The Hangman at Home

The Hangman at Home

The Hangman at Home is a multimedia project directed by Michelle and Uri Kranot with three distinct outcomes. The project is inspired by the 1922 Carl Sandburg poem The Hangman at Home.

  • The Hangman at Home – VR: a single-user virtual reality experience.
  • The Hangman at Home: an animated short film independent of the VR experience.
  • We Are at Home: a multi-user VR installation for a larger venue and audience.

The project uses a blend of various techniques to achieve its style. The animation is hand-painted on paper on top of edited video footage. A character was sculpted and scanned using photogrammetry and later animated using 3D software. And the diorama sets were build through a close and iterative process between 2D and 3D artists.

In my role as Technical Director, I was responsible for most of the programming, except for the networking in the multi-user experience. Some amount of optimisation tricks were needed to make the experience run on the Oculus Quest, which was our lowest target device. The use of videos and many large textures meant we had to be clever about how be used and compressed textures, as well as how shaders blended transparent sprites. The white on black chalk-style had the fortunate side effect of allowing us to use additive blending, which performs much better on mobile devices compared with something like premultiplied blending. In addition, textures only needed to contain a single channel, which halved the memory/disk size and allowed for better quality than something like DXT5.

Other technical challenges included synchronising the videos of characters with frame animation from Maya. The 2D characters in the dioramas were exported as videos to avoid long, high-res PNG sequences that would both increase the build size and also increase texture swapping and disk read. The videos are rendered on a simple quad, which is moved in depth. The animation that moves the quad in depth must be perfectly synchronised with the video. We therefore had to write a custom script that would evaluate the animation on every frame update of the video.

Awards and Selections

We Are at Home

The Hangman at Home (VR)

  • Grand Jury Prize: Best VR immersive. 77th Venice Film Festival, La Biennale di Venezia (2020).
  • Special Mention: Kaboom Int. Animation Festival (2021).
  • Official Competition: Art Direction. International Film Festival Rotterdam (2021).
  • Official Selection: VR Competition Ottawa International Animation Festival (2020).
  • Official Competition: Festival du nouveau cinéma de Montréal (2020).
  • Official Selection: Geneva International Film Festival (2020).
  • Official Selection: Annecy International Animation Festival – VR Works (2021).

The Hangman at Home (film)

  • Golden Dragon Grand Prize for Best Film (Int. Shorts Competition). Kraków Film Festival (2021).

Project Details

Genre Virtual Reality Experience / Animation / Participatory performance
Technique Paint on footage, 2D and 3D animation
Length VR 25 min. / Performance 45 min
Producers Late love production (DK), Miyu productions (FR), Floreal Films (FR), National Film Board (CA)
The Hangman at Home (trailer)
The Hangman at Home VR (trailer)
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