How Sombra ’s SINS NFT collection looks to revolutionise metaverse storytelling
SINS is the new NFT project by Sombra – a sister company of Bonfire, the world’s first blockchain-based VFX and content creation studio. The newly released project aims to change the way communities interact with video games and television storytelling, which sees users being able to engage with the narrative in an unprecedented way.
Brendan O’Neil, the founder of Bonfire, launched Sombra after seeing the future of VFX and storytelling in Web 3. Bonfire is an established VFX studio that had built up an impressive list of clients including NFL and Subway. While they had experimented with NFT on the side, Brendan was keen to establish himself and his team further in the metaverse space, which is where the idea for Sombra was born.
“Sombra is sort of an offshoot of my preexisting visual effects studio that lives out of New York City”, explains Brendan. “It seemed like a natural progression from the sort of work we were already doing. We wanted to really focus on Web 3, which I personally believe is very much the future of where the world is going.”
Brendan continues: “There are going to be a lot of opportunities in the visual and sound sector, and all sorts of other mediums. The way in which the concept of the metaverse evolved in 2021 into such a phenomenon was a very telling factor; we really saw an opportunity within the world of visual effects to jump straight into the Web3 world on a really professional level with a preexisting client base.”
While they continued to work with brands, creating an NFL NFT set in collaboration with Bonfire VFX, Sombra still wanted to have an IP of their own. Demian Gordon is a pioneer of motion capture technolog, who has worked on numerous movies and video games over the year. . As well as spearheading the use of motion capture on the Matrix film series, he previously held the positions of Virtual Production and Motion Capture Supervisor at Dreamworks.
He and Brendan first came in contact through an Unreal Engine virtual production Facebook group, where they had conversations on virtual production and motion capture.
“Demian and I kind of started talking and wanted to team up as a resource to disseminate information to people about the latest technology trends and sort of what was happening within the world of virtual production. And obviously, through that motion capture became a very prevalent topic.” Brendan had previously used Xsens motion capture technology as part of a campaign for Subway sandwiches with the NFL player Marshawn Lynch, and quickly saw its capabilities as a storytelling tool, and served as a basis for the development of SINS.
Like Free Guy’s NPC, Sombra’s avatars have agency and direction over the show. Imagine a reality show with avatars in a virtual world.
SINS is a hybrid creative endeavour, with NFT avatars serving as a gateway into a monthly cinematic steaming series and an open-world video game. The project is being released in phases. In the first phase, Sombra will release of a collection of digital NFT avatars, but the project pipeline will see SINS NFT owners become directly involved in the project’s narrative further down the line. “We’re launching our collection in partnership with Rarible and also on our own platform,” Brendan says. “And people can buy NFTs that give them access to the broader ecosystem. And within that ecosystem, you can upgrade your PFP (profile picture) to a 3D model.”
Each 3D character NFT is then entered into the SINS TV show and video game. The TV show is created entirely in Unreal Engine, with Xsens motion capture technology. What makes SINS different from traditional TV shows is that plotlines are dictated by SINS NFT owners. Each month, a community vote takes place, and the show is written in accordance with those results. Beyond this, there are monthly releases of in game P2E missions that directly correspond to the TV show and plot narrative. The open-world game is based on a ‘good faith’ system, and should a SINS user decide to act villainous in the game, this will then be reflected in the TV show.
It’s this type of cross-media convergence that attracted Brendan to Web 3 in the first place, “I think it’s important to just say upfront that NFT and Web 3 technology is not so much just about crypto or about making money or anything like that. And it’s not even really about art. It’s really about being able to engage with large groups of people in a way that was never possible before.” NFT technology has the potential to take passive mediums such as television, and turn them into something that audiences will really feel connected to”. Brendan adds, “There’s just a lot of different opportunities through Web 3 technology that give a whole new level to user engagement within every single medium. Companies are going to move towards Web 3 technology for the benefits that it offers technically for statistics and tracking, but also for how it builds and incentivizes communities.
In the age of the streaming wars where new content is constantly available, it can be hard for a project to keep long term value and remain a part of conversations. SINS hopes to combat this with their NFT technology that will not only encourage engagement but reward it.
When viewers no longer just have a favourite character: they are the character.
“I’m a big fan of TV, and a phenomenon that was interesting to me was when you would have a show like Game of Thrones, and there would be a level of excitement across social media. And I think it really is an interesting one because it allows people to come together as a community around a brand and a product, and that’s something that builds that brand. And if it’s possible to own a part of this TV show, and own an NFT that is represented by a real character and help dictate what that character will do, then it’s even more amazing, and opens up a level of creative engagement that was never possible before.”
For Brendan, this all comes down to not only building a community but sustaining users by being transparent about Sombra’s goals, and rewarding engagement. It’s something that Sombra has taken seriously and has put a lot of effort into to ensure they are providing a project that people will trust and want to come back to. “For a lot of people, the community isn’t a priority, particularly for some CEOs, who are more about themselves or about something financial. We’ve gone to great lengths to really give our community transparency, honesty and also to deliver what we’ve promised. Building a community is something that requires constant communication, every single day. Building community requires love and passion for what you’re doing and a true belief in the project.”
Part of this continued community support includes looking to give SINS owners opportunities to work with Xsens motion capture gear and further embed themselves in the world of the story. “Once a user has a 3D NFT avatar, we have opportunities where people can learn how to do motion capture with their character, and we have a direct link to Xsens where they can get support.. We can help set them up for free, explain to them the workflow, and make sure they’re all good to go” explains Brendan. “We’re pretty flexible. I love my community, so we can travel to people and have them use the Xsens suit, or we can walk them through it on Zoom calls. This is all constantly evolving, we’re trying to build a freelance cultural community that’s also a business, and it’s something that’s never been done before. And I think Xsens is a really great way to connect those people into our business and allow them the opportunity to really become part of it on a really unique level”.
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