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OZ MAGAZINE


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July / August 2021

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Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment. SINCE 1990


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CONTRIBUTORS

Keller Berry Cover story: The Mandalorian Effect, p.28

OZ MAGAZINE STAFF Editor-in-Chief B. Sonenreich

Publisher

Tia Powell (Group Publisher)

Sales

Kris Thimmesch

Creative Director Michael R. Eilers

Production and Design Christopher Winley Michael R. Eilers

Copy Editing Intern Sydnee Mutuku

Cover:

Image Courtesy of Disney+

Keller Berry is a bi-coastal filmmaker from Atlanta, Georgia stationed (trapped) in Los Angeles, California during the pandemic. He began work in the COVID-compliance field with a PPE supply company in Los Angeles, advising COVID-safe practices on film sets. Now, he continues to practice safe sets as a CCO and Health & Safety Manager on the ground, working directly with film productions in these uncertain times.

Jenny Gunn PH.d. Feature Story: We All Learn In A Yellow Submarine, p.36 Jenny Gunn, PhD is a Lecturer in the School of Film, Media & Theatre at Georgia State University. Her current book project analyzes the impact of the forward-facing camera on contemporary visual culture and historical understandings of the cinema and the self. Jenny is an advisor to the graduate staff of liquid blackness, a research project on Blackness and aesthetics. Her writing is published in JCMS, Film Philosophy, Black Camera, Cinephile, and Mediascape.

Krupa Kanaiya Feature Story: The Volume of Development, p.40 Krupa Kanaiya began her career with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Media Arts & Animation from the Art Institute of Atlanta-Decatur in 2015. As a creative, she has worked to develop personalized animated content for television and social media. Krupa now works as the Communications Lead for the Atlanta Film Society and continues to work with other Atlanta-based companies, such as IAF Media, to produce content for social media.

Shady Radical A.A., B.A., M.A., CA Feature Story: Alternate Realities, p.48

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ozmagazine.com /ozmagazine /ozpublishing /ozmagazine Oz Magazine is published bi-monthly by Oz Publishing, Inc. 2566 Shallowford Road Suite 104, #302 Atlanta, GA 30345 Copyright © 2021 Oz Publishing Incorporated, all rights reserved. Reproductions in whole or in part without express written permission of the publisher is strictly prohibited. This magazine is printed on recyclable paper.

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Shady Radical A.A., B.A., M.A., CA is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Film, Media and Theatre at Georgia State University. In 2020, She passed the Archivist certification and has been working as an independent researcher. She graduated Cum Laude from New York University with a degree in Curatorial Arts and Costume Studies. She loves teaching Race and Representation in Film & TV; Documenting Performance; and The History of Film at Georgia State University. She has worked as an assistant reviews editor at Media Industries Journal; the content manager for Screening the South; costume assistant for The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade; a key costumer at Tyler Perry Studios; and costumer for many other movies and television shows.

Kate E. Hinshaw Feature Story: Crafting a Virtual Presence, p.58 Kate E. Hinshaw is a tactile filmmaker and cinematographer who works with digital and film cameras alike. Coming from an experimental background, she is interested in using the cinematic gaze to render visible the interiority of the feminine. Tactily, she works with 16mm and super 8mm film through bleaching, scratching, painting, and burning the emulsion in order to tell stories through color and texture. She currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia where she publishes and curates Analog Cookbook—a film zine that celebrates and shares knowledge of analog filmmaking, darkroom processes, and features artists from all over the world.

Jordan Moore

Feature Story: The Art of Taking Risks, p.62 Jordan Moore is a filmmaker with a strong drive for telling compassionate, meaningful stories. Originally from Huntsville, Alabama, Jordan moved to Atlanta to join the film and entertainment industry where he began writing and directing films. Moore is the President and Founder of IAF Media, a company that creates unique, visual content for artists in the Southeast.


JULY / AUGUST 2021

CONTENTS

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OZCETERA A compilation of recent news and hot projects from and about the Georgia entertainment industry

FEATURE STORY Alternate Realities:

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Research in Atlanta’s field of Augmented Reality

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COVER STORY

FEATURE STORY

The Mandalorian Effect:

The Endless Possibilities When Bending Light

Extending Realities In Georgia's XR Landscapes

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FEATURE STORY

FEATURE STORY We All Learn In A Yellow Submarine

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Touring the Virtual Reality the Georgia Aquarium Now Offers

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FEATURE STORY The Volume of Development A Q&A with Candice Alger

A Look at Today’s Hologram Technology

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Crafting a Virtual Presence: Emory Leverages VR to Treat Mental Health Disorders

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FEATURE STORY The Art of Taking Risks The Origins of three squared and their AR/VR training

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OzCetera

Film Impact Georgia Relaunches “Ask A Pro Anything” Series

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ilm Impact Georgia, the non-profit organization which offers aid, education, and funding for independent filmmakers in the state, announced the relaunch of their “Ask a Pro Anything” series, connecting established filmmakers with indie creators in the state and beyond. The series, which takes place over the popular streaming service Zoom, offers an opportunity for screenwriters, directors, producers, and more to discuss how they broke into the industry, got their feature films and other projects off the ground, and anything else on viewers’ minds. The first episode of the relaunch took place in late May and featured actor, puppeteer, and director Drew Massey. Massey is the co-creator, co-writer, E x e c u t i v e P r o d u c e r, a n d s t a r o f Nickelodeon series “The Barbarian and the Troll.” Some of his many other credits include “Sid the Science Kid,” Men In Black and “Crank Yankers”. He discussed

Film Impact Georgia’s Creative Director, Molly Coffee, on set

working on these shows, creating his own content, and otherwise navigating the tricky world of film and television. "Drew Massey has worked in children's entertainment for decades as a performer, and now with “Barbarian and the Troll” he finally takes control of his own show that is like nothing else on television,” AAPA co-creator and FIG Events Director, Raymond Carr, said. "On 'Ask A Pro Anything' we were able to talk to him about how he made that transition and

what he's learned from his first experience as an executive producer/co-showrunner.” “Drew’s show ‘The Barbarian and the Troll’ is easily the most delightful thing available for streaming right now,” Creative Director, Molly Coffee, said, “and I couldn’t be more delighted to have an opportunity to pick the brain of a creator who has managed to cross the divide between adult entertainment and kid’s entertainment seamlessly and create a show that is so special.”

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Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment. SINCE 1990


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Bennett Thrasher One of Six Firms in the U.S. Designated to Manage Georgia Film Tax Credit Audit

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ennett Thrasher, one of the nation's largest and fastest-growing certified public accounting and consulting firms, is one of six firms in the country approved by the Georgia Department of Revenue ( DO R) to conduc t new mandator y f ilm tax credit audits for production companies. In recent years, Georgia has become one of the largest film and television p ro duc t io n lo c at io n s in t he wo r l d . Pursuant to an economic impact study issued by the Georgia Tech Center for E co n o m i c D eve l o p m e n t Re s e a rc h , Georgia's entertainment industry had an estimated $8.6 billion economic impact in FY 2017 alone. The rapid growth of the entertainment industr y led the Georgia General Assembly to impose tighter fiscal controls over the program. In the FY 2020 session,

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H B 1 037 included mandator y audit requirements for larger produc tions phased in over a two-year period. For projects certified by the Georgia Film Office on or after January 1, 2021, audits are required for productions claiming film tax credits in excess of $2.5 million. For projects certified on or after January 1, 2022, audits are mandatory for projects claiming credits in excess of $1.25 million. For projects certified on or after January 1, 2023, all projects claiming film tax credits must be audited. Upon request, these audits can be performed by outside accounting firms that are pre-approved by the Georgia Department of Revenue. On June 10, 2021, Bennett Thrasher was selected as one of only six firms nationwide eligible to perform such audits based on the firm's extensive experience with produc tion incentive audit s in

Georgia and other film incentive states. "Bennett Thrasher has been at the forefront of production incentive issues in Georgia," Peter Stathopoulos, leader of Bennett Thrasher's Entertainment practice, said. Bennett Thrasher has worked with nearly all major film and television studios throughout the United States. They provide accounting and consulting guidance for production and entertainment companies with their Mandatory Film Tax Credit Audit Application, audit review, and film tax credit approval. The other five film tax certified eligible auditors are: Frazier & Deeter, LLC, CohnReznick, LLP, Kevin P. Martin & Associates P.C., Brauer & Co., PC, and MSTiller, LLC.


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OzCetera Fred Taylor

Taylor WINS EMMY FOR LGBTQ COMMUNITY

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oted Atlanta-based Director and Videographer, Frederick Taylor, has won a regional Emmy for his eye-opening film that dives into the LGBTQ male dance community in Atlanta, Georgia. The film is titled, “J-Setting: The Acrobatic Dance - If Cities Could Speak.” Never one to shy away from critical social concerns, Taylor shines a light on an aspect of our human spirit that is deeply dogged by misunderstanding and, of tentimes, irrational controversy. “Discrimination against any group of people is a sad reality, and I found a group of intelligent, talented artists, working hard to be a part of our everyday society,” Taylor said. “Let’s choose to celebrate, and love a minority sector of our human population. We owe it to our NOW Generation and to our future kids to get to grips with folks having identity struggles, sooner than later. After all, doesn’t everyone want to just be loved and included?” Derived from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), the J-Setting dancers are precise in their unity, plus understanding of both femininity and masculinity. “These folks are both survivors of COVID, and survivors of their own inner genetic turmoil,” Taylor added. This documentary is an unapologetic, fearless exposé of a real, and raw Southern America that is fighting to be heard and accepted in a closed society. Dance Captain of J-Setting, Leland Thorpe, astute in all dance forms with a focus on college marching band choreography told Oz, “Know yourself, before you can truly dance. Be confident before stepping forth on a stage.” Sentiments we can all identify with.

"Know yourself, before you can truly dance. Be confident before stepping forth on a stage.” FREDERICK TAYLOR

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Taylor blocking a shot with dance leader, choreographer and team captain Leland Thrope

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OzCetera UWG student works with equipment in the School of Communication, Film and Media

University of West Georgia establishes School of Communication, Film and Media

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upporting increased opportunities in emerging disciplines, the University of West Georgia announced the es tablishment of the School of Communication, Film and Media, effective July 1. UWG President Dr. Brendan Kelly said the creation of the new school at UWG, to be led by inaugural dean Dr. Brad Yates, is a significant marker of the university’s commitment to produce skilled talent for in-demand industries. “With the establishment of the School of Communication, Film and Media, the University of West Georgia is wellpositioned to support the talent pipeline needed to meet the demands of a growing industry in the Atlanta metropolitan area and throughout Georgia,” Kelly said. “UWG has demonstrated a depth of complexity and excellence in the communications disciplines, connecting students with careers before they graduate, a key facet of our mission as we dedicate ourselves to the curation of a first-choice university.” The school will work closely with the University System of Georgia and other institutions in support of the Georgia Film Academy and other statewide initiatives.

