Virtual reality (VR) are not uncommon at trade shows and events where consumers can immerse themselves in an experience or product. But will it also change the way events are designed and developed behind the scenes?
Sydney-based brand experience agency The Company We Keep (TCWK) champions the use of VR in pre-production, allowing organisers to immerse themselves in the virtual venue to see how things will look to scale prior to the event. The agency pioneered this use of VR at the recent Salesforce World Tour at ICC Sydney – a pitch that they won. To execute the VR offerings, TCWK partnered up with 7DX, a VR agency based in Sydney.
“We thought if we could actually create the actual event within VR tech, we’d be able to take [the organisers] through it so they understood it better,” said Nigel Ruffell, founder and director at TCWK. “We always do a walk-through of the event about a week or 10 days out, and it’s usually on-site. They have to come down to the venues, we’ve got all the renders on paper, and we’ve got maps so they can see where it’s all laid out.
“But we thought, instead of doing the design on flat paper, they could actually immerse themselves in the experience, they could see how it all works, where everything would go, actually walk through it, be able to stand on stage and speak to the audience. They could actually relive the whole event before they actually got there.”
For the Salesforce event, each touchpoint was designed within VR in pre-production and all the changes or additions made were noted. “Everytime we worked on something – whether it was a build or some signage or we had put some astroturf somewhere – we added that all into the experience. From the point of entry from your arrival, where you see the screen, the registration desk, the graphics, we built it all in there. So the executives and the marketing team get to see the whole event prior to getting on site,” said Ruffell.
An advantage of using VR as opposed to hard-copy renders is that changes can be made easily and cheaply. In the case of TCWK, they included a feature for brand marketers to insert green and red labels on the visuals to indicate changes or things that they approved of.
“This means they can make the final tweaks before the cost and build. When you’re on-site, changing something can be incredibly expensive and time-consuming,” said Ruffell. “It does bring the cost down massively. You don’t get all those last-minute changes. The changes are made through the VR experience before anything has been built.”
On top of that, the cost of executing the VR tech isn’t “all that much more” expensive than doing it on paper. “Really, all it takes is the design elements and 3D renders that we exported in a certain format, and then they’re dropped into the VR platform. We managed to save a lot of money based on doing it this way,” said Ruffell.
At the Salesforce event, TCWK built a 185m-projection wall that wrapped around the showfloor. The wall was built with 4,092 lineal metres of timber, took 535 litres of paint to complete, and weighed 6,200kg in total. There were also 27 projectors, each outputting 20,000 lumens in a continuous blend on the wall.