February 6, 1995 - February 12, 1995
SECTION: Pg. 72
LENGTH: 390 words
HEADLINE: 'Wax' breaks ground as electronic cinema
BYLINE: HOLLY WILLIS
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
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
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.