What the Quill ?! A Conversation With Champu Chinito by HIGHWAY101

 Screenshot from the short Moony, created in Quill by Champu Chinito

Screenshot from the short Moony, created in Quill by Champu Chinito

A: Hello Champu Chinito! Please tell us more about you, where do you come from and how did you fall into the vrabbit hole?

CC : I’m from Mexico City and my name is Orlando. Better known as Champu Chinito, which was the name of an art collective that my friends and I have created when we were in high school. Since everybody took different paths at the end of our studies, I decided to stick with Champu Chinito as my artist name. I got started by creating characters for illustrations and merchandising before to become art director at Ogilvy & Mather. This is last year, while I was attending a Pictoplasma masterclass, that I‘ve decided to work full time on character design. At this point, I’ve been in advertising for six years. I quit my job and I started to do illustrations. Then, I’ve discovered Goro Fujita’s workand I literally felt in love with his art. This leaded me to attend the CTN Animation Expo 2017 where I saw him painting live on stage in VR. I was like “Man this is sick!” I really was in love with how fast he was creating illustrations in Quill. Right after Goro’s demo I went to Best Buy and bought my Oculus Rift (we couldn’t buy it in Mexico at the time). Then I realized that I’d need a powerful computer to do VR! So I’ve bought a new computer and started using Quill. At first, I didn’t even realize there were many other games and apps. I only knew about Quill!

Designing in VR with Goro Fujita
See Goro Fujita create live in VR in this amazing session.tv.creativetalentnetwork.com

A: Seems like you’ve learnt Quill pretty fast. Are you able to dedicate a lot of time to learn and create in VR or is it mostly a night time activy?

CC: I have a day job and freelance jobs so I practice mostly at night yes. I think Quill is very easy to learn. I started in December and thanks to all the community I‘ve been able to progress pretty fast. Quill is very intuitive. I did Moony in about a week, that’s super-fast! I’m not even an animator.

A: What do you like the most in Quill?

CC: Well, I love how easy you can animate and tell your stories. I’m not an animator but I understand how to do stop motion. That’s what I apply in VR and Quill seems like a great fit! I think telling stories with Quill is very interesting because being inside the world while creating it feels amazing. It’s like being somewhere else, out of here. I was working on my scene the other day, and next to me this little rabbit was moving around. It was so funny! I’ve always wanted for people to experience the work from the artist’s point of view. Quill comes with example scenes created from Goro Fujita and other artists, and it’s really amazing to be inside. Really amazing! I only do Quill right now. I’ve watched some videos about Tilt Brush and I’m curious about Medium because I love 3D rendering, but haven’t used it yet. I don’t have so much time to spend in VR so I’m only focusing on Quill right now. I want to see how far I can push it. Then I’ll move to Medium I guess!

 Created in Quill by Champu Chinito

Created in Quill by Champu Chinito

A: How does it feel to be part of the ‘Animation in VR’ first wave of artists?

CC: The community is growing fast and there’s a lot of talented people in the group. There’s so much good stuff there! I’m really in love with what everybody is doing. Having that group is very inspiring for us to do better. It’s like a growing family of artists. Like when Monnet and those guys were hanging out in the Parisian bars talking about new paintings, impressionism, sharing their art, ideas. I feel this is what’s happening on this group right now. That room is our way to grow together. I really love it. We don’t know where we’re all coming from and we don’t need to know. We’re in the same channel!

“I love the way we’re inspiring each other to grow and find out ways to use this technology. It’s now super easy and fast to create in VR so I’m very excited about the future and want to share my passion.”

A: What are you currently working on? You‘ve mentioned a children book. Can you tell us more about it? How do you want to use VR for this project?

CC: The reader will follow the story of a boy who’s looking for something, so I’m thinking of allowing him (the reader) to interact and help the character to find what he’s looking for. There’s so much potential and different directions, I’m still figuring things out really!

 Screenshot from the short Moony, created in Quill by Champu Chinito

Screenshot from the short Moony, created in Quill by Champu Chinito

A: What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of VR as part of your workflow?

CC: I think the last barrier has fallen, the monitor/person barrier has fallen. Wacom did it at their time with their tablets, they made workflows organic. With the Cintiq it was like working on paper. Now even that is gone. We can create with our hands inside an infinite space. Change, edit, create, rescale, from any point of view at the tips of our hands. That’s game changing. Craft is a big difference that now may be a con, but it depends on everyone’s ability to polish the result, as with everything. VR is just the tool to do the magic. Someday, we will have more advanced tools that will compete with current 3D renders or even reality.

