Ezra Orion (1934-2015) was a sculptor, poet, and thinker.
In his work he sought to exceed the dimensions of gallery and urban space, and focus on sculpture that would envelop the spectator, contain him, and evoke in him a spiritual existential experience.
Orion lived and worked at Midreshet Ben-Gurion in Sde Boker, Israel.
The Digital Arts Center in Holon has curated an exhibit around Orion’s four decades of work in large public spaces, predominantly the desert and outer space, exploring his extraordinary spatial perception confronting man with the sublime. Orion described his geologic structures as launching pads for the mind. The exhibition presents Orion’s principal fields of action, from desert expanses, through movements and changes in the Earth’s surface, to outer space.
Udi Edelman, the curator of the exhibition had conceived a concept for a VR installation where visitors of the exhibition will be able to walk inside Orion’s sculptures that Orion had modeled but were never realized, in the scale that he had intended for them.
Shirin Anlen and I were commissioned to create this virtual reality experience for the exhibition.
The scan was made in the end June. For the technique, we considered several techniques including using a handheld laser scanner, or a Kinect. We chose to scan with Photogrammetry because it was affordable and accessible to us – we only needed a camera to scan and the budget- and because it gave us modifiable results – unlike a Kinect scan, that happens in realtime, the processing of photogrammetry happens in Photoscan after the capture and you can tweak the images and the settings. This gave us more confidence that we could achieve the results we needed.
Remodeling and texturing
Some of the scans came out a bit organic looking, but Udi’s vision was that the models would look as if they were made in concrete based on Orion’s drawings. This took a different approach than a simple scan cleanup. We worked with Andres Perez and Yumi Burgess on this part.
Andres, who worked on the more complex models, explained his work process:
“In order to make the sculptures look good from the inside, the scanned models were first cleaned up and optimized to correct the noise errors. After that, everything was retopologized and the amount of vertices was reduced while paying attention to the important shapes. The details from the sculpture were amplified to keep as much information as possible. When the optimized mesh was finished, the model was meticulously unwrapped to prevent any unwanted deformation when applying the maps on top.
In addition, with picture reference, the shapes received a sculpt touch and details polishing to show the actual design. This led to the creation of the normal maps and made it easier for the high resolution model to be projected onto the optimized one without sacrificing any features.”
The virtual environment
The project was developed in Unity.
To make the desert environment where the sculpture garden would be placed.
It was important for to feel the movement of light in the experience.
For the hardware, we chose to work with the HTC Vive, to allow the viewers to really walk freely in the space and experience the space as Orion had imagined. Because the sculptures were meant to be very large, and the Vive play area is only 5X5 meters, together with Udi, we chose a prominent are in each sculpture where the visitor could walk.
An article about the exhibit in Erev Rav [Hebrew]