VR@ H o m e R u n P i c t u r e s
INSIDE THE PRODUCTION: EXPLORING THE WRECK OF THE TITANIC
Welcome to another Home Run Pictures "Inside the Production" page. This time outlining the production of a complex Unity game... exploring the wreck of the Titanic, used as an immersive educational experience. As always, hoping everyone reading this can gleen something that will help in their own creative or production process.
The Houston Museum of Natural Science has an innovative attractiom, the "Expedition Center" at the museum. Designed to allow visiting students to have an experience similar to what would happen if they were part of a NASA mission contol team. The expeditions vary in subject... driving a monster truck in the 1/6 gravity on the Moon, flying a Mars Plane over realistic Martian NASA MOLA terrain in the thin Martian atmosphere... or in this case, piloting a Remotely Operated Vehicle [ROV] to explore a realistic-looking wreck of the Titanic. It's a staged immersive experience.
We live immersed in our world. Every learning experience we have in real live is learned that way. So creating an immersive environment to teach is an obvious solution for success. Studies have shown that retention of concepts learned in an immersive way tend to be much higher than those if learned watching a rectangular screen. For this reason the simulation games created for the Expedition Center as flat-screen visual experiences are also being ported to more visually immersive presentations... allowing the learning to occur in small portable domes or personal VR headsets that provide another form of complete immersion. With these newer technologies, we can now expand the use of immersive gaming for educational purposes.
FIRST USE PRODUCTION BASICS:
Having created animation sequences way back in the mid 1990s for several Discovery Channel documentaries Home Run Pictures had a large research background experience of the Titanic from the two expiditions to the wreck we were involved in. Models built for the documentaries as well as reference materials like the patched together mosaic photography taken by the deep diving summersibles were all available for use.
The first immersive experiences for the Titanic's story took place in large fulldome planetarium programs. The audience became long ago "you-are-there" survivors on the ocean surface in the lifeboats watching the big ship sink as well as today's scientists in the deep diving submersibles exploring the wreck 2-1/2 miles deep on the Atlantic Ocean's floor.
EXPANDING THE IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCES:
The older models needed some updating in Maya software as well as optimized since they would now be rendered in the real time Unity game engine. Since the user would now be controlling the exploration using a gamer version of the real-life ROV called Robin, paths into the interior and interior deck spaces needed to be created. Texturing was applied using Mudbox, 3D Coat and Substance.
Once the models were complete they were imported into the Unity software where movement and controls were programmed allowwing a standard game controller to be used to steer the little ROV to various destinations. SOme optimization algorithems were needed to limit the amount of geometry the game engine needed to work with and keep frame rates high enough. Fortunately since we were 2-1/2 miles deep, the darkness allowed for only needing the closer geometry seen in the ROV's spotlight to be used at any given point of view.
The completed game though challenging because of the complexity of the ship wreck, is an enjoyable learning experience.
That's a short description of the history of the concept and also the production pipeline for porting the scenes into the Unity game engine. Work is continuing to complete the immersive game versions and ultimately into a usable version for Oculous and VIVE VR headsets.
Click on the link below to see a Quicktime® movie of a screen grab of a user exploring the wreck of the Titanic.