Jack is one of the most experienced VR and AR Designers in Bristol.
Having directed or developed more than 20 separate projects that make use of AR, VR, MR, projection, fulldome or depth-sensing technologies, Jack personally introduced VR and AR to some of the biggest immersive content creators in Bristol today.
A Graduate of the Bristol School of Animation, and a BAFTA nominee for creating the BBC’s first mobile VR experience, Jack is an experienced creator of digital content who oversees practical development and production at Zubr. He is chiefly responsible for identifying the strongest approaches for creating powerful immersive experiences.
Experiments in the world of Games
Jack partly built his technical and creative experience on modding, customising and experimenting with various video games. After many years of 3D Terrain making in Battlefield 1942, Scenario creation for Operation Flashpoint and creating texture packs for Minecraft, adapting to Unity’s 3D environment was only a natural progression.
In hasty optimism of the capabilities of VR at the time, Jack purchased a Vuzix 920 VR headset in 2008, determined to make it work with military simulation game – Arma – with perhaps a little success.
“The screen resolution is terrible and the gyro head tracking isn’t great – But when everything works, and you are flying a helicopter with a joystick – looking down at your feet and at the land all around you – it is amazing.”
Pioneering Animation Theatre and Augmented Reality concepts
Jack studied at the Bristol School of Animation, with an interest in multimedia and hybrid digital content. For his final piece in 2011, Jack collaborated with another artist, Livvy Brewer, to create an experimental animated projection theatre show called Lumen Soup. The show used carefully calibrated projections of lights and shadows to embed live performers into an animated film.
Shortly thereafter, Jack worked at Kudan, a computer vision startup. He created various conceptual videos to help visualise the potential of augmented reality. Many of these concepts were ideas that were not truly possible at the time, but are now being realised thanks to Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore. It was here that Jack met James Biggs, who would later become his business partner in launching Zubr.
“The performance involves two actors in front of a large screen in a dark space. A digital video is front-projected onto the screen. This video dictates all lighting, sound and choreography in the show.”
– Lumen Soup, 2011
Film and TV Compositing and VFX
Jack continued his work in video VFX and continued his career at leading TV graphics studio BDH. For a few years he worked on various high profile television series, creating motion typography for Professor Brian Cox’s Wonders of Life, weather alterations for costume dramas, and compositing for Spongebob Squarepants. The output format for many video graphics projects became increasingly diverse; including projection at live events, stereoscopic 3D films, Giant Screen (IMAX), and 360 projection productions.
Carving a niche as a VR Designer
It was through unusual and challenging forms of video deployment that Jack learnt how to apply his film graphics skills to interactive and realtime 3D visuals and VR technologies; for example, making use of depth-sensing cameras to create realtime 3D visuals, as seen in From Every Angle. With a developing set of skills in the creative application of depth-sensing cameras, stereoscopic imagery and realtime 3D, Jack anticipated that he had a role to play in the revival of the virtual reality industry.
Too impatient to wait for an Oculus Rift Developer Kit, Jack ordered a Refugio 3D Cardboard headset just in time for the Google Cardboard app to be unveiled in 2014:
— Jack Norris (@JackNorrisUK) June 26, 2014
Seeking an exciting way to validate this new technology, BDH decided to adapt their work for the BBC’s War of Words: Soldier Poets of the Somme to create a special VR piece. Jack interpreted one of the BDH team’s animated scenes into a VR experience, which became War of Words VR. The experience was released worldwide as one of 10 VR apps promoted by Google for Christmas 2014, and has approximately 250,000 downloads across iOS and Android, making it one of the BBC’s most successful VR productions to date.
Following the success of War of Words VR, BDH wanted to continue its’ exploration of immersive content, and Jack led the development of a much larger Google Cardboard project: Bosch VR. Containing a vast amount of cutout and animated artwork, 3D terrains and advanced particle effects, Bosch VR was released in early 2016 with an accompanying custom cardboard viewer.