Kindred is a short and sweet experience that explores issues of non-binary, gender-questioning, and LGBTQ+ identities in the context of family. It’s an animated piece that manages to be both general and universal in it’s themes, but you learn at the end some of the more very specific ways in which it may be unique to the protagonists. We also talk about the character designs, and how the abstracted animation representations are able to withhold some information that allows for certain information to remain more occluded and then revealed at the end. It’s a brief experience, and I had a chance to watch it a second time before I interviewed director Bambou Kenneth. I ended up doing a shot-by-shot breakdown of the piece unpacking each scene, each perspective shift from 3rd person to 1st person and back again, and how being immersed within VR is able to provide another layer of intimacy to this story.
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[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to the Voices of VR Podcast. It's a podcast that's looking at the structures and forms of immersive storytelling and the future of spatial computing. You can support me on Patreon at patreon.com slash Voices of VR. So continuing on on my series of looking at different pieces from Venice Immersive 2022, today's episode is with Kindred with Bamboo Kenneth. So this is a short and simple piece that is looking at different LGBTQ plus issues and this relationship between this non-binary transgender person as well as a gender questioning foster child. And so Yeah, it's a really short and simple piece, and I actually had a chance to watch this piece twice. I saw it once at Thinness Immersive and had my impression of it. And during the pandemic, I had the opportunity to see pieces multiple times, and that was really helpful to be able to unpack a whole other layer. And so because I had a chance to see this piece a second time, then it was real fresh in my mind and able to kind of go scene by scene and break it down. And so I highly recommend actually seeing this piece first and then coming back and unpacking it through this conversation. But just different themes of identity and all these different LGBTQ plus issues and using archival footage in the context of the UK and how to fuse that into an immersive experience as well. And how the BFI and the Story Futures Academy is also collaborating on this project that is this larger anthology series that Kindred is a part of. So that's where you're coming on today's episode of the Vista VR podcast. So this interview with Bamboo happened on Thursday, September 8th, 2022. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.
[00:01:52.688] Bambou Kenneth: I'm Bamboo Kenneth. I've graduated art in New York in Parsons. And then I moved to Lisbon like three years ago. And since then I've been focusing more on like immersive art and storytelling, which fit kind of perfectly my agenda of like. Telling stories that are unheard through art. And I've discovered it's thanks to Electric Skies that I've worked with them once. And I was like, okay, VR is kind of this amazing opportunity of combine all of these different mediums into one. And it's very intimate. So there's a power there that doesn't exist in like galleries or films on screens and things like that.
[00:02:32.645] Kent Bye: Great. Maybe you could give a bit more context as to your background and your journey into VR.
[00:02:37.943] Bambou Kenneth: Sure. So my background is I do fine arts. I paint, I draw, I illustrate. I've done a few projects that are more like installations and 3D, but I see myself as a 2D type of artist. So when I met Michael O'Connor and Ben Cleary and Lee Harris, so it's Mr. Kite and Electric Skies, I knew about VR. I've even studied some things to do with VR and AR at school, but I think that looking at VR as a way of telling stories fiction and a place that is more like for higher art and not like cool ways of showing architecture, interior design. Like all of a sudden it opened a new door for me. So I've started as an art director because that's my background and that's what I know and love. And I worked on Glimpse for a year or so and Glimpse showed in different festivals. It showed in Venice twice and it won Cannes, it won on a sea festival. It's an amazing, I'm not objective, but I think it's one of the best VR stories out there. So, um, that inspired me to continue to work on that. And when, when the option of doing kindred appeared, it came from a story futures, which is a UK company in the BFI. Michael Connor offered me to start working on it as a writer and see how it feels. And it felt. It fit, you know, it just worked for me. And I felt like I wouldn't say I was completely ready to be a director. You know, it was a lot of experiment, a lot of mistakes. But now I feel after doing Kindred, it was a very intensive three months of work with animators and developers and a composer and an actor. It opened up even more options of how to use this medium in more creative ways for the future.
