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Tanya Leal Soto LaunchPad Weekly Updates

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 Tanya Leal Soto - LaunchPad Weekly Updates- Weeks 1 & 2

My name is Tanya Leal Soto I’m a Creative
Producer, Storyteller and Content Creator for multiple platforms. I have worked
in Theatre, Film, TV and Art Exhibits for the last 15 years.

I have a fascination for immersive experiential
entertainment, I started working in transmedia because I saw the opportunity to
let the spectator wonder through a fantastic world; as opposed of just telling
a slice of a story like in a book or a movie, the spectator can wonder and
decide what he/she wants to know further, what character to follow, etc.

I’ve experimented with immersive theatre
and web storytelling and it was only natural that I felt attracted to VR.
Currently, and since I have a theater and filmmaking background, I’m
experimenting with 360 video, hoping that I can add interactivity to it.

Another thing that attracted me to VR, is
the potential to play around with my favorite genre: Magic Realism, and its
main characteristic of accepting magic in the rational world.

In this Blog, I will be writing about two

“Vagabond” - Deals with the main topic of diversity
by exploring a variety of cultural backgrounds thru the magic of dance while
being transported to different spaces.

- An exploration of a continuous narrative in 360 where backgrounds and
characters physically change in front of our eyes, reveling the artifice but
allowing for magic.



Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can not be
acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's
lifetime.” - Mark Twain


I have been developing this experience together with VR Director Jessica Kantor.
This project will explore the cities of the world from the knowledge of
the eyes of the locals. Vagabond is the study of diversity throughout
neighborhoods of iconic cities. Expressed thru dance and experienced in
3D 360 Virtual Reality. 

The First edition of VAGABOND will be an
exploration of several neighborhoods in Los Angeles. From its eclectic
ethnicities, its creative communities, the wealthy sections, and the
hard corners. In the end, the viewer becomes a vagabond, floating
through and discovering what gives each neighborhood character. 

You put on a headset and find yourself in an empty warehouse. 

You could be anywhere in the world. 

group of dancers will approach you, each dancer (or pair) depicting a
specific neighborhood of Los Angeles. As the dancers move around the
space, you'll naturally choose to watch the dancer that intrigues you
the most.

Simply using your gaze, you make an unconscious choice
and the entire space will transform into that region of Los Angeles.
Projections on the wall will showcase the chosen neighborhood, the music
will adjust and the movement will match. Once that moment ends, the
dancers will rewind, the camera will lift slowly to reveal a map below
where you can choose a new neighborhood to explore. 


Next Steps

We are currently looking for funding.

There are some new ideas to flesh out including the use of volumetric capture.

a first step we would like to have a small team: Director, Producer,
D.P., Choreographer and Composer go and scout different Los Angeles’
neighborhoods and work on developing the different sections for this
project by really embedding themselves in those communities.




For this project I want to build a
structure that will allow for flat panels to come in and out of said structure to
experiment with moving them as set pieces like in old school theatre where say
buildings, trees, the sky, would appear and disappear on stage as a manner of
transition between scenes. 


The challenge of course is that this would happen
not in a stage but in a 360 environment.

The main goal is to follow the actions of
the main characters as they move around the space, backgrounds will change and
different elements appear or disappear.

I have called this project carrousel
because it will all be centered on the image of a vintage carrousel, with
fantastic creatures. The experience will start inside it, as it spins and the
elements start spreading creating the world where the experience will happen.



I have a loose idea of the “story” which
will be full with elements of magic realism but which will have to adapt
depending on the images.

Now, when I said I will build a structure,
at least for the next three months and to have a “working prototype,”  I should mention I am a puppeteer and this
structure will be well, puppet size. 


I’ve just acquired a KODAK SP360 4K camera
and will start doing several test with it.

I will design a mock up of the structure
so I can build it and continue testing the camera. As I design the structure
and the images I will start locking the story.

 Tanya Leal Soto - LaunchPad Weekly Updates- Week 3


We have continued working on our concept proposal
and developing our research components.

One of the things we are thinking about is
the potential of using volumetric VR to capture the dancers.

We spoke briefly with 8i; they mentioned
to us that their capture is not amazing for dance and so far we have been told
it might be better to explore other ways to capture the concept with mocap /

I also want to connect with Uncorporeal to
see if they could potentially help us with capturing the dancers – if anyone has a connection I would really
appreciate it.

