Introducing VisiLit VirtualSpace

So, after much adieu and not many updates on development, we’ve managed to whip that cool and “cutting edge” looking, but albeit pre-natal and rusty demo from four months ago into a “fully” working Beta product. We call it VisiLit Virtual Space, and it’s nowhere near complete, but myself and my new accomplice Ciarán Schütte are quite proud of it. I’ll spare you the gruelling details of the past few months of development in favour of a lovely explanation of what it does, how it works and how it’s helpful. If you want more detail on how it was build, look no further than here, the other 1000 word blog post I’ve written today. What it does Essentially, this product provides an online collaborative virtual theatre space where the entire stage production cycle can take place. The people involved don’t have to be together in the real world, but can communicate, share ideas, and ultimately build their stage productions right there in the virtual, online world. How it works Web technology has been becoming more and more powerful. Buzz words like “web app” and “cloud” are now commonplace. Our cloud based web app marks, in a way, the cutting edge of the potential of in-browser technology. The application itself is accessed using a simple URL in the address bar of an internet browser. (Currently, Google Chrome is the only browser we claim compatibility with). Here, after a brief loading period , the application is fully available for use! We take care of all of your files and because it is all online, it’s easy to work together with the others...

And now it’s Kicking

Well, it’s been four long months since the last update on the development of this online collaborative stage planning and production tool, and developed it has. Some of the cause of this gap in information has been due to reluctance to share our coveted industry secrets, but most of it has been down to just being too darn lazy busy. Since the last post, a horrendous amount of work has been poured into this thing by both myself and, more recently, our fantastic, super-intern, Ciaran Schütte. We’ve turned it from the basic, sandbox style prototype you will have seen in the last post, into an (almost) fully fledged working Beta of our product. From one trick pony to fully working demo app Our initial “Hello World” style 3D space was, at the time, breathtaking. Although limited to just adding a few blocks and an actor to a platform that represented a stage, we revelled and basked in the glory that was 3D in the web browser; powered by the fantastic Javascript WebGL library: ThreeJS. Having gotten used to the marvel that this was actually gong to be possible, I set out to actually get it done. Before long, I was well on my way. That’s when I was joined by the Schüttenator. As development continued, the code began to pile and pile up. Soon, we had to split everything up into a plethora of javascript files which seemed at the time to be “organised” this quickly became a disarray of spaghetti code so we needed to make some… Big Decisions in Back I’m not going to pretend i’m in any way...

IT’S ALIVE!!

So, I’ve had a while to poke around with three.js, and I’ve managed to create a world! It’s very basic, but does allow a limited amount of interactivity. This is what will grow and become our fully-fledged stage planning tool! Check it out… The basic stage is a platform that’s really just floating there. There is a light above it, so we can see it. It’s pretty basic, of course, but it’s a start. You can click to add blocks… see. IT’S ALIVE! What’s...

Three.js our beautiful powerhouse

Wow! Take a look at this. www.threejs.org I had NO IDEA this sort of thing was possible in a web browser. Due to an API called WebGL, 3D graphics can be rendered into a web browser. Essentially, it’s still a web page, but if you can grab a hold of that API with good enough of a grasp, some incredibly powerful stuff can be done in humble wee web window. There a few tools out there to provide one with such a grasp; the most suitable of which, as far as I can tell, is a javascript library called Three.js. Just have a look at some of the examples accessible through the link above to see what I mean. Be sitting down. You have to remember when looking at these example that this is a WEBSITE you are seeing. The graphics in many cases aren’t quite as fantastic as what’s available on a games console for example, but that’ll keep improving. What is important is that what you are seeing is completely live. Information from any source could be flowing in to take effect on the 3D elements on your screen, there is nothing to buy, download or install to get it to work (in most desktop cases) and best of all, it’s completely interactive. This means that you could build a whole website, complete with constantly changing information and interactive navigation in full 3D, and it’s compatible across the board. What better way of harnessing the power of full on interactive 3D in a web browser than by using it to build a cross-platform online environment for the planning and creation...

Online 3D

That’s right. 3D in a web browser. We though about playing around with some relatively new HTML5 technology to make a 2D online stage editor. But a after some research, we discovered that some absolute cutting edge web technologies are out there that will allow us to do real 3d right in a web browser. So “To hell with it!” we said. “We’re not pussy footing around with some last month’s platform to make an editor that will underwhelm our users.” We are bold and we are brave. “We will do it in 3d or we will die trying!” Life’s too short. Bring on the pain. (because I have absolutely no idea how to do this...

An Online Editor. Really?

So, we’ve spent quite some time talking to our customers, and guess what. Despite our best laid efforts to convince them of the revolutionary marvels of our lighting product, everyone is chewing at the bit at the first mention of an online theatre production planning tool. Who would have thought that validation would actually produce a change? So the way forward seems clear. Lets’s build them what they want. Let’s build something a person can log into online and instantly, easily, and without downloading or installing anything, begin planing a production that they can print out and edit later. Simples. So how are you going to do it, Vince? Well, at this point it would seem that the world of HTML has advanced so far that something like this really is going to be possible, albeit complex. Probably using Javascript and JQuery and some nice sprites or even use of SVG for nice, scalable vector based 2D graphics that will be very quick to download. More thought will be needed and a nice dollop of research, plus some decisions on how this thing is going to look....