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The school will have a heightened expec tation for generating ex ternal funding to support its initiatives and the university’s strategic priorities, including building studio experiences for students work ing w i t h internal and ex ternal partners and businesses. The new school will initially offer two bachelor of science degrees – one in mass communications and another in film and video production – and four concentrations in the general degree of convergence journalism, digital media and telecommunication, film and video production, and public relations. The current department enrolls between 1,600 and 2,100 students each year. Experiential learning is an integral part of earning a communications credential at UWG, with students gaining real-world experience in a variety of settings: the bluestone Student Public Relations Firm; The West Georgian student newspaper; the WOLF Internet Radio; and WUTV. “The School of Communication, Film and Media will leverage the resources and strengths in academic and research a rea s w i t h i ncrea se d e m p ha si s o n interdisciplinary collaborations across the

university,” Dr. Jon Preston, Provost and Senior Vice President for academic affairs, said. “I am confident that as part of this school, the faculty working in this area will continue their past success and be even more impactful in providing needed graduates and service to the state of Georgia.” The new school will replace the Department of Mass Communications, which was formed in 2011, and Yates said it will be the nexus of coursework, research, scholarship, creative activity, and service for communication, film and media. “I am humbled and honored to serve in this new role and continue working to strengthen our current programs and expand our offerings as we fully prepare students for career success,” Yates, who has been on faculty at UWG since 2000 and currently ser ves as the Chair of the Department of Mass Communications, said. “My colleagues and I are excited to broaden and deepen our work with industry professionals, campus collaborators and community stakeholders to forge innovative and creative partnerships that will enhance our students' experiences.”


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ATLANTA ACTOR KEVIN GILLESE RAISES $118,000 TO PRODUCE FEATURE-LENGTH COMEDIC FILM "HOW TO RUIN THE HOLIDAYS"

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evin Gillese and the team behind How to Ruin the Holidays successfully raised over $118,000 via Kickstarter for their new film. Gillese's comedic film got the green light with an expanded budget and new stars. How to Ruin the Holidays' revolves around a character with a developmental disabilit y and the complex realities that come with adult family life. The character is played by local actor Luke Davis, who has a developmental disability himself. The project will also feature Colin Mochrie (star of "Whose Line Is It Anyway"), Amber

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Nash (voice of Pam Poovey on "Archer"), Aisha Tyler (winner of Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Entertainment Talk Show Host, and voice of Lana Kane on "Archer" ), and Henr y Zebrowski (creator of "Last Podcast on the Left"). In movies and television, special needs characters are treated like children, even if they are full-grown adults. Through How to Ruin the Holidays I want to give adults with special needs their own agency, and deal with the real-world issues that are part of their lives. And I want to do it in a comedic format," Gillese said.

Gillese intends to create a script that uses comedy to address heavy subject mat ters. Some of the topics include questions of employment, sexuality, and how adults with special needs care for themselves when their parents pass away. Although How to Ruin the Holidays is a comedy at heart, the compelling themes will prove the power of comedy by engaging audiences with crucial issues like treating people with developmental disabilities with dignity and respect.


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OzCetera Zach Breder on set for his wish

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BREDER MAKES DIRECTORIAL WISH TO FILM IN GEORGIA We specialize in meeting the needs of the film & TV industries.

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ith a passion for storytelling and a gift for writing, 16-year-old Zach Breder is a director at heart; however, his heart has more on its plate than just a film schedule - it’s also fighting a cardiac disease. Immediately after being born, Breder faced the first of 10+ heart surgeries. While Breder obviously faces medical challenges in his daily life, he is an exuberant spirit with a drive behind his expansive imagination. Recently, Make-A-Wish Georgia approached Breder and asked him what he wanted his wish to be, and he replied that he wished to create his own movie. Already envisioning a story about kids and aliens, he lit up at the chance to professionally direct one of his own scripts. In July 2019, Breder learned that industry executives from Trilith Studios (formerly Pinewood Atlanta Studios) and Georgia Film Academy (GFA) were eager to join the team to bring his wish to life. With an April 2020 release deadline approaching, Breder started fine tuning his script, and GFA and Trilith began reaching out to industry members for help. And then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Nevertheless, the support for Breder and his wish grew stronger than ever. During the pandemic, Breder worked tirelessly on his script with the mentorship of Georgia industry professionals connected by his colleagues at Trilith and GFA. Breder had virtual gatherings with a casting director, location manager and first AD. He was given the chance to have hands-on experience and see what it takes to create a movie from concept to execution. In April 2021, a united pool of talented filmmakers, with credits ranging from “Ozark'' to “Stranger Things,” came together to start the filming of Breder’s wish. In June, Director Breder and crew began wrapping up their feature after filming across the state of Georgia. After recovering from a recent heart valve replacement, Breder was ready to get behind the camera with the crew. Before wrapping, Trilith and GFA hosted a press conference to discuss Breder’s experience directing. A charismatic Breder sat on a panel with Frank Patterson, CEO of Trilith, Jeff Stepakoff, GFA Executive Director, and more. “I’m going into my senior year of high school this summer and I’m hoping to enroll in Georgia FIlm Academy in 2022,” Breder said, motioning towards the GFA and Trilith panel he sat alongside at the press conference. “[I’m] just hoping to maintain contact with all of these people, not just throughout the next couple of years, but throughout my lifetime! They’re incredible.” During the conference, Patterson identified Breder as a natural filmmaker and director. At a young age, Breder was creating scenes, sets and making videos with his novice skill set. Now, Breder confidently walks into the Trilith soundstage and navigates the set effortlessly with a joyous smile extended to all crew, cast and visitors. Upon entering the soundstage, there is an enormous spaceship blocked by set pieces and only visible to visitors on the monitors below. The impressive prop will be a key element in the 15-minute short film Breder is directing, which is now in an expected two months of post production. “We are hoping to enter it in a couple of film festivals. We also have a red carpet premiere for the movie in the fall of 2021,” Breder concluded.

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July / August 2021

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SAG-AFTRA APPROVES GUIDELINES REGARDING COVID-19 CAST AND CREW VACCINATION MANDATES

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n a SAG-AFTRA meeting that occurred in mid June, the union’s national board of directors approved a set of guidelines that studios are required to follow if they are set on making COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for cast and crew on production sets. The SAG-AFTRA board approved the guidelines with 75% of the vote, giving the guild’s staff the power to require studios to submit their plans for vaccine mandates on shoots if they wish to receive guild approval. The guidelines, created by the SAG-AFTRA’s blue ribbon commission on

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COVID-19 safety, are as follows: Produc tion must announce such policies as soon as possible, preferably in initial breakdowns or earliest casting discussions. Such policies must apply equally to all cast and crew working in the relevant zone(s) or work location(s). Production must have procedures in place to engage in interactive process with those requesting ADA (Americans with Disability Act) or religious accommodations, and must include the procedure for initiating a request in

notices of the vaccination policy. Such policies can only be enforced when vaccines have been readily available to performers for a sufficient period of time to confer immunity in time for start of work. If being vaccinated is a condition of employment for the production, any vaccination costs are absorbed by the employer and vaccination time is work time. Vaccination records are maintained securely by employers and available only to those with need to know.


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OzCetera

Screen capture from Telly Awards promotion material

The 42nd Annual Telly Awards Honors Winners

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he Telly Awards, known for being the world’s most significant honor for video and television content on all screens, announced this year’s winner s, Jennifer G arner ’s (unbold Jennifer Garners’s, RadicalMedia’s and Partizan’s ) “Pretend Cooking Show” series, RadicalMedia’s “Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel” documentary series, Partizan’s “Fantastic Voyage” campaign, and many more. In addition, this year’s theme of “Your Stories Defy the Limits” has presented exquisite and technical innovations in direct response

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to the challenges presented by 2020 and 2021. Further winners range from Netflix, Microsoft, Condé Nast, HBO Latin America, and Nickelodeon to BET Digital, Adobe, Playstation, BBC Global News, and PAPER. The Telly Awards also proudly named Al Jazeera Media Network as ‘Telly Company of the Year.’ Al Jazeera’s “A Day in Wuhan,” “Stricken Beirut,” and “About Cinema” series beautifully embody the visionary and storytelling efforts the Telly Awards have long supported and shined a spotlight on.

“In the face of a year like no other, the visual storytelling community has continued to defy the limitations of our new world. Achievements have been both societal, such as embracing social media plat forms to raise awareness about injustices and promote solidarity for movements, as well as geographical, like developing fully remote pipelines for dispersed teams,” Telly Awards Executive Director, Sabrina Dridje, said.


      

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OzCetera Screen capture from Oparah and Fray’s “The Importance of a House”

Sketchworks Comedy Presents The 2nd Occasionally-Annual ATL Sketchfest

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ketchworks Comedy, Atlanta’s awardwinning live sketch comedy company, announced the return of their sketch comedy festival, ATL SketchFest. The 3-night event will be on September 23, 24, and 25 at the Village Theatre. Audiences who attend the SketchFest festival will have the opportunity to see three different sketch comedy groups per night. Organizers will also be accepting comedy video shorts to show between live performances. ATL SketchFest will include a “Best in Show” competition where anonymous judges choose the best sketch group and video short. The winners will each receive a cash prize at the close of the last show on Saturday, September 25th. With the safe return of live performances, ATL SketchFest organizers are thrilled to bring the festival back. “Producing the SketchFest in 2019 was hard work but a lot of fun,” Sketchworks c o - o w n e r a n d AT L S k e t c h F e s t co-organizer, Julie Shaer, commented. “The day af ter the 2019 SketchFest finished, we started planning for 2020.” “Village Theatre has been the regular per formance venue for Sketchworks for over five years now,” Brian Troxell, Sketchworks’ other owner and producer, said.“ It will be nice to have the SketchFest in a place we consider home.”

OPARAH AND FRAY TAKE HOME CASH PRIZE AT @ATLFILMPARTY In late June, Sleepyhouse Gallery, a local interdisciplinary art gallery in Southwest Atlanta, hosted @ATLFILMPARTY. The event called for 2-minute experimental film submissions by local Atlanta filmmakers. The jur y was composed of M elissa Simpson, Director of Film Impact Georgia, Krupa Kanaiya, Communications Lead for Atlanta Film Society, Jenny Gunn, Lecturer at Georgia State University, and Shady Radical, performance theorist, archivist and costumer. The jur y selec ted f ive f ilms from 22 s u b m i s s i o n s , s h owc a s i n g C h r i s Hunt’s “crystalline,” Daniela Rodriguez’s “Groceries,” Magda Dumitrescu’s “Find It

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in the Rain,” Ace McColl’s “Soma/tics,” and Olamma Oparah and Colbie Fray’s “The Importance of a House.” Films played on a 10 minute loop in the gallery space where attendees watched and then proceeded to vote on their favorite of the five films. At the end of the night, the votes were tallied and winners, Oparah and Fray, were announced. The two filmmakers took home a cash prize of $370, which was gathered from merchandise and drink sales. @AT L F I L M PA R T Y i s a q u a r te r l y event that will continue catering to local filmmakers and their works.

