~Proceedings ICMCISMCI2014 14-20 September 2014, Athens, Greece OPERAcraft: Blurring the Lines between Real and Virtual Ivica Ico Bukvic Virginia Tech School of Performing Arts Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology ico@vt.edu Cody Cahoon Virginia Tech Computer Science codyc@vt. edu Ariana Wyatt Virginia Tech School of Performing Arts arianal@vt. edu Tracy Cowden Virginia Tech School of Performing Arts tcowden@vt.edu ABSTRACT In the following paper we present an innovative approach to coupling gaming, telematics, machinima, and opera to produce a hybrid performance art form and an arts+technology education platform. To achieve this, we leverage a custom Minecraft video game and sandbox mod and pd-12ork real-time digital signal processing environment. The result is a malleable telematic-ready platform capable of supporting a broad array of artistic forms beyond its original intent, including theatre, cinema, as well as machinima and other experimental genres. 1. BACKGROUND Making art with found technologies is as old as art making itself. Therefore it comes as no surprise that video games, gaming engines, and virtual 3D environments are being used to produce movies beyond their original intent. We refer to this form of art as machinima [1][2]. More recently, with the emergence of the sandbox video game genre, most notably the ubiquitous Minecraft [3], lines between entertainment, creativity, and learning are all but gone. Today, online video channels like YouTube [4] are increasingly populated with in-game footage exploring various virtual 3D environments in a sandboxlike fashion, coupled with recordings of conversations among players who are there simply sharing their personal reactions to the ensuing adventure. Arguably these can be seen as a subset of machinima with first-person point of view and minimal post-production. Minecraft, as a signature example of a sandbox-game hybrid has seen a widespread adoption in various learning contexts [3][5][6][7][8][9] including the most unsuspecting uses, such as 3D printing [10] and rendering 3D video feed from Kinect [11]. The inherent malleability and a stylized low-threshold visual design invites users to tinker with blocks, shapes, textures, sounds, behavior, etc. [12]. Of particular interest are music videos that use cusCopyright: ~ 2014 Bukvic et al. This is an open-access article dis- tributed under the terms of the vC i'i.6ee. o, a',which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Katie Dredger James Madison University College of Education dredgemk@jmu.edu tom renditions of popular pop songs with Minecraftcentric lyrics where due to limitations of in-game characters' expressions (mouth movement, body gestures, emotions, etc.) the videos are often rendered using professional 3D modeling tools that work hard at recreating the 8-bit-style graphics of the surrounding environment, while making characters considerably more elaborate [13][14]. Legal ramifications aside, the popularity of these tunes has reached such proportions that they can now be purchased from online music stores, such as iTunes. Another notable aspect of Minecraft is its robust online network code--it is not uncommon to participate in online environments with thousands of players present, something that even today very few online games can scale to. It is worth noting a significant divide between machinima renditions such as the aforesaid music videos versus the first-person in-game footage presented earlier. This is particularly potent given a rich modding community that (save for a few isolated efforts [15]) has steered away from modding the character features to allow them to be more expressive. It appears that having similar set of features within the gaming engine itself would open doors for a seemingly unique set of opportunities where the gaming environment could become synonymous with a more complex production environment, akin to that of a post-produced machinima, while concurrently leveraging the multiplayer and consequently massive online realtime participation and/or observation of such a production. 2. MOTIVATION: INSTANT OPERA There is a significant body of evidence showing that indepth exposure to the arts has remarkable, far-reaching effects. Students in quality art programs benefit from a wide range of positive effects including development of creativity and thinking skills, better self-expression, appreciation of art and music, learning about other cultures, and enriched personal satisfaction with their achievements [16]. The particular genre of opera outreachinvolving non-musicians in the creative process-is being done around the world. Wolf Trap Opera (Vienna, VA) - 228 -
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