Interview with Winbush & Washington
In this top creator’s interview, we welcome Winbush & Washington, an artist collective combining the talents on award winning motion graphics artist Jonathan Winbush and New York Times best selling illustrator Tony Washington.
Together they brought Mix Master Mike’s VR music video “The Magma Chamber” to life through a combination of Concept Art, Cinema 4D, live action shot on Greenscreen, PhotoShop and Adobe After Effects with mettle 360/VR plugins. The music video won several influential awards including VR FEST / CES 2017 – BEST ANIMATED VIRTUAL REALITY MUSIC VIDEO, Vega Awards – Platinum for Most Innovative Experiment and Vega Awards – Gold Best use of VFX / Motion Graphics.
VeeR: Let’s do a self-introduction!
Jonathan: My name is Jonathan Winbush I’m a multi awards winning motion graphics artist working out of southern California at my studio Winbush Design and Animation specializing in Motion graphics, Live Action and now Virtual Reality.
Tony: My name is Tony Washington, I’m a New York Times Bestselling artist for comics. I also specialize in concept, color script, and matte painting art for animation and feature films. I’ve been lucky enough to do what I love for over 20 years now professionally and when I’m not drawing, I’m producing music under the name Stations Stories.
VeeR: How did you get into VR video in the first place and what was your motivation?
Jonathan: Since I grew up a gamer I’ve had run ins with VR as a kid weather it was at pop up stations at the mall / amusement parks or even playing the Nintendo virtual boy but as everyone states it was always sub par VR. My buddy I worked with before started working at Oculus during the pre Facebook era and invited me down to their office in Irvine to check out some of the stuff they where working on. I had my doubts going in at first after being burned by VR in the past but I left Oculus a believer after trying a few of their tech demos out. Since that moment I was always trying to think of a way to get into that space and how I could be one of the first to make my mark.
Tony: I’ve been a fan of VR for a while, but never worked in VR until this project. When talking with Mike and Jonathan about creating a video experience, Jonathan suggested we try 360 VR as way to create a more immersive experience. Which led to the development of our first team project.
VeeR: What VR video projects you are currently working on, any future plans on more VR video projects?
Jonathan: I’ve been currently still working on the Magma Chamber but in a different way. I’ve been self teaching myself Unreal Game Engine so that I can bring the Magma Chamber to the HTC Vive along with interacting menus just as a way to keep learning and building. I’ll also be creating a 360VR commercial for the razor company HeadBlade along with working with Tony to come up with and create a new IP that’ll be VR exclusive. As a team we are also in active talks with Mike to create a full VR album based off new music he has coming up.
VeeR: How did you come up with the concept of Magma Chamber?
Tony: The concept for the overall Magma Chamber experience was a collaborative effort. It started with the creation of Mike’s album with the same name. Mike saw a chaos filled Magma chamber world where his music was the pulse of the chambers actions, so creating that was intense and very rewarding once we have a look designed. Having his album to listen to, really helped to bring the cover illustration to fruition. From there the team and I expanded on the concept and created various environments, that would help drive the narrative, to get the viewer to the Magma Chamber.
VeeR: We really love Magma Chamber especially its visual effects! Could you tell us what shooting equipment and what VFX software you used?
Jonathan: All the green screen footage was shot by our friend and DP Robert Buchanan using the Sony FS700 camera at 4K 60fps. We shot sideways so that would could make the talent as large as possible to take advantage of all the pixels and keep them as sharp as possible. For the CG work I created the environments with a mixture of Cinema 4D, After Effects, Octane render and Photoshop. Tony also created all the textures on his iPad.
VeeR: Can you recommend some VFX software to nonprofessionals/first-timer VR shooters?
Jonathan: I would say for any artist the Adobe suite is a must if you can afford it. Since I come from a motion graphics background I use all the Adobe products alot so i’m able to work fast in them. For free software there is a compositor you can get thats really good called Fusion 8 ( https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/ca/products/fusion ) and for 3d modeling you can get the software Blender ( https://www.blender.org/ ) These are great free tools that even proffesionals use but also a great way to dive into the world of vfx.
VeeR: How do you create the role for audience in VR videos and how did you guide/direct them in the film?
