Immersive Design

Story Structure

My immersive design project is based on a ghost train experience which integrates and adopts the Alice in the Wonderland theme of down the rabbit hole. I intend to make my video a 360 video in which the user can look where they please in the environment. My video will start with the viewer looking outwards from a typical ghost train cart. The first thing the viewer will see is the large wooden doors that will allow them to enter into the ghost train. The scene will be well lit at this point with nothing going on in order to create a false sense of security for the viewer. Although there may be slight apprehension to enter the ghost train, I intend to use the first room to put the viewer at ease. The first room will contain low budget looking props that will slowly jump out in order to scare the viewer. There will be spiders hanging from the ceiling that slowly dangle down in front of the cart as it moves, they will emit no sound and will move in a predictable and non threatening manner to ensure the viewer is still not fearing what is yet to come. At the end of this very childish room they will come to another set of wooden doors that they have already seen before and expect another pathetic attempt at scaring them on the other side. However the doors will fling open and propel the cart with the viewer inside down a steep declining track and throw them into another world. I intend for the lighting at this point to become a lot darker. This will in turn make the viewer question what they are seeing in the dark and suspect everything as a threat. This other world the viewer has been thrown into will take the shape of a dark spooky forest. As the viewer moves through the forest two very noticeable events will occur to let them know this is no longer just a childish ride and they are no longer where they thought they were. As the viewer in the cart is inevitably looking around through the trees in the forest a ghost will appear in front of them emitting a spooky white glow. This is a turning point in the story because the ghost will go through the viewer and the cart, this is when the viewer will know for sure that these are not props and this is no normal ghost train due to the fact it can pass through objects with ease. After this a large UFO will come in from one side of the scene and hover above the cart for a few seconds to entice the viewer to look upwards before shortly after falling into yet a second hole. This is the last hole they will fall down and will lead to an empty plane with a giant coffin at the end of it. I intend to make the camera and the cart separate for a brief moment at this point to create the effect that the viewer is being left behind as the cart approaches the coffin. The coffin door will then sling open showing a tunnel with a bright light at the end of it and the user will be thrown back into the cart as it makes its way into the tunnel in the coffin and towards the bright light. As the viewer approaches the bright light at the end of the tunnel the video will abruptly end, trapping the cart and the viewer’s conscience in a never ending cliffhanger. Did they get out? Where did the tunnel lead to? What monster created this? They’ll never know.

Digital Affordance and Navigation

Due to the fact that my immersive project is a video of an experience and not a game with an objective, there is nothing on the screen in terms of controls or instructions. The only aspect of the experience the viewer will have control over is which direction they are looking. However, although they may look wherever they want in the experience, I intend to get their attention in a particular way that I would like them to look. I will do this through the use of sound, lighting and asset placement. I intend to control the direction in which the viewer will look by restricting their freedom for the first room so that when I let them look wherever they want they look at whatever grabs their attention most because they haven’t been able to do so thus far. For the first room I will place walls close to the cart on either side, meaning that the viewer will be unlikely to turn the camera because there is nothing going on around them, only in front. However when they fall down the first hole, the whole terrain will open up so it is important that I ensure there are assets that stand out in the direction I want the user to look. This is why I have placed the ghost at the end of the map just outside of the viewer’s field of view. So that when it starts to come towards the front of a cart emitting a spooky noise the viewer will look directly back in front. This is where I want them to look because after this, if they are facing forwards they will get a glimpse of a UFO on their left and look this way and follow it as it lies above them. This will in turn mean that they will be looking upwards as they approach the next hole they are about to travel through and will not see it until the very last second. Therefore even though my viewer has full control over where they can look in my 3D environment I will be subtly controlling their attention. Although the user will be able to control their point of view, I will have some physical control as I can point the camera in the direction I wish for them to be looking at. However I will ensure that the camera is always pointing forward therefore if the user wants to see something that is not in front of them they will have to move the camera.

Audio Considerations

Although my original plan was to find and download different sound files from the internet and later reference them appropriately, I for some reason thought I would make this project a lot harder for myself and create all of my own sound. Because who doesn’t have ghost trains and UFO’s lying about their house?

