Douglas Gayeton said to crowds both corporeal and digital that Fabricated Realities, the mixed-reality screening of his film, Molotov Alva and His Search for the Creator: A Second Life Odyssey, was “surreal.” Not just because the simultaneous screening occurred at the Exploratorium in San Francisco and on Exploratorium Island in SL, but also because SL creator Phillip Rosedale was in the (real) audience. 40 people at the Exploratorium watched the film as well as projected views showing the same number of avatars, gathered in an amphitheater in SL for the screening and opportunity to dialogue with the filmmaker. The audience in SL enjoyed seeing the live scenes from their world streamed to the theater in real life, then back again into avatar space. After the screeniing, Doug spoke about his own odyssey making the film, collaborating with a SL resident who he’s never met IRL (in real life), and shared his insight about the continually changing virtual world medium.
Our upcoming “mixed reality” video screening event, Fabricated Realities, which will occur on January 24th at our museum in San Francisco and on Exploratorium Island in Second Life, poses some unique technical challenges. Like other public programs for which we’ve created a virtual counterpart, we’re taking advantage of things we’ve learned before and techniques and processes we’ve developed. We’ve scaled back part of the initial plan for what videos signals will be digitally encoded for streaming into SL, but will keep those elements in mind for future cinema arts related programs.
In this event, we’ll combine two audiences, one real, one virtual, to hopefully create an integrated experience where a filmmaker can interact with people in front of him and avatars projected alongside. Both audiences will view the artist’s documentary shown on a screen in front of them at almost nearly the same time. Only a slight delay of a few seconds occurs when we encode video and stream it into the virtual world. Wayne Grim, one of my colleague’s at the Exploratorium, created a theater configuration diagram and an audio/video/networking signal-path diagram that shows how we’re setting up those signals in the McBean Theater at the Exploratorium.
A new event involving virtual worlds currently being planned at the Exploratorium is Fabricated Realities. This will be a mixed-reality event that takes place at the Exploratorium in San Francisco and on Exploratorium Island in Second Life. The Exploratorium’s Cinema Arts Program will present a screening of Douglas Gayeton’s machinima documentary, Molotov Alva and His Search for the Creator: A Second Life Odyssey at 2pm PST on January 24, 2009. Doug, who will be part of the public program at the museum, will also appear in SL via live webcast. The idea is to bring the film, speaker, and audience together from the two spaces. We hope the interaction will work and are planning to include a projection screen in the physical theater that will show the audience in the amphitheater in SL. We’ll encode and stream the movie into SL in real time so that the audience there will see the same thing as the audience at the museum, with just a slight delay. We’ll plan to allow the SL audience to ask questions of the filmmaker and to have live video of his reponse streamed back into SL. The technical setup to manage the video streams and two-way communication between the real and the virtual is a little dicey (more on that in a follow-up post), but we’ll be leveraging our experience with routing audio/video signal for presentation and live video encoding/streaming.
The preservation of knowledge about virtual worlds, including content and events, has become an area of investigation of media research and archiving departments at universities. Library science and museum collections divisions at several schools in the U.S. have been using virtual worlds for some time to facilitate student interaction and for distance learning applications. Museum collections staff at several museums are experimenting with virtual worlds as a means of presentation and interaction with digital versions of artifacts.
At a recent workshop that I participated in at Stanford University given by the Media-X group, entitled “Preserving Knowledge in Virtual Worlds”, I learned that the Stanford Humanties Lab with funding support from the U.S. Library of Congress’ National Digital Information Infrastructure Preservation Program (NDIIPP) has worked with the Internet Archive to create a new Virtual Worlds Video Archive “dedicated to the academic investigation and historical preservation of documentation of virtual worlds.” The project is also supported by groups at the University of Illinois, the University of Maryland, and Rochester Institute of Technology.
This is a great step towards archiving virtual worlds so that the growing practice of using them for both fun and serious work is preserved for historical record and future study. While the collection is focused on moving images that capture the use of and important events in virtual worlds, it provides a basis for potential future expansion that might include virtual worlds platform software and related documents and images. Having the collection as a hub within the IA that people can contribute to and share will help broaden the accessibility of these videos for research and study. The collection features some interesting moments in virtual worlds history including OnLive Traveller, STARBRIGHT World, AlphaWorld, Oz, Habitat (!), Maze War, Club Caribe, early SL, and video of the final moments of EA-Land, Check out over twelve years of virtual worlds videos from many different companies and research institutions in this growing collection.
The New Media Consortium, NMC, had a video made about its campus in Second Life (such a video is called a Machinima). This video provides a good introduction to the look and feel of a campus in a virtual world. Have a look at it to prepare for the Virtual Worlds Workshop.Paul Doherty