April 22 2024


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W. Vito Montone

By Christian
Posted at July 16, 2002 - 9:55 PM GMT

Vir-Con avatars - copyright Virtual Conventions Vir-Con executive producer W. Vito Montone today said he found it both exciting and scary to be organising the first virtual Star Trek convention, expected to attract thousands of Star Trek fans.

The 3D Vir-Con is the first event of its kind, giving fans who aren't able to go to Creation's Star Trek convention is Las Vegas the chance to still have the same kind of experience in a virtual environment. Fans who sign up for the Vir-Con will be able to create three-dimensional avatars to navigate through a virtual convention floor, and will also be able to see live streaming videos of many Trek celebrities during their appearance in Las Vegas.

(Vir-Con is a sponsor of the Trek Nation.)

W. Vito Montone, executive producer of the Virtual Convention, recently agreed to answer questions from TrekToday readers about the event. His answers to several of the most interesting questions we received can be found below:

Yan: What kind of quality should we expect as to the streaming videos of the stars' appearances? I'm not sure I'd like to have a 100x50 image shot from a camera way back in the room... Thank you and good luck with the convention!

W. Vito Montone: The wide shot will encompass all the people on the stage in a full body shot. It will not be too small. The close-up for the Private Viewing (Preferred & Latinum Pass holders) will follow the celebrities with a bust shot.

Lindsay: Will we ever be able to ask questions of the Trek actors on the Vir-Cons?

W. Vito Montone: Preferred & Latinum Pass holders may submit questions that may be asked of the actors on stage. And Preferred & Latinum Pass holders also have private (group) chats scheduled with actors each day.

Antony: How does it feel to be doing the first online con?

W. Vito Montone: Very exciting and a little bit scary! It shouldn’t be any other way, right? Frankly, it is a honor and a great responsibility to bring a Star Trek convention on-line to fans around the world.

Piers: Are you planning Virtual Conventions for other shows? What are your other future plans?

W. Vito Montone: Star Trek will be repeated each year, some of the next ones planned are Xena, Buffy, Farscape, Andromeda, Kiss, Lord of the Rings... oh, so many more...

Leila Dax: Do you foresee virtual conventions replacing real ones in the future?

W. Vito Montone: I was very involved with videoconferencing when it was born in the 80’s. They thought it would replace travel. It didn’t. It enabled faster communication and more of it. I think there will be more convention going because it will be more accessible. And, each has it’s own valued experience.

Rob: How do you intend to make sure the Vir-Con computer systems will be able to handle the load of all the visitors? What kind of servers does the Vir-Con use (OS, specs)?

W. Vito Montone: A great technological approach, world-class partners and proven software. The video and 3D services are completely separate services. The video streaming will be bought to you by one of the world's best, AT&T Intelligent Content Distribution Service. They can stream all that we can throw at them. The 3D world is actually a very small communication packet. We have a very large redundant pipe to the Internet and a rack full of load-balanced 16 high-output servers using Red Hat Linux delivered by Vital Stream.

Michael G.: What gave you the idea to set up a virtual convention?

W. Vito Montone: Studying virtual reality behavior and believing it can bring the world closer together. I wanted to use the web for a practical yet fun use, not just esoteric technology. Something that people can have fun with and share in the experience. I have been waiting for years for computers, software maturity and bandwidth to line up!

Kate: Will the lobby remain open after the end of the convention?

W. Vito Montone: Yes

B'Elanna: Can you create your own avatar? If not, how many avatars can you choose from?

W. Vito Montone: The virtual conventions all will be branded. Each brand will have their own restrictions. Some will allow users to create avatars, some will provide the avatars extremely accurate to that brand style. The 60 Star Trek avatars will be all be official and amazing! A first for fans world-wide!

Valentine: How many visitors do you expect?

W. Vito Montone: We have designed the world for 100,000 visitors and expect up to 35,000 the first year.

Isaac: Have you ever been to a real convention yourself? How did you like them? What will you be doing during this convention... will you be in Vegas, or will you be busy with the computers?

W. Vito Montone: Yes, I have. The most amazing thing was the attendees, the fans. Wonderful caring people who believe in a one-world consciousness. I can already see that in our virtual Lobby- the range of countries has astounded me- truly representative of the globe! The team each has their role. True to the spirit of Vir-Con, we will be spread from Vancouver, three locations around LA, to Denver, to Las Vegas. I will be at the Las Vegas convention directing the webcast.

Steve Varley: Can people who sign up for the Latinum Pass ask for a personal message to be inscribed on the photos, or will it just be a standard autographed picture?

W. Vito Montone: We had hoped to have personal inscriptions – a true virtual autograph – but that was a feature we had to push off to year two. Just standard autographed photos in 2002.

'3D Virtual Star Trek Convention' - copyright Vir-Con Today at 1:00pm PST, fans who already registered for the first Virtual Star Trek Convention will be able to ask more questions to Mr. Montone. At that time, the Vir-Con executive producer will attend a live chat in the virtual lobby at Vir-Con. Over the coming days, more live chats will be organised in the lobby, including one with Trek novelist Keith R.A. DeCandido. A full chat schedule can be found on the official Vir-Con site, where fans can also still register for the event itself.

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Christian is editor of the Trek Nation, as well as of Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda fan site SlipstreamWeb.

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