VR Workshop 19/03/18

Workshop based on the development of an Innovation funding bid for IWA and the participation of 3rd-year students in VR Labs at the Innovation Centre MMU over the past 6 months.

19th March 2018 Grosvenor Basement.

A morning with Alasdair Swenson Research Associate at MMU, and second-year student Reece McDowell working with Google Tilt Brush software / VR drawing. The session was exploratory and aimed at scoping out ways that our illustrators and animators could work with VR as content-drivers, responding to location, observation, and archive. This is also looking forward towards a potential live workshop broadcast with a partner university in Shanghai. (TBC in July)

The interface is more intuitive than we anticipated, with the toolset accessible and navigable with only a limited introduction. The main learning curve is trying to work out ways of owning the drawing space rather than being owned by it. The experience is not dissimilar to early days of photoshop where you are distracted by the gimmicks and showy effects rather than thinking about what you want to say. The need for restraint and preparation in terms of either preloading assets and /or importing 2D resource to act as a reference is important, this could mean photographs, drawings or 3D models, and maybe best approached as a collaborative undertaking.

The use of drawing and photography is where my own interests intersect with a background in hand-drawn 2D/3D artwork right back to training in pre CAD technical drawing. The role of memory in a VR context is interesting in the way that you are required to re-imagine a scene or create an object based on your own capacity to recall in 3 dimensions, the object you wish to recreate. It requires a recognition of the subconscious function of time and shifting viewpoint in observation. Does this impact on the way we prepare? or teach drawing? or learn how to draw?…all questions the workshop usefully generates.

Alternative ways of using VR discussed whereby drawing is loaded and pre-rendered in a space using a games software engine (?) then exported to a VR equivalent? There is a need to test this as a potentially viable stepping stone for drawing to VR outcomes.

Having a clear problem to solve – in this case responding to the Silk Museum in Macclesfield with VR, is beneficial to focusing an agenda for testing. Access to a VR ready PC is essential.

The takeaway tasks from the morning are:

  • A need to pre-record the museum space through drawing and photography using multiple perspectives.
  • A need to create asset files of relevant context material – these could be documents, oral history, photographs or preformed 3D objects.
  • Consider what the workshop seeks to convey? audience? is the technology or the location content the aim of the workshop live cast?
  • Consideration of storyboard and script – if appropriate, also duration.
  • Workshop based drawing labs with VR are essential in driving origination and confidence to escape the gaming language currently prevalent in the examples available online.
  • Learn to use the tools through defined problem-solving tasks.


Author: Ian Whadcock

Senior Lecturer Manchester School of Art, BA(Hons) Illustration with Animation course.