Virtual Exhibitions : Our solution to lockdowns, Also part of the future!

15 March 2021

Thank you for taking the time to read this latest blog from the team at 3DW.

We thought it would be interesting to delve into something we have been heavily involved in over the last 12 months.

If you haven’t seen some of our virtual exhibitions here is a link to one of our recently completed exhibitions EDF Hinkley Workforce Uplift - Virtual Exhibition

As you can see the space is not too different to a physical exhibition you may have found yourself at in some capacity but in a more calming environment allowing you to engage more deeply with the information and at your leisure.

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To be honest as a team we'd already been looking at ways to engage more with stakeholders online before the pandemic as not every person with an interest in a scheme has the ability or time to attend a ‘traditional’ consultation all that happened is we sped up the process.

I thought that it would be good for you to have a small peek behind the curtain in this blog and walk you through some of the thought processes and challenges we have encountered and why we approached building these exhibitions in such a way. By the end you will be able to understand how and why the exhibitions work and how they can also be adapted to suit the requirements of different sectors and clients.

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So where to begin? Virtual exhibitions themselves require several pieces of software. This is because we are trying to make a 3D scene and make it useable on the web, whilst retaining it's interactive nature and immersion into an environment that is meant to imitate a specific setting found in the real world.

Since this is the case, the first challenge for virtual exhibitions is how do we get a good quality 3D render? For high-quality 3D renders, game engines like Unity are probably one of the best programmes out there. Their ability to post-process, configure existing materials and textures and bake lighting is designed to handle not only the current generation but next-generation games which in themselves can be photorealistic and immersive.

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So, we use something designed for games for our exhibitions? Yes, although virtual exhibitions do not need to feel like a game in terms of their purpose, the realism that can be achieved by using an engine is useful to streamline how a scene looks and maintain visual consistency between multiple exhibitions.

If any of that sounded a bit too technical, game engines are programmes that can deliver visuals that are realistic and are easy to control from a designer’s perspective. We hope you can see in the link earlier in the blog how close to reality we can push a virtual exhibition.

So how do you go from a game engine to a website? To go from a 3D scene to the web, we needed to be able to render out an image that still has good quality but has a small impact on a website, so it is still functional and able to load the scene when a viewer looks at the exhibition for whichever device they use. This image is therefore broken down into many smaller images by another piece of software we use and are only loaded when needed.

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What benefit does the 3D space add to the exhibition? Well, even though a virtual exhibition would functionally work without a scene - the benefit to and interest for the exhibition is that a 3D scene provides a sense of realism and familiarity to the user.

It allows us to customize the space to fit in different amounts and types of content and guide viewers through a scene, without overwhelming them. We can personalize the space to our client’s specifications and add flair to their designs, so they really pop and engage the viewers. Realistically, anything you could fit into a physical room, we can fit into a virtual one with our virtual exhibition spaces.

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In summary, virtual exhibitions have been very useful during the pandemic in a time where lockdowns and restrictions on public gatherings have been happening they provide the same level of content as a physical exhibition but without any of the risk to public safety.

Although the day in which physical exhibitions can happen again alongside a sense of normality may be coming soon, we feel virtual exhibitions are here to stay in one form or another.

As before mentioned they provide a crucial line of engagement to stakeholders who for whatever reason cannot attend a physical space we firmly see virtual exhibitions as a powerful adaptable tool to run alongside our other key 3D solutions and we at 3DW will happily continue to produce and find ways to innovate on these new virtual spaces.

Thanks for your time