A: Do you see yourself working full time in VR in the near future?

CC: For now, I think we are all doing this just for fun, and to share and discover this new VR thing. I wish it could become my main activity. I really want to see the community creating more short films, games, movies, so that in two years we will work with these devices professionally, not just for fun anymore. I have many friends who are illustrators and I’m trying to get them involved to create something together. I want to bring more people into VR because out here in Mexico, it’s not something we are talking about yet. I mean, currently they’re showing the VR piece “Carne y Arena’ created by Alejandro G. Inarritu and it’s full all the time. It’s really hard to get in! I think that’s the first big VR thing we’re having here in Mexico City.

I want to see more short films created with this medium and to bring more people into VR because out here in Mexico, it’s not something we are talking about yet.
 Created in Quill by Champu Chinito

Created in Quill by Champu Chinito

A: What is the infrastructure that is available for you to connect people and projects in VR in Mexico?

CC: Well, we don’t have the infrastructure! We have CinePolis, the cinema complex where they show these VR games of zombies. Aside of the Fest Mex VR, Inarritu’s piece, and CinePolis, there’s not much. But I’m working on it, I’d like to do exhibitions, bring digital and traditional artists to work together, and see what happens. This is new for everyone. It will be very interesting to bring more artists on board and see what they can do with this tech here in Mexico. I guess this is my homework and mission!

A: Are you planning in attending CTN this year again?

CC: Of course. I think from now on I will attend every year! It’s a great opportunity to meet people, connect with artists, see what’s going on with new technologies applied in the industry. Everybody should go at least once I think!

A: What do you think VR artists need the most right now?

CC: I think that we (artists) really need to show what we’re doing in VR out of Facebook. Unfortunately, not everybody has a headset yet, so people cannot see our works in VR. We need to find the right approach for the audience to experience our art.

A: Thank you Champu Chinito! Keep going! 




Find and support Champu Chinito!


VR as a Design Tool: A Conversation with Matt Schaefer by HIGHWAY101

Matt Schaefer is a multidisciplinary interaction designer who loves the challenge of uncovering, unraveling, and solving problems by creating solutions that live at the intersection of digital and physical. His last Quill piece inspired by the works of Alex Martin triggered near 2k new members on the fb virtual animation group two weeks ago. Merging 2D and 3D elements, this animated scene takes us somewhere between Roger Rabbit and Blade Runner in which each of the (many!) characters seem to have their own story to tell. I recently asked some questions to Matt. Please find below some excerpts from our conversation.

2018_IXDA_DesigningInVR_Talk+(dragged) (1).jpg

A: Do you remember when you first heard of painting in VR and what was your reaction?

M: I was introduced to VR painting when HTC shared a video featuring Glen Keane. I knew right then I was going to get into VR painting. Things really changed when Goro Fujita posted his “Worlds in Worlds” video. I was intrigued by Tilt Brush at the time but everything about Goro’s video blew my mind! The infinite canvas feature, the one to one translation from his Photoshop style to VR, and so on. I saw enormous potential. After spending intimate time with Quill I can say it’s a truly revolutionary creative tool!

A: How much time have you spent in VR so far learning how to create immersive environments? What do you think of the tools available right now (maybe dive a bit deeper into the different UI, pros and cons of Quill’s interface VS AnimVR’s, or else) and what would you have to say to new comers?

M: Having spent countless hours with various creative tools, in and out of VR, I have formed a general idea of what works. I will spend time investigating everything but will quickly gravitate to my go-to tools. In VR I’m mainly working in Quill, Unity, Gravity Sketch, and Google Blocks. Quill is my most used tool. I average an hour a day in VR on my personal, and sometimes professional, time. Somedays I might even spend 2–3 hours in VR. I love the UI patterns in Quill. This is something I explore professionally and often look to push VR UX past established 2D UI conventions. However, I often reference Quill for its successes in usability and speed. It’s designed for pro users who are familiar working with other creative tools like Photoshop. Fancy UI in Quill would only create friction and slow down the workflow.

M: My advice for newcomers would be to explore everything and see what works for you. Don’t let anything hold you back. Jump in, have fun, and you will discover completely new avenues of expression. It’s thrilling! A great place to start is the VR animation, painting, and sculpting Facebook groups. This is a thriving community where artists from all levels of experience and style contribute on a regular basis. It’s a great place for inspiration, even if you don’t have a VR headset.

"I love the UI patterns in Quill. This is something I explore professionally and often look to push VR UX past established 2D UI conventions. However, I often reference Quill for its successes in usability and speed. It’s designed for pro users who are familiar working with other creative tools like Photoshop."