Jonathan: The great thing about VR is that the viewer is in full control of their situation. We aimed to make the viewer feel as is they are the main character in our short so you start off in the driver seat and you have Lisa talking to you as you hear the radio commercial so right away that establishes you as the main character in the story. From there everything that happens is happening to you as the viewer so the ally fight, the hallway fires etc.. is all aimed right at the viewer. We didn’t want to have the viewer feel like they had to follow a set story and only look in one direction so we made sure to have things happening all around you so that you could explorer.
Tony: The role for the audience creation was great to explore. As there were closed areas, like the car sequence that allowed sound, to set the atmosphere of a common radio commercial, that slowly blended into a more unsettling demonic sound, which led to the actress being consumed by. The alley created tension in layers as sound and exploration unfolded throughout its sequence and the hallway was another example of that exact sound and visual experience narrative, as panning audio from the actress helped to create even more tension, as you didn’t know where they would appear and the final onslaught of the Magma Chamber itself. We were able to combine all of the sound and environment atmospherics into a full performance that was driven from Mike’s music and actions. So the viewer is able to see the music taking over the chamber and view it again to see what they may have missed the first time around.
VeeR: How do you create a strong sense of presence and what are the techniques you used to maximize immersion for the audience?
We were able to create strong sense of presence through the combination of sound and visuals. Having a unique approach to our visuals was very important. As we wanted to bring the comic book like graphics from the album cover to life in the video. So it was a tremendous experience to create the world from scratch, to capture every detail from scene to scene was incredible fun. From there, adding the atmospheric sound and soundtrack was what kept the tension and scenes moving throughout the experience, to create our take on a immersive music video.
VeeR: How did you handle motion sickness?
Jonathan: Just from being in VR from an very early stage I’ve seen bad concepts that make you very sick. One thing I’ve learned is that you want to keep a steady high frame rate and keep the scenes as crisp as possible this is why I like to create in full CG opposed to video where things aren’t as crisp yet. The Magma Chamber was created to work on any platform so the specs where built to reflect that which mobile VR work at 60fps right now so that was our sweet spot. Slow camera moves are also a way to hold back motion sickness so for this piece we choose to not move the camera at all. As VR progresses we’ll be able to push these boundaries more.
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?
Jonathan: The biggest challenge was coming up with a work flow. Most VR videos are shot on cameras so their problems are more on the sticking and color correcting side. When making full CG scenes you avoid those headaches but also created new challenges as in how do you make everything composite together. I’ve discovered software that works in After Effects called Mettle Skybox that allowed me to composite our greenscreen footage seemlessly into our environments. My biggest piece of advice is come up with an idea then just go for it don’t hold back. There’s always a solution to what problems may come up but thats the funnest part of it is the problem solving.
VeeR: Share one tip with our new creators and newcomers in VR?
Jonathan: Don’t be afraid. This medium is so new that a lot of people are still experimenting and figuring things out so there are no right and wrong answers just dive in and start to create. Also be active in the community online and seek out other VR creators to talk and share ideas / techniques with. Also just keep working on projects not everything I create is awesome but I do learn from every project and theres a lot of value in that.
Tony: For any newcomers in VR the single piece of advice that I would give would be to always explore your imagination, in this immersive medium, it’s endless what can be done.
For Mix Master Mike:
VeeR: What was the most fun part in doing the Magma Chamber 360 video? Do you plan on participating in more 360 works like Magma Chamber?
Mix Master Mike:The most fun was the entire process. Building with my crew… To watch something that has never been done before come to life was an inspirational experience.
This is just the beginning of what is to come in the future.
The proper step into using VR technology as vehicle to guide the masses towards a whole entire way of experiencing musical art.
VeeR: How different is shooting 360 music video from shooting traditional music video?
Mix Master Mike:With a 360 video, your dealing with art from every angle possible. After experiencing Magma Chamber, its hard to go back to the “One Dimensional” process.
VeeR: Do you think 360 degree music videos are going to replace traditional music videos and why?
Mix Master Mike:Most definitely. That was the main purpose of creating Magma Chamber. Was to turn the page to the unexplored chapters of creativity.
It’s all about exploration. Creating environments. Creating Music that fits these environments, and to inspire future generations to use this template to create their own interpretations. Its got to be timeless and put together strategically to forever be embedded in people thoughts. A whole different way to listen and watch music. Something you can tell your grandkids about.