Nate and I are VERY excited that we were each chosen separately for different projects in the second round of the Google Jump Start Program! We have been filming non-stop from September through the end of October! Stay tuned with the status of our projects! My project is "Blood Memory VR" with co-director Jade Begay and Nate's project is "Seven Points."
We have had a great launch of our production studio throughout 2016 and are extremely excited about 2017! Here’s the scoop of what we’ve been up to and what projects we have in production.
Through East Coast Digital’s New Media Division started by Stina Hamlin, we produced, filmed, and are in post production on the US Fund for Unicef’s first venture into the world of 360 and Virtual Reality. For the Unicef Kid Power Band initiative we went to Mozambique, Africa to film a day in the life of a child that is a part of Unicef’s Kid to Kid Radio Program in the Xai Xai province. In collaboration with Caitlin Burns, Nate Hamlin produced, co-directed, and filmed the project and it will start post production soon under the direction of Stina Hamlin who is the Post Producer of all video content for the Unicef Kid Power Band.
As part of the Women at Sundance Initiative, Stina along with Director Kiira Benzing were selected by the Women’s Impact Network of the Producers Guild of America to present and workshop THE WESTBETH STORIES VR project at a one-day Financing and Strategy Intensive or Independent Women Filmmakers. It was an honor to be hand picked and the process was rigorous and an interesting exercise in educating the traditional film world about the craft of VR filmmaking.
In July at SeriesFest 2016 East Coast Digital sponsored Stina to be on their first VR panel along with Schele Williams, ECD’s Creative Director. The panel about 360 storytelling was a success and the festival brought them on board to help program their VR Day for the festival in 2017.
In collaboration with choreographer Jonathan Lee, State Media created two 360 dance pieces, one of which won the Samsung Creators Awards in the #Causes category for Black Lives Matter, “Say Our Name.” The other, “Rumble in New York” is in queue for a marketing push and distribution. This was Stina’s first Director role, while Nate was the Producer and DP on the project.
“Broadway Circle Up” This is How We Shoot Back, is a project that State Media had the honor to be a part of. Cast members of the Broadway Community including "Hamilton", "The Color Purple", "The Lion King", "Shuffle Along", and "Motown” gathered to stand up for #BlackLivesMatter with a powerful vocal performance of a medley of songs from their shows along with original spoken word from Daniel J. Watts.
In collaboration with Director, Kiira Benzing, our first project to premiere at the New York Film Festival happened in October 2016! “Cardboard City,” an interactive documentary and VR piece, premiered to an enthusiastic audience that contributed to our Cardboard City in the maker’s space and joined in the story through both Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. We also had our first theatrical run at VR Cinema, Jump Into the Light.
State Media has started to work closely with an amazing organization, The Global Action Project, and hopes to head up their VR program during 2017. We jumped on board to celebrate their 25 years of service by bringing in Jonathan Lee, and a live performance of the dance piece, “Say Our Name,” at their annual fundraiser. In addition to facilitating the edit of a 5 minute documentary about the impact that G.A.P. has had on it’s youth throughout the years by mobilizing disenfranchised youth to use media for social change and activism.
We are currently working on the sequel to "Cardboard City,” “Boxed Out," which has live action, stop motion, and interactivity featuring the work of Danielle Ash. The awesome film producer, Lydia Dean Pilcher, has come on board "Boxed Out" as our Executive Producer for her first VR piece. She has produced many amazing films in her career, most recently "The Queen of Katwe" and "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks." We are so honored to be working with her!
Stina just returned from being a mentor at SXSW 2017 and has a couple of projects that made it through the first round of the Sundance New Frontier Lab 2017. One of those projects is in collaboration with LIttle Giant Wolf's Skye Von called "Paper Doll Origami." Nate is back from a trip to Cuba, capturing the enchanting, time-capsuled environment in 360. He is finishing up the “Billy Bobs Texas Bull Riding” piece for USA Today’s VRtually There series, while producing four other pieces for them. We are in post production on a Women’s March New York piece featuring stand up comedian, Lisa Curry, and pitching, pitching, pitching!
State Media’s project, “Say Our Name” wins Grand Prize in Samsung’s Creators Awards in October 2016. “Say Our Name,” directed by Stina Hamlin, filmed by Nate Hamlin, and choreographed by Jonathan Lee, is an immersive hip-hop dance piece filmed on the streets of New York City. Inspired by the #Black Lives Matter movement, through the craft of 360 filmmaking the experience engages the viewer to look into the eyes of the people that brutality is happening to everyday on streets throughout our nation. We must remember and say these names and never stop having this conversation until there is change and the injustice stops. Since we filmed this piece in August 2016, over 20 other names have been added to this list. Systemic racism is very much still alive and it is up to us to change this through our art, our work, and our daily lives. Our hope is to make a mark with this piece and continue to create experiences that influence change.
