A Look Inside the Rig of VR/AR Art Director, Vladimir Ilic (aka VRHUMAN)

The team at Tom's Hardware is here to help you make the best computer hardware purchase decisions and squeeze every last drop of power out of your rig. We want to know what you use all those precious processor cycles for, which is why we've started a new series: Power User Profiles. In the first of our Power User Profile series, we're talking to a VR developer about what he uses to make his magic.

Hamburg, Germany based VR/AR Art director Vladimir Ilic (VRHUMAN on our forums) has been in the VR scene for a while, recently making waves on Twitter with his #VREVERYDAY Project. We recently reached out to Vlad to learn more about his work, his favorite apps, and the hardware inside his rig.

1. Tell us a little about your background and what you do.

My name is Vladimir Ilic (VRHUMAN) and I´m a VR/AR Art Director based in Hamburg, Germany. I’ve done some cool VR projects with companies like Microsoft, Google, Mozilla, Facebook, Oculus, and Samsung.

I started my design career in Graphics, Industrial and Transportation Design where I created everything from German cars, digital user interfaces and print productions like the IKEA catalogue.

For a few years now, I've been focusing all my creative energy on VR/AR where I experiment and expand on the current state of the technology.

Working in VR/AR design and art direction demands an open mind and a hunger to learn and improve. That’s why I started projects like the Artifacts Piano Bar and #VREVERYDAY where I force myself out of my comfort zone to improve my skill set and curiosity on a daily basis with experiments in the context of VR.

2. What Kind of Computer do you use for work?

I like my workspace to be minimalistic without much clutter or distraction. It helps me to stay focused on my work and stay organized.

Working in a cutting-edge field like VR demands an insane amount of computing power from almost every component in my system.

I custom built my Windows PC with an all-around setup focused on 3D modeling, rendering, gaming and game development.

Here are some specs:

Swipe to scroll horizontally
ProcessorIntel Core i7-6700k
Main GPUNvidia GTX 1070 for general tasks and gaming
Rendering GPURadeon Vega Frontier Edition
Work Storage500GB Samsung 950 EVO SSD
Archive Storage2TB HDD
PSU1000 Watt Corsair HX1000 80 Plus Platinum PSU
MotherboardAsus Z170 Pro Gaming Z Edition
DisplayDell UltraSharp 34-inch Curved Ultrawide Display
MouseLogitech G402
KeyboardCurrently nothing special, but I look forward to switching to a minimalist mechanical one soon

VR Hardware powered by the system:

My go-to VR HMD is the Oculus Rift with touch controllers and dual Sensor Setup! The Oculus Rift has great product design, utilizing different materials and haptics within a small form factor. There are some things I would want to improve, and I can´t wait to try the Santa Cruz version which addresses some of my issues. I also use the HTC Vive and Samsung Odyssey.

3. What are the most demanding tasks you perform?

For my Workstation:

Rendering: My current workflow for rendering animations and stills involves Cinema4D from Maxon and Otoy´s Octane GPU renderer. There is never enough GPU!

Development: Most of my interactive VR work happens inside Unity3D which gives me all the tools to create interesting narratives.

I´m currently focused on High-End VR (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive) which demands a lot from every component in the system. As mobile VR gets more accessible (Oculus Go just came out) I plan on experimenting more with that sector.

3D Work: I have a background in "traditional" 3D modeling which I still to a lot. My software of choice for this task is Maxon´s Cinema4D which offers a fantastic UI and a lot of exciting functions which help me in my creative VR process without interrupting creative flow.

For me:

Staying organized

4. What apps do you run?

Cinema4D for rendering, 3D modeling, and animation. Substance Painter for texturing designs and assets. AMD ProRender and Otoy´s Octane for rendering. Unity 3D for development. Brave Browser for a productive internet experience. Nvidia Shadowplay for recording video. Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer for editing images and creating vector graphics. Spotify for Jazz and background noises.

Oculus Home and Steam for gaming and VR creation apps like Oculus Medium, Masterpiece VR and Tilt Brush. They are all fantastic applications but there is a disconnect when creating worlds and assets on a 2D screen and going back and forth to prototype the look in VR.

I´m dreaming of a universal VR ecosystem where I can perform most design related tasks inside VR with seamless transitions between them. Modeling, sculpting in one frame,  and grabbing the model and throwing it into a texturing toll in another frame, where I also have all the tools to perform AI-guided UV unwrapping and context to finish the artwork.

5. Which of those apps or tasks would choke a mainstream computer?

Definitely everything VR related like the creation apps and games. The current state of creating art and designs in VR comes with tradeoffs. Polycount is hard to keep in check when intuitive workflows and a great user experience must be at top priority. There are built in resolution settings in most apps but the outcome and topology is a gamble at the moment so there is always post work involved with Cinema4D´s poly-reduction tool for example.

Displaying to VR HMDs at this time involves rendering an image for both eyes at very high framerates. Until foveated rendering supported by eye tracking becomes a thing we are wasting a lot of computing power on generating pixels the user does not even see.This goes for everything VR at the moment, whether it be gaming, creation tools or edutainment.

6. What are your biggest bottlenecks on your current computer?

I need way more graphics processing power to be more productive in every way. A single Nvidia GTX 1070 was pretty cool a year ago but as projects have gotten more demanding and complex, a multi GPU setup with current high end gaming cards would save me a lot of time.

With a lot of Unity Projects and VR paintings/sculpts in their raw exported form storage also becomes a concern. At the time of writing this I´m at day 126 of my #VREVERYDAY series, which means I'm generating a ton of large files every day that need to be backed-up and archived.

7. What are you currently playing?

To be brutally honest, I should play/test all the latest VR games but rarely find the time to enjoy them in a relaxed context. I love playing games with great story and aesthetics/setting. My favorites right now are:

  • The Witcher Series
  • Stardew Valley
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • The Final Fantasy Franchise

8. Any questions for the Tom's Hardware Community?

I've been looking for a powerhouse VR laptop workstation for months now, but can´t decide on which system to go with!

My job demands that I travel all across the world and every time I´m away from my tower workstation I miss working in VR. Currently I´m considering the recent Asus Zephyrus laptops but haven´t made up my mind yet.

I would love to hear your recommendations for a lightweight / simple and nice-looking VR ready laptop which I can take everywhere I go and do basic VR design and Unity development on.

You can follow Vlad's work at VR-Human.com and on his Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram feeds.

  • bit_user
    Thanks for sharing!

    I'm intrigued at a dual-GPU setup with only x16 lanes. For the 1070, it probably doesn't make much difference (but could add a tiny bit of latency to VR). But for non-realtime rendering, I could imagine that the Vega could hit a bit more of a bottleneck with a x8 link.

    When the Thread Ripper refresh hits, in a couple months, it might be worth a look. If Intel, then probably i7-7820X (28 lanes) or Xeon W-2135 (48 lanes).

    Perhaps the next gen of Intel's LGA2066 socket CPUs will be a bit more compelling. I'm hoping for more cores, lower prices, and soldered IHS.
  • Lutfij
    I think this is a great step forward. We've gotten a tonne of threads where users ask how to build a workstation system.

    Nice write up Joshua!