Virtual Escape from the daily Routine

A lot of stressed out urbanites long for a break in unspoiled nature. This longing was the inspiration for the 360° VR video ‘Longing for Wilderness’.

With his work, digital artist Marc Zimmermann creates visual landscapes that are an expression of his thoughts and feelings. Virtual reality was the next logical step in this evolution in order to let the viewers delve even deeper into his works. His first experiment with this fascinating technology was for the VR initiative ‘VR Now’ for the Animation Institute of the Film Academy (Animationsinstitut der Filmakademie) in the German State of Baden-Württemberg. In ‘Longing for Wilderness’, Marc illustrates the modern urbanite’s longing to escape their everyday stress and find peace and quite in nature.

The 360° video takes the viewer on a trip that starts in the city jungle at night and ends in untouched nature. For those without VR glasses, the YouTube version can be moved freely in 360° over the course of the entire tracking shot. But the video’s full impact can only be felt when viewed through VR glasses!

Working on a 360° VR project offers a range of new design possibilities, as Marc describes: “As an artist you have limited possibilities for controlling the viewer’s focus using camera movements. VR opens new possibilities for letting the viewer dive deeper into the overall experience by using composition, animation and sound to steer them in the desired direction.”

Marc created the entire landscape and vegetation using Cinema 4D. He first created the ground as a plane, brought it roughly into shape and used the Sculpt tools to add details such as cracks and rocks. He used the MoGraph tools to add life to the barren ground: he used the MoGraph Cloner object to quickly add a variety of trees, bushes and grasses. The Random Effector was used to vary the elements in size and rotation, and spacing was added using Shader Effectors and noise.

A particular technical challenge was optimizing the performance and render times for this highly complex environment with its dense vegetation. This is where Cinema 4D render instances came into play, which made it possible to add huge numbers of MoGraph clones without taking up loads of memory. Marc used Plain Effectors to control the visibility of render instances in relation to their distance from the camera, which further optimized the scene’s performance.

Dynamics was used to add atmospheric detail such as leaves blowing in the wind. TurbulenceFD was used to create dust on the construction site and fog between the trees.

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Marc created his own setup with six cameras to render the entire scene as a 360° video. The new Take System in Cinema 4D R17 made it possible to render all cameras simultaneously across a render farm at the Animation Institute of the Film Academy. Marc used the Physical Renderer in Cinema 4D because it was able to render real motion blur, which intensified the camera’s fast movement. Adding motion blur in post-production wasn’t an option because it would have produced less realistic results when the camera zoomed passed delicate vegetation. Marc emphasizes the importance of the effect for this project: “Motion blur increased render times quite a bit but without it the results would have been far less convincing.”

Marc converted the rendered cube maps to spherical images in After Effects using Mettle SkyboxStudio to prepare them for further processing.

Cinema 4D was the tool of choice for Marc’s first 360° VR experiment: “For me, Cinema 4D is clearly arranged, user-friendly and the MoGraph feature in particular is very versatile. I prefer realizing as much as possible using a single application and the X-Particles plugin and TurbulencFD in Cinema 4D make this possible. It’s also a huge plus having such a powerful sculpting tool in the same application!”

The 360° VR video, a making-of and the ‘Longing for Wilderness’ soundtrack can be downloaded from Marc’s Gumroad Site. There you can also support his efforts with a donation – which will hopefully encourage him to quickly create his next VR world!

Marc Zimmermann website: