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  • Writer's pictureBen

Going underground for FUSE International festival of youth arts

Updated: Oct 10, 2022

Bright Immersive was thrilled to collaborate with the team at Creative Youth, a charity, as part of FUSE International, formerly the International Youth Arts Festival, which took place in Kingston-Upon-Thames in July 2022.

What we created

We designed and built three 3D virtual exhibition spaces, including a bespoke gallery, theatre and a Metaverse-inspired representation of Kingston’s town centre, complete with replicas of local landmarks and medieval structures.

We also created a branded Instagram face filter and shot 360/VR video footage of a live children's choir performance on the opening night of the festival.

Designing the virtual gallery space

To ensure ease of use and accessibility across the widest range of devices, we designed and created the virtual spaces to work on the free Mozilla Hubs social Web XR platform.

The concept for the main exhibition space was inspired by the charity’s new home, which is located below the John Lewis department store in Kingston-Upon-Thames. Called the Undercroft, the venue takes its name from the medieval barrel-vaulted roofed cellar that was unearthed nearby during the construction of the John Lewis store. During the same excavation, the original – and historically important - stone footings of the first medieval wooden bridge over The Thames in Kingston, were also discovered.

At the time, to preserve these structures, engineers lifted and reposition the cellar and bridge footings side-by-side in the store’s unused basement.

As part of their brief to Bright Immersive, The FUSE team were eager to give visitors to the virtual space a chance to learn more about the structures found in the real-world Undercroft, which were only previously accessible on special open days or by prior appointment.

The Digital Creative Bit

The final design for the gallery was mainly inspired by a visit to the real-world Undercroft combined with research into galleries located in catacombs and basements. The virtual gallery features exposed brick and stonework, giving it a contemporary urban feel. Areas of light and shadow help focus visitors’ attention on the artwork as they move through the downward curved gallery space. This curved shape encourages visitors to move deeper into the venue to explore what’s around the corner. As they move their avatar through the space, the low ceiling of the basement suddenly rises to accommodate larger pieces of artwork, playing with awe and scale.

We created a dedicated heritage space below the foyer to keep it separate from the main exhibition so as not to distract from the artwork.

As with the real-world Undercroft, we added a footbridge from the entrance that enables visitors to look down on the historic structures below. Deeper inside the gallery, catacomb-like rooms off the route offer customisable spaces for artists’ collections or a separate space to stream videos from the real-world festival.

The Technical bit

To create a replica of the footings, Ben visited the Undercroft and took dozens of 2D photos at the site from as many different angles as possible, along with some 360-degree images.

Afterwards, he used a process called Photogrammetry to extract data from his photos and convert it into a 3D model. As space at the real-world venue was restricted, there were certain parts of the structure that couldn’t be photographed. These, however, were easily filled in using 3D editing software.

With this experience, we had to strike a balance between the photorealistic model and retaining the quality of the main artwork, while keeping the file size to a minimum, to meet the limits set by Hubs.

Comparison photos of two computer generated models of a stone structure, the first shows lots of points the second shows the reduction.

After filling the holes, we worked to shrink the file size by making a copy of the model that had fewer points (just 2.2k points compared to 65K) to make it easier for slower devices to process. We also recreated the texture files and compressed them to keep them as small as possible. It took a few goes to achieve a good balance of file size with the desired look.

Take a closer look

Here's the final replica of the footings as a low poly model.

Use your mouse, mouse wheel or fingers to rotate the model and zoom in to take a closer look.

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