Virtual tours-tourism during COVID-19 crisis

Many museums and art galleries offer virtual tours on their internet pages during the COVID-19 crisis and the state of emergency. Thus, users can see and enjoy their rich collections of paintings and artifacts while staying at home.

Experts who contribute to the online presence of the companies and the cultural institutions create the virtual tours, as well as various web applications and products. Many of these teams are led by Bulgarians whose offices are located in Bulgaria. Yavor Bonev’s company which was established nine years ago is among them.

I established the company after I returned from New Zealand where I worked in different architecture studios, Yavor Bonev told Radio Bulgaria. I came across a new technology developed by a Danish company. It was using glass pyramids. A real object is placed inside and a hologram rotates around it. The company had announced animation competition for its product, because no other company was doing something similar. I won second place. Later, I departed to Kopenhagen and decided to work together with the Danish colleagues.

Yavor and his team created more than one hundred projects. Their first project was for a global beer manufacturer. In 2011 they managed to make the beer bottle rotate and animated its label with the help of the hologram animation from the movie saga Star Wars. Thus, they found a free market niche and their company gradually become the one that fulfilled highest number of projects via this type of animation.

The virtual trips also have special place in Yavor’s portfolio. The virtual tours in Vienna and the French village of Champagne are the most popular among them. It took the team six whole months to make the VR tour in the Austrian capital.

The Vienna project is not accessible on the Internet, Yavor Bonev went on to say. We wanted this project to be carried out in busses which travel to various points in Austria’s capital. When people are given a sign, they put on the glasses and sink in the past. For instance, you can make a stop at the Hofburg Palace, or in front of the Saint Stephen’s Cathedral and go back in time 300 years. Thus, you witness key moments from the history of the country and the city. We shoot green screen videos in Bulgaria with the help of a team of 80 people. We received costumes from the Austrian museums and used soldiers and horses for the battles. In other words, we had everything necessary to make a film production. Finally, we combined the shooting with the scenery made via computer animation.

The next challenge takes Yavor and his team 17 centuries back in time to the ancient and eternal city of Plovdiv. They aim to show how the Bishop’s Basilica looked in the past with the help of the virtual reality and animation. They talk to historians, archaeologists and restorers, in order to learn the history of the ancient temple of which only fragments survived to this day. The virtual restoration manages to show even the smallest details of the Basilica’s interior.

Unfortunately, the equipment necessary for the virtual tour has not been delivered in Plovdiv yet and the extraordinary situation over the coronavirus crisis will further delay its installation.

Currently, the team is working on another recreation- of a vanished Bulgarian castle. It is also planning to hold virtual lessons that would help the Bulgarian students learn the laws of physics, the chemical elements and their application and why not even historical facts of the Bulgarian and the world history.

English version: Kostadin Atanasov

Photos: private library

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