Gogglesets - When Virtual Becomes Reality
At Universal Live we have a specialist in-house design team, they work collectively with our Project Managers to provide our clients with 3D visualisations of their event – enabling them to see their event before it is built.
So when it came to their latest project they were not fazed by the challenge, instead, they threw themselves into what lay ahead. Our graphics team were approached by our Technical Director, Jon Eden to push the boundaries of event design and visualisation, and go the extra mile for one of our clients’ biggest events. Jon wanted the event plenary space to be visualised as a full Virtual Reality (VR) ‘world’, enabling our client to go anywhere within it and look around, sit in any chair and see the view from that position, or walk on to the stage and experience the lighting, the comfort monitors, the screens and so on.
We had previously explored VR in the form of 360° renders which could be viewed on a mobile device or through a basic VR headset. This project, however, took things one step further – we like to be outside our comfort zone now and then!
After research was undertaken we decided to use Oculus Rift headsets for viewing the experience, and the Unity Games Engine to power the movement around the space. This allowed us to build the environment as we normally would do, with only minor changes to our workflow to enhance it for the games engine.
Following a design consultation with our client and Jon, we came up with a design that was perfect for space and met the requirements for the client, taking into consideration their event branding and tying this seamlessly with the production design. We then built all of this in Cinema 4D in as much detail as possible.
The most challenging part of this project was switching the game-orientated workflow into the real-time render the game engine uses. Some aspects were rebuilt to ensure that the textures were set up correctly before they were exported into the Unity Engine. In addition to this, we also had to consider the user experience and how they may wish to interact with the visualisation. This was of particular interest to us as it gives the client an extra level of engagement with the design, which is highly valuable in the early stages. We discovered that Unity is well integrated with VR and that the Oculus Rift was easy to implement requiring only minor coding and tweaks to work.
The VR event was designed perfectly to scale so when you are within it you are completely immersed. It allows you to understand how the space would work from both the presenters’ and delegates’ point of view. It’s as close as we can get you to experience the event before it has happened! We programmed the lights to change colour, made the videos play on the screens and even lit the stage as you walked on it. This combined with a hint of ambient background noise allowed our client to be fully transported into their live event without even leaving the office.
Although this was our design team’s first large project of this type, they took on the challenge and truly delivered. It proves that the latest technology and highly skilled designers can work hand in hand to produce the most innovative solutions to meet our clients’ requirements. We have discussed VR in previous articles as still emerging within the events industry, but the new and developing technologies we used for this project prove that VR is here and here to stay.