Stow Away

When I arrived at AVR London Stow Away was one of the first projects I was assigned. Working with the developers Stow Projects and architects Doone Silver Kerr we were brought on to visualise their container apart-hotel concept. Due to the compact nature of the container’s interior the client wanted to use VR to take advantage of the sense of scale and presence afforded by the medium. Initially the project focused on design development to understand the feel for the space and whether the proposed designs would be viable. Over the course of the project as the design became locked down we transitioned to producing marketing collateral and a room-scale VR experience. For this we mapped our virtual container to a real one to heighten the experience of being in the proposed scheme.

 As the project’s scope evolved so too did my role within the team. As I was brought on to the project my main tasks were asset creation and engine work, such as lighting and developing interactive features. Over time I came to ultimately lead the project through to its completion liaising with the clients and managing the team. As the scheme has gone through a number of design overhauls it has been interesting personally to see how we've tackled each new phase as a team. Because of this Stow Away has proved an interesting cross-section of our abilities as with each new iteration there's been a clear visual improvement upon the previous.

 In the end the project has become what I feel is the best looking VR project that we've worked on. Ok, fair enough that's a limited pool of contenders but it’s a small achievement for us. The environments are much more populated than previous projects and there’s been a much more focused creative direction across the board from lighting to colour palettes. The project started to really push the limits of what we could get working in the VR headset and as such has become a benchmark for the quality we can produce.

Update 27/11

 

 It's been a fair while since I last pulled back the curtains to talk about what I've been keeping busy with. And busy is certainly the word to describe the recent months, both inside the office at AVR London and outside, having started freelancing in the weekends and evenings at home.

 AVR has consisted of the expected day to day real-time development alongside some exciting changes in the studio. Since April the team has begun taking our initial steps as a new sister company, namely A-VR, focusing on real-time and VR content creation for architectural visualisation. It's been a real insight for me to see what goes into the creation of a company and brand from the website, the visuals to developing our messages and services to clients. That's been a process I've been very involved with creatively and emotionally, I feel a lot of ownership over much of the brand, our work and the team. In the year and a half I've now been working at AVR London/A-VR, you know, I feel I've grown a lot personally as well as how we've developed as a unit in the office.   

 Alongside the exciting task of building up a company there's been the bread and butter VR work I've been responsible for. Since The Madison I've worked on a handful of smaller non realtime projects though we recently wrapped up work on another VR experience, one I hope to talk about more soon.

 Turning attention away from office life to the homefront and as I mentioned above over the last months I've begun to freelance. Currently I'm working with two friends from university helping to develop their game JACKHAMMER. JACKHAMMER is a first person multiplayer shooter, launching in February, and is loosely based around dodgeball… with more explosions… and giant robots.  I've been predominately responsible for UI and the graphical aesthetic of the game though I've also had a hand in the level design and mechanic development over production. It's been interesting for me to apply much of the same skillset from work to JACKHAMMER, fundamentally they’re both realtime development, although applied to game development.

 I think you’d be surprised about the amount of crossover, at-least that I feel there is, between game development with JACKHAMMER and working at AVR. At any rate they’re both keeping me stupidly busy and taking up what is probably too much of my time. However, to see the time and work going into both endeavours coming together over the last month or so has been really rewarding.

 

The Madison VR Experience

 

 Recently I finished up working on The Madison VR Experience at AVR which the team and I have been cooking up for the past five months. It’s great to be able to start giving the project some air time and showcase the effort on the team’s part as it's been a challenging development process for all of us involved. We were tasked with creating a VR experience for The Madison, a new residential tower in Canary Wharf, to immerse potential buyers in an accurate virtual representation of the finished building from apartments to available amenities. There were a number of challenges on the project from the scale of what we needed to produce, a changing team and my own role expanding over the course of production.

 The Madison is the largest VR experience we’ve produced at AVR, something like seven different virtual spaces with features such as changing from day to night and other user interactions. These have been interesting hurdles to overcome and learn from over the past months, the answer not always being an easy one or simple to reach. I feel my role has evolved from mainly being responsible for the project's visuals and asset creation to a wider involvement across the whole of production. There's been a large part of my time developing features and growing my technical understanding of lighting and Blueprinting in Unreal. In general I've become more responsible for building the underlying systems and features in the simulation. This expands into the project's User Experience (UX), thinking about how the end-user explores and interacts with the simulation and trying to design an intuitive and engaging experience. This has meant developing a User Interface (UI) and the journey the end-user will have in the VR head-set.

 With my role shifting to what I feel is a broader one on projects my general responsibilities on the team have also changed. As team members have left and new ones join I've stepped up in the managerial side of things, helping to run projects, pitch to potential clients and making sure the other artists and the VR department are running smoothly. This has given me more agency in the office and the ability to be able to have a greater voice in the direction of the team and our projects.

 The Madison has ultimately been a huge learning experience for me creatively and professionally. I've come out of it with a greater competence ofUnreal Engine and content creation for VR. As I branch out further with UX and UI design, elements I believe should be core to what we create, I feel we have a lot of room to improve out workflow and end VR experiences. As a team I believe we’ve hit a benchmark with this project and looking forward that leaves me super excited about the potential we have and the momentum going into the next projects. Both personally and as a team there's a lot I feel we've gained from The Madison which has left me confident in out ability to create, what I hope are, industry leading VR experiences in the architectural sector.