• Nicholas Wong

Digital Storytelling 2 (Group 2 + Final Thoughts)

The second group that I had chose a more unorthodox myth, which was the Churning of the Ocean of Milk, from Hindu Mythology. It tells of the Devas and the Asuras churning the ocean with the help of the god, Vishnu, in order to get the elixir of immortality that was at the bottom of the ocean. Because this was such an unknown story in a western country like the UK, it was very hard to find adaptations of this story from text to play, in a theatre context. It was a huge struggle at the beginning, both for me and the actors, to come up with a working script at the beginning of our collaboration. This was because hindu mythologies contain lots of symbolism and hidden meanings that are lost on people unfamiliar with hindu mythology. In the original story, the ocean is not even a body of water, but a symbol of the cosmos. We had to have many meetings to discuss which aspects of the story we wanted to keep or leave out, as some of the details in the story would not have any relevance to an average modern-day Londoner. However, because this was such an interesting story which had never really been explored before, we were highly motivated to make it work.

The original video concept for this group was to have them wear robes, and then the robes would transform into a projection surface. After discussing with Blanca, we decided that it was not a very effective idea as it would be hard to stretch out the robe to create a flat surface to project on. The issue with the previous group about not having enough time and access to the actors to be able to rehearse projecting onto a transforming surface also was one of the reasons why we did not go ahead with the plan.

Because this idea did not work out, I tried to add more scenes to showcase the physical motion of the actors crossing over to the screen and vice versa. I still feel that if this piece contained more of these kinds of scenes, it would better showcase the collaboration between video art and live theatre, and if I could change this piece I would have added more scenes where the actors relied on the video or the video relied on actin, instead of just scenes which just functioned as a backdrop.

For this group, I really wanted to make content that would let me practice animating in Cinema4d and aftereffects. The piece started of with a scene of a celebration in a village, and in the mood board I tried to find pictures of hindi festivals. I learnt about 2 festivals that took place in India which had very huge visual impact, which were the Diwali festival and the Holi festival.

I liked these 2 festivals as they really imagery of them contained lots of use of light and colour, and from a glance it is easy to see the how it represented India's vibrancy and festivity. I wanted to combine both of the festivals into a single image, and the end result was some fire animations that changed colour.

I started out with just a single flame animation which was made through Aftereffects, which I learned how after watching some video tutorials on youtube. The body of the flame was made masked fractal noise and displacement mapping, and then some blur and other effects were added to make it look more realistic. After creating the main body for the flame, I then coloured it with the curves effect and added some glow to make it look like a light source. I also added on a hue rotate, which was an attempt to try and symbolise all the colours of the Holi festival.

Gio previously showed us how to create fire through cinema4d , which I felt had more depth and looked more realistic compared to the one I made on Aftereffects, but it was done through the octane renderer which I did not have access to. If I could do the project again, I would probably find a way to try and get my hands on a copy of octane renderer and make flame animations through that instead.

The next scene that I thought was really important to focus on was the actual churning of the ocean, which was the climax of the story. Having a simple stock footage of ocean waves was very easy and did not require much thought, so I decided to challenge myself by creating 3D waves in Cinema4d. I did some research and found that the best way to do it was to use the HOT4d plugin for Cinema4d to create some simulated water.

Because this specific clip was dealing with a high number of segments, the render time was extremely long, and it was impractical to bring down a clip to rehearsal and wait for the actors to decide whether they liked it or if they wanted to change how it looked. Therefore, I created 2 different types of ocean for the actors to choose from.

The first one was a more abstract type of ocean which was a globe, which would have floated above the actors heads as they "churned" the ocean with their bodies. I much preferred this version of the ocean, but it did not really seem to match the actors motion when we tried it out during the rehearsal.

The other ocean I created was a sort of donut shaped ocean with a hole in the middle, as the point of the scene was to show things coming out from the ocean as the asuras and the devas churned it. This suited the scene more and we went with this once instead of the globe ocean.

Originally I had planned to have an object emerge from the depths of the ocean, but it didn't really seem to convey the message of the scene, so I left it out.

I feel that I managed to get what I wanted from this piece which was to practice animation in Aftereffects and Cinema4d, and I can honestly say that I am more confident with animating in both those softwares after this project. I wish that I could have included more scenes that showcased a more obvious relationship with the actors and the video, which I will try to keep in mind when I do a future project that is similar to this.

Below are the moodboards and storyboards I created for this project

The storyboard for this project is considerably shorter as the script was not finished at the time the storyboard was created.

I think that this project could be improved by having better communication, and one simple way that I found worked was to have an actor that was in charge of making and discussing the artistic choices of the piece with the designer, instead of having 8 people ask questions at the same time. For this group that I had, Chirag, who came up with the story of Churning the ocean, was the main point of contact between me and the actors, and I felt that I had a way more effective communication with this group than the Orpheus group, which was mostly me sending messages to a chat group of 8 other people.

Personally, I felt that this project was really a struggle to complete, as it was me being the single person in each group being expected to take on every single technical request and requirement for the piece, and at the same time be the artistic mind that created the video content. I felt that I was not competent enough in certain areas, especially lighting, to make the calls that I was supposed to make. However, I feel that after going through this process, I would know what to do differently, and if I was asked to use live video or 3d animation on the next project that I work on, I can definitely say that I have had some experience in those areas.

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