Creating my Sounds

Ghost Sound

My first thought when trying to come up with a sound effect for a ghost was to record myself saying boo for a few seconds in my best scary voice. However after attempting this quite a few times and realising I just don’t have the perfect radio host voice I thought I had, I had an idea. I filled a wine glass with some water and wet my finger and slowly rubbed it around the rim of the glass to create a high pitched spooky sound. I experimented with different amounts of water as I realised the more water in the glass the lower pitched the noise. I decided to fill the glass around halfway for the perfect pitch. After this I recorded the sound and transferred it to my laptop for future editing.

Background Music

I thought creating background music would be easy, especially because I own a guitar but as it turns out if you don’t pick one up for nine years you forget everything you were taught. After a few hours experimenting with different chords to try and create a musical masterpiece, I realised by simply picking a few simple single string notes, I could achieve a basic simple spooky soundtrack. I played these few notes for around 20 seconds and then transferred them into premiere pro and extended them to create a two minute long soundtrack. Although this was not the masterpiece I had hoped for, the amatuer guitar playing sounded very off-putting and would help to create the exact type of atmosphere I want in my experience.

Squeaky Doors

I thought living in a room with the loudest door in the house would never come in use but it finally did. Due to living in the loft I have more of a hatch than a door which requires large gate hinges that emit a very loud squeak when moved. This became the perfect sound not only for the wooden doors in my immersive project but also for the large coffin that will swing open at the end.

Cart Track Sound

This was a hard sound to find because I could not think of anything that could create the sound of a cart on a ride sliding along a track. However I soon realised that this sound is simply caused by the friction between two types of metals. At first I tried scraping a fork against a metal tin but it did not sound right. I then found an old chain and scraped it against the back of a metal shovel. This made the perfect metal dragging sound and I will use it for the full duration the cart is on the tracks.

UFO Sound

For the sound of a UFO I just needed a sound that created the illusion of hovering. I decided to turn my large room fan up to the highest setting and place my phone directly in front of it. Not only did this give a flying like sound but because of the speed of the air hitting my phone’s microphone it also made it sound like a very large flying object which was perfect for what I intended to use it for.

Editing the Audio

After gathering all of my audio I then had to edit each track in order to make it suitable for my experience. Although for most of the tracks this simply meant clipping the files, removing background noise and changing the volume. For others it was more complex.


For my UFO sound I wanted to create the illusion that the sound was coming from the viewer’s left side, flying above their head and then flying off again via the same left side. I decided the best way for me to achieve this effect was through the use of panelling in premiere pro. I created key frames on the paneer effect in premiere pro and changed their values based on where the UFO was in the video. For example when the UFO is hovering far on the left side, I set the value to -100 to ensure you can only hear it in your left ear. When the UFO was hovering above the camera I set the value to 0 to ensure the sound was balanced on both sides.

I also used a similar effect on my ghost sound. However this time the ghost came from the front and left behind the camera. So in order to create the effect the noise was coming from far away and slowly came closer. I added key frames to the volume tab and the closer the ghost was to the camera the higher and increased the volume and the further away it was the more I decreased it.

Asset and Level Design

I designed this cart with deception in mind. As I previously mentioned this experience will get the viewer into a false sense of security by making them think that this is just a child’s ghost train and nothing to fear. This is why I have created a childish themed cart. Although it has some elements that could be considered scary like the horns, they are the only aspect of the cart that is different from one that is not meant for a ghost train. Also the simple colour scheme using flat colours on a lambert material gives an almost cartoon style impression which once again makes the user think that this experience is meant for small children and will not catch them off guard.

I created these tracks to perfectly fit the bottom of the cart I had previously made. I got inspiration from train tracks and adapted them for a smaller cart. I created these tracks by deforming different size cubes and spherical nails into the sides. I created them with an exactly equal gap between each wooden slat. This is to ensure I could easily copy and paste the asset throughout the world and it would constantly look the same just as a track should.

I created these doors after I already knew what sound they would make, due to using my own door sound in my immersive project. When I hear the particular squeak that my door makes it makes me picture a much larger heavy door. Therefore this is what I created, a very large set of wooden doors with an aged look to give them the ghost train theme that is suitable for this experience.

This was by far one of the hardest asset’s to make. Simply because all tree’s look different and this is especially true when the branches have no leaves on them. I decided to make the trees with no leaves on to give a much colder and scarier feel to the forest area. I split a cylinder into eight equal faces and extruded each face along a different path to create random looking branches. I then copy and pasted this one tree throughout my design and changed the scale and rotation to avoid too much repetition. 

