Annnnnd done! I just finished a one year long project of publishing a spherical video every weekday. That came out to 262 videos and since the theoretical maximum of number of weekdays in a year is also 262 I guess I win! You can sift through the entire heap or you can trust me I know what I’m talking about and just watch the cream of the crop in this handy dandy playlist.
When I was only a few weeks into it Vi inter-eleVR interviewed me about the project so we thought we’d stick with the format. Questions activate!
One year is a long time in the VR industry right now. What changed around you, and how did this affect your practice?
Since last year the attention and fervor around VR as an industry has definitely increased. With hardware finally coming out to consumers and more people getting exposed to immersive projects both makers and audience are pouring into the medium. This is both frustrating and fantastic. That more people making more immersive work means that the brave and curious will explore and expand the edges of the medium, drawing in new mountain ranges and sea monsters and bringing back stories of their travels. But it also means that the center becomes trampled and the paper worn thin with obvious tropes, and, as is often the case in other mediums, that which is obvious to make is easy to watch. In our attention economy that means it accumulates views and apparent value.
Because the weight of this infant industry drives, and you might argue must drive, toward this center if they are going to make money I now realize that I personally, but also our team, have a responsibility to the future of immersive media to be an evocative and effective counterweight. I have to use my platform and opportunity, my art practice, my voice, to speak to another path, a more abstract, rigorous, weird, experimental way.
What did you do to keep yourself interested in this project for an entire year? Are you glad that it’s over? Will you miss it?
I am really happy it’s over, not because I was miserable but because it feels like a huge accomplishment. I already miss it though. Having such a clear record of my time, both the mounting number of videos and the lifelogging aspects, were extremely satisfying. I kept myself interested by using my super special Emily skill: try every single thing I can think of and if it turns out crap just shrug and move on to the next idea.
Tell us about some of the projects-within-the-project, like the alphabet series and the cinematography experiments.
Ah yes my still unfinished alphabet series. After 6 months of ladeling out my life I started to realize how intimate and particular the videos are to my identity and circumstance. I am a 31 year old white American artist living in San Francisco and I wanted to reflect a self consciousness of my position in a set of videos. Thus was born the alphabet series consisting of one video for every letter in the English alphabet. A is, of course, for art, while H is for husband and L for laundry. Each video was of a simple thing from my everyday life and my idea was that someone else’s alphabet of daily life would be very different. Even if we both did L is for Laundry, what doing laundry means would change based on their identity and circumstance. I am still missing videos for K, O, R, U, V, X, and Z.
I have also written a few previous posts relating to the videos in this series including Spherical Cinematography 102: Texture if you are looking for more detailed information on making good spherical shots. First forays: Multi-camera Spherical for experiments with shooting with multiple spherical cameras simultaneously. Performance at LRLE to read about an experiment in mixing live and spherically recorded site specific performance with audience using their phones as distributed immersion. And Play/Room for a study in creating a physical library/database/mess of spherical videos.
Let’s talk cameras. Midway through the project you upgraded from the Ricoh Theta M15 to a Ricoh Theta S. Did this change anything? How do you think this particular style of camera affected the project, and ideally what would you change about it?
So much changed! The Theta M15 had a three minute video capture limit so when the project started I called it 3 Minutes of Yesterday and it consisted mostly of moments of my daily life. The video that best illustrates this phase is H is for Husband. Its simple and sweet and cuts off mid word.
The agency for each video was partly mine, for start, and partly the hardware’s, for stop. When I later switched over to the Theta S I got a 25 minute one time record limit. At first that felt like an ocean of time but eventually with playing with overlapping time lapses and performance events even 25 mins felt too short. Ideally the camera would shoot for over an hour with 8k resolution at 60 fps in the same form factor but would also have malleable depth of field so I could dynamically adjust, using a handheld remote, between different ranges of focus.
Some of the videos look like simple unedited captures of your life, and some are heavily composed and edited, and it’s not always easy to tell which is which, or whether the difference really matters. I was most of the way through “Touch me” before I realized what you had done with it. I had to go back to “TFW you realize” several times before I finally “realized”. How do you feel about these different types of videos, and about the level of engagement required of the audience to appreciate what’s going on with this entire project?
I totally agree this project asks a lot from viewers and that it would be ridiculous of me to expect people to engage closely enough with the project to “get” both the concept driving every individual video and see the project as an experimental whole. It was most importantly a tool for me to gain better intimacy with the medium so that I could, as Ansel Adams would put it, practice it in terms of its inherent qualities and thus reveal endless horizons of meaning. For it to be easily understood as a branching exploration of the mediums qualities would likely require a more curated and informational setting than just a Youtube channel.
I asked this in the last interview, but seriously how do you manage to do this in addition to all your other projects and are you some kind of magic human or something?
When it comes to my art practice, once I make a rule I will go all out to stick with it. Even if that means publishing an utter flop of a video like Almost, in which I repeatedly try and fail to form a coherent thought to record. So I can do it on top of the rest of my work because I prioritize one kind of failure over another.