VR Visionaries: Luke Tanaka + ODESZA
Oculus Blog
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Posted by Oculus VR
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November 30, 2017
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Anyone who’s had the chance to see electronic duo ODESZA perform live can attest to the visual spectacle. What they may not know is that parts of the onstage light show during the A Moment Apart Tour were created in VR using Oculus Medium. In today’s edition of VR Visionaries, we sit down with Visual Artist and ODESZA Live Creative Director Luke Tanaka to learn more about his creative process and the ways in which VR is changing the face of performance.

Tell us a little bit about your background and your role with ODESZA.

Luke Tanaka: Harrison Mills (half of ODESZA) and I were best friends in New Media Design school at Western Washington University. After we graduated, he started making music with Clayton Knight (other half) and I did graphic design at an advertising agency. About two years later, they had become successful enough to start doing small tours and asked me if I would run visuals for them. Without knowing anything about the job and industry, I dropped everything and joined them on their first headline tour. A lot of the things Harrison and I learned together in school directly applied to music visuals, and I immediately fell in love with the art form.

These days as a Creative Director, I oversee the entire visual process from the video content to the lighting and stage design. I also create and sequence the bulk of the visual content alongside a handful of other talented artists.

What initially inspired you to incorporate Oculus Medium into your workflow?

LT: I had used a variety of drawing apps within VR that were more entertainment-focused and immediately realized the power and possibilities of creating within an immersive workspace. I stumbled on Medium and realized that I could incorporate VR modeling into my existing workflow, which was very exciting. I spent a lot of time as a child sculpting with clay, and the format of modeling that Medium offers feels like a natural progression from real-life materials.

How did you use the immersive nature of VR to your advantage from an artistic perspective?

LT: Modeling assets in Medium allowed me to actually stand beside and move around the objects I was making. It’s amazing how much an immersive perspective can inform your decisions and speed up your process.


Photo by Jasper Newton.

How does the work you’ve created in Medium differ from your other art?

LT: One thing that has always challenged me with traditional computer modeling is creating an organic form. With the gestural nature of Medium, a lot of the barriers I’d encountered with a standard mouse and keyboard setup became irrelevant. Medium allows the artist the freedom of movement that traditional media affords with the benefit of being able to incorporate it into your normal 3D pipeline.

Did you encounter any technical challenges while working in VR?

LT: Yes, mainly with figuring out how best to optimize the mesh for my animation programs. Fortunately, there’s a very strong community of intelligent people on the Oculus Forums, and I was able to get it working pretty well.

If people take one thing away from the experience of a live ODESZA show, what do you hope that would be and why?

LT: Playing into the title and concept of the album, I hope people can experience a moment apart from the chaos of the outside world.


Photo by Jasper Newton.

How do you think VR will continue to impact the worlds of art and culture in 2018 and beyond?

LT: I see it becoming more integrated with people’s 3D pipeline. It’s already proven to be such a powerful and unique tool, I’m excited to see how it continues to open up everybody’s workflow. I feel pretty confident that in the near future it will be a standard piece of equipment for any 3D artist.

What’s next for you? Any exciting projects in the works?

LT: Onward and upward with ODESZA! We have some pretty big aspirations for the coming year, and I’m super excited to be working alongside my best friends.


Photo by Jasper Newton.

Thanks for taking the time to talk about your craft, Luke. It’s inspiring to see artists bringing music to life with the help of VR.

Get hands-on with Oculus Medium today, and stay tuned to the blog next month for our next VR Visionaries installment!

— The Oculus Team