06/02/2020No Comments

The Importance of Not Standing Still

Sound on folks, and take a look at the latest showcase.

It's been fun to look back and stitch this 30s montage together. It makes me realise how multi talented Punch Digital can be, and the benefits of not being stuck rigidly to one area.

Many folk say "you need to be super niche", and whilst I do agree, and perhaps even see the business sense in that, it's just not for me.

I see huge advantages in working on a wide range of projects. What you learn on an architectural job will have a positive impact on a product animation.

Take for example the part of the showcase where the "2020" objects fall and bounce around. In my head, I'm thinking, could we use a system like this to drop leafs into an architectural project, to have a more realistic and interesting visual.

I totally understand that this approach isn't "mainstream", and we will end up going down routes that lead to nowhere. But that's half the fun!

Doing the same thing, day in, day out, also leaves you very exposed. People will copy, imitate and rip-off work. And if you're not quick, they could overtake you, and run you out of business. That scares me much more than wasting a few days on side project!

"If you don't move, your legs become stiff. And once your legs become stiff, it becomes harder to move."

Kind of makes sense, right?

So here's to diversity!

Dean

02/07/2019No Comments

AR is dead, long live AR!

Augmented Reality is Dead?!

 

OK let me explain. AR definitely isn't dead, but a shift is occurring, and this is my prediction -

"AR over the next 12 months, augmented reality will become more commonplace, useful and integrated into our everyday lives than ever before."

 

Augmented Reality (AR) is a medium / platform allow people to superimpose digital content into the real world. You might be familiar with the concept. Snapchat Lenses are a fun way to add bunny ears, face swap or create interesting selfies.

Or maybe you've delved a little deeper and seen how you can view a piece of virtual furniture into your room. Check out the Ikea Place app for a great example of this.

Image Credit Facebook

Essentially anything that let's you see digital content overlaid or integrated into the real world can be defined as augmented reality.

The Shift in AR

AR has been around to years, we tested and played with this back in 2012, and then the hype died down. At that time it felt like a gimmick, and I don't do gimmicks!

In recent years, AR started to emerge once again, mainly down to the advances in tech (smart phones, Android ARCore, Apple AR Kit), which lead to fun apps, such as SnapChat.

Most of the apps have been for entertainment, and really served little other purpose.

But that will change. And it could be driven by Facebook of all people. Facebook launched Spark AR Studio, a way for developers to create augmented reality apps to feature in Facebook and Instagram.

Spark AR Studio Augmented Reality Facebook Instagram

Currently, most of the AR content on Spark AR Studio is "entertainment" based. People are experimenting, testing and having fun.

But what will be interesting is when we see Facebook start to monetise its platform and users. I predict that Facebook will create a centralised AR platform, not only for "funky selfies", but also for business, brands and products.

I mentioned earlier that Ikea have the Place app, where you can preview furniture within a real world. Well others are at it too, such as Wayfair and Amazon

And it's my prediction that Facebook will create something like Wayfair and Amazon , but 1000x greater!

Wayfair and Ikea are all very much self centred, they serve themselves, you can't "shop around". And I can't blame them, why should they.

Amazon and Facebook are potentially very different. These both aren't self centred, they can offer the users anything. So imagine an AR marketplace where you can browse 1000s of items, no matter who produces it.

And don't think AR is just for furniture either. Fashion, art, accessories, paint, hair styles and almost anything else could take advantage of AR.

And then there's the opportunity for augmented reality to do a full circle, and use AR for entertainment, promotion, brand awareness and just good old fun.

Facebook / Instagram is going to be the place to be. If they get it right, they'll be to go-to app for AR, and everyone will want to be on it. Think of it like a business not wanting to be on Google, it just wouldn't happen!

 

"I believe augmented reality is a huge opportunity for forward thinking retailers to promote their products and brands. The attention will be undervalued to begin with, but trust me, that won't last too long."

 

So what does this have to do with Punch Digital? Well moving forward, we will be developing augmented reality content on the Spark AR platform. It'll be business like ourselves that will give businesses, brands and products a way to get their content easily onto these platforms, so we're keen to show how this is possible!

Keep your eyes peeled for augmented reality updates!

And if you have an idea, concept or would simply like to know more about augmented reality, then get in touch!

Thanks,
Dean

31/05/2019No Comments

Finished Friday // Electric Radiators CGI Visualisation

To help the client illustrate how their radiators would look in an interior setting 3 main visuals were produced.

