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Lighting in the metaverse

Lighting Design By Seraphina Gogate, Principal Lighting Designer – 03 November 2022

Dark background with digital red to blue light paths


Seraphina in a dark top with a long neck chain smiling to camera in the London office

Seraphina Gogate

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This blog post is Cundall Lighting’s take on lighting design in the metaverse and leads on from Cundall Acoustics’ April 2022 blog on acoustics in this immersive digital world.

By now, we’re all largely familiar with the concept of the metaverse - the opportunities for immersion that it offers, how similar it is to the real world and how much more similar it needs to be to truly immerse us. The metaverse, in all its codified, technical glory, appeals to an innately human need – connection. As social animals, we are driven by a need for seeking security in numbers. Social media was the first code-based technology to envelop us in a cocoon of connection, and the metaverse furthers that concept by engaging the senses we use to experience the real world. Of these, our sense of vision is the most immediate sense used to form an idea of reality. With photo and video-based platforms, social media uses our sense of vision to help us engage with complex concepts, emotions and thoughts. The metaverse hopes to capitalise on this visual immediacy but also aims to weave in the other four senses such that we feel truly immersed within the virtual environment.

As a lighting designer, I can only marvel at the acoustics, haptics and olfactory advancements in metaverse design as would a layperson. What I feel responsible for however, is the need to keep ideating when it comes to lighting the metaverse. Lighting designers bestow space with a mantle of authenticity. We control visual hierarchies and viewpoints to infuse a space with feeling. Our role in the design of the metaverse must therefore also be to make it feel more real.

In the future, digital twins will serve as a connection between the physical and the virtual, blending the two into a singular reality. A lighting designer’s contribution to this connection will be through their ability to render both physical space and virtual complement in an easy to absorb format that furthers immersion.

In both scenarios, lighting must not be an afterthought. Immersion is an innately collaborative, collective process. The design team must work in a seamless manner with knowledge sharing at the top of all priorities. In the physical world, this results in the lighting designer having the agency to embed immersive features such as individual controls and fully concealed fixtures. In the metaverse, this will mean that the lighting designers can use their experience in layering light to advise rendering experts on how to create different moods and scenes within a virtual platform – whether this be otherworldly or natural.

Lighting designers need to treat the metaverse as a natural extension of their role in the built environment. I have met far too many stalwarts in the field who are reticent to even think about the metaverse as an opportunity for expanding their craft. There is a danger in thinking that the metaverse is only for the tech savvy, code crunching amongst us. Lighting designers have already made the switch from having a role in theatre and drama alone to the more permanent field of architecture. As such, it isn’t too much of a stretch to expand our knowledge and skills base to include lighting in the virtual platform. Our core talents will remain the same. We will, in fact, finally be able to control light, and therefore the look and feel of a virtual space, completely.

The metaverse has the ability to transform the manner in which we think about complex issues of ownership and connection. It offers designers a new means of furthering our innate human desire to feel like we are part of something bigger than ourselves. So long as we are able to translate our understanding of the built environment into a virtual space, lighting designers will be an intrinsic part of the inevitable transition to a metaverse-bound form of living. And through our ability to render reality real, we will add a human value to a platform that appears detached from what we know to be the human condition.