Perhaps no project to date shows the potential of Quill—Oculus’ VR illustration and animation tool—quite like The Remedy. Created by veteran animator Daniel Martin Peixe, The Remedy is a roughly 10 minute long story which establishes a very effective comic book-like experience by stringing together various Quill scenes to tell a complete narrative. Peixie shared with us a glimpse inside of the production process which brought the film to life.
Daniel Martin Peixe is a character animator and illustrator at Walt Disney Animation Studios. With twenty years of experience in 2D and CGI animation, his recent work can be seen in critically-acclaimed films like Tangled (2010), Zootopia (2016), and Moana (2016). Peixe has been a mentor for the professional online animation workshop Animsquad since 2017. He is the writer, director, and creator of the VR short film The Remedy (2019), created entirely within the Quill VR illustration tool.
How to Watch The Remedy
If you haven’t had a chance to watch ‘The Remedy’, we recommend doing so for context. The short is available in Quill Theater on Oculus Quest, here’s how to find it:
The Remedy project started with the idea of using Quill illustrations as if they were comic book panels. Looking at my own Quill illustrations, I kept thinking, ‘I wish I could press a button and see what happens next!’ I also wanted to experiment using traditional cinema editing in VR, mostly for action scenes. I pitched this idea to the Quill team and to my surprise they were already thinking of ways to expand the timeline toolset in the next update, aiming to make Quill a full fledged VR storytelling suite!
Soon after, I was officially commissioned to work on this project—a short story in VR using the latest Quill 2.0 beta with the timeline tools—I was over the Moon! It was an amazing learning experience; this turned out to be my rough production workflow, which I’ll talk about in more detail below:
- Script writing
- Rough storyboard thumbnails in 2D
- 3D storyboarding with in VR, layout and staging
- Editing storyboards in VR, using transitions, cuts and adjusting timing
- Organizing layers and labeling each one
- Adding ‘stops’
- Sending the rough assembly to the Music and Audio team
- Visual development, research reference photos
- Final in-film text dialogue rendered in Photoshop and exported as PNG
- 2D color reference sketches before painting key scenes in VR
- Drawn and build sets and characters, speech bubbles and panels in VR
- Frame by frame animation
- Adjust final timing and transitions
- Adding special animated effects
- Send to Music and Audio team
- Final audio mix
- Optimization pass
- Technical checks for Quill Theater playback on Oculus Quest
As I started writing the story, I focused on something simple with a minimal number of characters. Also, I knew I wanted exciting action scenes but before writing those I tried to make sure there’s an emotional connection with the main character and clear motivations for the heroine to go on an adventure.
I did many different drafts of the script until I landed with something I was happy with and moved on to storyboarding. Some storyboards started as 2D sketches I did on my phone; the small screen allowed me to quickly put down any ideas I had for camera angles, scene staging etc. With these little scribbles as a reference, it was much easier later to do the VR sketching in Quill.
During this process it was important to start establishing the scale of the scenes in relation to the viewer, as well as the staging and planning for the ‘focal point’ of each scene to make sure that when there’s a ‘cut’ people don’t get lost or disoriented. I wanted the audience to be their own ‘cameraman’ in some scenes, like the one where the wagon leaves the house and you see the title. Planning all this with rough sketches was crucial, to make sure that some of the more experimental scenes would work before I jumped in and began modeling the assets.
The transform keys in Quill allow you to create smooth animations and fade in and outs, setting a couple of keyframes on the group layers. This was super useful for adding ‘camera moves’ which I did by moving entire sets instead of moving the actual Quill camera. Like the ‘escape from the volcano’ scene where the character is on a static layer animated jumping from one platform to the other and the set moves toward the audience, giving the impression that the audience is moving forward.
The ‘stops’ (where viewer input is required to continue the story) were a new concept that we weren’t sure that would work, but I had the feeling that it would make it feel more like a comic book where viewers could take in the scene around them before continuing.
Picking where to put the stops was a natural choice in some cases, for example, the establishing shot where the heroine is in front of the volcano temple entrance. The audience might feel like spending a bit more time taking in the environment. Just like a double page in a comic book, it is a big featured moment, and you are invited to explore all the details until you’re ready to move on. In other cases the stops are helpful in case you want to spend more time reading the speech bubbles. And then in other cases I chose to not have any stop or pause, because I wanted the audience to feel the thrill of the action.
Once all the story scenes were sketched out I adjusted the timing and made sure I was happy with that because it was time to deliver the project to the audio and music team so they could get started.
