creators on VR Tech is the best treatise I’ve read so far on how you can’t just import old ways of thinking about movies into VR. The writer, a vrtist named Eran Amir, totally gets it–the medium requires a new grammar. I especially appreciated his points about “the choreography of attention.”

I have yet to meet a person working in VR in Seattle who makes a case for exclusive content. The consensus opinion, that VR experiences and games should be available on all platforms, is reflected in this interview with Valve co-founder Gabe Newell. On the other side of this argument stands Oculus Rift’s Palmer Luckey, who recently defended exclusives by making a comparison to Sony. The philosophical differences between HTC and Oculus when it comes to VR content, as I understand them so far, seem to represent the difference between grassroots organizing and top-down organization. I’ll be curious to see how this all shakes out.

Why watch a roller coaster VR experience when you can watch a roller coaster VR experience while riding an actual roller coaster?

And finally, VR dry-humping.



Seattle’s Women Pioneers of VR

Ada Lovelace. Would have createathonned the shit out of VR if she was alive today.

The day before Father’s Day I took my nine year-old daughter to the VR Women’s Createathon at UW’s Startup Hall. There were reportedly around 100 participants, women who are interested in creating new VR tools, apps, and experiences. Some were absolute novices, others had more experience coding and more familiarity with the devices. The purpose of the event was to learn, share knowledge, and make cool VR stuff.

The createathon somehow managed to feel both relaxed and buzzing with activity. Groups of developers and volunteers from the AR/VR Collective studied monitors, tried out their apps with Vive or Oculus headsets, and handed out unicorn stickers. My daughter got to experience Tilt Brush on the Vive for the first time. We demoed an app, designed by a team led by Rachel Umoren, that teaches medical students how to resuscitate an infant. (I did a horrible job in that virtual operating room, and I clearly should never be admitted to med school.)

I love that my daughter  is growing up in a world in which a woman will be President, and I’m grateful that I can expose her to this VR community of women and feminist men who honor creativity, curiosity, and invention. I want her to take it for granted that she can  make art, write software, launch a startup, and chair a board of directors. Events like the creatathon provide such a positive example to girls, and as the dad of a girl I’m thankful.

Women have been instrumental in every stage of civilization’s transition into the Information Age. The first computer programmer, after all, was Ada Lovelace, after whom one of Seattle’s coolest bookstores, Ada’s Technical Books, was named. When my grandfather was in the army he worked a bit with the ENIAC, considered by many to be the first modern computer, which was operated mostly by women programmers. A decade or so ago I worked at a startup for a woman named Sue Collins who was an early hire at Apple, and who was a member of an unofficial group that called themselves the DOLS, or Dirty Old Ladies of Software. Now the VR community is establishing, from the very beginning, a tradition of inclusion and diversity that will mean more brilliant people working and creating in this thrilling new medium. This is going to make a huge difference for Seattle’s VR industry, and I can’t wait to see what the ladies come up with next.