A: using VR as a creative tool allows to create in ways that have never been possible before. How are you taking full advantage of this in your practice?

M: I like to be conscious of all the affordances VR provides and play to those. I’m always thinking “how can I use the head tracking (camera) in interesting ways?” “How can I take advantage of the motion controllers?” One example of this thinking is on display in my baby announcement video. Before Quill updated with animation features I stumbled on a way to animate characters without keyframe sequencing. I “puppeteered” layers in Quill, with the motion controllers, and screen recorded the performances. Here is a “behind the scenes” view of that in action.

A: It looks like VR is currently finding his way as a designing tool. Do you see creative agencies, studios, and advertising agencies, all using VR/MR devices to create content ( Might it be to create prints, 2d video, immersive environments, etc. ) in let’s say five years?

M: VR has yet to hit mass market for various reasons. Hardware, computing, and development cost to name a few. However, It’s still in its baby stages and needs time to mature. Imagine if someone delivered a baby and the next day expected that baby to drive a car. Eventually, that baby will grow up to race in F1 but it needs time to grow. My guess is that a combination of the factors like the overall cost dropping, accessibility for users to generate and share 3D content, and a few “must have” use cases could be the secret recipe to bring VR to the masses.

"VR is perfect for creative disciplines. This is not a bad strategy to bring VR to the masses either. Apple made a big push to reach mass market by focusing on creativity when they were in their early stages. I’m not saying this strategy works for every technology leap but VR is ripe for creativity."

A: Your last piece (inspired by Alex martin’s sci-fi work) generated a crazy number of new members on the Virtual Animation Facebook group (+2136 members in 7 days). Did you expect such a positive feedback?

M: The feedback has been very positive and I’m grateful for all the kind words. I’m just happy that I’m able to contribute to such a stellar community and possibly inspire some to start making their own creations in VR.

A: Do you have a dream project you’d like to tell us about?

M: I have a few dream projects/jobs! One is to apply my professional experience in UX, VR, and architecture to design digital VR products. The other dream would be to work at Pixar, just down the street for me, as a concept designer/artist using VR painting/animation as my main tool. I think every designer/artist at Pixar should be using Quill if they aren’t already! In terms of a dream project I would like to work with my friend Alex, and a game developer, to fully realized “Alex’s Sci-Fi World” into a kick-ass VR game. Maybe even use Quill files as assets in the game. Seems like people are interested and I have been thinking a lot about it.

A: At ANNY (animationnights.com), we’re currently exploring how to work from our virtual office in High Fidelity with office hours, meetings, workshops, exhibitions -hosted inside the virtual space. What are your thoughts on this? Is it something that inspires you as a future model? As an artist would you be interested in such a platform?

M: Absolutely! The impact of telepresence and teleconferencing is HUGE! For artist and especially enterprise/workplace. With this technology, you can reduce travel, cut down on carbon footprint, create more efficient “face-to-face” collaboration conditions, and augment your team with superpowers. This is one of my favorite use cases for VR.

A: What percentage of your professional work do you think will be VR related in five years?

M: I'd say 100%!

A: Awesome! Thank you Matt, you’re a true inspiration! Looking forward to chatting with you again soon!

Experiments in Art & VR: A Conversation with Scobot by HIGHWAY101

 Tilt Brush environment, kitbashed Medium ship, Gravity Sketch character rigged with Mixamo, by scobot

Tilt Brush environment, kitbashed Medium ship, Gravity Sketch character rigged with Mixamo, by scobot

When I first saw scobot’s work on his Facebook page, I was psyched. ‘It’s like if Moebius finally came to life in VR’ I was saying to myself. I’ve been waiting for this since I’ve experienced TokiMonsta’s show in TheWaveVR in October 2017. Scenic artist, VJ, musician, VR modder, scobot is experimenting with Gravity Sketch, Tilt Brush, AnimVR and Unity3D to achieve his ultimate goal: create virtual reality art out of his hand-drawn sketches. I recently had a great chat with him and invite you to find below some excerpts from our conversation.

A: Hello Scott! Can you briefly introduce yourself, tell us more about your trajectory as an artist, your interests?