[00:04:29.616] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I really enjoyed the piece and I just had a chance to watch it again. It's a short and brief, poetic seven minute piece that it tells a story in different digestible chunks of different scenes. So maybe you could start with the overall arc of the story. And if when you say the story features in the British Film Institute, BFI, Did they already have the topic in mind or commission as a, you know, maybe you could start with where this began with Michael O'Connor coming to you at what stage it was at that point.
[00:05:01.548] Bambou Kenneth: So initially Story Futures and the BFI approached Electric Skies, which is Michael O'Connor and Lee Harris, and asked them to do a short immersive something. about a subculture in the UK, but they didn't have time for that. They were working on other projects and they just rejected the offer. And then three months later, Storyfuture called and said, listen, we had a group, the dropout of this project that is called Storytrails, which is 10 different immersive experiences, each to do with a different subculture in the UK. We needed to jump on and do this thing. And the topic is queer culture in the UK, which is a pretty why the topic, but what they did was they were able to connect us to Dr. Amy Tooth Murphy, who is an oral historian for queer history and working with her, we've been exposed to different stories and we could kind of like find exactly what we want to tell and what subject, what story we want to tell. It could have been anything. It could have been an AR app. It could have been a documentary, a fiction, whatever we wanted, basically. Yeah, so one of the things I've listened to out of hundreds of different stories and events in history, I've listened to this interview with the real Sid, whose name is Shall Not Be Sid. And the story felt to me very, very current, very something that is happening now, very something that is kind of not explored enough And then at the same time, so raw and obvious, like wanting to be a parent, there's something really simple about it. It's not like, should they take hormones? Should this or that? It's like the most, it's stripping back this whole concept of equality for queer people to a very raw place, full of emotion that I think anyone could relate to. And the way Rilsid spoke about it, it was just like, I'll contact Real Cid and see if they're interested in me telling their story and move on from there. So I've contacted them and they were kind of happy about the idea of a VR film that would be kind of like it was supposed to be fiction just inspired by the real story. But throughout the process, we kept on talking to Real Cid and it felt like it's kind of like this almost documentary. So it's really this combination of documentary and fiction. Yeah.
[00:07:26.055] Kent Bye: Hey, I'd love to hear you talk about the structure of the piece because it's not actually until the last scene that you really learn about Sid's identity, how they identify as non-binary, transgender. The way that the whole piece is built is that it's kind of like a universal story up until the last couple of scenes where you start to see more context as to what was happening in the first parts of the story. So just talk about how you're structuring that as the piece.
[00:07:55.677] Bambou Kenneth: Yeah, at first it wasn't this way. The way I wrote the script, we knew from the beginning who said and completely how they identified themselves as non-binary and trans. But as we worked on the animation, and we also had like a few people test the experience in London at some point, like 10 people, not a lot of people. I've released to these people two versions, one where we say the identity from the beginning and one that we don't. And we've learned that people who knew from the start of the story that Sid is non-binary trans, it creates some antagonism. And they put all of these stereotypes that they know or think they know about. It makes people feel less related. They have more questions. They have more ideas about who the person is. And I just figured out that I didn't want to fetishize trans non-binary people and surprise, they're non-binary. It wasn't to create a crazy twist as much as it was to let people reflect, upon their own biases by the end of the story and realize that there's more in common than not.
[00:08:57.552] Kent Bye: Yeah, in terms of the structure of the piece, it's like maybe five or six or seven scenes. It's not that long. And so I took away the impression of what the story was when I tweeted it out. And then actually when I watched it again this morning before this conversation, I was like, oh, wow, I wonder if that was a spoiler in a way that like the way that even I write about it is like giving people too much information. I mean, this is really one of those pieces that is better just to kind of walk in not knowing much about it. But I'm wondering how you like navigate that as you talk about this as a piece, because there's a bit of a narrative tension that's built by not knowing.
[00:09:33.076] Bambou Kenneth: Right, it's a good question, because till today, I don't have like, an answer that I'm fully happy with to that. Because this piece is made for every person. And at the same time, it's also dedicated to a certain community. And I know because my team is made from so many people from the community, from the non-binary community, specifically, how much it means to them to have such a piece. So I don't know who is my audience. It's like both. And that made creating a trailer, for instance, so confusing. Do we say or don't we say on the website, you know, do we mention the fact that they're non-binary? So we're kind of doing both things at the same time. I guess it's fine. Many people have watched it and said it was a complete surprise to come to the end of the story and realizing all along Sid was a transgender. And some people said, Oh, from the first moment I knew, and I guess some people are exposed to information before and some are not. And I'm fine with that. You know, it's interesting, because it creates an interesting discussion, having these two paths.
