Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed-Reality add to an evolving spectrum of visualization tools that have invigorated the dialogue around how we pre-experience architecture. Los Angeles-based Shimahara Illustration discusses a fundamental difference between these new technologies and traditional CG film/animation.
Much of the fascination with VR/AR/MR lies in the shifting authorship of experience. The audience is now in control of the Mise-en-scène which yields a categorically different experience than when viewing a film. The reason is simple: with VR you have a user; with film you have an auteur.
The distinction comes down to the question: who is responsible for producing the narrative? Within virtual reality the user is the one creating the story, albeit as a kind of meandering by-product of exploration. The VR experience might be thought of more as a process of discovery than of actual story-making in a linear sense. In any case, it is in sharp contrast with the cinematic choreography offered by the filmmaker’s work. With a film or animation scenes are composed, sequenced, and timed to music with the collective intention of leading an audience towards a specific message.
It’s important to resist placing a value outright on one option over the other, but instead to keep the distinction of authorship in mind in order to help match the right tool with a given situation. There is likely a moment along any building design schedule when it would be valuable to allow the audience to preview a space with the kind of freedom and neutrality that VR affords. Yet, for the same building there are instances when a more precise set of ideas are important to communicate, like branding, capital campaigns, or winning the commission in the first place. Here, traditional animation might provide the appropriate solution.
Deployment is another factor to keep in mind when comparing virtual reality to an architectural film or animation. At the moment, many would-be users are not set up to support a robust VR experience which can limit deployment to a few physical locations, while CG films and animations are ubiquitous and shared routinely via online links and social media. Again, hold snap judgments on either option, for if it's true that the medium is the message then an undercurrent of value may run beneath each choice (ie. perception of exclusivity versus dependability; engaging face time with a client versus widespread and efficient accessibility).
Most experienced architectural visualization companies can recommend solutions for any phase of the design process. For nearly two decades, Shimahara Illustration has absorbed the innovative and cinematic heritage of Los Angeles in order to better support its partners and clients.