The next step for me was cleaning up scene by scene and adding the color, details etc. For the key scenes I did a 2D color key sketch outside of VR. That was super helpful in order to establish a clear goal for the scene in terms of mood, color palette, and lighting.
While most of the scenes in The Remedy are viewed from a third-person perspective, there were several scenes which I thought would be especially powerful in first-person. Thanks to VR, that perspective truly puts the audience in the shoes of the character. The ‘book’ scene—where the main character pages through an old book that sets up some important elements of the story—was important to me because being in a first person view it acts as a close-up shot, and the audience is welcome to lean in closer to explore the details of the book. In the ‘plant temple’ scene—where the main character finds the objective of her quest—I used first-person so that the audience could feel the same as the protagonist, admiring all the magical healing plants still growing on that orchard, and the sense of awe exploring how big is the temple. At the very end I included another first-person scene where I put the audience in the skin of the bad guy, looking up at the heroine as she holds onto the satchel—and his fate. Many of these shots would also work in 2D cinema, but in VR they become much more impactful!
When modelling assets I tried to keep an eye to the stroke count and the general density of the detail, since I knew there could be a chance for this project to run on Oculus Quest. Using the straight line tool as a base for most structures was the way to go. And also being smart about where to add detail and where to leave things more simplified. In most scenes there isn’t even a set or background, just the characters and a color gradient. This was completely intentional since I wanted the audience to focus on them and not be distracted by detail in the background.
I knew that I wanted most of the animation to be simple from the start. I didn’t plan to do full animation for this project, but I realized the action scenes needed some extra detail to really sell them. The most complex animations were achieved with a rough sketch first, with the timing and most in-betweens drawn.
Then I posed the character by constructing it from separate, previously drawn parts. I grabbed each part, and using the rough anim as a guide, I positioned them on each frame.
This allows for a very traditional animation approach, and with the use of Grab tool I was able to duplicate and deform the pieces seamlessly. The animation also becomes layered or what was known as ‘limited’ animation in certain parts, meaning that I would divide the character and while some parts of the character are still moving other parts remain still, on a separate layer.
The whole team at Oculus became really excited to learn that The Remedy, would be playable on Quest! The Quill team lead engineer was able to squeeze the whole project into a small size, and he ran some extra optimizations to make sure it would play well.
The last stretch of work was very exciting because we started to hear the amazing musical score from Facebook’s sound designer coming to life. Due to the ‘stops’ feature, sound engineers had to come up with two types of scores: the first was timed with an average guess of the time it takes to read the speech bubbles and to progress through the story—that way if you wait for too long in a paused moment, the music continues and slowly fades into the atmosphere sound effect—the second type of score was for the more linear moments with a fixed timing.
As I was finishing the last scenes, sound design was catching up with me finishing up the music. The team did an incredible job with the sound effects that make everything feel much more grounded.
This has been an amazing learning experience. I wore many hats and learned a lot in terms of storytelling, visual development, color, writing, and staging. But also huge learning in how to make the most out of Quill’s amazing toolset. I loved working on The Remedy and I cannot wait to create my next VR film with Quill!
The post Making ‘The Remedy’ – How A Veteran Illustrator Made one of VR’s Best Short Films With ‘Quill’ appeared first on Road to VR.
This DeFi Group Wants to Bring Maturity to the Yield Farming Craze
The Chicago DeFi Alliance, launched in April, is poised to help members make a killing from the recent decentralized finance (DeFi) craze.
So many billions of dollars worth of assets are now cycling through various DeFi projects at such erratic rates that while you’re reading this the estimates are probably changing. Suffice it to say, the Chicago DeFi Alliance now has roughly 55 members, including new additions Binance.US and MakerDAO.
After graduating seven DeFi startups from its first accelerator program this summer, CDA partner Qiao Wang said the organization is now launching a Liquidity Launchpad program to get “informed and professional players in this space” committing their crypto to various protocols.
First, the program vets pre-seed DeFi startups (unlike the accelerator program for slightly more mature startups) with a standardized process that involves audits and traditional measures of professionalism, such as being a registered company. (Some of the food-themed DeFi projects garnering attention today are rough drafts without audits or formal teams.) Then, the CDA does matchmaking of experienced investors, market makers and DeFi builders. Teller Finance, the startup behind a credit and loan management protocol, is the first startup to kick off the launchpad program.