Another aspect we brainstormed was the
design and look of the visuals, we have been inspired by Dustin Yellin,
specifically his Psychogeography




We have reached out to Mr. Yellin hoping
he might be interested in partnering with us and perhaps helping us create the
inner life of the neighborhoods.

 I’ve also connected with Film LA and will
be meeting with them to discuss a potential partnership; we feel we need to
properly dive into and explore the LA neighborhoods since they will be in
essence the characters of our project.

We are reaching out to potential
choreographers, composers, etc. to solidify the core team of this project.

My partner and I are meeting this week to
look at next steps.



I now have the right short story for this,
inspired on Gabriel Garcia Marquez One hundred years of solitude. Even though
the story is only one page, I do not think I will shoot all of it for the
“prototype,” I plan to spend the next week creating some storyboards thinking
on the assets I will need.



I played around with the KODAK sp360, the
2 camera rig set up is pretty easy to use. I’m looking at this camera to shoot
the prototypes as I feel I can continue to experiment with it over the next 6
weeks and understand how to best represent my vision. Ideally for the finally
projects I would definitely like to use a higher end camera rig.

I also decided to go with the Kodak Sp360
because it will give me a better understanding of the problems with the stitch
lines, and what things to consider while storyboarding - obviously, stitching will exponentially get more complicated with more cameras.

At this time for stitching, I only
experimented with KODAK’s software, which is EXTREMELY basic and actually made
things a bit challenging. It can do an “auto-stitch” and although it has a
calibration option to correct the stitch lines, it is not very accurate and
once you fix one stitch, you cannot continue trying to “clean up’ the video,
which turns the fix into a “card game” basically, you can fix one stitch line
but if you need to fix another one later in the video, the image will adjust
altering the previous fix!


I also notice that depending on the
distance of the subject, it is hard to align the background and the subject to
“smooth” the stitch lines.

In the below tests, I was playing around with seeing where the stitch lines were, how thick they were and what kind of aberration they can produced at different distances.

For the first test I used the auto stitch from KODAK's PIXPRO_360_ Stitch

In the second test I tried using their calibration option to fix it with no success.

While trying to align the
stitch line to “fix” the subject, the background had to stretch doubling
elements in the background: look at the Astronomers Monument.



Lesson learned would be to mark the areas
of the stitch lines to keep them with locked elements and avoid characters
crossing as much as possible.

I also experimented with having intermittent lighting to “avoid” the stitch. It worked well but the low light
lowered the image's quality.

The other thing I notice, was that the
output on YouTube lowers the resolution severely, which is sad being that this
camera shoots in 4k.


I will try over the next couple of weeks
to get a license for Autopano which I’m guessing will give me much better
results. Also, I FINALLY got a replacement phone this
morning so I will be trying to play the flame thrower test on it! 


















Not applicable

Tanya Leal Soto - LaunchPad weekly Updates - Weeks 4 & 5


 We have created a timeline and strategy
for this project. At the same time we will be doing constant research on the
potential of dance in this medium.

My partner, Director Jessica Kantor, has
created VR Dance Project with the
intention of exploring movement within Virtual Reality and in order to create a
forum to introduce this new medium to the dance community.

The goals for VR Dance project are the

Experiment with the top dancers and choreographers in Los Angeles

Create an abundance of short form high quality content

Build an audience around 360° and VR dance content


With a spirit of experimentation, the goal
for the first round of the VR Dance Project is to work with
choreographers, dancers and musicians to create 1 to 3 minute 360° Videos once
or twice a month.

Two pieces have been shot at the Mack
Sennett Studios in Los Angeles; I will share samples once they are ready.


Ultimately we hope that these short pieces
will help us create strong relationships with musicians, dancers and
choreographers and a core audience for VAGABOND.

At the same time, we have been solidifying
our proposal, which we hope to finalize by the end of this month in order
to apply for funding, grants and sponsorship opportunities.

We received some very good feedback from
the Filmmaker Services Manager of the International Documentary Association
whose job is to evaluate documentary projects for funding. She also suggested a
few grants for this particular project. Being that VAGABOND’s main theme is the
diversity of neighborhoods on certain cities, it is eligible as a non-fiction /
documentary project.

Let me outline our strategy and timeline:


Continue experimentation VR-Dance through
– The VR Dance Project

Research on Motion Capture, volumetric VR
and options to create a more interactive experience. Seek partners that can
help us in these areas.