Choreographer Jonathan Lee brings his stylings through the music and the message with the talent of amazing dancers from various backgrounds. Ephraim Sykes (HBO's Vinyl, Hamilton, Motown, Hairspray Live), Sasha Hutchings (Hamilton, Motown, Sweet Charity), Winston Brown (Jacob's Pillow, Taylor 2, Pilobolus) and up and coming Yancy Greene.
The Film Society of Lincoln Center today announced the lineup for Convergence, its highly anticipated immersive storytelling program, which will run October 1–4 as part of the 54th New York Film Festival. It includes two U.S. premieres and one world premiere amongst the nine interactive works, as well as five panels from innovators of the field.
“The art of immersive storytelling is continually evolving,” saidNYFF Convergence programmer Matt Bolish in a press release. “Our mission has been consistent from our first year to this, our fifth: bringing the best survey of interactive work to the NYFF audience.”
Virtual Reality highlights include the world premiere of acclaimed Indian work “Priya’s Mirror,” which fuses augmented reality with a comic book to tell the story of a rape survivor-turned-superhero. Returning for a second year is the audience favorite “Sherlock Holmes & The Internet of Things,” from Lance Weiler and Nick Fortugno, in which viewers must use their digital devices to solve a string of crimes across Lincoln Center’s campus.
The supplementary panel talks include a special preview of “Traveling While Black,” from Oscar winner Roger Ross Williams (“Music By Prudence”). Based on the “Green Book,” which was an essential tool for black travelers during the Jim Crow era, “Traveling While Black” is a suite of interactive experiences exploring issues related to restricted movement in contemporary America. Ross Williams presents a preview of the project’s first VR piece, as well as a live performance.
Experiences and Installations
“Cardboard City,” Kiira Benzing, Stina Hamlin
Blending virtual reality, augmented reality and user-generated content, the piece is a hands-on interactive installation that uses these artists’ stories as a jumping-off point before inviting viewers to become creators and add buildings, memories and stories to an ever-evolving cityscape. Featuring artwork by Danielle Ash.
“EKO,” Interlude, Sandeep Parikh, Casey Donahue, Daniel Scheinert, Billy Chew
A series of shorts built on the new interactive platform EKO: “The Gleam,” an interactive documentary about a small town paper; “That Moment When,” a comedy that asks the viewer to navigate a battery of awkward conversations; and “Now/Then,” a “Rashomon”-inspired story focused on the various perspectives swirling around a relationship on the rocks.
“Giant,” Milica Zec, Winslow Turner Porter III
Transported to a basement shelter in an active war zone, the viewer must watch — and listen — as parents try to distract their daughter from the thunder of bombs in this VR film.
“Late Shift,” Baptiste Planche, Tobias Weber
In this audience-directed narrative feature, a parking attendant’s world is turned upside down when he’s forced to take part in a brazen heist, and the audience makes choices to shape the story via an app.
“Lives in Transit,” Global Lives Project
This long-form documentary focuses on 24 hours in the lives of 10 individuals who are responsible for moving products or people throughout the world in some way. World Premiere.
“Priya’s Mirror,” Ram Devineni, Dan Goldman, Paromita Vohra, Shubra Prakash, Vikas Menon
The second volume in the taboo-shattering story of a rape survivor turned superhero, which uses augmented reality to bring the 2D world of the comic to life.
“Ricerca VR,” Yo-Yo Lin, Will Cherry, Steve Dabal, Elle Callahan, Michael Matchen
In this VR re-imagining of a large-scale video installation piece, a man scours his memories for something lost, traversing a lush world rendered with a vibrant mix of 2D and stop-motion animation. “Ricerca VR” raises compelling questions about the future of VR’s relationship with the world of fine art.
Sherlock Holmes & The Internet of Things, Lance Weiler, Nick Fortugno
Since its launch, participants from 20 countries have taken part in this immersive storytelling experience that uses the emergent web of connected digital devices to investigate mysteries with the world’s favorite consulting detective.
“Sound Hunters,” François Le Gall, Nicolas Blies
In “Sound Hunters,” the audience makes music by recording and remixing the sounds of the world around them.
Hilmar Koch and Nick Rasmussen, ILMxLAB
Founded in 2015, ILMxLAB fuses the talents of Lucasfilm, Industrial Light and Magic and Skywalker Sound to create a new, collaborative space to experiment with stories across all visual media platforms — those we know well and those just being established.
The Psychology of Storytelling: Lindsay Doran
Oscar-nominated producer and studio executive Lindsay Doran (“This is Spinal Tap”) brings more than 30 years of experience in the movie business to bear on this examination of what the field of Positive Psychology can teach us about the secrets of writing a satisfying movie.
