The last day of the Venice Film Festival was as unusual as the opening had been!
Friday, the day before the awards ceremony, our team was notified that we would be winning an award the following day. We didn't know what award it would be and needless to say, we had to keep it top secret until after it was announced. In fact, the only reason we were told was so that Kiira Benzing, our director, could prepare her acceptance speech on video.
That afternoon, the women on our team attended the MadWomen Virtually in Venice event in the Venice VR garden, a beautiful open virtual space surrounded by canals and featuring a virtual red carpet (as well as a high tower to jump into the water from, and a virtual dolphin to throw a beach ball to!). Our avatar designer, Rea Goldson, had made special "women in XR" avatars just for the occasion and we all had fun putting them on and jumping for joy on the red carpet.
At some point during the schmoozing and jumping off towers, it hit me. The virtual awards ceremony would be happening the next day, right here in this same virtual space, and those who had way more foresight than I did were prepared.
In retrospect, of course, it goes without saying that a great deal of thought and shopping would have gone into choosing an outfit for the live awards ceremony of a major film festival. I would have chosen something for the ceremony itself, and maybe even something else for the closing night party. I would have been as elegant as all get out.
But in the COVID world of an entirely online virtual festival, and the frantic pace of running our live show as a team, the thought of what that virtual ceremony might be like had never even crossed my mind. I realized that everybody who was anybody had commissioned a customized avatar weeks before. Something fancy and stunning that looked like them. They were NOT going in one of the typical VRChat Avatars, my favorite of which is a tall skinny red pepper.
And so Friday night found me online, googling "custom avatars" and "VRChat" and confirming what I already knew - even if I had the money and the inclination, I most definitely did not have the time to hire someone. And then - thank goodness for Google - I found the answer! Tafi.
So here's the scoop, just in case you find yourself in a similar situation...
Tafi is an application that you download onto your PC and then... wait a minute. I have a Mac. OK. Tafi is an app that you download onto your teenage daughter's barely above a chromebook laptop and create your very own customized avatar that is then exported directly into your VRChat account. Sound too good to be true? It's not!
The interface is simple to understand, and although the options for body and face shapes are not as numerous as say, bitmoji or facebook, they are definitely enough. The clothing options are a bit lacking in the "elegant evening wear" department too, but what they have is fully customizable in terms of color and combinations. It took me most of the evening to finally end up with something that I thought would look good on both the Quest (no sparkles!) and a PC driven headset. The app lets you see what the PC driven version looks like, and then I would go and take a picture of myself in the VRChat lobby mirror to see how it looked on a Quest. I would have loved to be all in gold, but the Quest version made me feel like a lemon in disguise, so I finally went with red and black. Best of all, even with buying several different outfits, hairstyles, earrings, fingernail polish, etc. my total financial outlay was somewhere around $20!
Here is my final look at the closing night party:
This was actually more fun than I can say, experimenting and tweaking. Below is a sampling of some of the looks I tried, including an "everyday" avatar in case I need one at some point. You can only upload two avatars at a time to VRChat, but it looks like they update their outfits for the various holidays and have some fun steam punk looks.
Tafi, I will be back!