These images consisted of different room configurations where the radiators could be placed, helping consumers visualise the products in their home. All images helped both the client achieve its goes, and gives the consumer a batter understanding of the product.

Head over to the completed projects to find out more about this project!

And feel free to drop us an email or DM for a friendly chat if you'd like to discuss this, or perhaps a similar project you have in mind.

28/05/2019No Comments

Punch Infinity – Why?

 

Punch Infinity - Why?

Before you read this, you might be wondering "what is Punch Infinity?". If that's the case then check out the Punch Infinity - What is it? blog post.

Why?

The standards of product configurators can be poor at times. I felt that big improvements and innovations could be made to make the experience better for both businesses and customers. A better, easier and more useful configurator app would ultimately help businesses sell their products easier.

So I identified 3 areas that needed to be improved, reinvented or designed to make Punch Infinity a great tool to use...

Usability

I’ve experienced and tested numerous configurators, and often became frustrated by poor usability. Some configurators require lengthy sign up processes, a big turn off for users. Others are too complex, and dive into the finest detail too quickly, thus removing any fun or excitement. And some simple leave you thinking "OK great, love the product, but how do I buy?!".

Vehicle configurators for example can be incredibly unfriendly. Instead of exciting the user with fantastic paint colours, styling, wheels, etc, the configurators will start with the boring stuff first. Engine size, emissions, tax, warranty....zzzzz. I don’t get it. A configurator should excite, and make people say “take my money, I’ll worry about the tax later!”.

I’m my opinion, configurators need to excite first, and then deal with the finer details later. Maybe even leave that to the sales folk in the showroom.

Visuals

Maybe I’m a little arrogant here, but I cringe a little when I see businesses using below par CGI imagery in their marketing material. I know budgets can be tight, but could poor visuals be costing businesses more in the long term? The work we produce at Punch Digital rivals photography in quality, however I know how tricky this can be with configurators. Often they can look “photoshopped” and not very realistic.

For a great experience, the user needs brilliant visuals. Many configurators fall short here, but we’ve developed processes and clever systems to make the visuals as real and convincing as possible. I’ll expand on this in the How? post (coming soon).

Accessibility

Over the decade we have been spoilt with how accessible technology has become. I’m writing this on an iPad in my living room, but I also have a laptop on my desk and a smart phone in my pocket.

Many apps are cross platform, and it’s becoming expected that the device you use shouldn’t limit you in anyway. Many configurators are limited to a handful of devices. Some even require bulky software to download. I wanted to make a configurator app that could be used on any modern device, without bulky downloads, or long loading times, without compromising quality or user experience.

That's why built Punch Infinity to work in an internet browser. People are familiar browsers, and generally know how to access a website. To access a Punch Infinity configurator you type in website such as https://rhk.punch.digital and instead of loading a website, the browser loads the configurator. Simple but very effective. We’ll dig into the “how” it works later, but the important thing for us was to make it accessible for as many people as possible.

Summary

Punch Infinity has been built with the end user in it's focus. The experience needed to be easy to use and straight forward. We have made it easy for customers to continue on their buying journey by either learning more about the product, making an enquiry, or being directed to the online sales store.

We also made sure that the visual quality is as high as our non-interactive work.

And we made sure that as many people could access a Punch Infinity interactive configurator through their PC, laptop, iPad, tablet or smartphone.

If you have any questions, queries or think Punch Infinity could be suitable for your marketing, then get in touch.

Other pages from the Punch Infinity Blog Post Series

Punch Infinity - What is it?

Punch Infinity - How? (Coming soon, 11th June).

Punch Infinity - The Future (Coming soon, 25th June).

 

Dean

24/05/2019No Comments

Finished Friday // Water Pump CGI Visualisation

Finished Friday // Water Pump CGI Visualisation

To help the client showcase their retro fit water pump attachment a CGI image was created. The focus was primarily on detail, showing how the product would work without having to generate a physical product, saving the client time. Likewise generating a polished image for the client to distribute.

Head over to the completed projects to find out more about this project!

And feel free to drop us an email or DM for a friendly chat if you'd like to discuss this, or perhaps a similar project you have in mind.