The State of the (Interactive) Art: StoryCode’s Mike Knowlton, interactive theater director Michael Rau and filmmaker Ram Devineni
StoryCode is a community of creative professionals exploring interactive storytelling, founded the same year NYFF launched Convergence. Cofounder Mike Knowlton and a panel of key players from the New York interactive scene — Convergence veterans, game designers, immersive theater directors, virtual reality producers and interactive filmmakers — reflect on where they’ve been and where they’re headed.
Traveling While Black: Special Preview Event With Roger Ross Williams, Bonnie Nelson Schwartz, Lina Srivastava, Yasmin Elayat
A sneak peak of this highly anticipated immersive exploration of the issues related to restricted movement in modern-day America with a suite of experiences including a traveling museum exhibit, virtual-reality films and live events.
The full NYFF lineup can be found here.
New York City-based East Coast Digital believes in VR and has set up its studio and staff to be able to handle virtual reality projects. In fact, they recently provided editorial, 3D animation, color correction and audio post on the 60-second VR shortCardboard City, co-winner of the Samsung Gear Indie VR Filmmaker Contest. The short premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. You can check it out here.
Cardboard City, directed by Double Eye Productions’ Kiira Benzing, takes viewers inside the studio of Brooklyn-based stop-motion animator Danielle Ash, who has built a cardboard world inside her studio. There is a pickle vendor, a bakery and a neighborhood bar, all of which can be seen while riding a cardboard roller coaster.
East Coast Digital‘s Stina Hamlin was post producer on the project. We reached out to her to find out more about this project and how the VR workflow differs from the traditional production and post workflow.
How did this project come about?
The project came about organically after being introduced to director Kiira Benzing by narrative designer Eulani Labay. We were all looking to get our first VR project under our belt. In order to understand the post process involved, I thought it was vital to be involved in a project from the inception, through the production stage and throughout post. I was seeking projects and people to team up with, and after I met Kiira this amazing team came together.
What direction did you get?
We were given the understanding of the viewer experience that the film should evoke and were asked to be responsible for the technical side of things on set and in editorial.
So you were you on set?
Yes, we were definitely on set. That was an important piece of the puzzle. We were able to consult on what we could do in color and we were able to determine file management and labeling of takes to make it easier to deal with when back in the edit room. Also, we were able to do a couple of stitches at the beginning of the day to determine best camera positioning, etc.
How does your workflow differ from a traditional project to a VR project?
A VR project is different because we are syncing and concerned with seven-plus cameras at a time. The file management has to be very detailed and the stitching process is tedious and uses new software that all editors are getting up to speed with.
Monitoring the cameras on set is tricky, so being able to stitch on set to make sure the look is true to the vision was huge. That is something that doesn’t happen in the traditional workflow… the post team is definitely not on set.
Can you elaborate on some of the challenges of VR in general and those you encountered on this project?
The challenges are dealing with multiple cameras and cards, battery or power, and media for every shot from every camera. Syncing the cameras properly in the field and in post can be problematic, and the file management has to uber-detailed. Then there’s the stitching… there are different software options, no one is a master yet. It is tedious work, and all of this has to get done before you can even edit the clips together in a sequence.
Our project also used stop-motion animation, so we had the artist featured in our film experimenting with us on how to pull that off. That was really fun and it turned out great! I heard someone say recently at the Real Screen conference that you have tounlearn everything that you have learned about making a film. It is a completely different way to tell a story in production andpost.
What was your workflow like?
As I mentioned before, I thought that it was vital to be on set to help with media management and “shot looks” using only natural light and organically placed light in preparation for color. We were also able to stitch on set to get a sense of each set-up, which really helped the director and artist see their story and creatively do their job. We then had a better sense of managing the media and understanding how the takes were marked.
Once back in the edit room we used Adobe Premiere to clean up each take and sync each clip for each camera. We then brought only those clips into the stitching software — Autopano and Giga software from Kolor.com — to stitch and clean up each scene. We rendered out each scene into a self contained QuickTime for color. We colored in DaVinci Resolve and edited the scenes together using Premiere.
What about the audio?
We recorded nothing on location. All of the sound was designed in post using the mix from the animated short film Pickles for Nickels that was playing on the wall, in addition to the subway and roller coaster sound effects.
What tools were used on set?
We used GoPro Hero 4s with firmware 3.0 and shot in log, 2.7k/30fps. iPads and iPhones were used to wirelessly monitor the rig, which was challenging. We used a laptop with AutoPano and Giga software to stitch on set. This is the same software we used in the edit bay.
We are collaborating once more with Kiira Benzing on the follow-up to Cardboard City. It’s a full-fledged 360 VR short film. The sequel will be even more technically advanced and create additional possibilities for interaction with the user.