Prince Ivan producer Erik Beardmore at the launch party Feb. 21 at the Silver Snail.

Photo: Jacob Dubé

RTA students augment reality in comic

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

By Jacob Dubé

You’re looking into a forest. A tree sways back and forth in the wind and starlight is moving around you.

Then you turn the page.

A group of fourth-year RTA media production students created Prince Ivan, a graphic novel that interfaces with an app to add an augmented reality feature to the panels. It launched on Feb. 21 at Silver Snail, a comic book store.

The group, under the name Birch Media, consists of students Erik Beardmore, Anett Galica, Kathy Tong, Crystal Lai, Dan Paguirigan, Leah Halin and Brian Ejar.

The idea came when Beardmore and Galica met at a mixer to discuss ideas for their fourth-year practicum project. They noticed that most final projects were videos, and Galica said she wanted to make a graphic novel. They decided to add the element of augmented reality to reflect the diversity of their program.

“I’m pretty sure this is the direction a lot of comics and graphic novels are going,” Beardmore said. “There’s a lot of web comics that are popping up on the internet that are incorporating animation and sound design, or even interactive elements like games. But there’s this drive to have a physical copy nonetheless. This project was trying to bridge digital media that was so abstract with something very physical.”

The artists drew the panels, created animated versions on Adobe After Effects and uploaded them on the augmented reality app Layar. The pages compatible with the app are lined with blue. When a reader reaches one of the pages, they scan it with the app and the animation loads on your smart device’s screen.

Prince Ivan is based on the old fairy tale of Prince Ivan and the Grey Wolf. The story revolves around a young prince destined to be king, living in a secluded castle surrounded by a cursed forest. Tempted by a vision of his mother he wanders into the woods and gets lost, and his adventure begins. Tong says that Galica and the team thought that the story really related to university students.

“The story revolves around a young prince named Ivan, who is going into the unknown, which kind of relates to us; we’re about to graduate and go out into the real world where we don’t know everything, even though we think we do. So it reflects off that same storyline with Ivan,” Tong said.

The team formed in September 2015 and completed the book in five months for the launch. In order to get it out on time, they split the writing and art between chapters, so every chapter is in a different art and writing style.

RTA professor Charles Zamaria supervised the project, counseling them but giving them the freedom they needed to create the book.

“All the faculty advisors were very attracted to this project and were very competitive to have this project under their belt,” Zamaria said. “They’ve done a remarkable job of developing the ideas and taking it through to this stage. And the augmented reality component just makes them an outstanding and extraordinary project.”

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