S: I grew up in Spokane, Washington. I lived in Portland, moved to Seattle in 1988, and I’ve lived here ever since. I’m currently the artist in residence at the University of Washington’s CoMotions Labs which is a VR/AR start-up incubator. I’ve always been interested in making video games and bringing my artwork into a game engine. That was kind of the holy grail. I started to modd with Unreal Tournament 2004. It was my introduction to creating games even though a lot of it was just trying to learn. Since then, I’ve been using Unreal off and on. I didn’t study the arts post high school, I went for music instead because I wanted to be a rock’n’roll star! [laughs] I struggled a lot trying to become a musician and finally found a vocation being a scenic artist, painting large scale backdrops for productions. Eventually in 2005, I became a professional VJ. I stopped painting as I was lucky enough to make a living out of doing live video editing performances in clubs. I’ve spent hours and hours making two-second video clips, little loops of car crashes, people dancing, MGM movies, spaceships, all sorts of stuff matched together and played with a midi keyboard. I did that for about ten years. Now, I don’t VJ so much anymore. I’m way more into VR. I did transition a little bit into doing live paintings before diving into VR. That was kind of connecting the two: live performances and drawing on the fly. Then, when I got my Oculus Dk2 in 2015 I was like “Yeah, this is awesome!” And when the HTC Vive was on the horizon, I knew TiltBrush was a part of the package and that was super exciting. I’ve been waiting for this for so long! There was also another program called Paintlab in which I could do a lot of things that TiltBrush didn’t allow at first. Scaling was one thing, being able to draw and go inside things … This is where my abstract VR environments came about. The root of it was trying to get my hand drawn esthetic into the digital world because I felt like CGI was kind of too precise, too clean. Also, I knew I wasn’t a good modeler! But energy? expression? Yeah, I can work with these kind of things.

“Something really exciting about VR is that it draws so many people from diverse backgrounds together. So many different industries and all sorts of people with crazy ideas!”

 Scobot’s 2D artwork in VR inside Tilt Brush

Scobot’s 2D artwork in VR inside Tilt Brush

A: What made you switch to Unity3D?

S: The switch to Unity occured about a year ago. Up to that point, I was really into Unreal. Unreal is gorgeous but everything I’ve ever wanted to do in VR, I’ve been able to do it in Unity3D! What is so cool about Unity is that there are so many toolkits and assets. It’s fantastic. The workflow between Unity and other programs like AnimVR for example is awesome. The TiltBrush toolkit was a big thing as well when it came out, and still is. I think at some point I started to realize that many art programs are made with Unity. Since I made the switch, Unity has been very good for me artistically. I cobble together enough codes and things to do what I want. Although if I had a developer to work with, it would probably take us half an hour to do what takes me a week. All I do is copy and paste, and deciphering somebody’s else tutorial. I wish I could generate the code, sit down and just write it. Back in 2000, I took my very first programming class. A C programming class at one of the community colleges here in Seattle. The hardest part for me was to find how to save to the floppy drive so I could turn in my assignment. I ended up getting an A in the class, the teacher was pretty generous. I just didn’t know about computers you know! Even a simple thing like accessing a directory. This is when I realized that it would be hard for me to make video games! But, with the advent of game engines that allowed for modding content, I was able to focus more on the art and gameplay and not so much on the coding. Now I understand a bit more of it. Because in Unity you can look at the code and understand it better. Indeed, I spend a lot time extracting out bits of code written by others.

A: How do you distribute your content? How would you envision a possible pipeline for VR art creators to distribute their work and generate revenue from it?

S: I don’t know. One of the avenues I have a little success with is licensing my content. For example, the Pacific Science Center asked for my VR painting N001. That was a really encouraging experience and I’d like to pursue more of that. But it’s hard to get on people’s radar. On a side note, I find it a little bit discouraging to see the platform Google Poly encouraging people to upload content for free, for people to download for free for use in their projects, for free. I think it could be a dangerous path as it seems to devalue the work of the creators.

Virtual Reality abstract “VR Painting №001” Tilt Brush, Unity 3D

A: True. At the same time that is so great to be able to import so many different 3D models in VR programs such as TiltBrush, AnimVR, Quill, TheWaveVR, etc. Which makes me think of your article on playing with toys in VR. Can you tell us more about it?

S: Sure. It’s a very simple idea that I had when I was playing with what I call my Moebius surfer. I was trying to film it, moving it around, when I realized that, in VR, I could have all the toys ever made. For years, I’ve played with toys by moving them around, interacting, setting up a scene, creating stories. To all the collectors out there, scan your toys so we can play with it in VR! [laughs] Honestly, right now there should be someone at Mattel running one of these high-end scanners and digitizing their whole line of toys. It would not even have to be articulated, a lot of toys aren’t articulated. What about every Hot Wheels cars ever made? Crap, Star Wars! They could do the complete collection! Who’s working on that project? it’s a no brainer. We should be able to buy all the Star Wars toys as VR models. Imagine having your entire range of Star Wars toys when you put your headset on, building out your scenes and playing them… I think there’s a market there for toys that could be enjoyed in VR. And especially in AR. You could have your working space, or wherever your kids play with their toys, saved virtually. When they’d put the headset back, they’d find all their toys again, all mapped to the room.

