11/28/12 News: All $14+ rewards include a physical ticket mailed to you on 12/16. Great for Christmas gifts! See Update #3.
11/24/12 News: All backers get a rewardeven if 100% funding not reached! What? See Update #2.
What Is It?
Machine Court is something like Franz Kafka mixed with Skynet. Imagine that a group of sentient machines got together and devised a courtroom to judge human behavior. Now imagine that you have been summoned to this courtroom, perhaps to stand trial, perhaps to find fault.
In this Seattle-based production, you and twelve other audience members will participate in a set of exercises inside of a specially constructed auditorium. Animated characters will guide you through your courtroom duties. With some nifty technology, the animated characters can react to your movements inside the space.
In a light-hearted, game-like atmosphere, you and other participants will interact with each other and the animated cast of Machine Court. You might be chosen to be the Defendant. If so, you’ll take the stand and be asked to make decisions in hypothetical scenarios, putting your morality and intelligence to the test. Or your role may be to question the Defendant or argue his guilt. Each person will participate in some way.
Every session of Machine Court ends with the Defendant found guilty. Hey, nobody’s really innocent, right? But what will the crime be? Greed? Pride? Loving Too Much? The jury decides. Then everyone is invited to sing along, karaoke-style, while a ridiculous song is performed announcing the guilty verdict.
When you come to Machine Court, it’s an hour-long performance with you involved as part of the entertainment. Each show hosts a small group, never larger than thirteen, and some care is taken to keep the environment friendly and comfortable. The unusual and challenging experience will appeal to people that want to go beyond just watching a performance.
Where Are You At with the Project Now?
At this time, I have leased space and built the auditorium for Machine Court, spending thousands of dollars and thousands of hours to make it real. I’ve demonstrated the technology at two art shows, and put together proof-of-concepts on the trickier aspects.
There are great people from my past projects that I plan to work with again on Machine Court. People like Rich Vreeland, who composed music for the indie videogame hit, Fez, and has had his work performed by the London Philharmonic. And Bettina Throckmorton, a gifted artist who has already sketched out awe-inspiring background art for Machine Court that you can now see in the video. The network of people I’ve met and worked with over decades includes talented musicians, artists, actors, audio engineers, and programmers.
My past work includes completed computer games, animated shorts, and multimedia exhibits. I will put most of Machine Court together using my own creative and technical skills. But I do know how to add people to the team to get things done.
I have a workshop adjoining the auditorium with tools for sewing, carpentry, painting, swaging, aluminum work and other stage crafting tasks. I’ve used this in-house workshop to build the projector screens and ceiling mounts in the auditorium.
So I’m definitely not starting from scratch here! This a very feasible project with a comfortable schedule.
What Is Left to Complete?
The next steps over the coming months leading up to Opening Day are:
Create the Machine Court content (writing, artwork, voiceovers, music)
Refine the See-Stage software with enhancements needed for Machine Court
Do some stage crafting to make the auditorium feel more thematic
Test the interactive parts of the show with live audiences to see what works and what doesn’t. Basically, optimize the fun!
I would really like your help to finish work on this unique and new form of entertainment. If I can see that people want Machine Court to happen, then I will focus my energy on it.
Where and When does it Happen?
I will open Machine Court to the public on Saturday, November 2nd next year, and keep it open for shows at least one month, possibly indefinitely as a permanent installation. The venue for the opening month will be in Seattle. For out-of-towners, this may be a great excuse to visit Seattle on Halloween Weekend. In fact, one of the backer rewards is booking a Machine-Court-themed hotel room suite.
How Can I Go To It?
You need a ticket (see the rewards, most of which include a ticket) and then you can book a specific Machine Court showing in Seattle happening on or after November 2nd, 2013.
I Can’t Be in Seattle for This Thing!
I can still include you. If you pledge for any of the backer rewards, and you contact me to request it, I will schedule an audio-only version of the show that you can call with your phone or Skype. And check out the “Victory Poster” reward—it will look glorious hanging on your cubicle wall, even if you can’t make the show! See also the “Open Source Victory Bonus” described below, which conceivably might cause some kind of interesting multimedia experience to happen near you.
And are you sure you can’t be in downtown Seattle on Halloween weekend eleven months from now? It’s a good place to be with a lot going on.
Open Source Victory Bonus
If the project is funded and ten or more backers ask for this, I will kick in a nice bonus that could launch some interesting side efforts. The sophisticated software used to control the See-Stage auditorium will be released under an open source license if Machine Court is successfully funded and at least ten backers email me to request that the software be released. This is software that retrieves data from six or more ceiling-mounted Kinects and combines it into a single model of where people are inside of the tracked area. Would you like more technical info on this part? Just ask!
