Currently reading : Triplegangers: Lee Perry-Smith on virtual bodies
An interview with 3D modelling and scanning specialist, Lee Perry-Smith by Monique Todd
There is an acute sense that everything is blurring these days – lines and boundaries that were once distinct and recognisable seem to be dissolving in an equally exciting and slightly disturbing fashion. And whilst this is a conversation that has been tirelessly debated, the recent developments in avatars and virtual technology seem to be inching towards a truer [replication] of reality at an astonishing rate.
Lee Perry-Smith, a multi-award winning artist and self taught 3D modelling and scanning specialist, has recently re-launched Triplegangers – a 3D scanning and capture service that specialises in character modelling to help the creation of virtual avatars for film and computer games. Ultimately dealing with our perception of reality and experience through the intricate art of replication, the scans almost look so real that there “fakeness” comes into question. In fact, the word ‘replication’ becomes a term to rethink – if the detail and intricacies of the virtual body keep getting better – will they cease to be replications and become something else altogether?
Always working to extending his art to the fullest, Lee Perry-Smith is currently pushing virtual reality into an area few have gone before … the adult entertainment industry. Here, he reveals his thoughts on replicating the human form and why VR will do wonders to enhance and diversify sexual experiences.
Firstly, what is behind the name Triplegangers?
It means the 3rd, the 3rd dimension, our triple, our digital clone. As ‘Doppelganger’ means a paranormal double of a living person, I wanted something less sinister and more digital and ethereal as a name, something unique… which [these scans] are … they are clones of living tissue in digital form.
When did your fascination with the body and capturing/imaging the human form begin?
When I was very young, younger than most…odd in fact…at around age 5. It was as if I was predestined down this path, every choice I make in this field of research and creativity is intuitive from this strong desire.
How did that interest with the human form develop? Did your focus start to shift in response to your industry experience? Were there specific visuals that inspired you towards a specific direction?
…Yes, in that it became increasingly clear to me (back in 2003) that trying to recreate human realism in a digital form was an extremely complex problem to solve. At the time, there wasn’t much useful hardware available that could acquire it and it could take weeks to craft it by hand, sometimes months, and it can cost a lot of money. So, I built a system that could do it back in 2011. Traditional methods relied on the ability of the artist. Attempts to over come the Uncanny Valley (the feeling of revulsion that we feel when we see a replica that looks and moves almost, but not exactly, like natural human beings) has been the pursuit of many artists and visual effects companies, and they still struggle to this day. 3D scanning and viewing the acquired data in virtual reality helps to overcome the problem but it still falls short as there are many things needed to replicate humans convincingly. So artists, technicians and scientists are integral to solving this problem.
The main inspiration for me is realism. This is always the driving force. Pure art…in fact the technical intricacies used to solve these problems are in art forms in themselves.
I would certainly regard your work as art, though, how do you think 3D work is received generally? Do people view it as art? Does it get the artistic recognition it perhaps deserves?
Even building the 3D scanner is a form of art – the hardware itself is like an art installation to look at. Like a forest of cameras, it took days to install and years of time and money to research. Built through blood, sweat and tears! Literally blood! I cut myself a few times building the system.
Working with 3D scanned data is highly frowned upon by digital artists within the computer graphics industry.
Yet, what many artists tend not to realize is that it takes an incredible amount of artistry to work with the 3D scanned data to produce these convincing digital humans. It’s a bit like the art world shunning computer games as art, but they are all tools to create something that never existed before; they create experiences, emotions and a presence that people can bask in. I think once Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality take off, computer generated imagery will really start to get noticed by the art world.
What attracts you capturing the female form in particular, since most of the scans on Triplegangers are women?
It comes from being a heterosexual male – this is the main factor. My opinion is unabashed on this. I’m sure this opinion can be insulting to some but we should really embrace the human body and not be ashamed or fear it. We all come from the place…born naked into this world! I just prefer the female form. The same way I prefer tea over coffee!
What has been your strangest or most unusual request from a client?
A vicar embracing a naked woman for a sculpture to be used for a well-known TV program
You’ve mentioned before that you hope to explore the possibilities for VR within the adult entertainment industry…how do you think people will benefit?
It will allow people escape, to feel a connection and have new, wild experiences. It will allow them to fully explore their sexuality in a controlled environment, without fear of reprisal, danger or rejection whatever their preference (within reason of course) under strict ethical and legal guidelines.
It will allow people to become the opposite sex, to view and experience things they may never be able to do in real life. It could help people with social or physical disabilities experience situations they may not otherwise.
It seems that the adult industry has become very content with the low budget (predictable) video where high production values and immersive qualities seem very rare – why do you think few venture or try to push VR in this industry?
I think that’s the case because it’s a new medium. It’s in its infancy. Really, it re-birthed last year. The 90’s were a stall for VR, a complete fail and this gave the public a very bad perception of what was really possible.
This new approach, thanks to Oculus VR, is really going to shake up the adult industry in ways we can’t imagine yet. I think my generation and below have become far to accustomed to free content. Whether it’s music, film or adult entertainment. VR is a way to bring back at least some sort of feedback and funding into that industry…something new, immersive and creative.
I don’t think the Adult industry or the public are aware of what’s coming…but 2014 onwards is going to be a very interesting time; VR/AR 3D and 4D will change the shape of many things to come.