Jey Sern Tan: Biomedical Scientist and VR gamer

8 Feb , 2017 Creator Stories Jennifer Zhao

Jey Sern Tan

We are excited to have one of our top creators Jey Sern Tan with us today. Jey is currently a PhD student conducting cutting edge research on Cellular Mechanisms of Neuroprotection. He entered the VR world out of his passion for gaming. Let’s get to know more about Jey and learn his secret sauce to become a top VR creator.

Let’s follow him into the Minecraft world: http://veer.tv/videos/1873V

VeeR: Let’s do a self-introduction. How did you get to be a Biomedical Scientist and a top gaming video broadcaster at the same time? 

Jey: I’m Jey Sern Tan and I come from a small town in Penang, Malaysia. I have been a Penangite all of my young life. In 2009, I further my university studies in Australian National University in Canberra, Australia with double major Chemistry and third major in cell and molecular biology. Following one year of looking around for a job, I met my supervisor where he encouraged me to take a Masters Degree in Biomedical Science. Accepting the offer, in 2014 I came back to Malaysia and moved to Kuala Lumpur to further my studies. In 2015, I converted my Masters into PhD carrying my project that covers on Cellular Mechanisms of Neuroprotection with emphasis on metal oxide nanoparticles. Now I’m preparing for my second year milestone that is coming up at the end of February 2017.

Along the way, I worked in food and hospitality as full time after my final high school year in 2008 in TGI Fridays in Penang for a short whie, and then casually in John XXIII College during my entire duration of my degree. I learned that I need to always give a smile no matter what the mood of the customers are. At the same time, it made me appreciate their effort and commitment to entertain the customers and admire their resilience to the pressures they faced during service.

I have also learned a lot about trading equities, options and commodities through courses on technical analysis as well as attending club meetings that has senior traders that discusses about the outlooks of the economy and how it works. This was also inspired by my parents who believe that money should be working for you instead of working for it.

VeeR: How did you get into VR video? Why did you choose to make this?

Jey: VR video came in by chance when I was making regular gaming videos in my personal channel. During 2015, I was looking ways that I could get passive income while doing something with friends that I like and showing the best moments that I love with video. After knowing that the videos that I make is very uncompetitive and overcrowded, I asked my family and my gaming friends for advice. All of them repeatedly told me that I need to find something unique that no one has done it yet and that should propel my channel. Knowing that from research that I need to create great content first before getting any returns, I decided to look around for something new.

Given that 2015 had lots of news on Project Morpheus aka Playstation VR, Oculus Rift and the acquisition by Facebook, and the upcoming HTC Vive, I realised that the only way to be unique was to go VR. Remember that 2015 was the year of VR and AR. Plus YouTube finally allowed 360 degrees videos to be uploaded. I got inspired and looked on whether there were VR videos on games in YouTube.

At that time, three 360 degree videos that I found that was relatable to me: Counter Strike, GTA V and Minecraft. At the same time, my gaming friends were already investing in Minecraft over the other games that they regularly play. Given that they have awesome creations, I wanted to showcase them in a different way than they usually do which is a set of pictures.

While I came across the replay mod made by Marius Metzger aka Crushed Pixel (big shout out to him), I also saw videos made by users which in my opinion had issues for the viewers. They were low quality and did not compensate for the motion sickness that many VR headset developers and reviewers discussed. From there on, I knew that if I got it right with 4K and with consideration of where the viewers would be in every scene, I would stand out from the crowd. And so in 24th November 2015, the first video which was a test by the way named Follow Me Around was created.

VeeR: Also, would you give a brief introduction on one of your best works and its creation, how you came up with the idea?

Jey: The one that is dearest to my heart is named Self Sustaining Tower for a few reasons.

  • Its my first and personal house/tower in the map
  • I took some thinking and planning in each levels making sure its functional
  • It’s the tallest tower in the area #braggingrights XP
  • Time Lapse idea was properly utilized

VeeR: Can you introduce some of the VR videos that you are currently working on, and tell us a little more about your future plans?

Jey: I have one map that predates the existence of the replay mod and I want to do a video on it as a special with some sort of time travelling back into the past. You may start somewhere at the edge of where the construction ends and as you follow my character back to the main area, the creations will be revealed. No current videos has shown that 2014 map by the way. So that is coming soon.