[00:10:37.123] Kent Bye: Yeah well I wanted to dig into some of the specific scenes that you have because you start off with maybe like a tabletop scene where you see Sid and then there's a scene where Sid's watching television and it seems like it's like in the 70s or 80s maybe early 90s. seeing a series of different television clips talking about LGBTQ issues in the UK and I'm wondering if you could explain if that was part of the research to edit together these clips and kind of bookend it at the end with some more up-to-date clips that see the change from the beginning and end but I wonder if you could elaborate on that process of those scenes of, because you're in VR, but you're watching a 2D television, which is compelling because you're from a third person ghost perspective on the side of Civ as you're kind of zooming in, but you're watching these clips. So it recreates the feeling of watching television in VR, which I think is effective. But I'm wondering if you could talk about the content of those video clips that you're including within this piece.
[00:11:33.499] Bambou Kenneth: Yeah, sure. So another thing that we got, like another condition we got from BFI and Story Futures is to use some archival material of the BBC and BFI. Like, I don't know if you've used archival footage before, it's a really, it's a bureaucratic, it's not a very creative process. But I did feel that for the whole animation, we made sure not to be too political, to be very universal, like you said, like something above politics and ideology. But then I thought it would be interesting to frame it in place and time, and kind of ground the story into a more real life angle. So I've used archival footage from the 80s. And when section 28 was introduced, and Margaret Thatcher, and like there was this waking up of all sorts of subcultures and minorities in England and the UK. because that's when Sid grew up. So it's both like a personal what they grew up into and also like the chronological order of how things went through in the UK until today. And another thing that was important for me and especially talking to Amy is not to present this black and white binary. It was terrible in the 80s and now it's perfect. But to show the gray areas in between of like, yeah, there were movements towards equality in the 80s, but it also was very backwards in many ways. And also now you see, like in the end of Kindred, you have the credits showing how it is in 2010, 20. It's also not this perfect, like LGBTQ plus parade and people dancing and celebrating life. It's the gray areas that are interesting. And I think it's kind of like, it gives just enough of reality into the piece without being on the nose. Or that's what I've tried to do. I don't know if it's actually, this is how I feel it is.
[00:13:33.396] Kent Bye: Yeah, I feel like it does a good job of setting the context because, you know, the very next scene is kind of a metaphoric way of showing that Sid didn't really fit in while they were growing up. And that you have these blobs, these red blobs, and there's one blue blob that's off to the side that's not fitting in. And so there's like a metaphoric translation of this experience of not fitting in. that is explored there and it then moves into the next scene of the child plopping in around and dropping the yogurt. But maybe you could talk about that scene and transitioning into that next scene because I thought that was kind of an interesting way in which that the medium of VR can start to use the spatial affordances to kind of elaborate on the points that are being talked about in this more abstract oral history audio narration that you're hearing in the background.
[00:14:22.947] Bambou Kenneth: Yeah, I feel like Kindred is pretty, it's using VR in a very, I don't know how conventional can it be in VR but in a pretty conventional way in the sense of like the 360 spaces, it's more 180 mainly and I felt like it's already such a complex story that I don't want to overwhelm audience with all sorts of interactions and then like behind and above and under. I do that a bit but like I feel like this blob scene is the closest thing to using VR and the beauty of it. You said it right, it is a metaphor of going behind those scenes in the 80s of people fighting for their rights. and going behind into almost like microbes or something that is bodily and like going into that place and seeing it not as people but as these shapes. I was trying basically to kind of break completely from the talking heads into this parallel universe where everything is purple and weird and not very, yeah, and let the viewer kind of like let go of everything at that point. If that makes sense, if that answers the question.