Silver Surfer model by Sutu Eats Flies. Tilt Brush environment and Unity work by scobot

A: It makes me think of the recently released movie, Ready Player One, which re-enacts various fictional characters issued from 80’s and 90’s popular culture. The idea of an immense library where I would find all the toys ever made is very seducing, I have to admit.

S: I think the appeal for the original scan of a toy is that there’s at least a purchase point for that file. It’s probably going to be a file that is hard to hack but I can see the mashups happening. They kind of let that happen already anyway. There are also people doing amazing physical model kits (the kind you assemble with glue and paint) that would be amazing to see in VR. Those companies should be leveraging those assets and selling “virtual” versions (3d) for AR/VR. model assets. I was looking at really cool armored robots the other day. The kit was like $270. Damn, I want to play with that cool sculpted sci-fi model in VR!

A: Are you working toward animating your artwork in VR?

S: Absolutely. I like to use AnimVR a lot and I’ve started to experiment with edge detection in Unity. Of course, it’s insane to use edge detection in VR, it’s not a best practice at all. But it looks really freaking cool, especially with the AnimVR Unity toolkit. (See the pop art video). It’s not perfect yet though. It’s a little bit ham fisted, some things don’t show up and it’s kind of hard to get a real finesse. I think this will become a standard feature for programs such as AnimVR and Quill. People do really nice things when they paint with shading and stuff, but there’s something about having that edge. All of a sudden it gives this weird sort of flat dimension. Your mind can’t really wrap around it. It seems to have volume, but because everything is the same color it feels flat.

VR “Pop Art” built in Unity with AnimVR by scobot

A: How would you like to see the tools evolve, for example, Tilt Brush?

S: I think TiltBrush will be iconic. It’s going to be in the Museum of Modern Art someday. Twenty years from now people will be doing retro TiltBrush drawings: “Oh such an old school TiltBrush, that’s cool, love it!” Now, I love TiltBrush but I’d love to see a Pro version with customizable brushes! The interface is super slick, you can bring things in, scale them, you can mockup a VR experience, etc. The problem is that you can’t export that out. For example, if you have models that you want to bring in TiltBrush, there’s some hoops you must jump through to get to bring in the texture. It’s a little bit tricky to get textures to show up in TiltBrush from an imported model. When you place the models in your scene and export it out to Unity, it doesn’t bring those assets along with it. You must rebuild it all and kind of lose that sort of freedom of designing in VR. At least this is how it was the last time I tried. Maybe as of today it has changed! I really love these tools but it can be a bit tricky as Unity versions change, and things you were just getting used to no longer work. I have like eight versions of Unity installed on my computer (laughs) because I have older projects that I am still working on that don’t work in newer versions. But it’s still amazing I can make anything, so I can’t complain. I’m just looking forward to the seamless workflow and programs like AnimVR are really embracing that. When TiltBrush released their SDK, that really opened a lot of possibilities. And it works! It still blows me away that I can bring audio reactive strokes from TiltBrush into Unity.

Virtual reality art experience “World One” by Scobot. Tilt Brush, Unity. 2018

A: What was your last experiment about?

S: My last experiment was importing 3D models made in Medium into Unity. To see what it would look like with different effects on it. Medium comes with a ton of stamps, prefabs, primitives, and things. It’s nice to use that to create spaceships for example. When I first tried to add the edge detection I was thrilled. I’m a fan of that aesthetic. I love it when it has that effect, this Moebius kind of look.

“I’ve recently loaded a sketch of a weird character made in Gravity Sketch into Mixamo and that is pretty cool too. To be able to use the motion capture files that they have, download my thing, import it in Unity, and see it working, that’s sweet. Specially for artists and creatives who start now getting the building blocks. Someday we won’t have to know how to rig characters and concentrate on the art side of it. It has already come a long way over the last two years.”

Tilt Brush environment, kitbashed Medium ship, Gravity Sketch character rigged with Mixamo, by scobot

A: Thank you Scott, I can’t wait to see more of your work!

S: Thank you! It was an honor!

AnimVR at the Forefront of Animation in VR: A Conversation with Milan Grajetzki by HIGHWAY101

With the release of Quill’s animation feature, animation in VR is gaining a lot of traction. The outreach performed by Quill (Facebook) has propelled animation in VR into to the light and people are taking notice of its potential.

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