Also, I’m still awaiting for approval from Kobalt Music on one small video that would integrate me singing (I know right XP) with using the theme song Misty Mountains Cold while explaining how the hilly mountain road came to be.

Speaking about portals, I haven’t done videos on Minecraft Hell aka nether yet. So that is another area that I could look into.

In the long term though, I would like to help continue to showcase people’s creations made years back into 360 degrees to allow people to appreciate them in a much more immersive ways. I also had idea of hiring people since I may be busy in my main job in research. Whatever happens, I believe that Minecraft VR is here to stay.

VeeR: How did you record and create these wonderful Minecraft 360 works? Could you share with us some of the software tools you used?

Jey: I record my gameplay with the Replay Mod made by Marius Metzger aka Crushed Pixel. Without his mod, none of 360 degrees videos would be possible. The creations that you see in the videos are made by my gaming friends and the Minecraft community that share their creations. I always get their consents before showcasing them and highlight them as the main designers. So a big thanks to the two of them that makes the channel and the concept work.

There are many video editing software out there that can make 360 degrees video but not many that can support 4K editing. I would recommend Adobe Premiere Pro CC or Final Cut Pro but you need to pay for them though. Fortunately, Cyberlink Power Director 14 which I was using for my other gaming videos supported it. Audacity is used to record my voiceovers and edit gameplay sounds as well as music if necessary. Transitions are done with the Power Director 14. All parts converge into the video editing software and then exported.

Before uploading, I will watch it once to make sure the video came out nicely. The only time that I am able to inspect it in 360 is when it gets finally uploaded. So about 95% of the process I had to imagine how it would turn out as software that is available to my knowledge couldn’t handle the high bitrate of those 360 videos smoothly.

VeeR: How do you help the audience to adapt their roles in VR video, and how did you direct them?

Jey: I always like to think of the audience that are watching any VR or 360 videos as drones since they can hover and observe at any height or location with the difference of those flexibility being restricted by the creators themselves. That means that proper consideration of the angles, depth and distance are taken by the creators to give the best immersion and the purpose of the positions. Voiceovers on landmarks in the 360 videos are the best ways to direct them to where we would like them to look.

VeeR: How do you create sense of presence? How did you maximize immersion for the audience?

Jey: I find it easiest when the VR viewer is treated as one of them, the third party viewer, the observer or as a player themselves. When taken notice by a character in the game, they would be intrigue to know more when moving around and with a certain purpose. Having a connection with the character coupled by the changes of their view, they tend to follow wherever it moves. From there, voiceovers can allow a VR viewer to take note what is around them.

Maximizing immersion IMO is done right with minimum camera repositioning and more of the VR viewer themselves looking around on their own accord. There is no point moving the camera positions like in a regular 2D video in VR since they already have the ability to do so with their headsets.

VeeR: How to minimize motion sickness?

Jey: Keep the video still, keep your viewing at one constant point and avoid having Flash-like motions when moving from scene to scene. Also, the sharper the picture/video quality, the less chances of motion sickness

VeeR: What are the biggest challenges you had when making VR videos and how did you solve them? If you were to give other creators some advice, what would you like to share the most?

Jey: The biggest challenge was position, position, position. A camera position high up a building is different compared to a camera position at ground level in the virtual world because its not like you can just move a few steps around to see what lies around the corner. The trick that I found is to imagine what you would want to see when I’m in the scene and replicate that in the VR video. Choose the most relevant ones that fit the story that you want to tell. Allocate them time to pan around at each location you come across. Combine the other positions into a smooth transitioning scene that feels like you are walking around the place.

If I were to give other creators some advice, I would say picture quality of the video is important. Many have failed to produce something as real as what we see outside our VR sets and that could pull of any viewers even myself. Be in the position of the VR viewer and imagine what they will see and experience when planning a video. It can go a long way and will make your videos more immersive and appreciative

VeeR: If there’s only one thing or one advice/tip you could tell other creators, what would you want to say?

Jey: There is a saying from one of the articles by Gear Patrol which I like a lot, and it goes like this

“In VR you control the experience, in 360 you’re simply along for the great ride. Having said that, it can be a great ride!”

So my advice would be Give Them the Greatest Riding Experience That They Will Never Forget!

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