I make no secret of the fact that I’m a Star Trek fan. I started on a diet of re-runs of The Original Series (which remains my overall favourite, simply because I started watching it at an impressionable age, my early teens), and quickly got hooked on The Next Generation. Within Second Life, I’ve reflected this interest by writing about various Trek-related events or activities (see A Starship Enterprise in Second Life big enough for an avatar crew and Having a little fun with starships for example).
These experiences reflect a partnership with Roddenberry Entertainment, which has also seen the broadcasting of the Roddenberry Entertainment’s mission Logs podcasts into Sansar, trivia competitions, and Q&A events with acknowledged Trek experts.
This involvement with Trek continues this weekend with Sansar providing access to Star Trek cast members and guest stars who are attending the Official Star Trek Convention taking place in Las Vegas.
Linden Lab have announced the second live comedy event to be held in Sansar. The SF Sketchfest will take place between 13:00-14:00 PST (21:00-22:00 GMT) on January 12th at the new SF Sketchfest Playhouse. The event will feature comedians David Cross (Mr. Show and Arrested Development fame) and Amy Schumer (MADTv, Insatiable, Shameless), together with openers Irene Tu and Chad Opitz).
Compared to the Comedy Gladiators event hosted in Sansar on December 10th, 2018 (read more here), the SF Sketchfest is receiving fairly low-key and what seems to be very short-notice advertising through social media (by contrast, Comedy Gladiators was promoted via a press notice via the Lab).
Ticket for the event are USD $4.99 each, and can be purchased directly from the Sansar Store.
These events utilise Sansar’s Broadcast capability, allows avatar audiences across two or more instances of an experience to experience performing avatars, with instances allowing a greater opportunity for friends to attend the vent together (although more work is required to make this more fully possible).
SF Sketchfest is also the second official Sansar event to use the platform’s new ticketing capability, which – when expanded – will be a further means for creator / experience holders to monetise their offerings in Sansar.
On Wednesday, November 28th, Linden Lab announced a new series for Sansar: Comedy Gladiators, hosted by American comedian and television personality, Steven Hofstetter, which Linden Lab describes as:
A live comedy showcase that lets anyone, anywhere step directly into a comedy club for the night. The series will allow fans to do everything in VR that they would do at a real-life comedy club: purchase tickets in advance, shop for custom merchandise and memorabilia, even order drinks.
The first event in the series is scheduled for 19:30 Pacific Time (US) on Monday, December 10th, and will feature the talents of Ben Gleib, Maz Jobrani, Alonzo Bodden, and Mary Lynn Rajskub – perhaps best known on television for her role as Chloe O’Brian in the action thriller series 24.
Comedy Gladiators represents a number of firsts for Sansar.
It is the first ticketed event on the platform. Ticketing is a capability the Lab have been developing for a while for Sansar, with the idea that in time, experience creators will be able to sell tickets to events held within their own experiences.
For Comedy Gladiators, tickets are offered for sale through the Sansar Store at US $4.99 through until December 5th, and then US $9.99 thereafter, up to the event itself. I would anticipate that in the future, experience creators will be able to sell their tickets the same way.
Another interesting factor with Comedy Gladiators is that it mixes the ability to purchase both virtual and physical through the Sansar Store – in this case, copies of Hofstetter’s latest book, Ginger Kidd – with the virtual goods including t-shirts, beer mugs.
Finally, the series is potentially the first large-scale showcasing of Sansar’s “Avatar Broadcasting” feature. This allows performers and presenters working from a single stage / experience in Sansar to reach a potentially unlimited audience through multiple linked instances of the event.
Every day, I get emails and DMs from fans who want to see a live show, but they live in parts of the world I’ll probably never tour in. VR allows those fans to not only see a live show, but feel like they’re part of a bigger community.
– Comedy Gladiators host, Steven Hofstetter
It’s not clear where else the event is being advertised – in checking various websites, including Hofstetter’s own, I didn’t come across any direct adverts. However, the media have picked-up on the event, with reports in the likes of Variety, with the original press release being reproduced in multiple on-line media covering business, VR, and entertainment.
The Lab is clearly hoping for big things from this move, with Ebbe Altberg noting:
By bringing these commercial opportunities into VR, Sansar is taking virtual events to a whole new level – enhancing and expanding on what’s possible in-person. We look at Comedy Gladiators as the first ripple in a larger wave – the first event of many more that bring entertainers into VR.
– Ebbe Altberg, Linden Lab CEO
It’s not clear how often this series will take place, or whether this first event is simply experimental. However, it is a daring move to bring something new and different to VR, and to extend the concept of social VR within the realm of entertainment.
One potential stumbling block is the comparatively low uptake of VR headsets; given Comedy Gladiators is being promoted as a “social VR event”, without very clear underlining that Sansar can also be enjoyed as a desktop activity, there is a risk people might avoid the opportunity to join the audience even if advertising does reach a wide audience due to the misapprehension that a VR headset is a requirement.
