InstaVR Interviews: Meet the VR Practitioners
InstaVR Interviews is a blog series where we turn the spotlight on our customers and industry experts. We find out why they create VR, how they use InstaVR, and what the future of VR will look like. To read more interviews, visit the InstaVR Interviews homepage.
Andreas Arntz – CEO and Creative Director of trias GmbH
Trias (https://trias.net) is a German-based agency specializing in film and digital media. Situated in Cologne, they serve a large number of renowned customers throughout Europe wherever
they want to communicate with digital video: at trade fairs and events, on the Internet
and on video portals, in sales meetings or the public. They are specialists in communication
for products, processes and services that have a strong need for explanation.
Typical customers come from industry (e.g. car manufacturing, heavy industry, mechanical
engineering), service companies (e.g. financial sector, insurance, NGOs and the
public sector) and sales organizations (e.g. digital imaging technologies, investment
goods). Their main focus is the development of business-to-business communication
Agency put greater focus on 360° videos, as mobile VR headsets make good immersive user experience possible
Question: Can you tell us a little about trias? How did your company get involved withVR? Can you describe how you first got interested in virtual reality?
Answer: In 2018, we started producing 360° videos. The reason is that we believe that the time for 360° video has come and that it now makes sense for our customers. Of course, 360° videos have existed for several years now on platforms like youtube or Vimeo. But we never had the feeling that it had a benefit for people to watch a 360° video on a computer screen.
Without immersion, the magic of 360° is gone. On the other side, cardboard solutions are not very convenient: You have to start the app, then place the smartphone in a goggle and hope that it will work. VR googles like HTC Vive and Oculus Rift need a PC and have wires – this is also not what we had in mind when we thought about a good user experience.
Then in 2018, technology companies started to roll out new devices like Oculus Go/Quest or Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream by google. These devices are small, transportable and they are standalone – no need for additional devices like a computer or smartphone. Optimal for Out-of-Home applications like trade fair shows or local presentations at the customers place.
With these devices, we were able to realize our dreams for the first time. The only question was how to design a good user experience in a 360° environment.
trias selects InstaVR for ease of authoring & distribution, exceptional support, and platform development
Question: How did you find InstaVR and why did you select our platform?
Answer: As a film production company, we always have to consider the distribution situation of a
movie. For a target device like a VR goggle, the playback of a video is not very convenient. You have to transfer the video onto the goggles and the user has to start a player, browse for the video and start it. Therefore, we were looking for a way to pack the video into an app.
But there was one big problem: we are a film production company, after all, and not an app development studio. After a short research, we discovered InstaVR and it is perfect for our demands. Authoring is simple and you can deploy on different devices in just one step. That was exactly what we needed.
The final reason for us to work with InstaVR was the great support of the InstaVR team. We tested the platform for about a month. During this time, we had a close contact to the support team of InstaVR. They replied incredibly fast and solved a lot of our initial problems – for example, how to transfer the app to an Oculus Go. We had a lot to learn, but with the support it was surprisingly easy in the end.
We also have the feeling that they are listening very carefully to their customers and their needs. It convinced us that they would further develop the platform and integrate new tools needed to tell a story in VR360° even better.
First project showcased a 3D 360-degree glass melting furnace
Question: You’ve already started building client applications with InstaVR. Can you describe your first project?
Answer: Our first project matched this technology as if it was made for it: For a customer working in the glass production industry, we were asked to explain a 3D scan service for a glass melting furnace at the end of its lifetime. It is a very special interest topic.
The idea to produce a 360° application was obvious: Only few people in this industry have ever had a chance to see a real worn out furnace from the inside. How cool would it be to show everyone what it looks like and, at the same time, explain what the service is all about. Therefore, we suggested to our customer to create a 360° video and build a virtual walkthrough.
Filmed in a short timeframe using an Insta360 Pro; post production before VR app authoring included use of mistika, Final Cut Pro X, Cinema 4D and Adobe After Effects
Question: Can you describe your filming process? Equipment used? Time it took? Storyboarding? etc
Answer: Shortly after presenting our first conceptional ideas in spring 2018, we got the almostunique chance to shoot a furnace of a float glass production in East Europe which had just been shut down. There was no time to make a storyboard or have a pre-production visit because the shutdown of a glass melting furnace is quite rare.
To make it even more difficult, the timeframe between shutdown and demolition of the furnace is extremely short: After the furnace was cooled down – so that we could enter it – we had only 6 hours for the shooting before the demolition team started their work. The Insta360 Pro seemed to be the most suitable camera to get optimal results within this timeframe because it works out-of-the-box. Long preparations aren’t necessary.
So we filmed a service team of our customer during their work. They scanned the whole float glass furnace with a Lidar 3D scanner (with a resolution up to 0.5 mm) and we did an additional interview with one of the experts on location – all of it in 360° stereoscopic.
