Magic Windows: David Bowie

"There's a Starman, Waiting in AR"

For this project, Scott Reitherman and I teamed up to create an “app” that we’re actually really excited about. Both Scott and I are big into music; we collect vinyl, talk about album histories and enjoy introducing one another to new genres (Scott’s more ambient and I’m more funk). We thought it would be cool to create an app that brought the stories of albums to life; one that gave the listener a greater sense of what went in to making a particular album. There’s a small book series called 33 1/3 which tells the entire story of an album in a small 100ish page novella and I think we thought it would be cool to essentially turn one of those into an augmented reality experience that took place in and on the album that was being focused on.


I think it all started with Bowie. Scott approached me after class and said he had an idea involving augmenting vinyl. He mentioned maybe doing this with a Bowie album. Being a big fan of the Thin White Duke myself, I thought this was a great idea. I added that rather than just showing users random images from when the album was made it would be interesting to have those images tell a story in an of themselves. For example, if we did Bowie’s last album, “Blackstar” it would be cool to have the augmented images slowly fade into death as the user advanced through the album.

Scott and I settled on an vinyl he owned that was called Ziggy Stardust: The Motion picture. We chose this album because the inside had separate images that we thought we be better to augment other images on.  Here is the final product (a correctly oriented video will be updated soon, just wanted to get this blog post up):

Unity Does Not Like Videos...

There were a lot of difficulties making this project all centering around adding video to Vuforia. While getting the proper scripts in place wasn’t too difficult, getting the video to play along with the audio was an extremely laborious task that took up 90% of the projects time. The issue seemed to be with the codec and dimensionality of the videos. They all needed to be 640×360 and if they weren’t the audio would play but not the video. When we tried re-orienting these videos in Premiere we would also have issues where the video wouldn’t play (but the audio would) while holding your phone vertically, but would play properly while holding your phone horizontally.

We also ran into issues with how the video was uploaded in Unity. At first we thought it was ok to drag and drop the videos (mp4’s) into the Streaming Assets folder but then we realized we couldn’t make any adjustments to them. Then we tried uploading the videos into the assets folder which seemed to be the correct move, or so we thought. Turns out the video needed to be transcoded (thanks to Gabe for the help with this). After THAT was figured out, we still had some issues but after a bit more trouble shooting we got it to work.

Future Improvements

Scott and I spent so much time making sure the videos work and that we had the proper content that we weren’t able to complete what I think is one of the more crucial elements of the project: additional story-telling. While the evolution of the augments follows a particular story, there are certainly subtleties that I want to imbue in the project that I think we could’ve done with more time/less technical issues. For example, I love the video on the cover, I love the story it tells; it’s a perfect introduction. However, I wish it had smoke coming from the top of it to tie in the fire coming from the cover. I also wish the videos would get more frantic and cut in and out more to show Bowie losing his mind as his success increased. 

Overall though, I’m really pleased with what we got and I’m eager to take the next steps with this app as I think it could be an interesting, non-novelty-driven exploration of augmented reality. 

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