“The teams are validated and the smart contracts are audited. These are long-term, sustainable projects,” CDA and Volt Capital co-founder Imran Khan said during a Google Hangouts interview. “This allows institutional investors to provide liquidity for a fixed amount of time. … We hope to have market makers that are there for the long term, not just the short term.”
To that end, Teller Finance co-founder Ryan Berkun said the CDA launchpad provided his startup with $10 million worth of liquidity to kickstart Teller’s lending program. CDA’s backers and traders provide “liquidity,” continual market making, for a DeFi platform. This gives other users the ability to move money around without steep costs or hassle, letting them dabble in the yield farming of niche tokens that can be played for potential gain. In Teller’s case, providing a loan creates Teller reward tokens that can be used for voting.
“We’re starting with governance of your own money, on-chain variables that relate to how money moves and the data gets assessed,” Berkun said. “We’re rolling out progressive decentralization in ways that are similar to Uniswap.”
Users who aren’t financial experts or math students can delegate their voting tokens to an external expert, to vote on their behalf for favorable lending terms. Much like the DeFi protocol Compound, the Teller protocol offers a (mostly) noncustodial way to use assets like ether (ETH) as collateral for loans in stablecoins like DAI or USDC. But Teller is arguably taking a much more involved approach to risk management.
So far, Khan said, the retail-driven DeFi experiments have been unnecessarily risky and volatile.
The launchpad offers institutional investors and traders a way to capitalize on the liquidity mining craze, focusing on these vetted projects.
Teller is taking a more heavy-handed approach to credit risk by using the Visa-owned service provider Plaid to assess users’ banking records. Plus, Teller Finance already raised a $1 million venture round since its founding in early 2020, according to the team.
“We’re using the Visa system to securely transmute banking data to the protocol, that helps with making sure the data stays private,” said Teller Finance communications lead Ben Noble.
“If you want to get your credit assessment … you submit your information and the [Teller] nodes come back with an open-source credit assessment,” Berkun said, adding the startup plans to launch the network in October with a small group of permissioned nodes.
These loans can be undercollateralized or even uncollateralized, so the option of a real credit assessment helps manage or prevent undue risk. More diverse access to yield farming and different assets will be rolled out slowly, the Teller team said. There will be a token sale in the near future, they added, but they want to get “enough tokens in circulating supply before we pull the trigger on that,” Noble said.
That’s what the CDA provides, a regulation-centric roadmap toward healthy circulation.
While startups gain access and capital from the launchpad, they aren’t subject to the whims of investors the way they might be in a venture capital raise.
CDA backers are expecting to make their own profits using the system, rather than rely on equity for returns. At the same time, launchpad startups can choose to keep their experiments open to the public and only place lockup periods on institutional players. If the institutional backers believe the DeFi startup will be profitable and sustainable, they might accept biased trading terms and as a longer play. Institutional investors have an inherent advantage anyway, since arbitrage strategies benefit from scale.
“Sometimes, you have under-the-radar products that don’t know how to do marketing. They don’t know how to market to retail users or providers. Those retail users are very hype-driven,” Wang said, explaining why social media buzz might highlight the silly DeFi experiments rather than the promising fintech startups. He hopes this launchpad program will counteract that dynamic.
While it’s too soon to say what impact CDA will have on broader DeFi trends, the accelerator program just accepted a new batch of participants and alumni reportedly feel satisfied with the experience.
Ming Ng, adviser to the alumni startup Kyber Network, said the imminent Kyber Pro framework for professional market makers “would not be possible without the collaboration with CDA.”
“Imran and Qiao have also been super helpful in matching needs and expertise within the groups,” Ng added.
Perhaps a more mature form of yield farming will emerge from the combination of the launchpad and the second accelerator cohort. After reviewing more than 100 applications, Khan said, the CDA announced its fall cohort: Pods, ParaSwap, Saddle, Notional, Tokenlon, Vega, Derivadex, Perp, Loopring, Deversifi, Mcdex and Acala.
Teller’s Berkun said his startup will collaborate with numerous CDA accelerator participants, offering a vetted white list where users can deploy their new crypto loans.
“The white list provides guardrails as people learn and get used to the system,” added Noble.
Bitcoin: Not quite the popular kid in East Asia?
The East-Asian market is the largest in the cryptocurrency landscape, accounting for a whopping 31% of the total volume over the past year. It is also home to the highest mining activity with China controlling close to 65% of the total Bitcoin hash rate.