[00:15:37.205] Kent Bye: Well, I noticed in this piece that you're switching between a number of different scales, like you kind of start off with tabletop scale, and then you move more into like one to one scale. So you're in these rooms. And then from that scene, you're kind of watching from a distance from a third person perspective, and then you drop into a first person perspective. When the child's walking and the next scene, you're back to the third person perspective of watching Sid. And then the following scene, you're back in the first person perspective, watching the foster kid in the playground. And so it's a way you're kind of like jumping in between the perspectives in which that you're telling the story. Maybe you could talk about those perspective shifts through those different scenes.
[00:16:14.684] Bambou Kenneth: It began with just trying to navigate perspective in VR and what are the options. And from the way I understood it, it could be either or. Or you're embodied as a character, or you're not embodied as a character, and you're this third person from above. But once I've started kind of creating storyboards, I've realized that there is a lot of power in shifting those identities and playing with identity. Because on a few layers, first of all, non-binary people experience that change of identity and this seeing themselves from the outside and seeing themselves from the inside. And I think the same thing can be experienced in a certain level by the viewer of Kindred, kind of relate to the story, but also having the possibility of stepping back and seeing it from the outside and kind of work around empathy. So I made it kind of like a decision that I'm happy with, which we were afraid wouldn't work or would confuse people, but somehow it did work. Of playing the concept of identity and who I am as a viewer in this film and who is Sid in this film as well. So that's kind of what we were going for.
[00:17:25.930] Kent Bye: Yeah, I mean, I think it worked in a way that when I was watching the scenes, I didn't even notice it, just because it felt so natural. You know, I guess one of the things that as I learn about Sid being transgender and non-binary, then I immediately think back throughout the story and think about the avatar and the avatar that you choose. But I'm wondering as you go through the process of deciding how to design the avatar, what that process was like, if you worked with Sid to have an avatar representation that they were happy with. And yeah, I'd just love to hear about that process.
[00:18:01.384] Bambou Kenneth: Yeah, I think One thing that was very important for the team and myself is to avoid kind of like the archetypical, how a transgender non-binary person looks like. And there's kind of a, how do you call it, Tilda Swift. And like, there's kind of like this look you imagine for, a lot of people imagine for a non-binary person, which is usually like this tomboyish, skinny woman or something. And I wanted to avoid that from my ideological place. And at the same time, from my acquaintance with Sid and with Oli, I knew that they don't fall into these physical attributes. They're not there, right? So it felt like it's only asking for characters that would not be like very stereotypically non-binary. And at the same time, not very, not here nor there. And I think it's interesting to see people come out of the experience and kind of talk about Olly as a she, like it's obvious it's a she. And then some people talk about Sid as a he. Like it's, it's interesting that each person kind of, sometimes we, we unconsciously put the gender on them, which is interesting to see and I think another thing that was important in the characters is to make them feel welcoming and warm and to feel comfortable with them being around them not intimidating in any way not alien in any way and when we showed Sid and Ollie what we've designed they were very happy with it and Ollie kind of gave notes, I said it in the panel, of how they'd like their costume to look like. So they send like a presentation, a PowerPoint presentation with ideas for shirts and pants and hats. So we made some changes in the character to fit with how they want to be presented. So I think that was another fun part of it that I felt like we're giving them the place to express themselves as individuals and not only as ideas.
[00:19:57.819] Kent Bye: Yeah, and the final scene, I mean, we're well into the spoiler area, but at this point, it's a short piece and there's a lot of poetic stuff in here, but I think just kind of breaking down there, it's like the last scenes we have with Sid and Ali are on a seesaw where they're kind of up and down and they kind of end with them being level. I'm wondering if you can elaborate on what kind of meaning you were thinking when you had that final scene of them on the same level on a seesaw.
[00:20:28.180] Bambou Kenneth: Yeah, reaching equilibrium. That was the idea. And I think it's mainly about like, you know, it opens with this prologue of Sid as a child alone on the seesaw. So it's both like what happened to Sid as a child as being like a bit outcasted in society, but also it's a metaphor to like this imbalance between, the imbalance between like a person who was so outcasted and their place in society. And then at the end, I think I was trying to say like, they both are saving each other. They're both helping each other. There's a play of balance. I think they both deserve that in a way. It's not the story of like, Sid saving a child and like, or the child saving lonely Sid. It's kind of like this beautiful relationship of parent and child. And that's kind of like that and reaching equilibrium is kind of where they are right now, which is a healthy relationship of both of them allowed to explore their identities. And they have the space for that in their family.