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OzCetera John Giorgio

GIORGIO MAKES DEBUT IN RESPECT WOOD DIRECTS FOR IDEAS UNITED AND PIEDMONT HOSPITAL

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tlanta - based ac tor, John Giorgio, backs the Queen fo Soul as legendary guitarist, Chips Moman, in the highly ant icipated A ret ha Frank lin biopic , Respect (2021). Jennifer Hudson, hand picked by the Queen herself, portrays Aretha Franklin in the star studded picture, with names like Marlon Wayans, Forest Whitaker, and Marc Maron sharing the silver screen. With Tony nominated Director, Liesl Tommy, at the helm of the production, the Georgialensed film is going to be nothing short of a showstopper. Giorgio makes his feature debut portraying Moman, guitarist and record producer who played alongside the Muscle Shoals Swampers and helped bring the iconic music of Aretha Franklin to audiences worldwide. “It’s a dream role for me, because it allowed me to indulge in my two greatest passions: acting and music. To get to play and perform alongside a living legend like Jennifer Hudson, and help tell the story of a true legend, Aretha Franklin, is such a privilege and honor. I will never forget this experience.”

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tlanta - based Direc tor, Raymond Wood, has been working with Ideas United to create content for Piedmont Hospital to document the pandemic from the frontline. “Through the stories and experiences of both frontline worker s and their patients, our aim was to document the COVID-19 pandemic in a way that honors the members of Piedmont's staff - and healthcare workers across the world for their tenacity, dedication, and heroic efforts,” Wood told Oz. With f if teen years of f ilmmaking experience, Wood has directed a range of projects, including narrative shorts, as well as commercial work for Ideas United. “I’m constantly in touch with [Ideas United] about potential projects that I might be a good fit for. I really fought for this one, though, because highlighting the effects of the pandemic on the healthcare industry

is something I felt extremely passionate about. It’s something that I don’t think has been fully unearthed or communicated to the outside world, at least not to the extent that we’ve tried to, and I think if people had the chance to truly see and experience what our frontline workers had to endure over the last year and a half, it would really help shine a light on why it’s so important for us as a society to get a handle on COVID-19.” “One phrase from Dr. Marlon Scott, the chaplain at Piedmont Columbus Regional, really stood out to me: ‘If we don’t take care of our caregivers, there won’t be anyone left to take care of the patients.’ If I had to encapsulate my hopes for the project, they would be to ingrain that sentence into everyone’s mind and to help sustain the care and support shown to healthcare workers during this pandemic well into the future,” Wood added.


STAY TUNED FOR FUTURE UPDATES!

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OzCetera

View of Wakanda in Black Panther courtesy of Disney

THE FANDEMIC DEAD TOUR COMES TO ATLANTA

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aking its debut this September, the Fandemic Dead tour is bringing “The Walking Dead” to life where it all began in downtown Atlanta. Produced by former CEO of Wizard World, John Macaluso, Fandemic Dead is a three-day event where fans will have the opportunity to meet their favorite celebrity cast members, producers, cosplayers, and artists, as well as learn more about pop culture as a whole. With more than 20 notable names and faces already announced on the weekend roster, Fandemic Dead is a fan dream for more reasons than just the lineup. “Atlanta is the bir thplace of 'The Walking Dead' series, so it only feels right to experience this here. I can’t wait to gather all of the cast members, creators, and fans together in such a meaningful place,” Fandemic Tour CEO, Macaluso, said. “Following Dragon Con, we’re excited to be one of the first, larger, in-person events back on the books for Atlanta. We can already feel the support especially from diehard fans who have already helped spread the word about our convention.” After 11 seasons, four spinoff series, and the announcement of a spin-off film, Fandemic Dead will bring current and former cast members of “The Walking Dead” back together for Q&A sessions, photo ops, autographs, and discussion panels to give fans an exclusive insight into "The Walking Dead" Universe.

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BLACK PANTHER RETURNS TO GEORGIA

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he long-awaited Black Panther sequel is underway at Trilith Studios (formerly known as Pinewood Studios) in Fayetteville, Georgia, according to Marvel Studios’ chief, Kevin Fiege. Production of the film follows the passing of the film’s star actor, Chadwick Boseman. Black Panther’s original cast members, Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, and Angela Basset are expected to return

for the sequel production. “It’s clearly very emotional without Chad,” Feige told Variety before the “Black Widow” Global Fan Event in Los Angeles. “But everyone is also very excited to bring the world of Wakanda back to the public and back to the fans. We’re going to do it in a way that would make Chad proud.”


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Cover story

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EFFECT EXTENDING REALITIES IN GEORGIA'S XR LANDSCAPES

KELLER BERRY & B. SONENREICH

PEOPLE KNOW THEY CAN DO MORE, SO IT OPENS A PANDORA'S BOX FOR PEOPLE TO CONSIDER SHOOTING AT 10 DIFFERENT LOCATIONS. A DESERT SCENE BY MONDAY AND A BEACH SCENE BY FRIDAY. VIRTUAL PRODUCTION DOES NOT KEEP PEOPLE BEHOLDEN. WITH SOME PROJECTS W E C R E AT E 2 5 D I F F E R E N T L O C AT I O N S .” - NICK RIVERo, MEPTIK STUDIoS Co-FoUNDER aND Ceo

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ightsabers and shots of crimson laser beams cut through a landscape of deciduous trees within an eerie fog. Ahsoka Tano (played by Rosario Dawson) establishes herself as a Jedi warrior, slicing through enemies with brute strength and a creative edge to each killing. Nightfall is upon this forest of death, and the bare trees that still stand after all the fighting take on an endless quality. Where does the forest end and where does it begin? In an instant, the sky brightens and the seemingly endless forest is suddenly behind the camera. The colossal doors to a guarded village open slowly, revealing a new set in the grayish blue light of dawn. The transition in the environment is smooth and effortless. “The Mandalorian”

season one and two both take on magical qualities of seamless transitions from one otherworldly set to the next. When the audience isn’t immersed in the uncanny forest with Tano, they’re in the air with Cara Dune (played by Gina Carano) flying a ship through the crevices of towering mountains in the bright light of day, walking through the desert before sunset alongside The Mandalorian (played by Pedro Pascal) and Grogu (played by David Acord), and more. Evolutionary cinema is happening across the globe as television series and films adapt to virtual production on a grander scale, creating true-to-life sets that exceed viewers’ expectations. The Disney+ Star Wars spin off, “The

Mandalorian,” was shot on an LA soundstage encased by LED walls that displayed ever changing digital sets. Instead of being challenged with the static green screen, “The Mandalorian’s” cast was able to engage with a 20 foot high and 270 degree semi-circular LED video wall with ceiling and a 75 foot in diameter performance space, called the Volume. Now, virtual sets can be built before going into principal photography. The results are groundbreaking. The location backdrops are drafted by VFX artists as 3D models. Then, photographic scans are mapped onto the stage. Practical set pieces are combined to create a lush mise en scene.

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Cover story

MEPTIK’s XR stage put to use by cast and crew

Image provided by MEPTIK

MEPTIK’s XR stage in use

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Extended reality, known as XR, is a term that refers to a combining of the real and virtual worlds. In XR, human and machine interaction is generated by computer technology and wearables. The X in XR signifies the variable for any current or future spatial computing technologies. Spatial computing was defined in 2003 by Simon Greenwold, as “human interaction with a machine in which the machine retains and manipulates referents to real objects and spaces.” This includes augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), and virtual reality (VR). According to Business Wire, the virtual production market was valued at 1,463.46 million USD in 2020 and is projected to reach 4,744.04 million USD by 2028. Virtual production is an umbrella term to describe the emerging technology which uses software tools to combine computer graphics and live action footage in real-time. This cutting edge technology cuts costs on location scouting, art department, and more. With this enhanced technology, executing creative ideas becomes a more intuitive rather than arduous process. While the virtual production masterminds behind “The Mandalorian” are pioneers in XR stages, companies all around Georgia are offering competing technologies that are worth delving into. In an interview with Nick Rivero of MEPTIK Studios, a Georgia-based company that specializes in immersive environments for virtual and extended reality (​X R) production and experiential design, real time content, and projection, he broke down the three Rs of virtual production for Oz readers: “VR: Virtual Reality you put on a headset, changes your perception, AR: Taking the digital and putting it into the physical i.e. Instagram, PokemonGo, XR: Using the digital world to create entirely new and immersive environments.” As a full service production studio with centrally located offices in Atlanta, MEPTIK creates high-quality content across industries throughout the nation, reaching target audiences with engaging virtual and hybrid experiences while increasing the return on investment, reach and engagement. Their goal is to create otherwordly spaces that you can partake in, but with great power comes great responsibility.


Fleurie music video on MEPTIK’s XR stage

“GEoRGIa IS PIoNEERING THIS TECHNoLoGY IN ITS aCCESSIBILITY. YoU’LL FIND THIS TECH EVERYWHERE, IN VaRYING FoRMS, BUT THE STYLE oF ToTaL aCCESS To a BRICK aND MoRTaR LoCaTIoN, WITH IN-HoUSE TEaMS To GUIDE FILMMaKERS, IS NEW.” -CRaIG HEYL, TRILITH STUDIo’S CEo aND EXECUTIVE oF PRoDUCTIoN “People know they can do more, so it opens a Pandora's box for people to consider shooting at 10 different locations. A desert scene by Monday and a beach scene by Friday. Virtual production does not keep people beholden. With some

Trilith Studios LED Stage

projects we create 25 different locations,” Rivero said. “We focus on the virtual pipeline technology, sometimes set dressing is required.” MEPTIK has a heaping and creative portfolio, including but not limited to, Virtual Conference with Video Game Engine, Fleurie Augmented Reality Music Video, UT Projection Mapping, BMW LED Art Installation, Metro Atlanta Chamber, Mercedes Benz content, and more.

South of MEPTIK, Trilith Studios, the 700-acre full service film studio in Fayetteville, opened a new LED stage virtual production service in partnership with MBSi, Fuse, and SGPS/ShowRig. This is similar in concept to Industrial Light & Magic’s LED screen StageCraft platform for “The Mandalorian” series, and Weta Digital’s LED stage virtual production service, based in Wellington, New Zealand.