Future News, Casting Calls
In addition to backer updates, I will also be putting detailed updates on my blog at http://seespacelabs.com. From there, you can join an event announce list and subscribe to a blog news feed, if you want. Also, if you’ve got a good voice and acting ability, at some point we should have voiceover casting calls for the animated characters in the show.
Risks and challenges
Of course, a lot of unforeseen things can go wrong. I see the risks overall being divided into the following categories:
* Technical Obstacles - I finished proof-of-concept work before making this pitch to be certain that the groundbreaking large-area motion sense technology in the auditorium will be possible. There will certainly be more problems to solve, but the basic "gonna work?" tests have been completed. I've tested the auditorium at two public shows with hundreds of people walking through.
* Game Design - Before all of the media is developed and produced for the show, I will need to do a lot of test rehearsals with low-tech "table" versions of the show to make sure that gameplay is satisfying, enjoyable, and doesn't cause problems. By keeping flexibility in the design at early stages, I can avoid the show falling flat later.
* Overall scheduling/resources - I need to have enough time and money to pull this thing together. It won't help anyone if I bite off more than I can chew or mismanage the project. A key point is that I've already purchased and tested 95% of the equipment needed for the project. Costs in excess of $5,000 have gone into the auditorium build, and that is a piece of work that sits completed and ready to use. Also, I've set the schedule for opening day far enough into the future that I'll be able to deal with setbacks as they arise. This is probably a six month project, but I'm giving myself eleven, because... life is messy.
This isn't my first rodeo. Check out past projects on my website, including the recently opened "Machine Horror House" at the Bemis Art Show.
SUPPORTER PERKS - You will be added to our published list of project backers (see “Victory Poster” below). And you have the option of being included in our test run invites. Test runs are sessions where you visit the studio with others and we go through the show, testing, tweaking, and gathering feedback. If there is any expressed interest from out-of-towners, we’ll do at least one teleconference test run where you can call in for an audio-only test of the performance. Even if you choose not to attend test runs, you’ll still get to hear some interesting behind-the-scenes stuff when I send out notifications.
SHOW TICKET - You get a ticket to the hour-long performance of Machine Court which you can schedule with us at an available time after the November 2nd, 2013 Opening Day. This reward also includes the “Supporter Perks” reward (adding you to published list of backers and test run invites).
VICTORY POSTER - An 11 x 17 poster featuring Bettina Throckmorton's intricate Machine Court artwork will be sent to you. Your name will be printed on the poster in the list of backers supporting Machine Court. We will finish the poster artwork after successful funding, but you can view some preliminary sketches from Bettina to get an idea what it will look like. Add $5 for shipping outside of US or Canada. “Supporter Perks” and “Show Ticket” rewards also included. Posters shipped by January 2013 at latest, while show ticket "estimated delivery" is November 2013 when show opens.
FIRST SHOW TICKET - This is a ticket to the very first public showing of Machine Court on November 2nd, 2013. This show will be especially updated so that the animated characters say your actual name when referring to you. We will take a photo with you, other participants, and Machine Court people to put on the website and celebrate the event. “Supporter Perks” and “Victory Poster” rewards also included. Of course, there can only be one “first show” and that means just thirteen of these special tickets will be available.
PRIVATE PARTY SHOW - Book one hour-long Machine Court show for you and twelve other friends, all tickets included. This is a great way to have fun with your buddies and learn some things about each other you didn’t know before. If you have less than thirteen people in your group, you can designate if you’d like the vacant spots to be filled by other participants outside of your group or just go with a smaller group. You can specify up to twelve other people to receive the “Supporter Perks”. You will receive thirteen Victory Posters to distribute as you see fit. (We will ship posters to just one address for the “Private Party Show” reward, or you can pick them all up at the show.)
MACHINE COURT SUITE - We will book you in a beautiful hotel suite on November 1st , 2013 (night before opening showing) or November 2nd, your choice, in the King Suite at the Silver Cloud Inn Stadium location in Seattle. The hotel is within easy walking distance to Machine Court and other Halloween weekend events happening in downtown Seattle. There is ample space for four people in the suite, with a separate bedroom and living room. To get you into the right mood, a Machine Court character will call you in the room to welcome you to the hotel, and if you like, will provide a wake-up call for you as well. If the “First Show Ticket” rewards have not all been claimed, we will offer you two tickets to the first show. Otherwise, we will arrange for you and one other person to attend a November 2nd (opening day) show. “Supporter Perks” and “Victory Poster” rewards for two people are included.