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Chilling Effects


Frozen Planet

The latest World Wide Panorama (WWP) went online. I’ve been a regular contributor to the WWP ever since I found about it four years ago, but this is likely to be the last event I will participate to. Click on the above image to interact with the VR I entered, or click here to see it in its WWP-context. My entry’s text is replicated below.

Chilling Effects

The weather is quite a roller-coaster in Québec in December. This year we had a White Christmas, with temperature swings from -21°C to +9°C within a few hours. Snow and rain alternate, with icing rain building a beautiful though sometimes lethal coating on branches and roads.

Sunday morning, during a break between icing rain and rain, I went out to take this panorama. The atmosphere was surreal. The ground was freezing cold, but the air was warm and there was fog and low clouds. The ice was melting and dripping. I found some ice leftovers on the viburnum trilobum with its red berries at the border of the wood next to the little pond.

I just did not feel like reviewing my panorama productions of the year. Not that I did not have any worth publishing, like this that I also used for the nadir tutorial; or the pano meetings I attended this year in New York and Toronto.

Like last year I participated again to the Google-sponsored development of free panorama software, and blogged about it with panos. And this year others stepped into the tradition I started of a pano at the Google Summer of Code Mentors Summit.

And then there was the most beautiful panorama I ever made. Too beautiful for a “best of the year”.

Actually the weather conditions, with the preceding roller-coaster, reflected pretty well how I feel about my participation to the WWP throughout this year.

In the past, participating to the WWP energized and motivated me. It was fun to be part of the community; it was stimulating to interpret creatively Don’s essays; it was challenging to push my techniques to the limits with the help, feedback and guidance of experienced masters of the art met in the community. There was a sense of purpose, accomplishment and connection after every event. I was proud to have my little contribution up there, next to some of the VR-artists I admire most.

But in the year coming to an end my motivation faded gradually away under the chilling effects:

  • of the copyright infringement / abuse that my sometimes very personal entries have been subjected to along the entries of many other artists contributing to the WWP;
  • of the indifference of some to that abuse;
  • and worse of it all of the hypocrisy of some others when I tried to rally support for a negotiated solution of the abuse.

I spent a large part of my free time this year trying to organize a collective response to a major copyright infringement of which many of us WWP-contributors have been victims. And I felt lonely, particularly when I found out the hard way that some members of the “community” joined my effort with the sole purpose of seeing it fail, putting personal interest ahead of community interest.

Participation to the WWP no longer feels like a joy. I can no longer relate to the concept which in my opinion has been watered down and now looks a lot like the many flickr-like pano publishing sites which have sprouted like mushrooms and for which I have no particular attraction.

I no longer feel the bond of the past. I am still in touch with many talented artists I have met over the years and am thankful to the WWP for being the fertile ground for those contacts. But quantity over quality and conservatism over bold experimentalism have watered down the visionary concept to which I subscribed, for which I could motivate myself to spend two nights without sleep out in the freezing cold.

My interest has shifted. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just evolution, natural change. The quest for the next frontier. This panorama is actually the first time I have mounted the fisheye lens this month. I’m now doing more video than photo, and more portrait than landscape. And it is likely to stay so for a while.

I surely will do some panoramas here and there, and contribute to the hugin-ptx community that is developing the free software to make panoramas, but I can no longer guarantee the time and motivation to contribute regularly to the WWP as I have done over the past four years.

Four years are a very long time in technology. QTVR is being replaced by Flash, flat panel displays of ever growing size and resolution are hitting the market and the next medium for panoramas will be, no doubt, dome projection. Already now they can be set up for a five digits dollar amount.

I hope to continue the dialog started here on the WWP, with fellow artists, technologists and enthusiasts. You can always find me here on my blog and on my photo website. And if I was lucky enough to meet you, you also have my personal contact details.

A heartfelt farewell, World Wide Panorama.

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