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Cover story

SCAD XR stage was developed in partnership with MEPTIK

Image provided by SCAD

When sitting down with Oz, Trilith’s COO and Executive of Production, Craig Heyl, warned about the margin for error in using this new virtual technology. “You’re working with the entire team in order to best shoot on a virtual stage. Something to keep in mind is that there’s less room for error on a virtual stage. With a blue [or green] screen, everything is adjusted in post; with an LED screen, it should all be as desired from the start,” Heyl told Oz. “The tech is in and of itself a way to accelerate the storytelling process. It’s not a technology that every filmmaker has access to.” "One of the challenges, tasked to find and build a approx 40’ 70’ 140 degree volume LED wall, is having less than a week to build, shoot and take down. Being critical to the film, doing something audacious for a less than audacious budget. This is the goal,” Heyl

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added. “Accessibility in most of the VR/ XR stages are impermanent and the teams are brought together for a short period of time. By having a permanent team, from a production company’s standpoint, renting a space that is already built is inevitably much cheaper and that’s the goal.” Georgia companies are now focused on ways to make this technology more accessible. “Georgia is pioneering this technology in its accessibility. You’ll find this tech everywhere, in varying forms, but the style of total access to a brick and mortar location, with in-house teams to guide filmmakers, is new. And Trilith is pioneering this evolution toward an infrastructure of accessibility,” Heyl said. Georgia Film Academy shares a campus with Trilith Studios in Fayetteville, so their students are receiving access to hands-on experience. “We have Georgia Film Academy right

“WE aRE GIVING oUR STUDENTS THE oPPoRTUNITY To BECoME SoME oF THE FIRST XR FILMMaKERS aND CREaTIVE TECHNoLoGISTS THaT WILL BE WoRKING WITH THIS NEW PaRaDIGM” -MaX aLMY, DEaN oF SCaD SCHooL oF DIGITaL MEDIa" here on our lot. All the trades are needed, and our plan is to train people at Trilith Studios to work in the new industry.” Additionally, Creative Media Industries Institute (CMII) at Georgia State University is teaching their students how to learn the same skills used to create “The Mandalorian” in their VR cave located off 25 Park Place in the heart of Downtown Atlanta. In fact, CMII is in the process of planning out their own XR stage/LED wall. “We are looking to implement our XR stage at the end of this calendar year,” Director of Operations at CMII, James Martin, told Oz. “What we’ve done is really coordinated with some of our preferred vendors as well as other partners in the region both in private and public sectors to identify a solution that’s right sized for our studio and for the CMII and GSU first XR stage. We intend it to be a part of our contribution to the MFA program through virtual production, but also for cinematics and special effects in both film and design, VR, AR and other storytelling technologies.” The new MFA program will feature virtual production as a component of one of its tracks. “This is the MFA in partnership with the College of the Arts, so one of the tracks is focused on emerging film technologies inclusive of virtual production,” Martin said. “It’s going to be roughly 13.5 ft x 24 ft stage and it will use the Optitrack motion tracking system for camera tracking,” Martin explained. “The XR stage and LED wall is definitely intended to give GSU students


XR stage images provided by SCAD

access to technology that is emerging in the film industry now. We’re trying to help train students to manage and work with this technology, because we know that industry partners in Georgia and the region are clamoring for people who understand this technology and who can work with these stages,” Martin added. North of GSU, Music Matters Productions functions as a one stop, event production company, with an extensive product range of high-end audio, visual, and lighting equipment, and a team of creators. The Owner of the Woodstockbased company, Aaron Soriero, discussed the engine used to create the virtual sets they come up with for clients: “Unreal Engine is used to set up 3D environments and have all things interact in a realtime way.” Unreal Engine is a game

engine developed by Epic Games, with a high degree of portability, supporting a dynamic range of tech, including desktop, mobile, console, and virtual reality platforms. “Anything you can think of you can do in XR, if you are creative and know how to work in a studio space. Creative storylines can make the narrative happen and you can design whatever you want in that space,” Soriero told Oz. He went on to say that people who are proficient in coding, working with 3D software, as well as in the traditional film industry, should try applying themselves to work with the XR industry as well. “There’s something there in the live aspect of it, something to utilize XR in a live event stage space. Manufacturer’s are sending updates to software and hardware

that caters to XR needs. It’s only a matter of time before we marry the two and bring live events and XR out of the studio and onto the festival stage,” Soriero added. Music Matters Productions has a dynamic portfolio consisting of Georgia Tech Arts Skyline Series, Shaky Knees Music Festival, Heineken Brand Activation, Rolling Stone Party, AFROPUNK Atlanta and New York, and so much more. With the help of expansive virtual production technology, each show is unique and the engagements with crowds are therefore even more significant. In April, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) announced their new XR stages and backlot expansion in the Savannah Film Studios and in metro Atlanta. The stages are being created

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Cover story Taika Waititi on the set of "The Mandalorian". Image provided by Disney+

Stormtrooper and Shoretroopers in Lucasfilms "The Mandalorian", season two, exclusively on Disney+. © 2020 Lucasfilm Ltd.

in partnership with MEPTIK, which comes as no surprise as the founders of MEPTIK are SCAD alumni. SCAD’s stages will allow SCAD and Savannah to bring cutting edge productions like “The Mandalorian'' to Georgia. “It's an innovative new way to composite actors into totally digital backgrounds. For feature filmmaking it represents an entirely new paradigm for creating scenes with actors and elaborate visual effects or any type of landscape and you can see the results as you go. Television will use this approach for storytelling as well but will also explore putting hosts into totally virtual sets or environments for sports, news, game shows, weather, advertising, fashion, commercial and corporate projects,” Dean of SCAD School of Digital Media, Max Almy, told Oz. “At SCAD, in the School of Digital Media, we have been working with this idea of virtual production for years now. We are currently developing a virtual production minor. We have worked on several virtual productions with major industry partners including a special SCADpro project that created virtual sets for an international sports event.

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By anticipating these new trends in technology, we stay ahead of the curve. We've worked with Epic/Unreal game tech for years and we are ready to jump into this new marriage of real-time rendering and filmmaking, working hand-in-hand with the School of Entertainment Arts. We are giving our students the opportunity to become some of the first XR filmmakers and creative technologists that will be working with this new paradigm,” Almy added. SCAD students are going to have access to a curriculum and a virtual production minor so that they have the opportunity to learn the skills of XR production. “It’s a new territory with new pipelines of production. Directors,

cinematographers, lighting designers and visual effects teams will all learn new ways of working with each other,” Almy said. “Filmmaking and visual effects professionals will be diving into XR production. They may already have some of the skills necessary to work with XR production and many may need to learn more about Unreal or the Disguise software that controls the XR system.” With XR on the rise and the virtual production industry booming, it’s only natural to suppose that this is an elongated funeral for the once beloved green screen. However, this is not necessarily the case. “As we are learning more about XR production, we are finding that green screens will still


Dark Trooper and Grogu in Lucasfilm's "The Mandalorian", season two, exclusively on Disney+. © 2020 Lucasfilm Ltd.

Tusken Raider rides on a bantha below with the Razor Crest in "The Mandalorian", season two. © 2020 Lucasfilm Ltd.

play a big part in the planning of visual effects for any film. Certain scenes will be best done on green screen, and the two techniques can be combined in any production. Green screen stages can use the same real-time compositing and camera control software. Green screen is also being used to prep and test for XR scenes. Future filmmakers and creative technologists will be well served to become experts in green screen and XR virtual production,” Almy explained. “I’m personally super excited about SCAD’s new XR stages,” SCAD School of Digital Media student, Ryan Harper, told Oz. “They will be an incredible asset to our program and tool for students to have access to since it’s the future

of film production and visual effects. The XR stage goes one step beyond a greenscreen allowing filmmakers and post production artists to collaborate in the same space in real-time. The XR stage is also rewriting the visual effects pipeline and curriculum at SCAD with its ability to integrate Unreal engine into a film set allowing virtual lighters and set dressers to easily communicate with the director during a shoot and change the entire environment in minutes. It’s seriously cool tech!” The excitement for XR productions in Georgia is palpable, with eager and skillful students in the wings ready to take on roles in the next grand virtual challenge on set. And, if locations are no

longer unreachable, why not have them rendered in our home state where we can also benefit from the spotlight “The Mandalorian” has shined on extended reality? Perhaps it won’t be long before a galaxy far far away is right here in Georgia.

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BY: JENNY GUNN, PHD

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ave you ever wanted to dive in ancient oceans surrounded by prehistoric marine reptiles? Or how about swimming with great white sharks off the coast of Mexico without the fear of being eaten? In fact, you can enjoy both of these magical experiences, thanks to the Georgia Aquarium Virtual Voyager, a 12-seat VR transporter attraction designed by Pulseworks, a metroAtlanta based company specializing in motion simulators, motion simulation technology, and interactive, immersive entertainment. One among fifty other similar attractions designed for as many as thirty partner institutions, the Virtual Voyager, located in the Georgia Aquarium’s main atrium features an enticing exterior capsule design: a yellow submarine! As Pulseworks CEO, Raj Deshpande admits, this design certainly recalls the “iconic” Beatles’ pop song but likewise the color of traditional scientific research vessels. As Pulseworks Marketing and Operations Director, Carson Malone explains: “The yellow color is sort of synonymous with research vessels and the aquarium is so into research. If we were going to make a submarine or an aquatic vessel, making it yellow just seemed to go together, whatever pop culture reference might [also be] in someone’s mind.” The notion of hopping on a submarine sets participants’ initial expectation for a deep-sea journey of adventure corresponding with the narrative and experiential content the Virtual Voyager delivers. While the Prehistoric Ocean Journey is the Virtual Voyager’s marquee experience, Pulseworks has recently designed swimming with Great White sharks as a second experience for the Georgia Museum’s Virtual Voyager, featuring live film footage of real Great White sharks delivered in an immersive VR format via the Vive Cosmos Head Mounted Display (or HMD). Deshpande states that Pulseworks continues to create new content and to collaborate with the Aquarium, offering visitors additional immersive adventures in addition to the two signature experiences. For example, the capabilities deck of the Virtual Voyager comes pre-loaded with additional VR transport experiences such as the Space Walk Mission, which simulates for participants a virtual astronaut’s voyage from Earth to the International space station. While at first this experience may seem far afield from the focus of the Georgia Aquarium, Malone explains the connection: “What I think of when I see that film is that the Earth is just covered with water . . . it gives you a big-picture perspective of our planet, and I think gives a great appreciation for just how sacred and special an oxygen environment and the water [are].” The Georgia Aquarium’s Virtual Voyager’s signature yellow submarine design signals Pulseworks’ commitment to designing signature experiences for its partner institutions that deliver both mission driven entertainment and educational deliverables. As Deshpande describes their collaboration with the Georgia Aquarium, “This aquarium is really amazingly far-sighted. The management is always looking at new ways to engage their visitors.” As he continued, “The mission is . . . to get people to appreciate wildlife, particularly aquatic, basically so that people will be aware that there is this huge ecosystem out there and July / August 2021

