The highly anticipated animation software finally launches on SteamVR for the low, low price of FREE.
Virtual reality has seen an extensive and wide variety of uses since its initial entrance into the mainstream market. Video games, medical assistance, employee training, educational references, scientifically accurate simulations, the list goes on.
However one group in particular saw past the standard use-case scenarios and imagined an entirely new application that utilizes VR to help users not only create their own 3D worlds, but animate them as well. It’s a risky move dedicating time and resources to a new method of storytelling on a still growing platform, but I’m thrilled to say that Mindshow is one that definitely paid off.
Available for free on the HTC Vive via SteamVR today, Mindshow allows users to create their own worlds, inhabit them with characters and then act out their scenes in front of a digital camera. Users begin the experience with several options allowing them to jump into pre-designed sets with already-animated characters, or choose their own empty location to create their vision from scratch. They can then teleport around their set and choose from a variety of characters and props to fill their new world, all of which are interactive.
To animate characters, users simply hop into the body of the model and control it in first-person. Waving your controllers moves the arms, rotating your headset repositions the head and shoulders and walking around triggers the leg animations as the 3D cartoon mimics every movement you make.
The controller’s trackpad cycles through an array of standard emotions from happy and mad, to sad and surprised. What’s cool though is that choosing a point on the trackpad in between emotions combines the two expressions, opening up a wider selection of more specific faces. The software even animates lip movements by capturing any audio recorded from the Vive microphone. So basically all you need to get an animation started is a headset and some acting chops.
Don’t believe me? Check out this quick animation I made in one afternoon (note: I did use several external sound fx not present in the app):
However the most interesting feature present in this application is your digital video camera. Mindshow operates much like standard 3D animation in the sense that you choreograph and animate before choosing your shot. This means you can take your pick of the camera angles and reshoot the same shot from as many different perspectives as you’d like. It’s a feature that would make any standard filmmaker weak in the knees. Of course users of PC and mobile VR headsets can stand in the middle of the scene and view the action in immersive 360-degrees as well as room-scale.
Other cool tools include an invisible character that allows users to alter items and characters in shots without being seen, a ‘tripod’ mode that allows you to place the camera in a fixed position, a green screen set for custom video and images and several ‘mirror’ features that allow you to view your facial expression and body movements while puppeting a character in real-time.
Overall, Mindshow is a definite must-have for any Vive owner with at least one creative bone in their body. In fact, the only thing that excites me more than the current application is where it could be heading in the near future. At its core Mindshow is a community experience which relies on a constant stream of content producers to interact, remix, watch and share their experiences with each other. This means an ever-changing experience with plenty to see and do every time you strap that headset on.
The company is already off to a good start, with plans to release a new show created by users and various special guests such as comedian Reggie Watts and public speaker Tay Zonday every.. day.. of.. September…. And is if that weren’t enough Mindshow is celebrating its move into Early Access with the brand new Presentation Stage play set, which comes with three new characters (Boss Aiko, Owl, and Fancy Barb), three new props (a microphone, chart, and lectern), and one new set (the Presentation Stage).
Despite only just today being made open to the public, 2D Mindshow content created in partnership with the Alpha community has already surpassed 4 million independent views across both YouTube and Facebook. If that isn’t a sign you have an extremely viable application on your hand then I don’t know what is.
So do yourself a favor: Log onto Steam, download Mindshow for FREE and go create that cartoon series you’ve always had that idea for, but never had the patience to learn animation over. Or do what I do. Hop into the twinkie character and just laugh your ass off for 23 minutes. No matter how you choose to spend your time, I promise it won’t be a wasted experience.