[00:21:33.597] Kent Bye: Yeah and the previous scene when you're learning about Sid identifying as non-binary and being transgender and talking about how hard it was for them growing up and that a lot of the similarities between Ollie's gender questioning phases, early childhood, and just the fact that Sid can be there and support Ollie in a way that they were never able to be supported. So I thought that, and just the way that Ollie's there on the side and slowly scooching over with the skateboard as a pillow just next to Sid, I thought that was just a really nice way of also just communicating that in a spatial way. And you're right in the sense that when I first watched this piece, I never looked behind me and there was one scene earlier when Sid was in the when the room when I did look behind but there wasn't necessarily anything behind me and in its point in the experience that was vital to the story unfolding so it was just something that was more of a cinematic piece in that way but still give me a sense of spatial presence in these places and you know there are some moments where you have like the camera is pulling in or the camera is static my recollection at least at that point was that the camera was static and that maybe other times when the camera's moving is maybe more like you're trying to emphasize a point of tension or intensity. I don't know if you can speak about the camera movements that you have throughout there, which were like this kind of a slow pan in at different points to kind of emphasize something.
[00:22:59.099] Bambou Kenneth: I think if I'm not mistaken, they're too slow pan in. They're more camera movements like they're falling down with the toddler or flying up with the Ollie, the child. But the panning in is, so for the TV scene at the beginning, I think it's pretty obvious. We're trying to kind of like, we're passing Sid and now we're left alone between the TV and Sid. And then we go into the TV where we discover this world of blobs, which initially should have been like snow pixels of TV, but they just became blobs. It made more sense. But I think, yeah, it was a dramatic pan, but it also kind of like transitioned between two scenes. And the second panel, which is a very necessary panel on an emotional level, is when we're alone with Sid in the room. And we begin this with a lot of hope of Sid wanting to become a parent and being very hopeful. And I decided I'm going to adopt a child. I'm going to do whatever is needed. And there is daylight. And we create this kind of dreamlike child's room around us or home. we slowly go and become more desperate. Together with Sid, the light goes down and that point with the actor we worked on, there's a break. They break down emotionally. They start saying other people left as parents and I was rejected again and again. And this break that the actor did with their voice and like all of a sudden they speak more quietly, they almost whisper. So at that point I felt like Like from this place where we see Sid alone in that big space, all of a sudden we get closer to Sid. We're left alone with him. The main goal here is to kind of empathize with their emotion at that point as much as the viewer can, you know? So I think that's the idea of this camera movement.
[00:24:55.416] Kent Bye: Yeah, there's another camera movement I want to unpack here in a minute, but that scene where Sid is breaking down, there's a bit of a rejection and it's not really elaborated on until the very end, where you learn more about how Sid's transgender or non-binary identities were more than likely a part of their being discriminated against through that process, but you don't really unpack that. It's more of kind of an extrapolation that you make that that was why that happened. And wondering if you can maybe expand upon that moment and how there's probably a lot more to that story that could have been told, but may have been more spoiling later on. But how do you handle something like that when there's probably a lot more of that portion of the story that could have potentially been included in some capacity?
[00:25:44.205] Bambou Kenneth: Yeah, it wasn't easy to decide to drop. Like the majority of the real interview with real Sid, they really expand on all of those little things, like ticking a certain box that says father, mother, and you can't really tick any of them because you're a parent, you're not a mother or a father, all of these, like, take fatherhood classes, take motherhood classes, go to the bathroom as a male or female, all sorts of things that were never built towards people who identify as non binary. So it actually was very interesting to listen to it on the interview. But my goal with this piece is by the end of the piece to have people wonder what might have that been and maybe like explore a bit or discuss a bit what non-binary people or people who are not gender confirming might go through in that process. I do think in a different universe, I would have included some of these details, but I think for the nine minutes that they had, I prefer to leave it to the imagination of the viewer at the end. Again, I didn't want to be on the nose and I didn't want it to be too didactic. So I left it on a more general level.