Continue research on gaze interaction and
game engine and how to apply it to our piece.

Note: We
have a first budget for Vagabond which will be adjusted after our research.

Finalize Presentation/Deck to be submitted
for Grants.

Lock down our choreographer and composer.
We are in talks with a couple of them but I would rather wait until we have
confirmed on the project to mention some names.

Continue the search of partners and
research on potential brands that could come on board as sponsors.


Apply to the following:


Oculus Launch Pad Scholarship

Sundance Documentary Fund

JustFilms / Ford Foundation

The Fledging Fund

Virtual Reality Venture Capital Alliance

Create a sponsorship deck and reach out to


Experimentation VR-Dance through – The VR
Dance Project

Research on Motion Capture, volumetric VR,
game engine/live action interactivity, binaural sound.

We are hoping to raise development
money to be able to do the first part of our project: Hiring our composer,
choreographer and DP and exploring the LA neighborhoods in order to start
creating the worlds inside them and inside our VR experience.

September – December

Develop the 6 different dance pieces that
will conform VAGABOND; cast dancers, hire our choreograph, composer and DP.

Capture footage and images of the

Acquire archival footage/Images.

Shoot tests.





March - May



We have an upcoming meeting with Film LA
to discuss a potential partnership, we have also reached out to the Los Angeles
Archivist Collective as we have the interest of working with an archivist to
create the world and story around and inside each neighborhood.


Attached is the short story I will use for
this project.

I have started working on storyboards for
it and figuring out what section is realistic for me to do as a prototype by

The high concept of the carrousel will
remain at the beginning and the end of the piece with the same image going
around the viewer. The video will be in a loop so as it ends, it also begins.

I do want to add an interactive part to it
which is what I’m researching at the moment; reaching out to a friend who could
help me do it as I don’t think my Unity skills will be up to snuff for it. My
idea is to add some gaze interaction that can give a bit more information on
the StoryWorld.

A lot of the inspiration for this project
is magic realism and its ability to unveil the artifice of fiction by
turning it into something normal that the spectator does not question, since I
started playing with the idea of making this piece with puppets, I have been
gathering inspiration from one of my favorite puppet creators Natacha Belova, who
keeps the puppeteer behind her characters using parts of the body of the
puppeteer as parts of the puppet itself.



I think this will go in line with the
magic of unveiling the artifice in 360° video, we can see everywhere and we can
see everything yet, as opposed of being uberly concerned with hiding the mechanisms
I want this experience to show them BUT make them part of the experience.

Can we let the magic surround us and just dive in the experience?


Level 5
I continue to love all your visual references!

Not applicable

Tanya Leal Soto - LaunchPad weekly Updates - Weeks 6 & 7


The past two weeks have been very

We have spoken with Film LA, organization
that will help us find further strategic partners hopefully with the City of
Los Angeles, the neighborhoods, historic societies and the neighbors

We have also finished our presentation and
have sent it out to a grant writer for proofreading and comments so we can
start applying to funding opportunities.

While diving into the history of some neighborhoods in Los Angeles we keep getting more ideas for the narrative part of the project. For example, we have been thinking on potentially incorporating characters who wear iconic figures on those areas, this has also been "powered" by the very interesting motion capture test we had with Kwesi Davis @3DNegro and his Perception Neuron gear!





us, this has been essential as we see the potential of using 360-degree video
together with a game engine. We are excited and researching on how to do a
hybrid piece, where we can see the dancers but also allow the viewer to walk
towards them and potentially when getting close, see them transform into an
“avatar” that would represent the history of the neighborhood perhaps through
“teleporting” into archival images of the neighborhood or by transforming into
an important character from that place.

Lots more experimenting to do!


I spent time doing research on VR
Storyboarding and doing some storyboarding myself.

Ok so those storyboards weren’t as
successful as I wanted… they did help me break the story and figure out the
different moments. They also filled me with ANGST of all the stuff I will need.

However I made a very interesting
discovery, at least for this particular piece; I realize I can use the 360° not only for what I’m shooting
but also for what comes in and out of the field of view. Of course there relies
the angst of all the stuff I need to make this happen.


