Here at Graitec we were commissioned to create a VR demonstration to help raise funds to build a new Arts Centre in Ringwood. Working alongside Williams Lester Architects and WF Brown consultancy and civil engineers, we were tasked to create a VR experience based upon the BIM model created for the project. Williams Lester created the architectural model and WF Brown the steel structure.
Once Graitec was provided with the model we used the FBX link to bring the BIM model into Autodesk 3ds Max and start optimising for use in game engine technology. We removed all unnecessary components that wouldn’t be seen, these elements just add to the geometry so they are removed to help streamline the model and make it as lightweight as possible. The next step was to re-texture and unwrap the models using a process called UVW mapping. This gives the model mapping coordinates that are needed when baking the light maps in real time game engines. If you don’t do this you may end up with horrible black areas on the model, so it’s a time consuming but necessary aspect to undertake.
Once happy that the model is fully optimised and all the UVW mapping is correct we imported the FBX into Unreal Game Engine to create the VR experience. We set up teleport controls to enable the user to move around the model and go where ever they like to explore the space from a first-person eye view. Williams Lester specified that it would be good to have some terrain outside the building so we included this. Even adding in trees to give a more realistic experience. Part of the project brief was to have an option on the user interface that enabled the user to turn the ceiling on and off. This would feature in the main reception area to reveal the structural steel work WF Brown had created. Graitec decided to add in some bonus features to the project that were not on the initial brief such as animated life-size people and even a working lift that the user could use to get up to the next level.
The event took place at Bartley Lodge in Cadnam and there was a great turnout of people looking to learn about the Greyfriars project as well as have a go on the virtual reality headset and see for themselves what it was all about. The feedback we received was very positive. One of the designers of the building who has been working on the project for years was amazed and said it gave him an understanding of the space that he would never had got until the building was erected. Seeing the building at one to one scale gives an amazing sense of special awareness that just can’t be created through conventional 3D stills and flythrough.