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then [to] feel that here, they are part of the living web of life. It’s also to engage and entertain people and that way, the lessons sink in much better.” This goal-oriented approach is further underscored by the company’s slogan, “We Offer Wonder!” The experiential dimension of the Virtual Voyager is crucial for CEO, Deshpande, in enhancing the experiences of visitors to the Aquarium not just to see but to DO! To that end, the Virtual Voyager is much more than a VR headset experience, with a capsule design that features motion simulation and other 4D effects to add movement and multi-sensory effects to enhance its immersiveness. With an extensive background in motion simulation, Deshpande emphasizes how strongly we rely on multi-sensory cues when experiencing VR content, arguing that motion simulation helps to coordinate the mind and body experience and prevent the sensory discord often caused by the use of VR headsets alone. Recognizing, however, that motion simulation may not be deliverable or enjoyable for all guests, Pulseworks’ VR transporters such as the Virtual Voyager also come standard with an accessible non-motion experience option for the mobility challenged. Like the Virtual Voyager, Pulseworks’

transporter designs offer custom, hardware, software, and content creation for their partner institutions. In addition to the Georgia Aquarium, Pulseworks has partnered with institutions such as the Tennessee Aquarium, the Museum of Science + Industry in Chicago, and the Space Center in Houston just to name a few in the creation of mission driven and exclusive branded content. In addition to its public-facing attractions, PulseWorks has also worked with a variety of corporate and government clients. The company is increasingly expanding into the area of VR educational training, an expanding area both in corporate and university settings. Although Deshpande acknowledges the impact of the COVID19 pandemic on Pulseworks’ business, he indicates they are coming back strongly and even expanding, looking to digitally scale through a variety of new cross-media opportunities. As a revolutionary company in immersive technology working with both state and commercial organizations and founded in the Metro Atlanta area in 1998 (on the forefront of both motion simulation and VR technologies), Deshpande has witnessed firsthand the direct effects of the expanding film and TV industry on the Atlanta area. In general, Deshpande Georgia Aquarium guests enjoy the Virtual Voyager experience

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views the expansion in Georgiabased production as a net positive for Pulseworks noting, for example, that the growth of Georgia production has made local recruiting much more feasible. Hopefully then, we can expect more immersive VR signature experiences from Pulseworks will be coming soon to the Atlanta area and beyond. While Virtual Reality may at first seem an odd paring with the mission of an aquarium, Deshpande discussed how technologically advanced the Georgia Aquarium is. In fact, many of their experiences include multiple technological components that help to further engage visitors from handson tech display touch screens in the exhibition halls to their signature Dolphin and Sea Otter shows. The Georgia Aquarium also houses a 4D theatre and offers guided virtual tours through their website sponsored by Georgia Natural Gas. Given the GA Aquarium’s techoriented approach, the Virtual Voyager experience is inherently integrated into the experience of the Aquarium as a whole. My kids and I are already looking forward to swimming with great white sharks the next time we visit.


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VOLUME THE

O F

D E V E L O P M E N T BY: KRUPA KANAIYA

Volumetric capture has been developing for years. From some of your favorite films to new medical advancements, this technology is more familiar than you know. After 20 years in the film industry, Atlanta-based Professor of Practice, Candice

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Alger, offers her insight into the realm of volumetric capture. Diving into the evolution of the technology to the effects on diversity, this method of creation is making way for young and diverse filmmakers to share their stories in record timing.


Alger and GSU’s mascot, Pounce, engage in volumetric capture at CMII

What is volumetric capture?

Alger: Volumetric filmmaking combines the artistry of cinema with the interactivity of gaming, and uncovers visuals beyond the limits of traditional media ... Volumetric filmmaking allows us to capture real people, real stories and real places, and invites audiences inside the virtual worlds where the story takes place. It is a relatively new technology. It is similar to motion capture 20 years ago, when the tools for post processing were being developed. We have a 4D Views HOLOSYS System from the company based in Grenoble, France. It is a 32-camera capture array that covers a 3 meter capture volume. It takes roughly 12-15 hours per character minute to process the data. We are able to capture live performances of actors in full wardrobe/costume, interacting with set pieces or props so long as they comply with the technical specifications of the system. What you get at the end of the process is a photo real, 3D, holographic-like high quality image of the performance that can be viewed from any viewpoint. These high quality images can then be imported into web, mobile, or virtual world applications to then be viewed naturally in 3D. Post production tools for this technology are being developed that will lead to greater acceptance as a working pipeline. The existing HOLOSYS system includes plug-ins for Unity3D and Unreal Engine to enable you to easily drag and drop 4D Views volumetric video files into your XR projects. In addition, with the export option of Alembic format (.ABC), you can natively import all your volumetric video in Cinema4D, Autodesk

Maya, Houdini and Blender3D. Just this week, 4D Views announced 4Dfx. This toolset is one that will truly empower users of volumetric capture. These new post production tools support non-linear editing, creating smooth transitions like morphing between sequences, adjusting mesh positioning to fit other scene elements, tracking tools and export capability for layering tools and effects, etc.

Where have we already seen volumetric capture used?

We used the technology to capture background characters for a series called "The Liberator" that was produced by Trioscope Films for Netflix. We worked with the team at Trioscope here in Atlanta to capture a library of "virtual extras" in full wardrobe, that once processed could then be utilized to populate the scenes in post production. We even painted a treadmill green so that we could capture longer ranges of motion for each performance. People viewing the live action series might not realize that those characters are virtual. Trioscope Films is an innovator in film making, and we were very fortunate to be involved in this production. We are also seeing a fair amount of interest in the music industry. Due to COVID, the music industry was forced into a lock down from concert performances. Because the artists couldn’t perform live, some of them pivoted by deploying their performances virtually. Epic's Fortnight has been leveraging this approach quite successfully. We have captured multiple July / August 2021

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artists for custom deployment via custom web/streaming applications. Most recently we provided performance capture for an LA agency to provide virtual full body/facial musical performances that the agency will incorporate into virtual worlds that will then be deployed via Roblox. The interest in this area seems to be growing, and we are getting more inquiries every day. We have also been approached by Rite Media here in Atlanta about integrating volumetric capture with AI, and Machine Learning to preserve the indigenous languages of native americans. The Last Goodbye: Virtual Reality Holocaust Survivor Testimony experience produced by USC Shoah Foundation is an amazing example of how the technology can be leveraged in such a powerful way. We have done a few other interesting projects utilizing volumetric cinematography for immersive experiences. We worked with Santander Bank and the Arnold Worldwide Agency to capture the performance of a young woman playing a homeless healthcare worker living in her car. The campaign was launched to bring awareness to the homelessness situation, and how it can even affect those who are gainfully employed. The end result was a very compelling example of the power of immersive media in driving social awareness. Another example was the project we worked on with Futurus, and United Way of Greater Atlanta to help create the Call the Play VR experience for the Super Bowl experience inside Mercedes Benz stadium in 2019. We captured NFL legend Jerry Rice on our volumetric stage speaking about the program. Those files were then integrated into a virtual Mercedes Benz Stadium as part of the virtual gaming experience designed to help promote the United Way and the NFL’s partnership in Character Playbook. The program is one that educates students on how to cultivate and maintain healthy relationships during their middle school years.

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When did you start working with volumetric capture?

When I joined CMII back in 2017 to work with David Cheshier and Elizabeth Stickler to help design and equip the proposed media lab, we began exploring what emerging technologies would be advantageous to our program. We wanted to bring in technology that would be relevant to the creative industry for years to come. We knew that motion capture, rapid animation prototyping, pre-visualization, audio, AR, and VR were all areas we needed to target. Volumetric Capture was just coming on to the scene. We did our research, and chose the 4D Views system out of France. We determined that it was the most robust system on the market, and the team in France were willing to partner with us to train us, and support us in building the pipeline. We were able to acquire a system, and then we brought in the technical expertise to operate, and teach the technology. James Martin is one of our Professors of Practice who joined our team to help teach immersive media production. He, and one of our students Joel Mack are now recognized as two of the most experienced volumetric cinematographers in the country. James has also developed a Practicum around the technology that gives the students “hands on experience” with the technology. One of those students who took that class, Nicholas Oxford was able to leverage his skills, and experience in that class to land an amazing job at Peloton. This is an example of some of the unique curriculum that CMII is developing. Our faculty are developing curriculum from the ground up based upon real world production pipelines. We are teaching our students how to leverage these emerging technologies to tell their stories, because we know that if we can do that, they will find jobs in any sector because the world is becoming more digital every day.


Back Left - James Amann - Director of Ops, front left - Noah Maxwell recent graduate, James Martin (with hat) Technical Supervisor, behind Amann is Max Thomas Lecturer,  Front Center -Talent - Ponce De Lamar, Behind Ponce  Andrew Kilmer, Student Assistant, next to talent Joel Mack, Senior Engineer,  next to Joel Candice Alger (Supervising Producer) Far Right - Tyehimba Shabazz, Student Assistant

What cutting edge technology are you using now?

CMII is a partner with GSU's School of Public Health on a Facebook Reality Labs Grant that was recently awarded to create a film aimed at advancing racial justice. The project is designed to increase viewers’ empathy and enhance their understanding of racism and structural inequality. The immersive film we will be producing with Laura Salazar, School of Public Health professor and director of the Ph.D. program is called “Consider ME”. Production is scheduled to begin late 2021. We have worked with Laura and her team in the past, and we are extremely excited about working with them again on this compelling project.

Why should we use this tech over traditional animation? How has this technology affected your students at GSU?

Animation is obviously an art form. Traditionally, it's been very labor intensive. Very expensive. The animation software has not always been userfriendly, there's some complexities to it, so there's a lot of learning. You have to learn how to model a character and rig the character, and then animate that character. So there are software tools out there today. Epic Games is really busting everything wide open with their MetaHumans project and their MetaHumans development. We have a strategic partnership with a company called Reallusion out of Taiwan. They have a pretty powerful set of animation tools. Reallusion has partnered with CMII as a strategic partner and donated hundreds...

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...of thousands of dollars with the software to our labs, so that we're teaching those pipelines to our students in the classes. It's basically getting [students] animating and telling their stories much faster. Two of our professors, Max Thomas and James Martin, are teaching the rapid animation pipeline. They can have students animating in eight hours. If you want to be an animator in the feature films or high-end visual effects or whatever, there are a lot of skills that you're going to have to learn and a lot of different steps in the process, but this basically simplifies that so that you can drag and drop assets. You could get a character that's already rigged. You can pull wardrobe from an asset library in these game engines, and you can start telling your story without being an expert 3D animator. We feel like if we can get them at least using these types of tools, then they can figure out where they want to specialize. Do they want to be a Modeler or do they want to be a Rigger? Do they want to do lighting? I think it exposes them to what they're capable of far sooner than if they go down the traditional path of learning Maya, or MotionBuilder, which are a little more complex to get into.