So, while figuring out how to design for
an experience that exists 360 simultaneously and how might my viewer engage
with it, I’ve started tracing what I’m calling “narrative paths,” actions that
can “move the story forward” while maintaining the viewer in the experience…


Together with those “narrative paths,” I’m
doing some new storyboards where I will also identify points of interest to
create what Jessica Brillhart refers as a mental pathway through the overall
experience or as she calls it, the Hero’s Journey.


Oh boy! one month left right?







Level 5
You might want to talk to Javier Molina at NYU

Not applicable
Thanks @DrSzilak! Yes I am familiar with his work and I'll cross my fingers so that budget allows us to collaborate 😉

Not applicable

Tanya Leal Soto -
LaunchPad weekly Updates

Weeks 8 & 9 

from Oculus LaunchPad

So I want to start
this post with a farewell to my Carrousel project from this forum.

Even though I
remember asking at the beginning if we could work on two projects, seems like
there was never a clear answer and now that the scholarship rules are out, it
is clear we can only apply with one project. I have decided to
move forward with VAGABOND.

However I will like
to write a last update for this project.

I spent weeks 8
& 9 doing several tests for Carrousel figuring out a scale for the puppets
and the background panels so I could shoot a working prototype.

I partner with a
Production Designer friend of mine who has experience on theater and more
importantly, with dioramas. This was very useful as far as creating the
elements on a small scale and being able to demonstrate the characters,
backgrounds and stage movements in relation with the camera. It is interesting
to see the different results as far as proportions on a video file on the computer and watching the
footage on the Gear VR.

We had fun playing
with some hand puppets and some tiny dolls that help us figure the scale, we
were able to find a relationship of how far should the camera - characters –
backgrounds – and sky features be from each other and what size we need to
build everything.


We also played
around on how to build the stage and we figured we need a circular platform that
we can cut in half, or two circular tables that we can separate to allow for a
space for the camera and a gap of 3 feet from the lenses to any object that
appears in front of them. We are doing this test this weekend.


We also design a
dome type structure that would allow us to light the “stage” from the outside;
we designed a gap in the middle so we can introduce elements such as the sun,
clouds, some birds, the moon and stars.

We had selected 3
moments from the script to shoot and all and all we had a solid plan for a
prototype on a small scale.

However now that
I’ve found out that I have to choose one project and that I’ve decided to use
VAGABOND instead of CARROUSEL, I do not want to stop working on this idea
therefore, we have decided to go ahead and create this project as a whole piece
almost like a moving diorama.

It will be done in a
smaller scale than what I was originally planning, but after evaluating all the
time and work spent on it, I’ve realized it can be an original finish piece.


 The last two weeks were spent working a bit
more on the motion capture tests and doing more research on the creative side
of the project.  We put in paper what we
want to see as the fully Immersive Experience:

You put on an HMD (Head Mounted Display or VR
headset) and find yourself in an empty warehouse. You could be anywhere in
the world. 

A group approaches you, each dancer (or pair)
depicting a specific neighborhood of LA. As the dancers move around the space,
you'll naturally watch whichever dancer intrigues you the most.

Simply using your gaze, you make an
unconscious choice and the entire space transforms into that region of Los
Angeles. Projections on the wall, showcase the chosen neighborhood, the music
adjusts, and the movement matches. You can wander around the space and explore
the dancer. If you look down, your body transforms into the form of an iconic
person that helped shape the neighborhood.

If you and the dancer collide, you enter
inside the dancer which feels more like a portal to the past. You’ll see images
and projection and even a mirror to explore who you are. You hear the heartbeat
of the dancer and feel their heavy breathing. As you step outside the dance

Throughout the arc of the 3 minute dance, the
dancer evolves from a person to a CGI representation of the world they are
depicting. Once the exploration of the neighborhood ends, the dancers will
rewind to the moment where the choice was made, and, the camera will lift
slowly to reveal a map below where, with your gaze you can choose a new
neighborhood to explore.



We also had several meetings with some potential partners
and we will hopefully be solidifying those potential partnerships at the end of this week. 

For the next couple of weeks one of the main goals will be
to work on the application for the Oculus LaunchPad.

Level 5
I look forward to seeing both Carousel and Vagabond, even if you can only do one via Oculus! I'd love to talk more about what you discovered when testing the scale/distance of the puppets, etc.

Level 5
love this. I may be incorporating some Butoh into my VR narrative game..Atomic Vacation. 

Level 4
Your work and diligence is inspiring! I hope to see more of Carrousel after August.