[00:26:50.223] Kent Bye: I think it works because it's tapping more into the universal aspects of the story, and our brains are very good at making these connections by the end, because it is, like I said, a very short and poetic piece. And I needed to watch it again, for example, just to kind of see how the story had unfolded, just because I had walked away with an impression of this VR poem. But there's another transition that I really appreciated as well, which was the scene where you're in first person perspective watching Ollie in the playground for the first time and then there's a meeting and then you sort of shoot up in the air and you're flying and it's all like this the feeling of elation being on cloud nine metaphorically I guess as you're you're meeting your match I guess from Sid adopting Ollie and then flying through the sunroof that go back into the scene that we were talking about earlier, which was like this room that had set up lots of different child toys. And it's kind of like the children's room, metaphorically, that is empty, but now it's filled. But that was a really interesting way of coming back to this space that had this association of sorrow and grief, but now coming back in from this heights of elation and joy, back grounded into the earth, into just something that's very, mundane and simple and happy. So, but that, that visual transition between those, I think is probably a good example of how VR as a medium can start to go up into some of these metaphoric realms back down into the physical realm where there's a little, it kind of gets into a grammar that goes beyond just a cinematic language into a little bit more of a poetic spatial language that's unique to VR. I'd love to hear you expand on that specific transition.
[00:28:26.100] Bambou Kenneth: Yeah, I think I was inspired from the way Real Sid talked about that moment of the bump in meeting, that they go to this playground and they meet Oli as a friend of the foster family, so they don't identify as, I'm going to adopt you, maybe. And Real Sid describes Oli as being like a hectic child running from place to place, energy, like yelling, screaming, climbing on things. And you think, oh shit, that's terrible. But then they say, I felt such a connection. And for me, that was like, OK, I want to visualize that sense of, like, I found my child and take it to a more, yeah, like a poetic place. And I think it also is representative, like the flying through the sky represents kind of maybe both like the amazing connection both of them had. But at the same time, there's also like there's a path, a very long path they both went in order to get to a place where they are now a family. It's not just like, so they met and they became a family. They still are discovering themselves and discovering, they're still are inventing, reinventing the concept of family. So there's kind of like this constant moving that I liked. And I wanted to have it from Sid's eye because I wanted us to feel towards Ollie, potentially like the love that Sid felt. And you, you said it right. We come back into the child's room and now it's full of love and family. And interestingly, Riddle, Sid, and Ollie watched Kindred, I don't remember where in the UK, as part of the Unboxed Festival. And they laughed that in reality, they're probably more cozy than I showed in the last bedroom scene. And I was thinking about it that I made kind of, there's two meters apart between the skateboard and Ollie and between Sid. And if I had time, I'd go back and kind of make them closer. That's like where they are today, I guess.
[00:30:19.750] Kent Bye: What was their overall reaction of the piece?
[00:30:25.707] Bambou Kenneth: Surprisingly, I was so happy, you know, when you're so much inside of your piece, you stop understanding it. Is it good? Is it bad? Is it on the nose? Is it too metaphorical? Is it not enough political? And the reaction I got, both from people who watched it on Vox Festival and in Venice, where people were really touched. And I think that one thing that surprised me is that many people who are new to parenting are new parents. they were like, the people who came to me with the most like, emotions like they could relate to said in a way that probably I can't, you know, because there is something and wanting to become a parent that so many people go through, whoever they are. And it's not an easy thing to get through for so many people. So I think that's seeing the raw emotion of many people who are just becoming parents or just want to become parents. These days, it was I realized that there is some importance in that as well, you know?
[00:31:27.622] Kent Bye: Yeah. And I have a few unpublished interviews with Michael O'Connor about Glimpse. And I'm, I just had a chance to talk with Michael again, and we talked a lot about the spoilers and it's not widely available for people to see yet. And so I'm looking forward for that being more widely available so I can get those conversations out in a way, but I guess there's two questions. One is what's next for Kindred for folks to be able to see it. And also love to hear a little bit more about your experiences on, on working on Glimpse and what you took away from that project and applied to this project.
