The legendary Audi 1930's Auto Union Silver Arrow racing car is always a hit with users of Audi's Walking VR solution, allowing them to explore the ultra-rare marque in exquisite detail and with complete freedom. The inclusion of the car in Audi's cutting edge virtual reality experience, debuted first at CES and later showcased at GTC gave the ZeroLight vehicle team the chance to work on something very different to the modern cars that normally feature in our virtual showroom solutions. Senior 3D vehicle artist Andy Wan was heavily involved with bringing this historic masterpiece into the 21st century digitally, building it for use in a cutting edge virtual reality experience.
What drives your interest in 3D modelling and cars?
I've always been interested in cars, not just looking and driving them but also from a design and build perspective. Working with the highest quality 3D models as we do at ZeroLight really lets you get to know the car and appreciate the work of the designers. If you have a passion for cars, then working with virtual 3D versions of them really is a dream job. 3D modelling and virtual versions of products are incredibly important in the car industry, they're the basis of all visualisation. You're providing the models that form the starting point for all visualisation be that images, video or interactive experiences such as we specialise in - it means you play a critical role in the business and each project.
What sets a ZeroLight project apart from past projects you've worked on?
Coming from a games background where you're always limited in how detailed you can make a car, it was a refreshing change to have no limit to the level of detail we can have, everything down to the smallest nut and bolt.
With the Silver Arrow, given that there were no limits as to how far we could push current technology, we decided to model everything! Since the user would be able to look all around the car we wanted to make sure that nothing was missing and that it was completely accurate.
Describe the process behind building such an iconic car, how did you approach this project?
For making a car like the Silver Arrow, the key thing is reference, reference and more reference! We spent a lot of time cross checking what we were doing against a bank of collated resources. There isn't a magic button in a special program that will make a prefect model of an object (yet!), it really comes down the talent and attention to detail of the team. Our background in games and interactive experiences really helped us develop the processes that increased efficiency and delivered the very best results. One of the key things for me is reviewing the car in VR as you go, you have to look at it as the user will and see the results of your work in the live environment to understand how to take the next step.
What was the biggest challenge in creating the silver arrow?
Doing justice to a priceless piece of automotive history. Audi were brilliant in giving us full access to this iconic car which is displayed in the Audi Museum. Like I said earlier, reference is key throughout the process and being able to take pictures of intricate features was critical in recreating the detail and overall look of the car. One of the most interesting challenges comes down to the fact that we weren't creating any Silver Arrow, we were re-creating the exact model as it appears in the museum. This means including race wear, including the grit, scratches and dents typically seen coming off a track. All of this adds to the personality and story of the virtual car, which ultimately creates a better experience for the user.
How does it feel to see the finished article received so well by the press?
Fantastic! It's always great to hear positive comments from other people, especially the client. You're always a little nervous when you're showing something new for the first time. It's a collaborative effort between a whole group of artists and programmers, so when we receive praise for our work it's smiles all round!
Looking at the finished article, what features are you most proud of?
The level of detail in the car, the kind of stuff that no one really cares about but that's the stuff that adds reality. When you're making something like this, you want it to be as real as possible, and things like scratches on the dash and dirt in the corners of the foot well all adds to that reality. It's different if you're making a brand new car such as a supercar where it has to look pristine, but for a car like this it's the imperfections and wear-and-tear that give it interest.