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[Exclusive] This Electrified Pirate Ship Was Made with a Virtual Reality Paintbrush

This prototype could wind up in a music video for the Philharmonic Orchestra of New York.

by Beckett Mufson
Dec 21 2016, 2:30pm

Walking the plank isn't so bad on this impressionistic Tilt Brush virtual reality painting of a pirate ship. Australian artist Stuart Campbell and Amsterdam-based designer Alan Nguyen spent three days painting a scale model of a massive boat caught in a lightning storm using the virtual reality paintbrush. They made a video showing off the result that soars from bow to poop deck, revealing details like a fully-decorated cabin, a cabin boy, and several sailors who have flown overboard.

The details are painstakingly accurate, as far as the relatively new medium of Tilt Brush 3D illustration is concerned. Even established artists lean toward abstract or flat art when confronted with the virtual reality software's fast 3D canvas. Sutu has made several immersive worlds with Tilt Brush, but the Flying Dutchman piece is the biggest that he's revealed to the public so far—and it's only a storyboard for an even larger effort.

Sutu and Nguyen are currently finalists for a competition the Philharmonia Orchestra of New York (PONY) is running to find collaborators on an epic music video. "Symphonic Storyboards" received submissions from filmmakers in over 30 countries, and now the duo is among the top 10. 

In a video showing off the 3D drawing, the camera soars across the sculpture like a roller coaster while the PONY blasts Wagner's "Flying Dutchman Overture" in the background. "The grandiosity and emotion of Wagner's music is matched with the cinematic possibilities that a VR space offers," Nguyen tells The Creators Project. "In VR, the camerawork is only limited by the imagination: an audience's view may start in the heavens, follow the journey of a lightning bolt downwards, across an expanse of water towards a ship, and finish on a terrified sailor’s face. When Tilt Brush's audio-reactive brushstrokes are enabled, parts of the paintings come alive: flickering and pulsing in time to the music."

Should their selection be chosen, the duo is brainstorming personalized VR experiences for members of PONY's audience. Campbell also dabbles in augmented reality, and in the process has developed a technique for greenscreening Tilt Brush drawings into his physical environment, so you can see his process in action here. Below, check out the ship and 

See more of Sutu Eats Flies' work here.

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