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Can you tell us about your upcoming grants?

For the Facebook grant, we're going to use volumetric capture to capture some testimonials from people who have experienced something in their lives that affected them. We want to try and educate people about how racism and prejudice affect people. We want to tell these testimonials, and then we're going to take that volumetric testimonial, and we're going to deploy that in a headset, but also on the web so that we can reach a much broader audience. It's really just kind of telling stories that people need to hear. Dr. Salazar is interviewing the participants right now. And she was saying that one example would be a person who was wrongly convicted and served their time and afterwards came out and was not angry, but how to pause, [and] have more of a positive view on that. But then there are other people that have gone through equally devastating scenarios. It's impacted them in a very negative way and so it's really an educational process. To just get people to understand and to empathize with those experiences.


“We remain committed to providing access to the tools they typically do not have access to because we know that is the path to empowerment.”

- CANDICE ALGER

How does this expand inclusivity in the industry?

I believe the biggest impact on change is the democratization of technology. When I began working in animation virtual production the cost of entry for an individual, or, a small company could be cost prohibitive. You either had to be enrolled in an expensive art program, or employed by a major studio or animation company. Hands-on experience was hard to come by. Today, we continue focusing our energies on providing access to a student body that is very diverse, and financially challenged. Some of our students don’t even own a smartphone, or computer. It has been even more difficult during the COVID lock down. Our staff was constantly scrambling to find creative ways to get the necessary tools in the hands of our students. Some of our labs were open under reduced capacity guidelines, and students were able to use our labs under safe conditions. We remain committed to providing access to the tools they typically do not have access to because we know that is the path to empowerment. We are constantly working to increase our limited lab capacity through revenue generation in our studios, and philanthropic efforts in the community. In just four years, we are already seeing results. Our admissions are off the charts, and we are seeing the number of females in our programs holding steady at about fifty percent. We have an amazing team that is tireless when it comes to supporting these efforts.

Candice Alger

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As the technology expands how do you see this tech impacting the current state of the industry in Georgia?

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I'm very optimistic about the state of Georgia and the future technology. The film industry is wonderful and we're so blessed to have that. A lot of people have worked really hard to bring that here, but not everyone gets an opportunity to work on the blockbuster films, but it's still great. It's the best marketing the state of Georgia could ever have. I mean, you look at what the Georgia Film Academy is doing; you look at what CMII is doing. We're teaching our population that's not working in the film industry how to leverage these tools to find jobs in other industries. You look at [how] retail is going to AR and VR, right? Retail's gonna be huge, automotive, medical, but every industry is moving into it ... When you look at NFTs (Non-fungible tokens), they're opening the door for artists and creatives, and they will continue to expand to making money just by creating digital art or registering their music. Everything that's happening in the digital world right now is really leveling the playing field for everyone, in my opinion. It's really exciting that Georgia is very supportive in all those areas. There are a lot of companies I speak to, Primal Screen and Right Media and Trick 3D; there are so many companies

Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment.

in Georgia that have been in the creative space for many years, they've managed to survive this COVID shut down but they're pivoting and figuring out ways to reinvent themselves, to leverage the technologies that are still evolving. It's exciting just to see how much LED technology is coming to Georgia. We're getting LED technology at CMII this summer, when you look at virtual production as demonstrated by “The Mandalorian,” that's taking virtual production to its max. I believe Georgia's done really well at nurturing and supporting innovation and emerging tech.


“We are teaching our students how to leverage these emerging technologies to tell their stories, because we know that if we can do that, they will find jobs in any sector because the world is becoming more digital every day.”

- CANDICE ALGER

Where can folks see your latest projects using this technology?

Lisa Ferrell is a key player at the CMII and she's spending the summer putting together more social media examples and stories of the kind of work we're doing. We worked with a company called XYZ out of Italy to do volumetric capture, they do architectural design and they want to populate those beautiful architectural worlds that they build with humans. So we captured a library of humans for them. We worked with The Arnold Agency on a piece called in someone else's shoes, teaching people about homelessness in California. We captured the story of a young woman who was a nursing assistant in a hospital, but she was actually living in her car. We told that story using volumetric capture. We're doing a lot of music work, and we just did some match moving. That gets really complicated. We just did a huge capture for Reallusion to create. You know when you play a video game and you have the controller? So then the character has to go left or right, or pivot or turn around. You have to capture a huge library of what's called match moving data for that. We did two full days of match moving data, capture of an athlete, running these different patterns so that you can inform the navigation system inside of a gaming engine so that you can then control the characters. It's not really exciting capture. It's not like a dramatic theatrical thing, but it's the backbone of how you navigate characters in a virtual world. In June we did a pretty big music capture for a company out of California

called Symbols Zero. They brought in some musicians to do volumetrics. We did XNs capture, which is like a sensorbased capture of musicians in the studio that they'll be deploying via a streaming app, which is all the rage right now. We're seeing a lot of interest, a lot of phone calls coming in now, people are starting to open back up. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we did COVID compliant capture. We were very careful about setting up those protocols and we worked with a company called StatusPro formerly Byte Cube. Lamar Jackson, NFL’s 2019 MVP, came in and did a bunch of captures, we captured him volumetrically and with motion capture to support their NFL training and their video game that they're creating. So, a lot of interesting stuff, some of the most interesting though to me is medical advancements. There's a company called Surgical Theater that we've been speaking to out of the DC area. The two guys that started it used to run the flight simulation program for the Israeli Air Force. They developed software that takes an MRI and a CT scan that you have to have whenever you have any kind of brain injury. They create a 3D image of the brain so that surgeons can go in and rehearse their surgery in VR and also educate the patient about what's going on in their brain. Brain surgeons traditionally had to take 2D images and then visualize it in their brain, but now the image is in 3D and they can see how they're going to perform the surgery. Since they never had that information, that's fascinating.

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ALTERNATE

RRREEEAAALLLI ITITTI IEIEESSS

Research in Atlanta’s Field of Augmented Reality Interview with Maribeth Gandy Coleman, PhD

BY SHADY RADICAL

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Introduction

Augmented reality (AR) is “integrated

virtual content in a physical world as though that content is there with you… registered in 3D,” as described by Dr. Maribeth Gandy Coleman, a principal research scientist and Director of the Interactive Media Technology Center at Georgia Institute of Technology (GT). Think Pokemon Go, the yellow first down line on the football field of a televised game, the “virtual try-on” feature for eyeglass frames at Warby Parker or the app that allows you to place furniture in your home space at Ikea. Through AR-enabled hardware like a smartphone, eyewear or headsets, we can see, hear and or feel digital content in our physical environment in real-time.

The overall research goal for this particular project was to use AR environments to allow users to engage in virtual communication scenarios and to experience those situations through the “eyes” of different virtual participants to reveal the impacts of biases on the interaction and to study various forms of cultural conflict.

Cameras and sensors use Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM)

techniques to capture environmental data allowing for precise tracking, relative positionality, and accurate projections . While this content is designed to enhance our experience of reality, documentaries like The Social Dilemma (2020) or A Glitch in the Matrix (2021) demand we ask if that is all it does, can do, or will do?

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An AR headset allows a participant to practice teamwork skills with healthcare teams in the operating room environment by role playing stressful scenarios where power dynamics, bias, and cultural differences could impede effective communication. A key feature of the experience is that the trainee can experience the scenario from the point-of-view of different virtual team members. This project was done in collaboration with Emory University School of Medicine

Augmented reality (AR) is “integrated virtual content in a physical world as though that content is there with you… registered in 3D,” as described by Dr. Maribeth Gandy Coleman, a principal research scientist and Director of the Interactive Media Technology Center at The Georgia Institute of Technology (GT). Think Pokemon Go, the yellow first down line on the football field of a televised game, the “virtual try-on” feature for eyeglass frames at Warby Parker or the app that allows you to place furniture in your home space at Ikea. Through AR-enabled hardware like a smartphone, eyewear or headsets, we can see, hear and or feel digital content in our physical environment in real-time. Cameras and sensors use Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) techniques to capture environmental data allowing for precise tracking, relative positionality, and accurate projections. While this 50

Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment.

content is designed to enhance our experience of reality, documentaries like The Social Dilemma (2020) or A Glitch in the Matrix (2021) demand we ask if that is all it does, can do, or will do.

the apparatus and the body; and the type of software and/or hardware required for application.

INTRODUCING DR. COLEMAN THE SPECTRUM OF XR Our experience lies on a spectrum, with totally virtual at one end and completely physical at the other end. Virtual reality (VR) is completely sealed off from the physical world and requires some assistive technology like a headset, earpieces, and/or gloves. Extended Reality (XR) or Mixed/Merged Reality (MR) are umbrella terms that describe different combinations of real and virtual content. While all technologically-enhanced experiences are expressions of XR, AR and MR differ by levels of human interactivity with digital content; the relation between

Dr. Coleman has worked in augmented reality for the past 20 years and is currently working around the shift in virtual content and how we use technology in our everyday lives. As a Human-Computer Interaction Researcher she is interested in new media, how we apply AR to problems, and how we can improve peoples’ lives. For example, she explains how Zoom and other software like it, were not designed for or imagined as a communication device for everyday casual conversations and/ or the transmission of sensitive auditory information that the COVID-19 pandemic


necessitated due to new distance requirements. “Having a rectangle with a talking head in it is not the right display for all of these other kinds of interactions,” she said. While this has always been a concern for technologists, social distancing and the sudden spike in telepresence usage has moved these issues to priority creating opportunities in Research and Development and participatory projects.

IMTC Aside from her research, Dr. Coleman also directs the Interactive Media Technology Center (IMTC) at Georgia Institute of Technology. IMTC is a great example of how interdisciplinary this field is becoming. Not situated in any one school at GT, the Center brings together faculty and students from across the university to tackle issues and solve problems. It is important for the design of technology to be informed by cultural studies, public policy, sociology, gerontologists and disability researchers and professionals. If we don’t, we can quickly find ourselves as the protagonist fighting for our humanity in some sort of “Black Mirror” episode. Interestingly, at IMTC, “Black Mirror” is a series of cautionary tales. Researchers at IMTC design, develop, and test applications and technology, as well as train non-technologists or non-expert operators on use. Are you easily distracted by movement in your peripheral vision (i.e. your neighbor texting, tapping a pencil, or playing video games on their tablet) when trying to focus in on the biochemistry course lecture? With a Cognitive AR aid the noise in your environment can be diminished and the voice of the lecturer enhanced to provide a better-quality learning experience. But what if this technology can be programmed to diminish the visual and audio information emitting from socially, economically, or politically undesirable subjects as registered through the justice system? While this may seem like a solution to the U.S. mass incarceration problem by reducing the cost of physical imprisonment, systemic racism and disproportionately high exoneration rates of people of color, this type of mechanism can only exacerbate an already huge problem. Experiences of

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In 2007 a Georgia Tech team began researching what visual elements of an AR experience are needed to trigger realistic physiological and behavioral responses in users. This AR testbed presented the user with a scary virtual “pit” in the floor of an otherwise normal physical room. Ten years later the team built an updated version of the pit to explore how advancements in computer graphics have affected the users' experience.

alienation and “social death” as a result of enslavement and perpetuated by the racial capitalism would be intensified through a virtual exiling.

