Orano develops innovative solutions to guarantee the safety of their collaborators during nuclear interventions. The objective was to explain the overall value proposition under four operational scenarios, representing the corresponding products and their use cases within each of these scenarios.
We were contacted by Grenade & Sparks — an independent communications agency — to create a digital experience for Orano in the context of the company’s rebranding.
Although humans created nuclear power, and the ability to harness it, the technology is often feared as a result of its risk factor and educational inaccessibility.
Events such as Tchernobyl and Fukushima have left a scar on our psyche : nuclear is to be avoided at all costs. Admittedly when these sites are mismanaged or in states of disrepair the risks increase exponentially, with extreme consequences. That being said nuclear power can be produced in a regulated and safe environment, without a trail of excess toxic waste, and it is a high yield energy source that could be needed in a world where electricity is replacing fuel.
Our mission was to create an immersive experience that was both educational and entertaining. Visuals would illustrate the operations and the locations in which they take place, we also created simple gameplay experiences at the bottom of the pages to completely exemplify these scenarios, reward the user, and encourage further exploration.
Strategic and creative challenges
Our challenge was to bring users to inaccessible places; nuclear intervention areas. The best way to explain Orano’s operations on these sites was to illustrate and materialize the technical range of the equipment used and the nature of their involvement. We needed to convey notions of precision, innovation and security — deeply focused on the future.
To achieve this, we created a topographic universe based on real locations, with futuristic and sharp graphics of precises locations.
In order to create an entertainment factor around the different intervention scenarios, we designed four unique environments. Each one expanding on an area of Orano’s expertise, where the content is balanced in a way that the core message is clear and accessible for the user — who is rewarded at the end of the longform with a mini game that illustrates an example application of the technology.
We had very little documentation and material to create the content or the 3D models, a significant portion of the production involved proactive proposals on solutions that would enable us to meet the original ambitions regardless.
Our will of creating an immersive journey communicating Orano’s nuclear services also translated into a smooth and easy navigation throughout the various themes — the goal being consistency in the narrative rhythm of the overall experience.
Building the environments
The 3D environment was created in WebGL with Three.js, we built the majority of the assets ourselves on Blender to simplify the process and optimise weight and compatibility of the various objects while rapidly iterating on visuals.
Unfortunately we weren’t able to use the wireframe property of Three.js as it displayed triangles when we were hoping to see rectangles. As a solution we set up an export system with OBJ in Blender, we’d export only the edges while maintaining the order of the vertices. We subsequently developed our own parser to read the export correctly and create a geometry in which only the edges would be contained. Once the parser was built we applied our own materials to a LineSegments from Three.js.
Another advantage of this technique was the overall weight of the assets. We had 30 3D models, weighing 3.7Mo or 901Ko when gzipped.
The terrain environments were created from images whose red and green color channels enabled us to define elevation and opacity. We wanted to ensure the user felt like he or she was entering a large universe, but in order to optimise the website’s performance we used the same terrain repeatedly — under different angles to create the illusion of new mapping.
The same technique was used for the flyover landscapes during transitions, with a smaller and less detailed mesh, again to optimise the website’s performance. The camera movement is large enough to make it impossible to notice. On mobile the meshes are slightly more degraded to make the site more accessible.
Multiple shaders were added onto the render to make the experience feel more immersive :
- The introduction animation combines a tile offset in tandem with an RGB offset, varying slightly according to cursor movement.
- The menu open/close animations combine saturation, gradient, tile offset and color variation effects to create the intended outcome
- An RGB offset with intensity variations according to a focus point that exists within the scene’s principal UI element
- An SMAA to reduce the aliasing on screens having a pixel ratio inferior to 2
For DOM management and routing, as per usual we used Vue.js which enables us to develop applications rapidly without sacrificing simplicity, weight, maintenance and reusability.
We generated the CSS with Stylus and used Webpack as the task runner.
The collaboration with Grenade & Sparks and Orano was wonderful, both trusted us to push for the best possible experience where security, reliability and innovation meet. We’re all much more familiar with the nuclear industry nowadays. A big thanks to Mooders with whom, as usual, we worked on the audio design.
In February the website was awarded Developer Site of the Year 2018 by Awwwards, for which we’re extremely proud, and grateful.