Rachel Zook is an Interactive Multimedia major at the College of New Jersey. She has a background in web design, video production, game design, and the Adobe Creative Cloud. She is most interested in storytelling and game design. Her hobbies include reading, writing, drawing, and hunting through the woods at night looking for Bigfoot.
The Museum of the North American Cryptid is a virtual museum created by me, showcasing the cryptids - unexplainable creatures like the Mothman or Bigfoot - of America in a way that is accessible to everyone. Cryptids are often portrayed in the media as scary monsters, yet their lore is often very interesting and nuanced. I made the museum to allow the general public, including children or people who don't like scary things, to learn more about the creatures that may just be living near you.
Overarching Challenges and Solutions:
The biggest problem was the restriction from virtual reality technology. Originally, the museum was meant to be played through the Oculus Rift because I had access to it at the college. However, when the college shut down I was forced to work around this and rethink the museum. I solved this by converting the museum to a kind of teaser video. Unfortunately, it can only be a teaser video for now, as the entire museum tour is closer to 10 minutes long. Assets were converted from 3D to 2D, and the final "game" is actually a video simulating how it would be to play the game in virtual reality. Therefore, I was able to give the viewer the experience of touring the museum without actually using virtual reality.
Development Process and Tools:
I began the museum by researching cryptids in North America, selectively choosing which to include based on how recognizable they would be to the audience and how much potential they had to be twisted into my own idea of the cryptid. While I wanted to include real information about the cryptids so that the museum is still educational, I found it most important to include my own twist on the creatures so that my personality and sense of humor could shine through. Then, I created sketches of all the monsters and listed out all relevant information, their backstories and what made them unique. I also drew a layout of the museum and made a list of where every creature and its paraphernalia would be displayed on the walls. I took these sketches and refined them in Photoshop, along with creating the walls of the museum and the other exhibit objects to be displayed alongside the monster statues. Next, I created the script for every object, since they can all be interacted with and the tour guide will explain its importance. Finally, I set up the museum in a 3D space in After Effects, used the 3D camera to record it from the perspective of someone walking through the museum with virtual reality goggles on, and added in the dialogue and sound effects.
Personal Inspiration and Interest:
Researching cryptids is a hobby of mine and has been for many years. Once you learn that almost every state has its own version of the Loch Ness monster, you realize there's a whole world of creatures and their stories living right under your nose, out of sight of the general public. Many people know about Bigfoot, but how many know that he was originally a part of Native American folklore and sometimes served as a protector, or even attacker? Cryptids serve as a piece of history for specific areas of the world, a kind of marker that something strange happened here once. They're both interesting oddities and important historical markers.
How Does This Play Into Your Professional/Creative Goals? What Do You Want To Do With This, After This?
I hope I can use the Museum of the North American Cryptid both as an example of my resourcefulness and mastery with the Adobe Creative Cloud, and as an example of my creativity, passion, and personality. Professionally, these factors are important for getting a job in media like animated shows, movies, or video games because it shows my adaptability and reliability as an individual. My sense of humor and how I do things are uniquely my own, and jobs where creativity is a necessity will remember that.
How Is This Work Likely To Impact The World Beyond Tcnj?
The Museum of the North American Cryptid could be a stepping stone for many into the hidden world of cryptozoology. Although there was so much information I simply did not have the time or space to include, I hope it's enough that it motivates viewers to look further into creatures like the Loveland Frogman, or see if they have any cryptids native to their hometown.
Biggest Challenge Overcome and How:
The biggest challenge by far was having to think on my feet and redesign the format of the museum. It was always meant to be in virtual reality, but when things don't work out as expected flexibility is key. Therefore, creating a 3D space in After Effects simulates the idea of virtual reality without the technology.
Adaptations to COVID:
As stated previously, without the right technology the museum had to be completely rethought and redone.
Collaboration With Others:
I worked closely with my fellow students to garner feedback on what type of museum I should make; originally I wanted it to be the stereotypical scary monster museum, but feedback from others made me realize I wanted it to be accessible to everyone. I also collaborated with a fellow student on the voice acting. He graciously offered to record his voice for the tour guide because he had prior experience with voice acting. Thanks Chris!