[00:31:59.609] Bambou Kenneth: Sure. So Kindred is going to hopefully continue touring on festivals. That's the goal. I hope it will happen. And once it will be done with the festivals, it's already available, so it will be easy to release it for the wide public, which is probably the most important part for me because When you have social matters in your piece, you don't want to preach to the choir. You don't want to show it only to the small bubble of people who will have the privilege to have a VR headset in their house or people who come to festival. You want it as wide as possible to reach more people. So that's kind of what is going to happen after the festivals, whenever that will be. Regarding Glimpse, I've learned everything I know from Glimpse about VR. And like the pipelines are so unclear when it comes to create a short or an immersive and VR. I've learned that there's a lot of trial and mistake and it's okay. It's part of what's, what it is, you know, creating VR. And I guess the creativity of how Ben and Michael think, the way they put emotion above everything and how they break down 360 spaces in order to tell stories. My head thinks in 2D, like in that sense, like They played with the scale. There was a point where Herbie and Rice, the main characters are like all of a sudden tiny and you're tiny and then you're big again. And all of a sudden, like the characters are real life. And at some points they're in a book. So playing with scale and dimensions and symbolism in ways that can't translate into just like a film. And above all, I think what I love about Glimpse is It's just so beautiful. And I think it's beautiful because they pushed the team really to everyone, to their edges. And they made everyone on the team really, really care about the project. So I think I've learned about managing a team to care and to want and like to fight for it as if your life depends on it a bit. I know it's not the same. Like Kindred is a very low budget, short piece. We did it in a short amount of time. It was all very hasty in a way, but having a team that is very enthusiastic and passionate about it and having them not sleeping at night, all of us together. And like everyone had a voice, like the lighting person said, listen, I think it doesn't make sense that Sid will look right at this point. It's important for everyone to have a voice on the team. And I think that's kind of like what I've learned from Glimpse. They always said the best idea wins no matter where it comes from. And that's kind of like what I took from there.
[00:34:42.089] Kent Bye: Hmm. Was there any other VR pieces that you look to, to get any stylistic or the grammar of VR inspirations around the style or the grammar of the language of VR that you're using within Kindred?
[00:34:58.133] Bambou Kenneth: I think all the ones I've watched in 2019 when I came to Venice, like LumiEyes and what's the name of the one that is about punk in New York?
[00:35:06.334] Kent Bye: Battlescar?
[00:35:07.635] Bambou Kenneth: Battlescar. And then there's the one, I'm sorry, I'm bad with names. There's the one with a father and his girl, child, daughter, and they drive through with a guitar. Pearl? Yes, thank you. And all of these were, were kind of like the main inspiration. But also there's like, I think they were in Venice this year. Soda Island, I think they're called, or the VR piece is called Soda Island. And that's quill work. and it's so wacky and I think like the color palette or the wackiness of some of the shapes were inspired by them. It's very different because we didn't work in Quill and our style is it looks more like a time-lapse than anything else I guess it looks a bit like time-lapse animation or something but their wackiness is just like I've waited for that wackiness in VR I've never really found that artist that takes it and make it especially weird and Soda Island did it and I was like okay I'm gonna borrow some of this into the piece. I know the piece is not very wacky, but like the pink and purple and rounded elements.
[00:36:14.079] Kent Bye: Yeah. And for, in terms of the animation, was it all hand animation or was it like motion captured in any way to kind of embody the different characters?
[00:36:24.344] Bambou Kenneth: No, it was, there was no Body Capture, it was all made in Blender and then in Unity. The animation team, Salamandra, never really created anything like that before. They worked on Blender to do like commercials and things like that. So it was their first film ever to do. So that was kind of like, we learned together how to do that. And like, sometimes we plan like a scene, like for instance, the last thing where you enter the roof. into the house. It was planned, and it was storyboarded, and everything was ready. And once we put it in VR, we realized that the head of the viewer needs to be really tilted down, like something really uncomfortable. And it was like, if one of us had more experience in VR, we would have predicted that. But because it was all new, we didn't realize that there's all of these other elements that aren't considered when you think flatly. But it was amazing working with them, because I think people who it's the first time they want to prove themselves and they also kind of like very excited. So there was a lot of excitement and making things work.
