EventSeptember 19 - 27, 2020

CalArtians Win at the Japan Media Arts Festival

From among 3,566 entries from 107 countries, two works by CalArtians received awards at the renowned Japan Media Arts Festival, which is organized by Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs. An exhibition featuring the award-winning works opens Sept. 19, and runs through Sept. 27, 2020, at the Miraikan Museum in Tokyo. For those unable to see the show in person, a special 360-degree tour will be available to view sometime in mid-September.

The Festival Platform award in the Dome Theater Category went to Starman, created by singer and artist Tiff Randol aka IAMEVE with CalArtians Thor Freudenthal (Film/Video BFA 97), director and animator; Kelon Cen (Film/Video MFA 16), animator; and Shih-lien (Eugene) Yen (Theater MFA 18), interactive media designer.

Starman is a fulldome short created by singer and performing artist IAMEVE that received an award at the 23rd Japan Media Arts Festival. | Image courtesy of Kelon Cen.

Starman, according to the artist IAMEVE, is a visual conceptualization of “the spiritual idea that as we evolve, and with awareness, we can see and participate with the universal fabric that weaves us all together. Really, It’s a love story for the unification of our split selves, represented symbolically by Eve and Starman, as the integration of masculine and feminine energy.” 

The fulldome short is a second iteration of IAMEVE’s music video Starman, which was originally created for a traditional display on rectangular screens. Freudenthal directed the first music video and then over the course of two years working with a small team, transformed Starman into a 360-degree experience. 

We learned a bit more about the creative process from Cen, who answered the following questions via email: 

24700: How did you become involved in this project?
Cen: The production assistant contacted my CalArts mentor Michael Scroggins. He spread the word to the Dome class, which was taught by Hillary Kapan at that time. In our first meeting, Tiff Randol (the creator) and I were totally on the same wavelength, and thanks to the Dome class, I had some experience creating fulldome video, and producing dome shows at the Vortex dome in DTLA. So, that’s how we initially got connected. 

24700: How long did it take to complete this project?
Cen: From preparation to completion, it took about two years. Thor (also from CalArts) and his team completed the first edition of Starman, the original music video. Later, Tiff decided to create a fulldome version of this piece, but because the original footage was all shot for the traditional rectangular screen, we worked on re-configuring a story flow that contains the main idea about the connection of two souls (Eve and Starman) and was also adaptable to the dome format. The fulldome edition is a more immersive experience with extra scenery content that wraps around the audience.

24700: What was the most interesting part of the creative process?
Cen: The most interesting part is that when working with 360 content, we have a larger canvas to play with. My goal was to maintain the essence of the original story and recreate the world in 360 space. I layered live action footage in 3D space to create a sense of depth which allowed a more dynamic camera movement. I sort of direct the audience’s attention to go with the movement of the elements, but meanwhile, I try to achieve a balanced composition that people could stretch their necks and explore all around.

‘Cangjie’ by Weidi Zhang won the Jury Selection award at the 23rd Japan Media Arts Festival. | Image courtesy of the artist.

Cangjie Wins Jury Selection Prize at Festival

One of the Japan Media Arts Festival’s Jury’s Selection awards in the Art Category also went to CalArtian Weidi Zhang (Art MFA 16) and Donghao Ren for their machine learning and VR installation Cangjie. The installation features an intelligent system built by training a neural network using BiGAN (Bidirection Generative Adversarial Network) to learn the constructions of more than 9,000 Chinese characters. 

According to Zhang’s website, “The neural network observes the surrounding environment via camera and transforms the live stream of the real world into a collage of novel symbols made of Chinese strokes in real time. The symbols generated through the lens of Cangjie, tangled with the real world imagery captured by the camera, are visualized algorithmically and continuously impose a poetic virtual space.” 

A teaser video with an visual explanation of machine learning process and virtual reality experience is available to watch on Zhang’s website

Event Details

The 24th Japan Media Arts Festival Exhibition

Saturday, Sept. 19-Sunday, Sept. 27
Miraikan – The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation
Free Admission: Online Reservations Required

Virtual Exhibition special website opens in mid-September.

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