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Virtual Memories emerged as a didactic tool developed for research and utilised during workshops, facilitating rapid concept generation. It was also integral to my artistic experiments, using personal memories as scenes for animation and visualisation. This exercise enabled stylistic explorations and the creation of hybrid forms of virtual animation.

The Virtual Memories tool was designed to enable quick scene generation during assignments. The workshops began with a simple example: I recreated a personal memory of lying in the grass as a child, watching airplanes overhead and surrounded by orange beetles. This scene, created in Quill, was set up as a POV piece, with the camera positioned where the head and eyes would be. The scene included simple objects like beetles, grass, flowers, grain, distant airplanes, and a body to establish the POV perspective.

360° video render of Virtual Memories scene ‘Vapor Trails’ in Quill.

The distinctive aesthetic of Quill inspired me to import the scene into Unreal Engine and enhance it with advanced lighting effects to achieve a more personalised and stylised look. However, the import process introduced several issues. For example, the pivot point of the grass shifted underground, causing an unintended movement, and items such as the shirt did not ‘read’ well with the lighting (a problem that also existed in the Quill version). These issues need to be resolved before using scenes like this in an Expanded Animation context.

I brought the Quill Vapor Trail scene into Unreal Engine to experiment with blending the flat, low-poly style of Quill with Unreal Engine’s advanced shader, camera, and lighting capabilities.

The Virtual Memory concept serves multiple purposes. It eliminates the need for extensive scriptwriting in personal projects during workshops and helps generate student content around a central theme. This approach was intentional because the resulting 360° videos were to be projected in an immersive video setup at the final expo of the doctoral research. Additionally, the workshop validated observations made on the Virtual Animation Discord channel, where most Quill users tend to animate and design in a ‘Quill’-like style—a trend confirmed during our workshops.

In the final workshops of the 2023-2024 academic year, which I hosted, the Virtual Memories example was used. Compared to previous workshops, more students adhered to the assignment, with many feeling most comfortable replicating the provided examples for real-time animation of simple elements like trees and fire. As a result, not all students created scenes from their own imagination; some focused on animating trees within a fantasy-oriented context. Nevertheless, the outcomes provided an overall impression of the aesthetic range at a beginner level for Quill users.

This observation reinforced the notion that true innovation lies in combining specific tools with other techniques, confirming the research direction I had been pursuing in previous projects.