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

13/04/2016No Comments

3 great ways to make your CGI budget go further

3 great ways to make your CGI budget go further

Over the past few years we've noticed that there's been a culture shift; people and businesses are becoming more and more concious of their CGI budgets. I can understand and empathise with those folk, we're a business and we're certainly not ones for overspending! But what we do believe in is value for money, and making your budget work hard to give you the best possible work!

So how do you make your budget for further? We've put together 3 great tips for reducing project costs, and ways to give you even more without it costing the earth!

1. Release 3D models for your clients to download.

Designers, architects and even hobbyists are becoming more and more dependant on using 3D packages in their workflow, and as such need content for their projects.

When we at Ard Digital create CGI images of your products, we create 3D model files. These files are representations of your products, made to the correct real-world measurements.

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CGI sink & tap.

If we make these digital versions of your products available to download, designers could use the 3D files and show your products in their designs. This is incredibly useful, as designers will be able to see how your products will fit in their designs, giving them confidence in eventually buying your product.

2. Create alternative content from existing work.

As with point 1, when we create the CGI visualisations, we create digital assets. These digital assets can be used to create other content, at perhaps a fraction of the initial cost. Perhaps additional views within a digital room set could add great value to your marketing work, with only a small additional cost to produce?

Maybe we could look to create some alternative content? If we already have an interior set built for a CGI image, then why not create an immersive 360 degree virtual reality tour, allowing people to virtually stand in the room, and look around? Or maybe we could 3D print a house model by re-using the 3D models created for an architectural visualisation?

We successfully did just this for the guys at Made By Cooper for the Milkhouse toy. Initially they commissioned us to create the Milkhouse 3D model to manfacture the toy, but soon realised they could used the 3D model to create realistic renders of the toy, and also create a turn-table 360 animation!

milkhouse_angles

Milkhouse 360 renders.

Creating more content could be great for your marketing and product, and thinking out side of the box could mean that we create some exciting, new, fresh content, that perhaps your competitors haven't discovered yet!

 

3. Re-use digital assets.

Digital assets, such as 3D models, or virtual materials are great. We can re-use these assets to create something new. Items such as windows, doors, street furniture are all often re-used as a way to keep budgets under control.

But how could re-using digital assets make your budget go further? For kitchen manufactures, we have re-used digital room sets to create new images for different products, and without comparing the 2 images side by side, it's unlikely you would even know the two images came from 1 original set. We have re-used appliances, surface finishes and other items to save time and money on a 2nd digital room set.

Digital kitchen room set.

Re-positioning the camera, re-styling a set and changing colours the walls can make an existing set appear new. This technique works incredibly well in keeping costs down, and works brilliantly if planned in advance, as we want to make sure all your images don't look the same! If used right we can re-use a digital room sets and other assets to create many sets and shots.

 

So that's our 3 great ways to make your CGI budget go further! If you'd like to know more about the work we do, and how we could work with your budget to give you the best content, then please get in touch!

23/12/2015No Comments

Merry Christmas! Here’s to 2016!

Well it's that time of year again....

....so first of all, Happy Christmas everyone!

We're almost at the end of 2015, and I find it's always great to look back at what we've done over the past year. We can smile and pat ourselves on the back at the great work we've produced, but also to reflect on the hurdles and obstacles from the year!

I hope this year has been a great one for you, I know we've had a good year, producing some great work for you guys! As usual we've focused on creating architecture, interior, and product CGIs, but we also explored other area such as 3D printing and virtual reality. I find it's always great to explore and play, even if it's just to glimpse at what might be!

So I'll leave you with a short selection of our interesting 2015 projects for you to browse with a mince pie and sherry....

Student Mattress Room Set -

interior cgi bedroom matress student visualisation

The student mattress room set was a continuation from 2014, but is still worth of a mention. We really enjoyed working on this project, partly down to the fact we were given a lot of creative freedom with regards to the set design, and also to how well the final image turned out. It was technically challenging matching the CGI with the real mattress, but the end result was worth the extra effort!

New Broadway -

architecture arch viz vis building residential 3d cgi

2015 saw an increase is architectural visualisations for us, and the New Broadway project was perhaps one of the more interesting projects to work on. The images were photo-composites, set at dusk, which meant we could play with light and colour much more than a typical day-time CGI.

Construct & Configure Interactive Application -

interactive configurator kitchen realtime cgi interior

The Construct & Configure app finally went live this year, and although it's not 100% finished, it shows the potential of what we can do, and the direction we see things going in the next few years! We will be finishing and improving the app, and it will be used by clients to interactively visualise their products. Give it a go if you haven't already!