This was the easiest asset to create. I simply inserted a cylinder and sphere into my environment and crushed them both downwards and placed them on top of each other. After some extruding of certain faces and the adding of light shaped objects it looked like a lot more of a complex model than it actually was. I then textured it a light gray to give the illusion that it is metallic.

Creating the Ghost asset became a lot more difficult than I intended. The original simple shape of the ghost figure did not take me long to create. It was the effects I added afterwards however that made this a more complex model than I originally intended. I wanted to create a glow from the ghost figure from within so that in the experience when the scene gets dark the scary ghost figure lights up the environment for a brief moment. As I am not very experienced with maya this took a long time to figure out, especially because my laptop will not render most lighting options in maya. I decided to create a mesh light from a copy of the ghost asset and rescale it to be slightly smaller than the actual ghost model and place it inside to give off the glowing effect.

Although this is essentially one model it actually became two. This is because I created it with the intention of being able to open and close therefore I had to create the coffin base and the coffin lid separate. This meant I could animate the coffin lid whilst keeping the base still. I also had to ensure the inside was well designed as the viewer would see this as well as the coffin opened. This is why I added a red cushion material inside, alongside some gold pin cushion buttons.

The spider asset was the only model I created with the intention of looking bad. This model is meant to look non threatening and cheap to lure the viewer into a false sense of security before falling down the whole into another dimension.

This area is the original child like ghost train, it is very bright with no roof and brightly coloured walls. This is not only to ensure the viewer feels safe but it also constricts them to looking around the full area straight away.

This is the area the user will end up in after falling into the first hole and travelling to this possible alternative dimension. It consists of muddy hills,a stone path, a ghost and a UFO. Not just your average park.

This is the final area that should really confuse the viewer through the sheer absence of anything. The only model in view is the giant coffin, this will give the viewers the impression there is no escape from the inevitable.

Development Approaches

One of the largest problems I always seem to come across in 3D related projects is rendering. I constantly forget how big of a task this can become so I spend a lot of time tweaking small and insignificant details to my 3D environment to get it perfect whilst forgetting every detail I add increases my render time. I made the same mistake again this time. I focused a lot on getting the lighting just right within my scene which took a long time to do due to the fact my computer will not register most of the lights in maya. Therefore I have to mess around a lot with Sky Dome lights and mesh lights. However after getting the lighting perfect and making other minor adjustments I started to render. I quickly began to realise that each frame was taking around four minutes thirty seconds. This was a huge problem because I had 2880 frames to render in total.This would mean I would have to render for over 200 hours. In order to get my render time down to a more reasonable amount of time I removed a lot of the complex lighting. This made a huge difference in more ways than one. It cut my render time to an average of 70 seconds per frame but it made each frame a lot darker. I therefore decided to fix this in post using premiere pro. Using the effects tab, I searched for lighting effects and found the lighting effect which acted as a torch on my whole scene. Not only was I able to brighten up my scene but I could also control the brightness of each scene a lot easier whilst saving over 160 hours of render time.

One other post production process that helped me create the atmosphere I wanted was the VR fractal noise effect. After I thought I had finished my video I started experimenting with other effects in the software as I am very new to it. I found a section called immersive effects which was perfect for what I was creating. After trying all of them I found the fractal noise effect which allowed me to create a coat of fog over my video which I could bring in and disperse whenever I wanted. I decided this would be a great effect for the forest scene as I had already used the previous lighting effect to darken the scene. I created key frames on the opacity layer to instruct when the effect should take place. I also changed the blending mode to multiply as it made the fog look a lot more realistic rather than an opaque picture placed over the top of my video.

Final Immersive Video

This is my final completed immersive ghost train experience. I am very pleased with the way it has turned out. Especially because I am not confident with 3D design and have never edited a video in full with premiere pro. This is also the first time I experimented with spatial sound and creating all of my own assets including models, environments and sounds. The only aspects that I would change if I had more time would be to add back in my complex lighting and render in 4k. This is because even though I have rendered at 24fps at 1080p, when the video is converted to 360, a lot of quality is lost. I hope you have as much fun watching it as I did creating it. Although the youtube video is below, WordPress does not always support the 360, so it may have to be viewed directly from the youtube page.