We all daydream about going back to our favourite holiday, but for most of us it will unfortunately remain just that. Oliver Pavicevic, on the other hand, has managed to revisit one of his favourite trips again and again, using Virtual Reality.
“I have always been a lover of trains. A favourite was the one that traveled from Belgrade (via Budapest-Lviv-Kiev) to Moscow. In this project I've tried to recreate the atmosphere of this journey through the Oculus Rift,” he tells It’s Nice That. “It was mainly a personal project, as I really wanted to live that experience one more time, and those trains don’t exist anymore.”
The result is a hyper-realistic walkthrough of an enticing old German sleeper train carriage. You can see the buildings whizz by through the windows, the train sway as it speeds along the tracks, and even the steam coming off of the coffee that’s awaiting you in your berth.
As well as creating this for nostalgic purposes, Oliver, who comes from Belgrade but is currently a VR teacher at Università del Sacro Cuore in Milan, wanted to push the barriers of certain technical aspects. He tells us that when using computer generated graphics or an architectural visualisation, there is always an issue with small areas: “Spaces that cannot be visualised in their entirety can lead to a strong deformation of perspective, distorting real measurements,” he says. “VR on the other hand is very efficient in these cases, because it manages to make us "enter" directly into the space, and lets us see the right proportions on a 1: 1 scale.”
One of the most impressive things is how Oliver has experimented with the creation of a “real” camera within his work. “I have done something that almost nobody does. Right now, most videos of VR are made by capturing an output of a VR headset. But this poses some problems, as it is hard to translate into a cinematic experience due to language and technical parameters,” he explains. “The general public knows and understands a cinematographic language - translating VR to video is always a compromise.”
“In my case I have used a simulation of a real camera inside VR. A virtual camera that is able to capture VR as if it was a real camera capturing reality. I have done this with my own plugin for Unity, that is called Deckard, and it's able to simulate the physics of a real cinematic camera.”
Ultimately this means that unlike most VR work, this is tailored to be viewed on a screen as opposed to being fed through the headset - a small detail which reaps the rewards in terms of realism.
The technical aspects of the film are evidently very complex, but with the experimentation out of the way Oliver hopes to develop it further and focus on the even smaller details: “I have done mostly interiors, right now I'm adding props by making all the details (like bags, teacups, clothes, all the things that can make a scene look more real and populated with living beings) but I want to also create exteriors, and environments,” he explains. “This poses some technical problems because of the complexity that it requires, from hardware to render. But this, for me, is a playground for finding solutions for problems that are seemingly impossible to solve.”
Oliver, who actually trained in industrial design, generally works as a “one man band.” He acknowledges the difficulties this can bring such as equipment access and costs, however feels that it is a way of working that doesn’t restrict him. “In real life (business workflow) coders are mostly valued for their precision, clearness of code and accuracy. From that standpoint I'm a terrible coder. My codes could be judged as a mess. But I'm using an approach that works for me, that is understandable (probably) only to me. But it is highly optimised and always pushes the boundaries of technological and visual efficiency.”
The real life applications of Oliver’s work are already very clear, and he has previously worked on projects that open up spaces like galleries to a wider audience through VR. He also mentions the ease with which these kinds of scenes could be turned into games or puzzles.
Overall he hopes that the fact that he has created this snapshot of his past, though based on personal memories, it adds another layer to this digital world. “I mainly create to return to the past and bring back memories – mostly personal,” he says. “But that’s maybe a good thing, as the audience probably feels that sincere passion and appreciates work that was made to immerse them into a world that they don't know, but would like to know.”
About the Author
Charlie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in December 2019. He has previously worked at Monocle 24, and The Times following an MA in International Journalism at City University. If you have any ideas for stories and work to be featured then get in touch.