Ever fancied exploring the depths of an erupting volcano? Or perhaps you’d prefer to float around in space in the shape of a mythical creature – well, if your imagination can take you there, so can a virtual reality artist.
New technologies have developed quickly over the past decade but VR, as it’s commonly known, is still in its infancy.
The possibilities for the future are endless and it’s not just for gamers – anyone can now visit museums and live festivals, and hang out with friends in avatar shape – all with the help of super reliable broadband such as Sky Broadband Superfast.
We ask three experts in the field what they love about VR, how they use tech to fuel their passion for storytelling and what it’s really like to put on a headset and transport your mind.
Don’t worry, your body stays put.
‘VR lets you visit worlds that only exist in your mind’
Having studied and worked as a 3D animator, Rosie Summers from Leeds first fell in love with VR five years ago. The 25-year-old’s passion for storytelling actually began in fine art but thanks to technology and reliable broadband, she has been able to branch out into a new artform.
“I used to specialise in painting emotional oil portraits but yearned for more movement in my work and that’s when I started working in animation,” she says.
“Through that, I naturally found VR. It’s a mindblowing tool for any storyteller because you can defy gravity and visit new worlds that otherwise only exist in your mind.
“But it’s crucial that I have fast broadband; it’s a lifeline for me because it allows people to join in regardless of where they are and it helps me expand my audience.
Rosie hosts live shows that combine dance and VR – where she performs for viewers while wearing a headset against a green screen that will display the virtual world that she’s in.
“It’s almost like a webinar or Zoom chat,” she says.
“Through the power of the internet, people online can immerse themselves in other dimensions.
“I use a lot of technical equipment too, like high-powered PC headsets and programmes to create the lighting and colours for my VR environment.”
Rosie’s inspiration comes from her surroundings, especially nature. She also loves space and often incorporates that in her work.
The VR artist has designed everything from fantastical universes to forest scenes and galactic art, as well as unique characters.
Her latest project ‘Blood Speaks’, is a powerful story created by Indian transmedia artist and activist Poulomi Basu, which explores normalised violence that women face around the world surrounding periods. It is centered around a girl called Maya, who forms a bond with a local British Indian teenager and together they reveal hidden modes of patriarchy.
“Maya rises up like an almighty phoenix, full of strength and the powers of the universe – she’s a superhero,” Rosie says. “This is the fundamental beauty of VR, it lets you immerse yourself in a different culture in a way that other art can’t.
“And it’s not as difficult as many people think. I don’t code or anything like that – I’m strictly an artist who is utilising digital mediums to showcase my work.
“You are actually living in that lens and that’s what I love about it,” explains the passionate storyteller.
‘You’re no longer looking at a painting – you’re exploring its entire universe’
Quentin Darras is new to the world of VR. The passionate 3D animator co-created his first design last year, after winning a £20,000 grant through an initiative called Creative XR, run by Digital Catapult and Arts Council England.
And it’s all about art, quite literally; but moved into a digital space with the help of reliable broadband and high-powered software.
Dubbed (Hi)Story of a Painting, each episode of the five-part series revolves around a famous painting, such as George Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.
“I fell into VR and it has changed the way I view art,” says Quentin, 33, who is originally from Paris but moved to London in 2009. “You still have to tell a story so the job is pretty much the same as 3D animation, but I had to take a crash course in how to design in a 360-degree space.
“You’re no longer looking at a painting – you’re exploring its entire universe, which is fantastic.”
Quentin, who has worked with brands such as Nintendo and Lego, was originally set to be a doctor.
“I was in medical school and I hated it,” he says. “After failing my degree, I joined a VFX start-up and my passion grew from there.
“The great thing about VR is that it’s accessible to everyone; you can just go on the internet, get the programmes you need for free and get creative.”
But having the right tools is essential to the artist’s process. Alongside the latest VR kit, having reliable broadband, such as Sky Broadband Superfast, is essential.
“Everything I do takes place on a computer; not just the designing, but the research and writing. I need constant access to information,” Quentin adds.
Despite some challenges, he has no regrets about leaving his medical career behind.
“I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it is I love most about VR,” he says. “All I know is that it brings me so much happiness.
“To do my job, I just need good broadband, tea, at least one sketch book and a good computer.
“It may not be very romantic but it’s very important – and with it, I’m able to create incredible art.”
‘You could be an animal, have six legs or explore the inside of a volcano’
Anrick Bregman is an old hand at storytelling, having worked as a creative director since 2007, before moving into VR in 2014.
He specialises in artistic interpretation of factual stories, such as turning documentaries and news into virtual experiences that users can immerse themselves in – and he is a big champion for the internet.
“The web used to have a huge amount of creativity applied to it; we use a browser every day for email, maps and Facebook but we must not forget that it’s also an experimental storytelling tool,” he says.
“Decades ago, we were limited on what we could do – like when downloading photos would take hours – but thanks to reliable broadband, we no longer have those limitations.
“Now, your browser is a place where anything can happen and VR feels like the next frontier.
“One of my favourite projects was a story about a refugee crossing the Mediterranean, based on a short story by Khaleid Hosseini, author of A Thousand Splendid Suns.
“This intersection of the written word translated into a virtual reality appeals to me – it’s very powerful.”
A more recent project involves the recreation of a mysterious place built in Greenland during the 1960s, which no longer exists. Even if it did, the area is freezing and virtually inaccessible to human beings.
But in a virtual world, anything is possible.
“You could be an animal, have six legs, travel in time, explore the inside of a volcano or go into space,” says Anrick.
If you’ve never tried VR and are curious about what it feels like, Anrick, who is Dutch but moved to London 20 years ago, offers some insight.
“It’s definitely awkward in the beginning and some people get nauseous,” he says.
“Others become very aware of the furniture around them and worry about falling over, but you get used to the sensation very quickly.”
While VR requires you to wear a headset that disconnects you from the world you’re physically in, it’s still a very sociable experience – and it’s only possible thanks to reliable broadband.
“A present day misconception is that VR is a single player version of a games console, but that’s not the case,” Anrick says. “Shared spaces like DJ sets and festivals, or even conferences, offer a different side to this medium.
“Just last week, I was inside the Greenland exhibition as my avatar, talking to a ‘room’ of other people – some of whom were in Copenhagen and Aarhus.”
“I have two VR headsets, one low-end and one high-end, because the experiences are very different. The Oculus Quest 2, is wireless, so the internet is again crucial.
“Additionally, you could expand with all kinds of interesting add-ons and specialist software, like body-tracking or lip reading, which makes your avatar match your real body inside VR more accurately.”
Once all the elements are in place, the rest is up to you… and reliable broadband connection.
When tech and passionate creativity combine the results can be out of this world. Find out how super reliable Sky Broadband Superfast could help fuel your passion.