Courtesy of Oneiros

Virtual Reality Experiences for Archviz in Unity with Oneiros

Vincent Gault on October 11 2018 | Substance Painter, Substance Designer, Stories, Unity, Design, Architecture

In recent years, we’ve seen a rapid adoption of VR in the Archviz industry. To get more insight on this topic, we talked with Mirko Vescio from Oneiros, a Milan-based studio which makes high-quality VR experiences with Unity, which are textured with Substance.

Hey, thanks for answering our questions! Before we start, could you tell us who you are, what you do, and your educational and work background to reach this point?

I’m CEO of Oneiros; that’s a startup based in Milan, co-founded by Ruggero Corridori, Lead Artist and Head of the ArchVizPro series, and Antonella Contin, Academy Director, in the middle of 2016. The aim of the company is to offer enterprise virtual reality solutions, using the Unity real-time engine - principally for the architectural industry, but also for everything related to environments and products.

We realized that many virtual reality experiences, even those created by big corporations, were not realistic at all - they had flaws related to the quality of graphics; that’s a big problem if you’re trying to use VR to simulate the real world around you. Since then, our goal has been to create realistic VR experiences, seeking new approaches and methodologies.

If the user forgets that he’s in a simulated reality, it means we have done a good job.

There’s more and more demand for virtual reality experiences in the architectural visualization market. How do you explain this trend?

Hype and facts. As with all new technologies, there’s always a lot of hype at the beginning, and this definitely increases the demand. That said, when you try a virtual reality experience for the first time, it’s hard not to think that you’re seeing the future of visualization. Having the ability to view projects at full scale allows you to feel and identify with the environment at the highest level.

Furthermore, in architecture we’re always looking for new visualization methods to help the client evaluate the project - and what better way can there be than showing it in a completely immersive way as if it were already built at its real scale? Virtual reality can replace expensive physical mockups, helping the client not only at the final stage but also in the initial phases of the project.

And keep in mind that once you have created the real-time experience, this allows you to several other types of content, such as cinematic and first view video, 2D rendering and many more!

What are the main challenges of making a VR archviz scene, versus traditional renders?

First of all, there’s no post production! Almost everything must be done in 3D, so there’s no possibility to hide errors and show your scene only from one desired perspective. In a VR archviz scene the user is free to see what he wants, to focus on certain aspects rather than others, and to break the feeling of reality is a matter of moments. We need to pay attention to details and balance them for the whole project, not just for one viewpoint.

"Substance is a fundamental part of our process. It allows us absolute control of the quality of the textures, which would otherwise be impossible to obtain."

You’re relying on Substance products for texturing: can you explain how they’re involved in your workflow?

Substance is a fundamental part of our process. It allows us absolute control of the quality of the textures, which would otherwise be impossible to obtain.

We love working on details and Substance Painter is fundamental to the realization of every single asset. Obtaining maps with a very high resolution (up to 8K), with few artifacts - and doing so quickly - is amazing.

Substance Designer, conversely, is used whenever we need to work on larger surfaces, such as walls or floors. It’s very important for virtual reality experiences to avoid recognizable patterns.

Moreover, in real-time rendering, the textures take on more importance as they impact the relationship between realism and fluidity of the scene.

Considering that a virtual reality experience requires rendering at least 90/120 FullHD images per second (or more), the textures have to take on a lot of the workload in reducing the number of polygons of the model. Essentially, the details lost by the simplification of the mesh are recovered working on the textures.

What do you think Substance solutions can bring to the archviz industry compared to other solutions?

In our workflow, Substance plays a key role thanks to its integration with Unity3D. This allows us to create flexible materials based on Substance files with which we can realize several shaders, and much more. Moreover, there are many resources available online; this is essential to us.

Did you get the chance to use some materials from Substance Source? If so, what sort of experience have you had with them?

Substance Source is very useful, not only because it allows you to download each material but, especially for the .sbs format, because it provides the possibility of realizing other custom shaders, using those downloaded as a starting point.

How do you see the role of VR evolving in the archviz industry?

I’m sure a lot can be done. It’s possible to improve some processes every day, and the hardware will keep on improving. Together, this will lead to authentic photorealism. We’re currently just scratching the surface!

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