Stepping deliberately into the creative rabbit hole of virtual reality, artist John Oliver’s latest endeavor brings three-dimensional brushstrokes to the big screen. Equipped with a Tilt Brush headset and a remote control palette and brush, Oliver has teamed up with Paul Mathieu at West Beach Films to create lead-in promotional pieces for daily screenings at this year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
“You don’t really get it until you put on the headset — then, it’s, ‘Holy [crap]!’” Oliver said from his art studio, which is tucked away on a coastal bluff at a long-abandoned flower farm. Standing in the center of the room with the open space in front of him as a canvas, Oliver is able to intricately paint a dragon head, for example, while walking around, ducking under, and rotating the piece as he goes, his work captured remotely and displayed on the computer screen against the wall. For an analogy that’s not entirely accurate but close, imagine a sculptor carving a bust from a floating, moveable block of marble.
For the festival trailers, Oliver and Mathieu filmed at the Arlington, Lobero, Riviera, and Metro 4 theaters. “Getting the VR [virtual reality] technology integrated with live action was a really cool experiment for us,” Mathieu said. “I feel that VR is coming on in a heavy way. What we’ve done is offer just a taste of the technology, and hopefully the audience will like it.”
Looking ahead, Oliver sees Tilt Brush as a teaching tool, a boon to gaming, and the foundation of a new realm in storytelling. “I got into film and video because it’s a place where several art forms reside,” said Oliver, who’s also a multimedia technician, video producer, and archivist at Skate One, the Goleta headquarters of Powell-Peralta skateboards. “Now, film and video are creative aspects in this new epicenter of all things art.”