14/01/2019No Comments

Thoughts on the Alton Towers’ Virtual Reality Roller-coaster Galactica

Finally a chance to experience one of the first Virtual Reality roller-coasters. It's been 2 years since it opened, and earlier this year as part of a “Funstermind” networking event, I had chance to ride it.

Admittedly, I didn’t know much about the ride before I visited Alton Towers, but in hindsight this perhaps was an advantage, as I had little expectations, and viewed the ride as the average Joe, rather than the CGI geek I am!

But to give you a bit of context, watch this video for some background insight.

In a nutshell, you’re strapped into a roller coaster, lying on your front, so you feel like you’re flying. You have a virtual reality headset, something similar to a Samsung Gear VR, which you wear throughout the ride.

As the ride starts, you fly through sci-fi buildings and landscapes, eventually leaving the complex for the vast openness of space. The virtual journey lasts around a minute, which synchronizes with physical roller coaster. When the roller coaster goes up, the virtual journey also goes up, and it is sort of believable and quite immersive.

The visual virtual elements are also quite good, but not spectacular. Perhaps I’m use to the high quality produced on high end VR headsets, or maybe it’s just that I know how good CGI can be, so when I see something falls below the current high standards, I’m left disappointed.

Maybe for the average rider, the graphics are more than acceptable. I also completely understand the hardware (mainly the VR headsets) will have limitations as to how realistic the visual elements can be pushed. In future years I expect we’ll see quality across all VR platforms to improve, just like any other technology.

But visual quality aside, there are two massive bug bears for me.

Firstly, if the ride has been open for 2 years, why hasn’t the virtual journey ever been changed? From what I can tell, the virtual world is exactly the same as it was the day it was opened. One of the big advantages of creating a digital, virtual world, is that new content can be added without any physical changes to hardware. Why haven’t Alton Towers tweaked or changed the content? Imagine how much attention the ride would get if you could ride the Millennium Falcon in VR just as the latest Star Wars was film was released?

But even just adding a couple of variations to the virtual world would make me want to go back, to experience something different. Sadly this is missing, and I really do think they’re missing a trick to get people to keep coming back.

Secondly, why is there no user interaction with the virtual world? Why not give the users a virtual cross-hair with a huge laser gun to shoot the bad guys? It would be very easy to do, and would make the experience so much more immersive and interesting. You could even have a scoring system, and play against your friends. Imagine how many times people would ride Galactica just to beat a score?

Again I think Alton Towers are missing a huge opportunity.

So to summarise....

Roller coasters are still amazing and always will be. Is there a need to mix VR with roller coaster? Perhaps. Does VR add to the experience? Again, maybe. It’s all down to the execution in my eyes.

The Galatica is one of the first VR roller coasters, and does show what is currently possible. However with a bit of creative thinking and a more engaging approach the experience could be 10x better, and could make VR roller coasters the main attractions at theme parks, rather than just another ride. Add some interaction or game play, and VR roller coasters will hit a new high.

Virtual reality experiences like the Galactica will continue to grow, and will undoubtedly become more popular. I just hope theme parks and other entertainment industries fully utilise the capabilities of VR and CGI to make the user experience something the user will never forget.

Dean

08/11/2018No Comments

5 Reasons why I love the Google Cardboard

The Google Cardboard, an entry level VR headset, has been around for a few years now. There's even a Cardboard 2 now too. Slot in your Android smartphone and away you go! But while many will see this as an undesirable piece of landfill junk, I disagree!

Here are my top 5 reasons why I love the Google Cardboard....

1. Any modern Android smart phone will work.

That’s right, you don’t need the latest Samsung S9 or Google Pixel 3 to have VR fun. For years most Android smart phones have had the hardware required for VR. OK some modern games and apps won’t work on old phones, but that’s not a fault with VR.

2. The price.

For a whopping sum of £6 you can buy a Google Cardboard 2. I’ve bought more expensive coffees before! That makes it almost an impulse buy, especially when compared to the £100s to buy a Oculus Rift, or HTC Vive! But the price point isn’t just great for consumers, it’s also great for marketing and PR. When launching a product, service or brand, the Google Cardboard offers a very cheap and easy solution to engage with an audience through VR.

3. Customise it.

It’s cardboard, so there’s really not excuse not to customise it! Stick some branding onto the headset, make it your own, and you have something that will stick in folks minds. Again great for marketing and PR.

4. It's recyclable.

Single use and none recyclable plastics are hot topics for discussion right now, and rightly so. The Google Cardboard is obviously very recyclable, which means even the most eco conscious of folk will have a hard time turning one down!

