XR Voices

Vectorworks & Theasys VR

Save time by combining the strengths of Vectorworks with Theasys VR to build impressive VR/360° experiences. Troy Patton, Production Designer with ETA Creative Event Producers shares 6 valuable design tips for improving navigation and overall 360°experience.

Theasys is a free online 360° Virtual Tour building platform. Users can easily upload 360°/panoramic images, add interactivity, and embed media. Theasys is a nice alternative for people who don’t feel drawn to learn Unity or Unreal. It’s not only easy to use as a designer, it’s also easy to consume by clients and attendees. 

Introducing Troy Patton

I’ve been in the live event industry for the past 15 years. In 2014 I started working with ETA Creative Event Producers and took over the scenic/production design using Vectorworks exclusively. I spend all day every day inside of Vectorworks finding fun ways to push it to deliver the highest quality renders possible!

Why use Theasys?

I’ve been looking at using Theasys as a supplemental platform for virtual events with a virtual expo space and access to livestreams. I find the Theasys 360° browser-based experience offers a more creative way for attendees to interact with content.

Theasys is incredibly user friendly, for both the designer and end user. Their free version has everything I need to build an impressive virtual tour. Best of all, Theasys automatically creates a VR ready version of the design for viewing in a VR headset.

Clients really love the enhanced virtual experience of the Theasys platform. It’s so easy to navigate. To view, all they have to do is click a link, no need to download any external apps to view.

As far as my process, I export my 3D Vectorworks design as a series of views to 360° Panoramas. Next, I import the 360° images seamlessly into Theasys, where I can drop in hotspot links, embed videos or upload audio into the 360° world. It only takes me a few hours to pull the Theasys tour together, assuming I have everything I need at the start.

Problem solved.

One of the big challenges that you run into designing for 360° is user experience and navigation. It’s how you focus and herd people through your virtual tours without dulling the interactive aspect of it. You don’t want to have too much clutter, yet you want a lot of detail. It’s a delicate balance in how you lay everything out.

Another challenge is time constraints. Fortunately, Vectorworks does an amazing job streamlining my workflow. Exporting to 360° panorama could not be easier, simply File> Export Panorama. Uploading these to Theasys takes only minutes.

If you have access to cloud rendering via Service Select, you can take advantage of all the horsepower Vectorworks has on their processors and crank all the render settings up to the moon. I can work on other things while I wait for my high quality 360° panoramas to finish rendering on the cloud.

360° Design tips:

1. Start your process with a 2D schematic plan. Make sure you’ve got the different areas spaced out clearly and/or visually defined by look & feel.

2. Use visual paths to assist with navigation. A carpet path, walkway, or even some glowing borders on the floor can illustrate options for how to progress in a space and greatly helps to orient your new position relative to the previous.

3. Detail, detail, detail. Users will be looking around at all angles, so aim to have lots of interesting details scattered about.

4. Use an HDRI background if you don’t have time or interest to fully flesh out the venue or world outside any windows. An HDRI will add some realistic lighting contributions as well.

5. Have a demo ready to show clients. Sometimes it is difficult to explain the experience in words. But once clients see it for themselves, they immediately bite onto it and want to go down that path with you.

6. Pre-build as many assets as possible, like template sponsor booths, modular elements, or lounge areas. The more you can build ahead of time the easier it is to expedite the creative process of a virtual meeting environment.

Events during a Pandemic

Covid-19 has forced us all to take a step back and re-evaluate our approach to events. VR is definitely going to be a huge aspect of this rebirth. Eventually, when we return to the normal routine of events, there is still going to be a need for a virtual component.

Be creative. This is the opportunity now to be resourceful with the tools we have around us. There’s a growing number of innovative virtual tools available right now that go hand-in-hand with various popular design software.

Take the time to look at these different platforms, especially the free ones like Theasys. And find creative ways to utilize them, even if it’s not the way they were intended. Now more than ever is the time to think outside the box.

XR Voices is an ongoing Interview Series featuring events industry professionals who are using innovative visualization tech.  We aim to share knowledge and entertain any opportunity to evolve the design process.
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