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MSc Final Project Weblog 7: LIDAR Scans, VFX Graph & In Depth Biome Planning

<04/10/21 - 15/10/21>

LIDAR Scanning Home and Local Area and Getting as .PLYs in Unity

Recently got new iPad Pro, with LIDAR scanner and have been using this to scan things around the home (apart from the mask below, that was made using a more laborious photogrammetry method). In particular, I was drawn to graffiti covered warehouses/walls and tress - the trees in particular were subjectively fascinating LIDAR scanning subjects, as leaf structures were largely ignored, leaving only lonely gnarled trunks.

Process for getting the LIDAR point clouds into Unity was largely similar to the method for photogrammetry, with the required extra steps of .OBJ export and mesh sampling - exporting as a .PLY from Scaniverse will not preserve the material/colour properties.

Scaniverse -> Export as .OBJ -> Sub sample in Cloud Compare -> Export as binary .PLY -> Add PCX to Unity and import point clouds.

Exploring the VFX Graph as Means of Point Cloud Animation

At the end of my undergraduate I had some fun playing with Unity's VFX Graph , but only recently discovered that it no longer only supports HDRP and began testing it with LIDAR point cloud data stored in a point cache files in the VFX graph. I have not yet been able to interpolate between point cloud data in this way, possibly due to a lack of mesh data stored in the PC. However results are very detailed and performant, and much more expressive than the fairly static interpolation animation I had previously achieved. I also tried using a flocking compute shader to move point cloud points, but instead I will adapt this to move around attractors for ambient point clouds within certain biomes, as point cloud vertices counts need to be higher than a usable flock agent number.

Experiments with LIDAR scans and VFX graph

Planning The Biomes

Continued developing the generative/narrative side of the project, and began the process of planning some different themed content lists, or 'biomes', and their composite of audio-visual settings across different modular categories: theme, mood, audio-visual contents, lighting etc.

Later stage Biome planning.

The inception for this understanding was the use of the word in video games such as Minecraft, which contains biomes such as 'swamp', 'forest' or 'mountain'. I wanted to develop this, utilising the dream-like aesthetic garnered by the use of LIDAR point clouds as a visual medium and psuedo-generative methods, to create an explorable and evolving series of audio-visual environments.

Each environment to feature a stylised set of environmental/ambient point clouds and an interactive central sculpture, or 'cynosure', to be based around more conceptual topics, such as the-human concept of self, life/death in nature. Artistically I wanted to delve into the overlaps and contrasts between disparate internal and external concepts by combining different list elements from two randomly chosen biomes at run time.

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