5. It’s a pocket rocket.

And lastly, the Google Cardboard is small. OK you’d struggle to fit it into your trendy skinny jeans, but you certainly wouldn’t notice it in your bag. And that’s one of the things I love about mobile VR. It doesn’t rely on a massive headset, sensors, and a beast of a PC. Personally I’ve taken the Google Cardboard to meetings and networking events and also to friends and family houses too.

Finally

Making tech accessible to the masses is ultimately what makes something mainstream. The Oculus Rift, Vive and others, are great, but they’re not something that’s mainstream yet. They’re expensive, require powerful PCs, and will likely be outdated in a year or two too. Unless your serious about gaming, then you probably don’t own one.

The Google Cardboard isn’t the greatest VR kit out there. It lacks the visual quality of the high end headsets, it’s uncomfortable to wear, and it’s usability isn’t fantastic. However what it does  brilliantly is it makes VR accessible to almost anyone. We’ve all seen the YouTube clips of Grandma falling off the sofa whilst being chased by a VR dinosaur. And although these experiences are small, and even funny, they are helping to make VR mainstream and socially acceptable.

Google Cardboard also fits perfectly into the Punch Digital philosophy by keeping things as simple as possible. By using the hardware already in our pockets is a massive plus, and the ease of use once you've slipped your phone the Cardboard is pretty neat too.

I still think VR has a long way to go before it’s in everyone’s house, but by taking small steps, with tech such as the Google Cardboard, and even the Gear VR or Daydream, I believe VR has a strong future.

Dean

17/10/2018No Comments

Key Project Stages

Key Project Stages

We make it easy for our clients to show customers their products. One way we make it easy is with our straight forward approach to delivering amazing work.

Our approach and workflow breaks a project down into key stages. This means we don't bombard you with too much information, but we also give you (and us) a chance to take a step back, review, and then move forward.

Essentially there are 5 stages, and this is a quick overview of the process behind a branding visualisation for our recent work with O2. -

Stage 1. Planning.

Perhaps the most important stage as it gives everyone a clear direction and expectations thoughout the project.
Meetings, calls and discussions generally kick of a project and from there we plan the project. Visually we might produce sketches, mood boards or concepts for approval before starting on stage 2.

We might also collect technical drawings, references and other info at this stage.

Quick sketches and collected references for a better understanding before any CGI work starts.

Stage 2. View / Composition Draft.

Now we start to build the visual! Working from the brief, references and information from stage 1, a basic mock up of the visualisation is created. This draft is to approve or amend the view and overall composition of the visual elements.
This stage is intentionally colourless and perhaps a little dull. That's totally intentional, as it helps to focus on the key elements, such as the composition, layout and camera angle.

Main elements blocked in, and camera angles proposed.

Stage 3. Pre-Production Draft.

Once the view draft is approved, the pre-production stage begins. Here the illustration is built. Textures, lighting and other large elements are added to show the overall direction of the image. This is a great stage to review the overall direction of the visualisation. Often parts of the images are "rough and ready", that's so we can deliver the drafts quickly to our client. Once this stage is approved, we go back and add all the detail.

The draft now gives a better visual progress of the project. 

Stage 4. Post-Production Draft.

In the previous stage, elements may be quickly built for approval, but lacked detail. In stage 4 everything is refined to a final quality. The only main difference between the drafts in this stage and the final work is that the visuals will be blurrier and noisier. Some final "Photoshop" work may also be left until the final image. Final CGI images can take hours to compute, so to quickly approve the drafts we produce this draft.

Final detail added, ready for the final image.

Stage 5. Final Image.

The final image is now produced to a high quality and handed over to the client. Happy days!

The final image!

 

Summary

Hopefully this little article has given you an insight into how we work, and how it actually makes a client life that little bit easier.

We want our clients to be involved through the process, but we're careful to not bombard you with too much information at one time.

The key stages also mean clients, and us, can pick up on any issues or changes early in the project.

The overall process is very similar for all jobs, be that an interactive configurator or an architectural visualisation. Occasionally the process may be tweaked as each project is unique. Animations may require additional steps due to their increased complexity, but the general methodology to producing the same work remains.

 

If you'd like to know more about the processes then just give us a call!

Dean

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PUNCH DIGITAL

Punch Digital Services Ltd

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