Virtual Cameras and General-purpose Game Engines: On Hybrid and Programmable Aesthetics of 3D Real-time Environments 


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Award date4 Feb 2021


The aim of the thesis is to examine the representational models (e.g. virtual camera-related techniques and approaches) for multi-purpose, spatial, CGI-based, real-time environments in relation to capabilities of a specific type of content creation software used to design them. Due to rapid enhancement cycles in the last years general-purpose game engines (e.g. Unity 3D, Unreal Engine) have triggered the emergence of new, real-time design paradigms that leverage capabilities of real-time computer graphics and of increasing interoperability of digital content development pipelines. In this light, we ask whether this convergence of techno-cultural factors has led to the emergence of a new medium with its own aesthetics and creative potential.

Using media, software, and platform studies we explore both the cultural and the technological foundations of virtual environments, focusing on the reappropriation (remediations) of visual styles in subsequent Western art and media genres as well as on the approximations and simplifications techniques utilized in today's real-time computer graphics. In the next step, we examine the market and cultural importance of general-purpose game engines, concentrating on Unity 3D and the design affordances offered by the software, particularly on the techniques, toolkits, and design workflows anchored in its virtual camera systems. Secondly, we analyze several pieces of experimental content designed with the engine – both industry-produced real-time animations and software artworks designed by the author.

We illustrate how the real-time design paradigm allows implementing highly hybrid and processual representational models for virtual environments. Finally, we demonstrate that a software media ecology centered on a general-purpose game engine provides a fairly standardized technological structure for designing new types of content and media genres used both for entertainment purposes as well in a wide variety of visualization applications across industries.