Bringing theater, technology, gaming and film together to accelerate the future of virtual theater.
Parados is a service design concept that provides resources and community platform to connect people who are interested in virtual theater production. It allows creatives to hire talent, offer freelance services, look for tools, learn skills, and find community forums. Our mission is to build a cross disciplinary network for the theater industry to share, grow, and create opportunity.
This video sketch is the result of a 5-week long research project as part of the Ideation and Prototyping class at NYU's Integrated Digital Media program.
During the pandemic, the theater industry and live performances were halted, and although new technologies like VR and Zoom became more pronounced, the lack of communication between theater makers and technologists affected the ability of theater makers express their work through technology.
Therefore, how might we facilitate cross-disciplinary communication in order to encourage collaboration and inspire the production of higher quality virtual plays?
We began by distilling our questions.
We read academic studies, solutions and approaches that used virtual reality to translate the theatrical tradition. Many studies and academic papers in cognition, embodiment and immersion were also found to be related. We also looked at novel technology implementations.
Gathering insights from many journals, scholarly articles, experiments, technology implementation and research paper, we informed ourselves on the subject matter as much as possible and looked at the current approaches people have taken in this situation.
See the full list of secondary research references here.
By looking at the bigger picture, we mapped out the interconnections within the system. This way we could effectively locate and refine the area(s)/aspect(s) in which to conduct more nuanced interviews and user research.
We categorized different roles and players involved in theater production according to whether their job requires an entirely new skill, just adapting an existing skill, or use the same skills but different methods of execution. We also added new players in the map (like game designers, 3D modelers, XR engineers, virtual production engineers, etc.) who might find opportunities in theater.
On Dec 4th and 5th, we attended an online event called the 5th Wall Forum. There were some great discussions about producing virtual theater, whether using social VR platforms like Altspace and VRChat, or a bespoke experience. The goal of the forum was to start discussions to bring theater, tech, gaming and film professionals together.
Some of the people involved in the panel discussion were Brandon Bradley (alumni of NYU Tisch Drama), Brandon Powers (creative director), Sadah Espii Proctor (story, director), Anna Henson (artist/researcher in HCI, technologist), Blair Russell (freelance producer), Beth Kates (dramaturgist, playwright), Jonathan David Martin (actor/virtual performer).
We gathered as much info as we could from the community and speakers.
After affinity mapping our research findings, we narrowed down our design directions into four categories: audition practices, technology, collaboration, and skill sets. Ultimately, because of how much opportunity presented itself in the collaboration space, we decided to move forward with that design direction. At the beginning of our design process, we considered problems including the similarities between live coding and live performance, resource sharing between theater/production companies, and global communication patterns.
Creating a user profile that could use our design solution - Parados.
Parados is a resource and community platform that connects people in theater, film, game and tech. The landing point is a website where people can hire talent, offer freelance services, look for tools, learn skills, and find community forums. Our mission is to democratize immersive tech and build a cross disciplinary network for the theater industry to share, grow, and create opportunity.
The features that we felt were most important to include in our final product were: a thorough onboarding process, a job forum, and a community/collaboration space.
We felt that the onboarding process was an important part of the platform because it would allow for users to easily find talent with specific skill sets on a platform used by so many different people. The onboarding questions will help to filter the search information to better suit the needs of the user.
Since the website has various facets – community, hiring, resources, rentals, learning, etc. – it was important to map out the flow of information by creating a site map.
The job forum is a place on the website where Parados users with different skill sets are able to display their talents and offer their expertise and services to a virtual production. Similarly, users are able to use the job forum as a place to browse for experts with experience and interests that are aligned with their needs. For instance, a game developer with experience creating virtual environments might use the platform as a way to get in touch with a director looking for a unique VR scene for an upcoming production.
Community and Events
Finally, the community and collaboration space is an integral part of the platform because it will allow users to freely interact with each other and casually share advice, experiences, and resources amongst each other. Events in different social VR platforms, discord servers, and so on, will be featured in the events page.
Company partners and funding
Because the pandemic has been so damaging to many theaters and artists, it is imperative that those who need financial help during this time are able to easily find funding opportunities. The website will host forums, conferences, and meetups where theater makers can find investors, theater grants, and other entities that might help them stay afloat during this huge cultural shift.
We also thought to include a rental system to rent out VR and AR headsets, greenscreens, cameras, sound recording and other equipment so that it is cheaper for new users to experiment with these new technologies. A section of the website will also provide support and tutorials for setting up these technologies.
Parados will partner with LinkedIn Learning and Skillshare to accelerate bridging the skills gap for creating content on some of these digital mediums.
Special thanks to Nijia, my teammate, for creating these wonderful wireframes from the sitemaps.
To showcase our speculative service design and tell the story of our product, we thought a video sketch would best sell our idea. I was responsible for the video editing and putting together the sketch.