Window to the World

April 4, 2017

 

Creator: Aurel Manea Productions

VR Technology : 3D Parallax Photography

Viewing System : Samsung Gear VR

 

Aurel Manea is a photographer and a technical editor, and he combines these two passions to create fantastic virtual reality displays of his impressive work. In Window to the World, Manea showcases his best landscape pictures with a stunning 3D effect, created manually from original 2D photographs using a spin on traditional parallax techniques.

 

The application is set in a standard gray cylindrical room, with all of the viewable images lining the walls going around, and one larger framed ‘window’ where the user sees an image in 3D. Soft music plays in the background, providing for a relaxing viewing experience. The only instructions that appear at first are to click to change scenes, and a short introduction of the project as a ‘photo experiment’ as well as giving credit to the creators. A gentle tap on the touchpad reveals the first image, a quiet hilly landscape with rolling green meadows and a warm sunset.

 

As beautiful as the scene looked, I was somewhat disappointed initially; I didn’t want to put on a Gear VR headset to look at pretty pictures I could see on any computer screen. That’s what I thought until I started looking around… The picture shifted with wherever I looked! It seemed subtle at first, but as I moved my head around more, it became quite noticeable as the scenery adjusted with my gaze and even revealed additional bushes behind the hills. I was taken aback when I realized that this was somehow created from a 2D photograph - it seemed so realistic in 3D. I found it very interesting to read more about Manea’s editing technique on his site:

http://aurelm.com/2013/12/15/fernweh3dparallaxphotographytutorial/

 

The scenes were so captivating that I repeatedly wanted to poke my head out the window and walk around in the area, only to realize that it was still just a picture on the wall. Although breaking slightly from the immersive experience, this is a consequence of the technique used and limitations of having only a single 2D photograph, not a whole 360 capture. However this did allow the creator to use already existing images and expose their significantly higher quality resolution. Once the user accepts this relation of looking out a window within the virtual world, it is a comfortable and enjoyable experience.

 

Interactivity is limited, as not much is necessary. The touchpad is required to change scenes, which I wish could have been done somehow with looking instead, perhaps looking at one of the 2D pictures around the room would display it. The window also provided small effects that bring you closer into the depicted world. Certain objects, bushes or waves would release a slow stream of glowing particles, highlighting the dynamic motion in static images. I also felt as if the sunset would glow brighter when I glared directly at it, and dimmed when I looked to the side, making the sun feel as powerful as it would being there.

 

Overall, this Window to the World is a beautiful piece of artwork showcasing Manea’s already impressive photographs of fascinating landscapes captured at the perfect moments. The room setting isn’t very exciting until the user takes a closer look out the window and is captivated by the 3D world. Despite all the manual editing he needs to put into the images, Aurel Manea’s parallax technique is a very successful method to transform 2D photographs into 3D immersive experiences.

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