FIVARS 2021 Spotlight – OnBoardXR -The Aquaians

Spotlight on OnBoardXR’s Live VR Performance The Auquians

FIVARS had the opportunity to chat with OnBoardXR’s Brendan Bradley whose seasonal anthology series showcases the emergent art form of live performances in Virtual Reality and in this case in WebXR – the new spatialized 3D format for the web. Audiences may access the show via a single URL from almost any device to experience roughly one hour of curated synchronous, short spatialized performances including live theater, dance, singing, interactive environments, and fooling.

Brendan Bradley FIVARS: What led to the creation of this piece?

At the beginning of the shutdown, we explored the application of social VR to rehearse and perform the play Jettison inside a 3D template environment I designed for anyone to stage their own performances in Mozilla Hubs for free. We started #OnBoardXR as a first-look incubator and self-driving sandbox to empower any artist to experiment with their own live performance prototypes, building upon our learnings and toolkit from Jettison. Each season, we host artists from all over the world interested in pushing the boundaries of live, accessible, interactive performance.

This third anthology in our series proudly showcases groundbreaking work from Clemence’s Debaig’s Unwired Dance Theatre to stream full-body motion capture into WebXR; Koryn Wicks’ continued exploration of dance through 360 video; the latest fooling from Naomi Smyth, who received a grant for her prototype in last season’s OnBoardXR; a new musical theater workshop from University of York DC Labs; Roman Miletitch and Regis Lemberthe’s interactive environments to bring 3D space to life; Ferryman Collective’s Braden Roy teams up with Ari Tarr and L Nicol Cabe to explore themed virtual dramaturgy and narrative design; and myself and Michael Morran stress test audience animations and stage management triggers for my upcoming Non-Player Character.

FIVARS: What was the production process for you and your team? What did you learn?

We query submissions two months prior to the show dates and spend the first month overseeing intake and development to onboard the artists and their projects into Roman Miletitch’s open-source stage manager system (expanded by Michael Morran) on our custom cloud instance of Mozilla Hubs at XRtheater.LIVE. The second month is a virtual hackathon with creators connecting via our Discord to quickly prototype, stress test, and crowdsource ideas and assets. A week prior to show dates, we begin formally rehearsing and previewing the full run of the show for friends and family.

OnBoardXR embraces its rough edges, including our audience in the thrill of exploring the bleeding edge of these emerging technologies and formats. We fail fast and frequently, learning each and every performance. It’s a fascinating look into how we can change the audience experience, and also the power of collaboration in this exciting time.

FIVARS: How did you become an immersive media content creator and why?

Five years ago I founded The Integrative Technology Lab at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts to provide a 21st-century approach to creative arts education and collaboration. As a performer, I believe immersive media continues to bridge the traditional craft of live performance and provide more scalable and sustainable opportunities for the creative economy. The last two years have forced the theater community to reconsider the accessibility of our storytelling tradition for both our audiences and artists. I’m honored to have helped introduce literally hundreds of performers and institutions to open source tools that had the power to help reopen theaters and keep those doors open to new voices and formats.

FIVARS: What is the VR/AR industry like in your region?

I’m constantly comparing the VR industry to the early streaming video “industry” found in bars and basements. Platforms like YouTube and the mass adoption of streaming as the primary exhibition format were only possible because of a thriving online community of creatives who laid the groundwork. There are pockets of these communities all over the world, however, they risk siloing themselves from each other becoming competitors rather than collaborators. By inviting any artist to participate in OnBoardXR, we hope to foster a culture and community that allows these early creators to participate in the industry that will inevitably be built on their work.

FIVARS: What do you have planned for the future?

All of the artists in #OnBoardXR are constantly creating new work and you should follow their journey and support their projects by clicking on the posters in the XRtheater.LIVE lobby.

FIVARS: What would you like to share with fellow content creators and/or the industry?

As we all know, VR/AR and immersive tools allow us to create and experience things we could only dream of. Let’s dream bigger and continue to help each other find new stories that need to be shared and new ways of telling them.

FIVARS: Do you think VR festivals like FIVARS are important?

Absolutely! Festivals such as FIVARS, with years of legacy in programming and outreach, are a wonderful way to learn how others are incorporating layers of shared reality into their experiences while telling unique stories and taking the audience on an incredible journey.

FIVARS: Anything else you’d like to add?

#OnBoardXR is open to anyone and everyone. If you or someone you know would like to participate or host the next anthology series, please fill out our Questionnaire.

FIVARS in FALL Runs October 15th to 17th in West Hollywood, and October 22nd to November 2nd Online.