Team

Andrea Maggiolo - project leader
Leni Debrauwer - pedagogical approach and market research
Corrado Santoro - visual development

Contributors

Maria Manuela Lopes - mentor
Adrien Fenech - development mentor
Queeny Giacone - business planning

The problem

During the Covid-19 crisis students can’t access labs and equipment in universities and academies. As a consequence, it makes it difficult or completely impossible for them to develop practical skills.

What it does

We are providing a reliable instrument that enables virtual learning of practical skills in the field of audiovisual production and digital media which are particularly affected by the lockdown in their hands-on approach. The virtual environment in games has reached a high level of realism and definition, mostly thanks to ray tracing and photo-realistic texturing and shading.
We investigated how we can apply the same techniques to learning and training.
The app reproduces a photo-realistic virtual environment where students can test and experience the properties of lighting equipment. In order to achieve this, we use Unreal Engine 4, a real-time engine with ray tracing capabilities, in a user-friendly web app with not only an intuitive interface but also thorough controls of the simulated environment.

Approach and technical aspects

We developed a business plan to underline the possibilities of the project as well as a mock-up to illustrate its features and user-friendliness.
The web app is cross-platform, built in openGL / webGL which makes it completely accessible online and from any device. This solves the problem of too high minimum system requirements. The app will be hosted on a dedicated server and will use cloud computing in order to support a high quality level of real-time rendering using ray tracing in Unreal Engine 4.
The focus of the first prototype is lighting and ray tracing.
Nevertheless, the structure of the web app will be built with a modular approach in order to host different contents and make it expandable into other disciplines of digital media, such as audio production, product design, interior design.

Impact

1. Answer to pedagogical needs:
As a consequence of the lockdown, not only students in audiovisual academies are required to produce videos for their exams, but whoever is home working. In order to respond properly to the specific problem each one is encountering, we divided the needs in 4 groups.

  • For the audiovisual students. A huge element of cinema projects consists in planning and pre-production. These preparations and their detail level have a real impact on the final product. Therefore, a great amount of time is dedicated for students to test their ideas and skills. As the exam has been postponed or moved online, they won’t have the same time to physically develop their skills due to a lack of resources on campus. Therefore, it’s important for them to simulate the experience, in order to gain time and increment technical skills.
  • For students who do not belong to film or digital media departments. In many disciplines, students will have to produce video presentations to support their work and they will be evaluated on their learning outcomes. Most of them lack the skills to make a simple and proper video nor have they been taught on how to do so.
  • For the lecturers. Develop a more adequate response to students' needs in the crisis, while creating quality video to support remote education.
  • For everyone. Video is a central tool in this crisis and is used by many people. From the creative and curious persons that just want to explore the tool, to those who need it for work (psychotherapy for example), or else those who want to get an understanding of video making in order to deliver better remote work presentations.

2. Enhancement of professional work:
Professionals in the film, game and 3D art industry will benefit from the app as well. We offer them a quick and easy way to plan ahead a film set or to double check the effect of a specific digital lighting setup and shading properties.

Outcome

Based on these elements, we identified 2 types of account:

  • Professional : support professionals and students in audiovisual production to simulate the environment of the lab or studio in order to test lights and set planning, to use a professional perspective and to promote their skills in the professional field (educational discount is foreseen, see in business plan).
  • Basic : Shared knowledge through free access to a basic account to support students from other disciplines in the creation of videos and to enhance their work during the exams period.

After crisis

At this stage, the project needs a team of developers to prototype the first module which will then be tested within a targeted group.
Next step is the bigger scale implementation, both in the short and long term the project can address the need of 400K students in audiovisual and digital media studies all across the European Union.

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