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Artistic VR exploration of Canadian forests using STIPPLE point cloud

Updated: Jan 16

Technology is reinventing the visitor experience and communication in a number of sectors, and art is no exception. The Forest points clouds exhibition in Canada is a case in point. It gave rise to an immersive experience, plunging visitors into the heart of ancient forests thanks to a combination of 3D, point cloud capture and VR.

To find out more about the project, we spoke to Robert Baronet, co-founder of IDHP, and Maxime Cyr, co-founder of Faiseux de Berlue, the partners who collaborated on the exhibition.

Exposure of Canadian forest point clouds with STIPPLE
Image of the installation for the "clouds of forest" project

An artistic exploration of Quebec's forests ecosystems

The project, called "forest points clouds" in reference to the point cloud technology used, explores 4 old-growth and rare forests in Quebec. An old-growth forest is made up of ancient elements that have known little or no human or natural disturbance. Robert Baronet, an artist with a passion for technology and nature, wanted the general public to discover these living ensembles. To do this, he used Lidar to scan the forests over the course of the different seasons, capturing every detail with precision. This work took him several weeks, during which he had to ensure the quality of the shots taken. The aim was to digitally recreate portions of these rare ecosystems while preserving their natural beauty.


The fusion of 3D and virtual reality: a journey through point cloud

Maxime Cyr, art director and 3D teacher, took charge of the animation of point clouds scanned by Robert. To achieve this project, Robert needed a tool that would allow him to travel easily through heavy point cloud files with a camera. After 6 months of research and unsuccessful trials with other solutions, he found STIPPLE, a VR point cloud visualisation software that can easily import and manipulate up to 5 billion data points. « Each forest contained between 350 and 500 million points. This represents a total of 1.8 billion point clouds that I was able to process easily using STIPPLE » says Maxime Cyr.

The challenges he faced were the impossibility of loading such large point cloud and moving around in them in an immersive way.

Illustration of Maxime Cyr's work, processing point clouds with STIPPLE

Maxime uses an RTX 3080, so the position of certain camera angles was difficult to manage. But thanks to STIPPLE, he was able to import these massive 3D scans, interact with the rendering at will (increase or reduce it, move around) and transform the point clouds into particles to add extra effects to the animation. For the camera animation, he was able to create a rectilinear movement without collisions with the various elements during exploration in VR. After Effect was then used to correct the colour of the point clouds.

A visual and auditory symphony

The project to explore forests using point clouds was not limited to a visual dimension. The creation of a soundscape, orchestrated by musician Gilles Blais, added an emotional dimension to the experience. He succeeded in creating a soaring, emotional and mystical musical backdrop that gave Robert Baronet a feeling of calm or meditation. He worked on this composition by considering the forest as a complex whole at the origin of life.

On 17 November 2023, the "Forests points clouds" exhibition opened its doors to the general public. Visitors were able to travel through clouds of digitised forest points. The exhibition is projected onto sails, a screen and a television. The 8-minute indoor projection gave them access to 4 preserved natural environments that are difficult to access. The music has been carefully synchronised with the visuals, creating a unique synergy between sound and image, taking viewers on an almost meditative journey through ancient forests. Visitors can still enjoy the installation until the end of the year.


A commitment to the environment

As well as being aesthetically pleasing, the "clouds of forest" project aims to raise public awareness of the importance of preserving forests. The website provides detailed information on these fragile ecosystems, highlighting the ravages caused by human activity and climate change. Information sheets with visual aids allow visitors to learn a little more about preserving these fragile spaces.


This collaboration demonstrates the potential of VR to transcend the traditional boundaries of art. By combining artistic creativity with technological capabilities, the 'Forest Clouds' exhibition offers an experience that marries the raw beauty of nature with digital innovation.

You can access to the project website here and look at the installation here.

The "clouds of forest" project partners are: the city of Matane, the Quebec Ministry of Culture and Communications, Innovation Cube Noir Inc, IDHP, Faiseux de Berlue, Gilles Blais (the composer)


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