In post production, we stitched the footage of the camera with mistika VR. The footage was edited in Final Cut Pro X and additional footage was produced in
Cinema 4D: With the 3D data of the scanning process, we were able to create point cloud animations and a high resolution mesh which perfectly matched with the real footage.
The final compositing was done in Adobe After Effects. The special thing about the movie are the seamless transitions between the real footage and the 3D generated images and animations. The viewers can take a look around in the real furnace and then the picture dissolves into a mesh of the 3D scan. They can
immediately see that the data is exactly the same as in reality. This was the ultimate message for our customer.
It shows the value of this kind of service at a glance – without having to talk about it too much. We could also demonstrate another benefit: With the 3D scan data, it is possible to examine forbidden and hard to reach areas of a furnace – standing in a 360° environment, it is like being at a place “where no man has
gone before“. For our very special audience of glass manufacturing engineers it must have felt a little bit like Star Trek 😉
Ability to auto-return to menu important for trade fairs; additional interactive walkthrough made using 360 degree stills
Question: And what specifically did you do in InstaVR? What platforms did you publish to?
Answer: The original reason to use InstaVR was to have a simple menu to start the movie. At the end, the movie jumps back to the menu. The app is already running when the viewer puts on the goggles and he/she only has to push one button to start the video. It sounds so simple but it makes a huge difference when you run the video on a trade fair show with untrained people.
Then we realized that we could easily do more:
We took 360° stills from the movie and connected them in InstaVR for an interactive walkthrough experience. Users can now change the position or switch between different looks of the same position and perspective (real footage vs. point cloud vs. mesh).
We also integrated a 2D explanatory video in the app. Now the user can decide whether to take an interactive tour or to watch a linear video. Or both… first watching the video, then discovering the areas on your own.
Compelling content and VR headsets at trade fair created great interest; Client will be equipping worldwide offices with headsets for using applications in sales meetings and trainings
Question: What was the feedback at the trade fair to your app? Why was doing this in VR so valuable?
Answer: In autumn 2018, we presented the app for the first time on a trade fair show in Germany (glasstec 2018). The audience was blown away for two reasons: On the one hand, most of them have never seen a worn-out furnace before.
On the other hand, they never had professional contact with a technology like VR 360°. It was the first time ever that a company in this industry had used this technology. So the audience was more than impressed. The idea of the interview on location turned out so clever because the people had the feeling of having a personal guided tour.
Already during the show, our customer decided to buy additional VR goggles for all their offices worldwide. They want to use the app in sales meetings and internal trainings.
One year ago, we produced a 2D movie about the same subject/topic. With the 360° version, however, we see a much higher emotional impact. Even people who are not interested in the topic itself understand the message: Our customer is ready for the digital age.
And this message is priceless in a competitive market.
Future client VR apps to include virtual plant tours, VR job process training, and virtually trying out products through simulations; Success in VR dependent on good VR headset + platform like InstaVR for building flawless user experiences + having a good story!
Question: Can you give us a preview of some future applications you’re looking to build?
Answer: When we thought about the possibilities of VR360°, we immediately realized its potential for communication. It makes things tangible in a much better way than a 2D video.
At the moment, we are discussing several possible applications with our customers. To give you some examples:
1. The visit of a plant is a complicated thing to do. Visitors have to wear safety equipment, they have to get informed about all the safety rules and you’ll always need employees to accompany the visitors. With VR360°, you can visit a plant without all this hassle – anytime and anywhere.
2. Visualizing processes e.g. in heavy industry is difficult. You see a big machine, but you can’t see how it works. With a 360° video in combination with 360° animations, we can make invisible things much better explained than with classical 2D video.
3. Sometimes you can’t experience a product in real life before you buy it, e.g. in the automotive suppliers industry. They want to show their technologies but cannot show products that they have developed for competitors. They need a kind of simulation, e.g sitting in a car and seeing how a technology works. For this kind of simulations VR360° is optimal.
We also plan to give InstaVR feedback what kind of features they could integrate in the future to make the user experience even greater – e.g. scripts that detect if the googles are put on or off (to start or stop a video) or workarounds to make seamless transitions between stills and movie possible. But these are just details.
In the end, we believe that three things are mandatory for the success of 360° applications:
1. You need a simple-to-use goggle technology (like the Oculus Go)
2. You need a platform that enables you to build a flawless user experience (like InstaVR)
3. Last but not least, you’ll always need a good story. Good storytelling for 360° video is much more difficult than for 2D video because it is quite different. I believe that we –the people in the media industry – still have to learn how to tell stories in 360° videos in a proper way, how to guide people watching 360° content, how to deal with interaction,what a good user experience consists of…
There is a lot of really awesome stuff out there but also a lot of stuff where we have the feeling that the technology was more important than the message. The target of all activities should always be the audience and not the technology itself. So we put all our efforts in learning how to make better VR360° stories. And InstaVR will help us to tell these stories.
Thank you to client Andreas Arntz for his time and insight! Visit his agency trias’ web site at https://trias.net
***all images provided courtesy/copyright of trias GmbH***