While the trading volume is driven by a robust professional group of traders, Chainalysis’ recent report suggested that investors in the East Asian market were more engaged in speculative trading(Altcoins) than any other region in the world.
In comparison, North America focused the highest on Bitcoin and only 11% of traders were involved with Altcoins.
So Why is Bitcoin traded the least in East-Asia?
To be fair, it is important to note that 51% of the total trading volume is still allocated to Bitcoin in East-Asia but that is only expected considering the fact that Bitcoin amounts to close to 60% of the entire crypto market cap.
Bringing the main argument back under the limelight, professional traders opting for other speculative assets can be down to several reasons. The fact that China, Japan, and Korea have already seen substantial adoption in terms of electronic payments, which involved AliPay in China, and LINE in South Korea. The main factor that is common between these operations is obviously the centralization factor.
Interestingly, here our good-old China makes a decisive entry. Out of the total trading volume in East-Asia, China is responsible for close to 76% of the volume and it is no secret that the Chinese Government had never held Bitcoin is high regard. Their support for blockchain has been sound with the Chinese President, Xi Jinping being extremely vocal about blockchain innovation but the word ‘Bitcoin’ has never been used.
It is clear that politically from a socio-economic standpoint, China does not promote its users to utilize a decentralized currency. Now, professional traders would be well-aware of that fact while trading with assets such as Tether (which has certain centralized features preferred by China) would not get them into trouble, Bitcoin might, and under China’s jurisdiction, it can be seized from the investors.
China basically stomps its foot on any cryptocurrency which idolizes the propensity of being privatized and under the control of the user. Hence, the threat of Capital Control is still large in East-Asia hence professional trader may rather trade with an asset that gets them into the least trouble with the government, for now.
Binance and Coinbase Lists UNI Token as Airdropped to all Uniswap Users
In a rare occurrence in the cryptocurrency market, Binance and Coinbase have listed UNI token the same day it was released. Other exchanges Poloniex and Kucoin have also listed the Uniswap governance token.
On Binance, the token was paired with major cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin (BTC), Binance Coin (BNB), Binance stable coin (BUSD), and Tether (USDT). However, the exchange noted that UNI is a new token and may have “higher than normal risks.” Therefore, trading should be done with caution.
OKEx was the Most Involved
On Coinbase, UNI was paired with USDT. Notably, UNI is the first DeFi-bound token to be listed on the exchange a few hours after launch. Other exchanges that have since listed the token include Poloniex, OKEx, and Kucoin. However, among the first exchanges to list the coin, OKEx was the most prominent. The exchange activated UNI trading on its spot, swap, and margin trading platforms.
Together with the listing, something else was going down. Earlier users of the DeFi protocol were celebrating free coins from an airdrop. Anyone who interacted with the platform before Sep 1 received free 400 tokens. Liquidity providers (LPs) received extra coins depending on their history on the network. Those holding a tokenized Uniswap merchandise item(s) called $SOCKS were gifted 1000 tokens.
Generally, the community airdrop accounted for 150 billion UNI tokens that equal 15 percent of the total supply of one billion tokens. The biggest beneficiaries of the airdrop were earlier users who accounted for 10 percent, followed by LPs at 4.92 percent, and SOCKS holders received 0.02 percent of the airdropped amount.
UNI Higher than the US Stimulus Check
Apart from the listing and the airdrop, the Uniswap community had something else to smile about: the token price. While one would expect that such tokens would have a low value, data shows that a single token is worth roughly 5 dollars. As such, those who received 400 coins are holding roughly $2,000 (400×5).
“The 400 UNI that every Uniswap addressed was just airdropped is worth more than the $1,200 stimulus check the US sent to millions of Americans. It’s basically stimulus for Ethereum users,” noted a Twitter user. Note that the price is at $5.15 at the time of writing.
Others were excited that the Uniswap network has a higher 24-hour trading volume ($426M) than that of Coinbase ($348M). At the time of writing, UNI’s 24-h volume was above $3 billion while Coinbase Pro’s was at $367,705,624.
Uniswap is fighting SushiSwap
Unfortunately, some advised that the UNI fever should be taken with caution. For example, Andre Cronje, the founder of Yearn.Finance (YFI), another DeFi protocol, was surprised by UNI’s launch. Cronje thinks that Uniswap is feeling threatened by SushiSwap and the token launch was a defensive attack.
However, both the amount locked in YFI and SushiSwap dived by approximately 14 percent when Uniswap saw a 7.22 percent rise within the same period.
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