Couldn’t make it up

I’m amazed by what Sparth and other artists are do­ing with their art in VR. Go get your mind blown!

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Editor’s Letter -

Ev­ery now and again, some­thing comes along that shakes the cre­ative in­dus­tries wildly, caus­ing ev­ery­one to spin with ex­cite­ment and chang­ing ev­ery­thing, for­ever. The first com­put­ers did it. Pho­to­shop did it. Does Google’s new vir­tual re­al­ity Tilt Brush mark the cusp of an­other seis­mic change for artists?

Ac­cord­ing to Dar­ren Ba­con, yes. The lead con­cept artist at 343 In­dus­tries – a di­vi­sion of Mi­crosoft de­vel­op­ing the Halo fran­chise – pre­dicts lim­it­less pos­si­bil­i­ties for VR as a pro­duc­tion art tool. “One of the first re­ac­tions I had to try­ing the tech­nol­ogy was that VR and Tilt Brush – be­ing first to mar­ket – are likely to be in ev­ery cor­ner of the de­sign/art in­dus­tries soon,” he says.

“I was skep­ti­cal, but af­ter don­ning the head­set and mak­ing a few strokes in Tilt Brush, it all made per­fect sense,” Dar­ren con­tin­ues. “I be­lieve we’re in the mid­dle of a revo­lu­tion sim­i­lar to when the in­dus­try made the switch from tra­di­tional art tech­niques to Pho­to­shop 20 years ago.”

His col­league, art di­rec­tor Ni­co­las Bou­vier – aka Sparth – agrees: “I think we sud­denly jumped for­ward in time,” he says. “The pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less when it comes to im­ple­ment­ing new fea­tures that could ben­e­fit both art novices and pros.”

Tilt Brush en­ables any­body to cre­ate in a 3D space with just the wave of a hand. You can step in, around and through your draw­ings. And, be­cause it’s VR, you’re free to use un­usual use ma­te­ri­als such as fire and snowflakes, should you wish.

Se­nior con­cept artist Ge­of­frey Er­nault bought an HTC Vive from the of­fi­cial

I was skep­ti­cal, but af­ter mak­ing a few strokes in Tilt Brush, it all made per­fect sense

web­site. He al­most gave up af­ter his ini­tial at­tempt, la­belling it “gim­micky” and “hard to get into”. Then he saw Sparth’s im­ages and gave it an­other go.

“At first I thought Tilt Brush only had a black back­ground and glowy brushes, so I didn’t spend as much time as I should have,” Ge­of­frey says. “I’m glad I didn’t give up be­cause I’m start­ing to have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of how to use the tools to cre­ate im­ages I want. It also gives me a sense of scale and depth that I’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced be­fore.”

“One thing that needs some get­ting used to is stand­ing up while draw­ing,” says il­lus­tra­tor Christoph Nie­mann, who was in­vited with five other artists to play with the Tilt Brush as part of Vir­tual Art Ses­sions, a Chrome Ex­per­i­ment (see them at http://ifxm.ag/virt-art).

“Keep in mind the high­est point in your scene,” warns Ge­of­frey, “and try to limit that, oth­er­wise you’ll have your arms up for the whole du­ra­tion and you can quickly get arm ache.” He had to jump to reach the high­est points in his re­cent art­work, which you can view in 3D at http://ifxm.ag/tb-ro­bot.

Dar­ren agrees that it takes some time to get used to the new workspace. He uses mark­ers on the floor – where the car­pet ends, for in­stance – to pro­vide clues as to his lo­ca­tion in the phys­i­cal room and whether he might need to tele­port to an­other lo­ca­tion in Tilt Brush.

“There’s a vis­i­ble grid that re­minds you of your bound­aries, but even with that it took a few hours to get to a point where I could re­ally move and not be too timid in move­ment,” he says.

Also, watch out for mo­tion sick­ness. It’s like the first time you ride a roller-coaster, says Ge­of­frey: “It might make you feel a bit sick, but then you’ll get used to it.”

Art revo­lu­tion

So what of its po­ten­tial? On a prac­ti­cal level, it’s never been eas­ier for artists to trans­late 3D ideas into a 3D space. “An­other thing I find re­ally in­trigu­ing is the abil­ity to ex­pe­ri­ence my de­signs ‘in per­son’,” says Dar­ren. “For a long time I’ve de­bated over whether or not I should get into 3D print­ing, but I’ve never pulled the trig­ger be­cause of the costs and soft­ware knowl­edge needed to get a good re­sult.

“Vir­tual Re­al­ity makes that fan­tasy a re­al­ity for peo­ple like me who don’t know how to build print­able mod­els, or who

Tilt Brush gives me a sense of scale and depth that I’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced be­fore

don’t have ac­cess to ei­ther a good 3D printer or CNC ma­chine.”

Drew Skill­man co-cre­ated the tool and is now de­vel­op­ing it at Google. He pre­dicts big things. “We be­lieve it has far­reach­ing im­pli­ca­tions for cre­ativ­ity and prob­lem-solv­ing in many dif­fer­ent fields. Game de­sign is one where we’re al­ready see­ing Tilt Brush make an im­pact, but we’re ac­tively pur­su­ing oth­ers like ed­u­ca­tion, fash­ion, mu­sic, vis­ual com­mu­ni­ca­tion and ar­chi­tec­ture to name a few.”

All the artists agreed we spoke to that it’s worth find­ing a rig nearby: try your lo­cal Cur­rys PC World if you’re in the UK, or cer­tain GameStop and Mi­crosoft Store lo­ca­tions in the US.

“Prior to try­ing it I was al­most morally op­posed to the idea of artist work­ing in VR,” ad­mits Dar­ren. “But go­ing back to a com­puter mon­i­tor or pa­per feels prim­i­tive, cum­ber­some and dif­fi­cult to use in com­par­i­son,” he smiles. “Tilt Brush was one of those ah-ha mo­ments that flipped a switch in my brain.”

Your room is your can­vas and your pal­ette is your imag­i­na­tion with the Google Tilt Brush. Fi­nal art taken from in­side Tilt Brush, show­ing a mech by Dar­ren Ba­con. The orig­i­nal pen sketch from Dar­ren’s sketch­book of a mech, drawn around the be­gin­ning of 2016.

An­other im­age cre­ated by Sparth in the Tilt Brush VR en­vi­ron­ment. “The sure fact is, it’s the fu­ture,” he says.

Tilt Brush sketch of a mech that Dar­ren ex­ported as an .fbx file and then took into Modo to show­case his de­sign.

Ge­of­frey Er­nault cre­ated this piece, Ro­bot, af­ter be­ing in­spired by Sparth’s ex­per­i­ments with the Tilt Brush.

Christoph Nie­mann took his 2D il­lus­tra­tion skills into 3D as part of the Vir­tual Art Ses­sions project.

Through art, Tilt Brush uses non-gam­ing tech­niques to ac­cli­ma­tise a wider au­di­ence to VR.

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