OTHER PROJECTS – NASA, COGNITIVE AR, SMART HOMES Therefore, research needs to be guided towards more positive outcomes for everyone. Dr. Anne McGlaughlin, Professor and Director of Learning, Aging, and Cognitive Ergonomics (LACElab) at North Carolina State University works with agencies like, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration program (NASA) to create taxonomies of variables that can affect the use of cognitive aids and toolkits to “support non-expert operators with complex tasks.” Variations in technology literacy, expense, and disabilities or limitations are all factors that affect accessibility and how aids can be used, like in Smart Homes. Smart Homes is an area of increasing popularity for AR due to health and aging factors that produce people in need of assisted living. By incorporating AR technology in the home we, as a society, can aid in the security, comfort, and convenience of vulnerable communities and quickly improve quality of life. However, the level of efficiency and benefit depend on the technological literacy of the users. This is where training is the key determining factor.

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SPECIAL EFFECTS, AR, AND FILM INDUSTRY IN GEORGIA Augmented Reality in film production is usually a part of the diegesis appearing as a really cool part of the mise-enscene produced by the special effects (SFX, SPFX, FX or F/X) or visual effects (VFX) department. The availability of technology has made it easy for FX or VX artists to incorporate visual features into the storytelling. “A lot of that stuff actually looks better than what we do because it can be rendered off-line,” says Coleman. The real-time/off-line divide depends on the rendering techniques and time constraints. AR requires realtime and super-fast rendering, while film production can use off-line, slower and more expensive techniques, with more precision and definition.

TOP AR DEVELOPERS IN GEORGIA Georgia is at the forefront of an 80 billion dollar gaming and entertainment industry due to Georgia’s production tax incentives, venture capital funding programs, and leading research labs at GT, Savannah College of Art and Design, Georgia State University, and Emory University. Participatory studies attract a diverse group of people with different backgrounds, talent, interests, and professional affiliations. There is no doubt that our everyday lives will become more dependent on and influenced by

AR technology, from how we experience art and cultural programming to gaming designs in Stroke recovery programs. AR and VR companies are also leading the nation in design and development. Spinning Rock, a Mixed Reality Studio, partners with artists and brands to produce AR experiences on Instagram and Snapchat, on the web, or installed in our physical environment. CaptivatAR: Human Experiences in Digital Reality creates AR treasure hunts attracting potential customers to physical stores and companies through geomarketing tools. Atlanta’s film, television, and entertainment industries offer so many resources and opportunities for artists and creatives seeking to produce interesting and new content. Earlier this year Trick 3D studio and Music Matters Productions announced Music Matters XR Stage, Atlanta’s first Extended Reality (XR) soundstage. With state-of-the-art technology and techsavvy crew, Atlanta’s film, television and entertainment industry will surely surpass other big cities in virtual production.

GAMING – SERIOUS GAMES AND GAMING CONVENTIONS/ EXPOS IN ATLANTA In addition to the production studios and resources, Atlanta hosts a number of Gaming expos and conferences attracting people from all over the world. Between DragonCon in September, MomoCon in May, Southern-Fried Gaming Expo in August, and DreamHack in November, there are plenty of fans and enthusiasts converging in this small city to trade secrets, share new technology, and geek over new applications, software, toys, and tools. From weekend gamers to professional technologists Atlanta has a range of activities and opportunities to support virtually any level of interests, like virtually.


Darryl’s Entertainment practice includes the representation of on-camera personalities, production companies, actors, photographers, musicians, songwriters, producers, models, and talent agencies. In the area of Criminal Defense, with over fty years of expertise, he has represented the entire spectrum of clients. Many of his clients and cases are a high-proole entertainment-related cases covered by the national media.

Complementing his legal practice, Darryl frequently appears as a guest commentator and legal expert on local and national news/news-related programming, including Court TV, e Nancy Grace Show, and local network affiliates. He is also a past chairman of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Darryl’s Hospitality practice includes the representation of meeting planners, hotel reps, and rep destination management companies (DMCs).

3330 Cumberland Boulevard, SE Suite 600 Atlanta, Georgia 30339 Phone: 678.483.1900

email

dcohen@coco-law.tv

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BY B. SONENREICH

IN 1979, JIM AND ARLENE STEFANI BEGAN MAKING FILM SLIDES FOR MOVIE THEATERS. THEY WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE COMMERCIALS WATCHED BEFORE WAITING FOR THE FILM TO START. BEFORE POWERPOINT MADE ITS WAY INTO THE WORLD, THE STEFANIS WERE CREATING SLIDE PRODUCTIONS FOR CORPORATIONS. THEY WERE EXCITED BY CREATING MEMORABLE MOMENTS FOR BUSINESS MEETINGS, PROVIDING AUDIO, VIDEO, AND LIGHTING THROUGHOUT NORTH AMERICA W I T H T H E I R C O M PA N Y, M U LT I I M A G E G R O U P.

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oday, the company is a woman-owned, family-run production company that houses two brands, AV Rental Depot being the second, 140 full time employees, an 80k square foot building, three silent stages, touring, and fabrication. Their vertical markets include tech, banking, pharmaceuticals, education, sports, live event productions, and much more. In 2020, slide shows are a relic of the past, but Multi Image Group is still wowing their clients, now with cutting edge hologram technology. In order to get a better grasp on how it all works, Oz sat down with AV Rental Depot’s General Manager of the rental and sales division, James Cullen. Cullen first asked what I already know about hologram technology. I recollected the moment when the late Tupac Shakur made a post-mortem appearance at the Coachella music festival in 2012. “That’s done in a large environment with a lot of square footage and an audience participating and having a point of view. Then there is a very minimized form factor with the same formula of bending light in a more TV sized type of installation,” Cullen explained. In the late 1860s, John Henry Pepper discovered and implemented the hologram effect. He installed large glass screens in theaters, set them at an angle, and they would catch the reflection from a brightly lit actor in an area hidden from the audience. Without noticing the glass screen, audience members would mistakenly perceive the reflection as a ghostly figure located amongst the actors performing on the main stage. “Pepper’s ghost is the discovery of how to bend light and create a holographic effect,” Cullen added. “There used to be a display in Epcot with a talking head. Basically, it was a video monitor facing up and then a 45 degree angled piece of glass. Your point of view is looking straight through the glass. The mirror bends the light and the point of view at 90 degrees, giving the optical illusion of a floating head.”

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“ T he di f f er enc e be t w e en digi t a l sign a g e being a f l a t p a nel displ ay in a lobb y or t er min a l a t a n a ir por t, is t h a t pe ople ju s t w a lk b y i t c on s t a n t l y a nd r a r el y look a t i t. I t’s c ommonpl a c e . A holo gr a m s t op s pe ople . T he y s t op a nd w onder, ‘ Ho w a r e t he y doing t his? ’ ” - J A ME S C UL L E N

Why integrate this technology into corporate trade shows as well as traditional establishments? Dwell time is key. “The difference between digital signage being a flat panel display in a lobby or terminal at an airport, is that people just walk by it constantly and rarely look at it. It’s commonplace. A hologram stops people. They stop and wonder, ‘How are they doing this?’” “The video can move around and show different sides of an object, because it’s a 3D rendered graphic,” Cullen described. Cullen gives the example of

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a glass bottle or an aluminum can. “You are laying a graphic over [the container] which is a moving video, and then, from the point of view that you are looking at it, it’s literally mapped onto the product. So you are making something that people can watch or choose a flavor for, for instance. Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite [laughs], an aluminum can is endless.” Multi Image Group and AV Rental Depot are working internationally with other companies to wow their clients and the prospective customers of their clients. “We partnered with a company in

Copenhagen, Realfiction, that are great partners of ours and we sell their product exclusively in North America,” Cullen said. “They are basically point in sale and digital signage holographic installations. We can ship them, put them in trade show booths, put them in jewelry store windows, and it’s the same light bending formula, but in a small form factor.” Bending light is just the beginning, one can only imagine the endless possibilities Multi Image Group has yet to offer for live, virtual, and hybrid events.


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hat if we can influence behavior in the real world based on experiences in the virtual world?” So begins Dr. Barbara O. Rothbaum’s 2016 TEDx Talk on using virtual reality to treat posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), phobias, and anxiety. In the same year, the first commercial version of Oculus Rift was launched alongside the HTC Vive and PSVR, and the Samsung Gear VR became a popular smartphone compatible alternative to more complex setups, prompting new outlets to position 2016 as the year virtual reality became a reality. In the years to follow, virtual reality has waxed and waned in popularity. Everyone from filmmakers and gamers to scientists and researchers have weighed buy-in costs for virtual reality with outcomes, pondered the role of VR in cinematic storytelling, and questioned how this immersive media can affect change. When it comes to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), VR can be used for treatment of various anxiety disorders—a field Dr. Rothbaum has been researching since 1993. In her tenure, Rothbaum has used virtual environments of warzones to treat PTSD, virtual bars to treat addiction, and simulations of planes taking off and elevator rides to treat phobias of flying and heights. “In general, what we do with cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders, including PTSD, is exposure therapy,” Rothbaum said. “What that is, is helping people to confront what they're scared of in a

therapeutic manner, so that something changes.” Prior to the use of virtual environments, exposure therapy was done using imagination or in vivo (in real life). In vivo can include sessions where a therapist accompanies their patient on a plane ride to confront a fear of flying or rides an elevator floor by floor until the patient is able to ride an elevator to the top of a skyscraper without anxiety. This process can be costly and complex. Virtual reality, however, provides a simulated reality for exposure therapy that is not only cheaper and more accessible, but it provides a new level of control for the therapist. In VR, the therapist can control the turbulence of a simulated plane or recreate a warzone—all without leaving the office. When comparing exposure therapy to treat the fear of flying in VR alongside traditional exposure therapy, Rothbaum discovered that VR was just as effective, noting that 90% of people in both VR and in vivo groups flew on their own after treatment. On the heels of this discovery, Rothbaum cofounded Virtually Better in 1996, an Emory and Georgia Tech startup that creates virtual environments for the use of treating anxiety disorders. Rothbaum noted that the success of VR is much more than a headset and visuals. “For real virtual reality, people feel a sense of presence in that environment. For example, I could show you a picture of the room I'm in and you'd get a sense, I could take the video of the

room I'm in, you get a little bit better sense, but you wouldn't feel present in it. If I had this room rendered in virtual reality that you would feel present, you could go under the desk,” Rothbaum described. “A lot of times when people show videos in a head-mounted display, they call it virtual reality, and I don't call that virtual reality.” When treating veterans with PTSD, Rothbaum explained that sound and kinesthetics aids in creating an effective virtual environment. “If they're in the Humvee, you can feel the engines on, you can feel the explosions, you can feel the vibration of the helicopter rotors, and it's harder to avoid because it's so evocative. We can recreate situations that we couldn't do in reality.” VR in CBT also relies on the patient’s imagination, as Dr. Margo Adams Larsen, Director of Research and Training at Virtually Better told Oz, “It's often really surprising to folks that our VR does not look like the highest quality gaming VR that's out there, and it's not because we can't do that. It's because what we know in the research is if we do that, we take away from the individualized ability of the intervention. Meaning the less detail there is, the more suggestion there is, the more the patient is able to map their imagination of, either what they're remembering or what their fear is, into that environment.” Today, Virtually Better offers suites of software including an Addictions Suite that hosts virtual environments of bars, parties, and surrounds patients July / August 2021