On a personal note, I am also curious as to the origins of this series – Comedy Gladiators is a monthly live event held in Bristol, UK – which I believe is where Sansar’s community manager, Eliot, originally hails from…
Drew Struzan is a giant in the fields of art and film. Over his 40-year career, his talent has graced more than 150 movie posters for some of cinema’s most memorable films – including Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, and Star Wars – and extends to book covers, album covers, and other fine art. And on Friday, March 23rd, his art will be available within Sansar as a part of the The Hollywood Art Museum (HWAM) project, established by Greg Aronowitz.
HWAM’s mission is to encourage artists in the digital medium to find fresh inspiration in the traditional arts of Hollywood’s past, through the preservation and education of art used in entertainment. Its first major exhibition, featuring reproductions of pieces – models, production drawings, props, merchandise from the Star Wars franchise films – which came ahead of the US opening of the latest film in the series Star Wars: The Last Jedi (read more about the Star Wars exhibition here).
The Drew Struzan Gallery and Studio marks HWAM’s second gallery space in Sansar, and presents visitors with a unique opportunity to view the work of one of the greatest illustrators of modern times, and to also get a peek inside his private studio.
Born in Oregon City, Oregon in 1947, Drew Struzan fell in love with art and drawing while a boy. “I didn’t go to movies, I didn’t watch TV,” he once recalled. “I didn’t have comic books. The closest I would ever come, is I would go to the library and get out art books and draw from the old masters. So I had an education and background in the masters of the art I liked to paint.”
A school Counsellor asked him about his interest in art and told him he had a choice between fine art or illustration, saying that as a fine artist he could paint what he wanted, but as an illustrator he could paint for money.
Struzan opted for the latter, later saying, “I was poor and hungry, and illustration was the shortest path to a slice of bread, as compared to a gallery showing.”
From college, Struzan started his career not in film, but in music, creating the album covers art for artists like Tony Orlando and Dawn, The Beach Boys, Bee Gees, Roy Orbison, Black Sabbath, Earth, Wind and Fire, Liberace and Alice Cooper.
In 1977 he was contacted by fellow artist Charles White III, who had been hired to produce a poster for the upcoming 1978 re-release of the original Star Wars film. Uncomfortable with portraiture, White asked Struzan for help, and between them they came up with a distinctive poster design, which became known as the “Circus” poster, depicting what appears to be a torn posted bill on a plywood construction site wall.
It was the start of an enduring relationship with top-flight movies. For the next 30+ years, Struzan would create some of the most iconic and memorable one-sheets for some of Hollywood’s biggest and highest grossing films and film franchises, including the Indiana Jones franchise, the Star Wars franchise, Blade Runner, the Police Academy series, Back to the Future, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Hellboy, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and many, many more.
For the Sansar exhibition, Greg Aronowitz work closely with Struzan and members of Linden Lab’s Sansar Studios team led by Jason Gholston, to carefully and painstakingly reproduce Struzan’s art – including the “Circus” poster – within an immersive virtual setting. Many of the pieces have interactive elements associated with them: wall-mounted buttons can be pressed to hear audio relating to the pieces.
Also involved in the work is Kevin Cain, CEO of Insight Digital. This is the company that, working with the Lab’s Sansar Studios team, brought three real-world sites of antiquity in Egypt into Sansar, allowing people to visit and appreciate them in ways which cannot be shared in the physical world because the sites in question are not open to the public (read more about this project here).
For this project, Kevin Cain brought the same techniques used by Insight Digital to map ancient Egyptian tombs and monuments – laser scanning and photogrammetry to accurately reproduce Struzan’s own private studio and then upload it into Sansar as a place for people to visit.
The result is a stunning environment – gallery and Studio together – in which Struzan’s art and artistry can be fully appreciated, as a sneak previewed via livestream video by Deviant Art on Thursday, March 22nd revealed.
The grand opening of the Drew Struzan Art Gallery and Studio in Sansar will take place between 16:00 and 20:00 PDT on Friday, March 23rd, and will comprise the following events:
16:00-17:00: Greg Aronowitz and Drew Struzan reflect on their careers in film and Hollywood, and on Drew’s artistic legacy.
17:00-18:00: an exclusive walk-through of Drew’s never-before-seen private studio, 3D-scanned into Sansar, and find out how the space came together from Insight Digital’s Kevin Cain and Jason Gholston, Head of Sansar Studios.
18:00-20:00 the grand opening party and a chance to tour the entire experience on your own or with friends.
To attend the gallery opening, go to the Drew Struzan Gallery & Studio – Grand Opening in the Events section of the Sansar client or on the web 15 minutes before the event is due to start and click the Join option.
And for those who want to know a little more about Drew Struzan, here’s the trailer for the 2013 documentary, Drew: The Man Behind The Poster.