Detail from an Unreal Engine based project

An extensive vocabulary is great, but becomes a little less useful if your audience does not share it.

Sometimes however, there is that wonderful experience of coming across a new word that fits an idea or sentiment so perfectly, that you feel the need to embrace it completely. Good examples would include serendipity – the idea of unexpected discoveries, by good luck or happy accident – which feels right at home in the world of design. I’m a big fan of serendipity – the verb, and the phenomena.

Arguably my favourite word, revealed whilst reading into design history and theory is verisimiltude. The Cambridge online dictionary defines it as follows:

Verisimilitude – The quality of seeming true or of having the appearance of being real

Defined as above, the word becomes an idea, and it’s an idea at the heart of much of what we strive for in virtual set design. I first encountered the word whilst reading British Film Design: A History (Cinema and Society) by Laurie M Ede. The idea of realness being a quality, rather than being something measurable, and quantifiable, resonates at heart of everything I try and bring to life through virtual means. Judging what is required to achieve this quality is the result of experience, both of the real world and acquired from working in our industry.

Absolute realism is an unachievable mirage. We don’t yet have the computing power to achieve it, and we probably wouldn’t want it anyway, even if we could achieve it. I’ve been in enough conversations regarding the qualities of skies, and clouds, and the colour of the haze at the horizon, to know that everybody has a different idea of what a “real” sky looks like. I’ve also learned that a real sky is never accepted as being the “right” sky, even if we managed to get it forensically correct. Instead, it has to have the quality of seeming true, or have the appearance of being real. And that, is verisimilitude.

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