Four years ago, David Blair made an experimental feature length film entitled “Wax, or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees.” To call “Wax” a film was something of a misnomer, however; the project was composed mainly of digital images created using hardware such as Microtime Impact and various PC workstations.
And while the film was eventually transferred to 16mm for theatrical release, the project may have been more accurately called a video, or even electronic cinema.
The film follows Jacob Maker, played by Blair himself, through a process of self discovery, aided in part by his swarms of rare, paranormal bees. The film, with its innumerable cultural references, its clever and complex narrative, and its delirious visual style, has been compared to everything from the drawings of M.C. Escher to the films of Kenneth Anger.
“Wax” in its original form was self-distributed by Blair and played in more than 20 cities to excellent reviews. The project did not lapse into oblivion after its run, however. Instead, Blair returned the project to the digital domain by compressing the images using MPEG technology. “Wax” was shown on the Internet in May 1993 and again in August 1994. The resulting project, which is still available via Mosaic on the World Wide Web, enables viewers to add their own text, audio and video segments to the original version. “Wax” was thus not only the first film to have been “broadcast” via the Internet, but was (and is) the first interactive feature available on the net.
But Blair hasn’t stopped. At the World Wide Web conference in October, a standard, called VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language), was set. Previously there had been no common computer language for creators of VR programs. Using VRML, Blair is currently creating a virtual reality version of “Wax,” which again will be available on the network.
The VRML has allowed Blair to take the 250 3-D scenes from “Wax” and turn them into virtual rooms through which a viewer can travel in real time.
A CD-ROM of the project will be sold as a stand-alone, but users can also log onto the net and use the CD-ROM drive, rather than a server, to access all the sound and video. The virtual reality version of “Wax” is slated to debut on the net in late January or early February; the CD will be available in March.