[00:37:31.008] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I noticed at the end, as I was going through all the different credits, there was the BFI, the British Film Institute, and also the Story Futures Academy. So is this part of one piece out of a commissioned set of other pieces that are going along with tapping into these other oral histories around the same topic? Or maybe you could talk about how Kindred fits into the context of this larger body of work that was being commissioned by the BFI and Story Futures Academy.
[00:37:58.827] Bambou Kenneth: Yeah, so Story Futures Academy, together with the BFI, together with Unboxed Festival, all UK based, kind of like made this thing called Story Trails, which is 10 different projects that are immersive, but it could be anything. It could be like an app, a film, a story, a game, an installation. And each of these 10 stories tells a story of a different subculture. It could be fiction or documentary or whatever. And each of these teams is a pretty small independent team. You know, it's, I don't know them personally. I don't know Ghost were one of the teams, but small independent production companies. Unfortunately, I didn't get to go to the UK and watch any of the other pieces. I've seen some trailers of some synopsis and it seems very interesting. There's like one about Dimensia, one about immigrants, things like that. And it's pretty cool because it's showing in Unboxed and all these random libraries in the UK. So people who come to the library just in the morning get to see all of these different experiences. Hopefully, I'll get to go there before the festival ends.
[00:39:07.245] Kent Bye: Nice. OK, well, that helps give a whole context for this project. And yeah, I'm curious to hear a little bit about your thoughts on what you think the ultimate potential of virtual reality and immersive storytelling might be and what it might be able to enable.
[00:39:26.949] Bambou Kenneth: I think this year in Venice was the best example of like, where we are can go to and what it can reach in art and theatre and dance and film. It's just like this umbrella platform, you know, it's not just like, it's an umbrella for all of these arts to be able to be at every place at any time in your home. And I think that's pretty amazing. And it creates this intimacy that, for me, I thought about it a lot, I'd never be able to tell Kindred's story in a film, it's too intimate, it's too personal for it to be so big. So I think it allows the user or the viewer to be part of the artwork in a way that that is different. And I appreciate that. And I think that we can see that that's kind of like a trend that is happening in all in all different mediums, like the viewer as the creator and things like that, or, or everyone now, they say, like everyone now is an art director, there's a certain realness to that, that because of COVID and things like that, people are more involved in what they consume. And VR is the perfect place for this involvement to grow and become beautiful.
[00:40:33.798] Kent Bye: Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the broader immersive community?
[00:40:41.263] Bambou Kenneth: Just keep on creating. And yeah, that's it.
[00:40:46.646] Kent Bye: Awesome, cool. Bamboo, thanks so much for joining me here on the podcast. It was a real short and sweet poetic piece and I could see those influences from those other pieces like Battlescar and Gloomy Eyes, this kind of spatial transitions and you know from Glimpse playing with the scale kind of from tabletop and one-to-one and switching the perspectives from first to third person and Yeah, I just feel like it as a piece, it just works really well that carries a strong message. And yeah, congratulations on finishing it and showing it here at Venice. And yeah, thanks for joining me here on the podcast to help break it all down.
[00:41:21.459] Bambou Kenneth: Thank you so much, Ken. It was a pleasure.
[00:41:24.121] Kent Bye: So that was Bamboo Kenneth, who created the piece called Kindred, which was showing at Venice Immersive 2022. If you want more context for the wrap-ups, then I'd recommend checking out the episode 1121, where I talk about all the 30 pieces in competition. In episode 1144, there's an immersive panel that I did at Venice with some other immersive critics talking about the art of reviewing immersive art and immersive entertainment. I recommend checking that out in order to dig into a little bit of my own process of what I'm trying to do with these larger series and trying to unpack and discuss the art and science of immersive storytelling with a lot of these different pieces that we're showing at Venice Immersive 2022. So that's all that I have for today. And I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast. And if you enjoy the podcast, and please do spread the word, tell your friends and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a listener supported podcast. And so I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue to bring you this coverage. So you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash Voices of VR. Thanks for listening.