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with alcohol, drug, and nicotine triggers, a Phobias Suite, that includes virtual environments to confront the fear of elevators, bridges, roaches, flying, and public speaking. Virtually Better also has a Relaxation Suite for mindful meditation, muscle relaxation, and deep breathing, and a suite dedicated to Pediatric Sleep to promote healthy sleep habits in children. Through their work, Virtually Better has a global impact. “We have our systems in military bases in Germany and Canada and around the U.S.,” Larsen said. With the boom of consumer-friendly VR headsets and software, Larsen notes that the accessibility of exposure therapy extends even further. “Now with Oculus and Facebook buying Oculus several

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years ago, we've had this boom in the virtual reality industry that has really brought the price point of VR headsets and the quality at those price points to a place where a lot of consumers really have access,” Larsen explained. “Now for $3,000, you can get a computer and a headset and a suite of VR to really work with your patients in the office setting.” As for the future of VR used in CBT, Rothbaum looks forward to it becoming inexpensive and more accessible. “Right now the hardware price has come down a lot, but it's still expensive because we need our smart programmers to create virtual environments. They can create almost any environment that anybody wants, but it takes time and that takes money. So, I'd

love to see it get cheaper and be able to have more people using it just because it's more accessible that way.” Beyond CBT, Virtually Better is available to work with filmmakers as well. “If any films want to create a virtual reality, Virtually Better is local,” Rothbaum said. Virtually Better has been creating virtual environments for over two decades, and continually pushes for virtual healing spaces. In the current moment where industries have shifted online due to the pandemic, Rothbaum and Virtually Better have dedicated nearly 30 years of research on virtual healing, finding that healing online can and does translate to healing in the physical world.


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THE ART OF TAKING RISKS BY: JORDAN MOORE

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aking risks sounds better in theory than actually doing it; especially leaving a secure company with benefits to start a business right before Y2K. However, for brothers Shane and Eric King, the risk was well worth it. In 1999, Shane, Eric, and their third co-founder and friend, Colin Hill started their company three squared in Atlanta, GA. The name “three squared” was formed from there originally being three people coming together to make the company. “There were three of us that broke out of IXL (Shane’s

previous company he worked for while in New York) and said we were going to do this; we are young enough now where if we are really going to run with this and take a ride, let us see where it goes.” All in their 20s and full of ambition, the three felt young enough and decided that if they were going to take a chance in starting their own business, now would be the chance. 20 plus years later, three squared has grown astronomically to multiple departments and working with clients like WarnerMedia (Turner), Aflac,

Goodwill, Porsche and more. Specifically, three squared is a creative agency that helps clients with services like web development, content creation, branding, and other immersive media for multiple uses. Shane handles the web development and marketing for clients while Eric focuses on the video production. Shane states that focusing on video production and staying ahead of the curve technology wise has been a big attribute in three squared’s success. “Video has always been

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The King brothers put their AR/VR equipment to use during the COVID-19 pandemic

"[AR/VR TRAINING] SIMPLY ALLOWS US TO TAKE THE BURDEN OF IN-PERSON TRAINING OFF OF OUR CLIENTS' PLATE AND ALLOW THEM TO FOCUS ON OTHER WAYS TO ROLL OUT THE CONTENT SO THAT IT IS EFFECTIVELY EMBRACED BY THE ORGANIZATION." SHANE KING, THREE SQUARED

an anchor of the business. “We’ve seen a lot of cool transitions in the video market. Video underwent a transformation earlier than web development where everyone had a camera and were making their own videos; The bottom line is if you’re going to produce content for big brands - you’re going to need to do it right,” Shane King told Oz in a one-on-one interview. Led by Eric in the video department, three squared assembles crews of several creatives that work together to produce high quality content for their clients. These are also not just your average commercials or product videos either; three squared helps create content that companies can freely use to manage, train, market, and develop their business. “I don’t know if there ever was a client that we didn’t talk into doing some type of video production services with us,” 64

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King commented on the importance of video for companies. Since the late 90’s, it is fair to say there have been a number of technological advances that have helped shape the industry today and have also made things more convenient. In the past, shooting a feature film or a commercial on a DSLR was almost laughable, now it is the norm. Now, AR/VR technology has made it possible to immerse yourself in the video and experience everything first hand. The challenges of keeping up with today’s technology can seem a little overwhelming; but, for King and his colleagues they have overcome our ever growing technological world by making things fun. “One of our clients is a manufacturer that makes plastic wrap for every major brand you can think of; that may sound

boring to some - but what’s not boring is they have to continuously train people to work on the machines. Through AR and VR, we give them the opportunity to self teach themselves in a fun way that has proven to help them retain the information,” King said. Shane believes that the incorporation of technology into business in this particular way is going to be much more common in the future. Shane and Eric’s background working with IXL introduced them to a tech industry and how fast it can grow; they have incorporated that experience and knowledge into their business to help them stay efficient with new technologies. “Whenever there is a new technology being demoed or introduced, we always sign up immediately to learn about it and see if it can help us with new creative ways to do work and make things sexy for our clients.” Making things enticing for their clients is one of three squared’s strengths. As mentioned, they have over 20 years of success and have worked tirelessly to


Shane and Eric King of three squared

come up with new ways to really help their clients learn new modes of engaging with their businesses. One of these ways incorporates the aforementioned AR/ VR technology. Initially Shane and his colleagues introduced incorporating AR/ VR technology to their clients as a novelty for marketing support; however, that quickly evolved after clients realized the potential - one of the upsides for Shane are training videos. “Research shows us that training using a virtual environment [selfdirected] allows for a retention rate of upwards of 40-50% over traditional classroom and/or face-to-face training. Additionally, when we create these virtual programs it provides the training in a way that is always available for consumption [on-demand].” This gives their clients an opportunity to create a new organized streamlined way to train and keep their employees up to date with new equipment and/or policies; this is especially beneficial to large companies with several departments. King mentions that this also helps them remove the burden of in

person training off of their clients plates and allow them to focus on the rollout of the content for their organization. Introducing AR/VR technology to their clients was a challenge well worth the reward for three squared. “Initially it started out as more of the novelty of trying something new and exciting, but it has quickly started to turn into a really productive means for all types of business. “We really got excited about the whole idea of training in general when we were able to create platforms for clients like The Home Depot, when we worked on their “How-To” initiative. From a pure process side of things, I also feel like our experience creating websites has really helped. Years ago we started utilizing more of an iterative approach to what we were doing and that is now translating well into AR/VR. Clients don’t want to have to wait long for something to be ready for a release – they want something highly creative, but they want it interactive and they also want it to get produced in the most efficient way possible,” King explained. “Our

knowledge and experience on how to make that happen has really served us well.” Through incorporating AR/ VR into their strategy of marketing and branding for businesses it helped educate their clients and open them up to new possibilities for how they do things and work with content. Imagine debuting a new product and allowing your customer base to interact with your product virtually and really see the benefits of it; or, imagine training your new employees in a unique way that has proven to help their retention rate. Most exciting, imagine engaging with the future of technology that is both fun and accomplishes business needs. three squared is excited about this new wave of technology and believes it is going to be essential in the coming years with how businesses engage their audiences and work with their employers. “While it is relatively new in terms of how businesses are learning to utilize it, there is no turning back now. AR/VR – with the expanding world of MR (mixed reality) we July / August 2021

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are combining the best of both methods to offer a more realistic experience. These roads all lead back to AR/VR being one of the best ways to engage and inform target audiences.” Technology isn’t the only thing that three squared had to adjust to; the recent pandemic has been a challenge for everyone - especially in the workforce. Generally, Shane and his colleagues would gather in a room with large white boards and toss ideas around. Because of the virus, they were not able to physically sit together but were able to virtually. This is another reference Shane uses to illustrate how technology is evolving and helping businesses become more efficient. Using technology and their creative minds, Shane and his colleagues were able to create new ways to present to clients and work together. “The ideation process was the most challenging because you get more energy in a room with people than over Zoom; however, our past experiences and history of working with each other helps us adjust and be comfortable in a virtual setting. Once we got the ball rolling it became easier to adjust,” King commented that the one key to three squared’s success is 66

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their teamwork and collaborative effort. “Everything we do is a collaboration.” King emphasizes that teamwork is what has helped them adjust because now, through new technology, there are many ways to do everything. He attributes this and being open to change to his company's 20 years of success and staying in business – even through a pandemic. “If every few years you don’t take the time to reinvent yourself a little bit, you allow yourself to fall behind. Take the time to pick your company apart and innovate, reiterate, and apply those changes. The goal is to work smarter, not harder.” The toughest challenge for them in the beginning was just learning the business side of things. As a business order, education and experience on how different departments operate has helped Shane communicate with his colleagues and help run the business. “I could not even think about being in a room talking with my colleagues and not having any basic knowledge about what they are saying or what’s going on.” Utilizing his open mind and expressive spirit, King has successfully worked with his team to create awesome work and overcome challenges.

Although three squared has had a number of successes, for King, it feels like they are still getting started. King says he often discusses with his wife that they still haven’t fully acknowledged the amazing things they have done; however, it is fun to look back sometimes and see that they have done some incredible things. “I’m not going to sit back and say look how awesome we were five years ago because that would have been five years ago. Initially, three squared started working with small companies and then after time major companies and corporations. The moment when they realized they were working with a number of well known clients, is when they realized they were really running a business.” “We set out to work with clients that were reputable, could pay their bills because they know we’ll work hard for them.” Since the company was founded, the company has operated in Atlanta with a small, intimate team of local creatives. “We’ve always enjoyed Atlanta and it has always felt like home, so it was only natural that we started our company here.”


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