3D Printed Miniature Figures -

3d printing print scan scanning subutteo

As part of our need to explore and play with new tech, we have been busy with the 3D printer and scanner, turning folks into miniature figures! We honestly didn't know what would happen when we bought the printer, and it still feels very novel, however the miniature model railway guys have been taking advantage and we've been producing miniatures to go along with their trains, platforms and scenery!

There's been so much more happening in 2015 which I haven't mentioned, from virtual reality, to kitchen CGIs, along with all the other little things which crop up, and perhaps get lost along the way!

In 2016 we of course want to continue to produce amazing CGIs, animations and interactive projects, and as usual we will continue to play and explore! On our "wish list" is a VR headset, perhaps an Oculus Rift, or HTC Vive, which will allow us to really see what the future may hold! Also we will most likely launch another website, dedicated to the 3D scanning and printing, as the interest in this niche is definitly something we want to expand.

Also, away from the "doing", we want to attend more events, exhibitions, and such to make sure we're surrounded by new and exciting things. We'll be travelling all over the UK to various cities and events, so if you want to meet-up for a brew, chances are we could be passing by some time soon!

So that's it for 2015! Time to step away from the PC for a week, re-charge, rejuvenate, and hit the ground running in 2016!

Dean

22/10/2015No Comments

Stock and Custom 3D models in CGI Visualisations

Throughout my CGI work, the scenes I create will be primarily populated with the building or product, but to set the scene props, landscapes, entourage, etc are added. These items, big or small have to be created and added to the 3D scenes.

Sometimes we use stock 3D models, which are very similar to stock photography. There are websites where you can download a wide variety of 3D models ranging from costing nowt, to hundreds of pounds. Once downloaded, the 3D models can be dropped into a virtual scene and used within the visualisation or animation.

With the majority of my projects I will 3D modelling various parts of a scene. In architectural visualisations I will model the buildings, landscape and other items, then populate the scene with stock library items such as cars and trees. I do this simply because the stock models available for foliage and vehicles is pretty extensive, and it would be counter-productive for me to start modelling these items, which could make the final cost of the CGIs too expensive for many. A collection of 10 cars can be purchased for a few hundred pounds, where as for myself to 3D model just one car would take at least a week, which makes a typical architectural visualisation just too expensive and time consuming.

architecture_nb_shot_2_final_1600Stock foliage used within a custom 3D modelled environment.

With interior visualisations and digital room sets, I find myself using less stock 3D model, in favour of hand creating custom items. My preference to do this has many factors.

  1. Trends within interior design changes on a monthly basis, and as such many of the stock 3D items are dated, and have sometimes been created years ago. This is OK for the design classics, but for items that change with the seasons it's not ideal, and can really impact on the final image.
  2. I can create almost any item in 3D, without it impacting on project costs or time too much. 3D modelling can be very tricky, and getting items to look realistic can also be hard, if not impossible for some, however when I started in the CGI industry over a decade ago (ouch), my speciality was 3D modelling, and doing it fast and good! Over the years I have continued to build on this core skill, evolving processes with every year, taking advantage of new techniques and software to be able to quickly create virtually anything.
  3. Purchasing 3D models from stock sites isn't always straight forward, first you have to find the right model, at a good price (I am a Yorkshireman after all!), and then trust it's OK to use. Then once I've bought the models, approximately 50% of the time the 3D models will need adjustments such as re-scaling or fixing errors, and nearly every time I need to check the 3D model material finishes to be in-line with my techniques and processes. This can be time consuming, and could also become costly.
  4. If I create the 3D models from scratch, I know the models are good, correct and error free. Maybe I'm not very trusting, or perhaps I just have faith in my own skills! Either way I know when I've 3D modelled an item that it's going to look good in the image, and if it doesn't look quite right, I know how to break it apart and improve it.
  5. The final advantage of creating custom 3D items is that they belong to me! I will add items to my personal library for future use, and I will also re-sell the 3D models though my TurboSquid account to other folk. I must admit I don't receive much in the way of sales, but it pays for my dropbox account at least!

Franke Sink Tap 3D Model CGI Kitchen

Franke sink and tap created from a handful of photos and dimensions.

Franke Sink Tap 3D Model CGI KitchenA wire-frame shot showing the 3D construction.

Although creating the 3D models from scratch has it's advantages, it also has its disadvantages. Some items can be very difficult to re-create in 3D. Items such as cloth, plants, and other organic forms can be tricky, so much so that it's not uncommon for these type of items to be photographed in the studio, and super-imposed into the CGI in post-production. This is purely a time-saving technique, anything can be created in 3D, it's generally a matter of how much time is available to complete a job.

modelling_toaster_dualit_01_1600

Dualit toaster, available to buy on TurboSquid

Other disadvantages could be that an items has little information or imagery to create an accurate 3D model. For example it's quite rare to find a piece of furniture photographed from every angle, instead usually the only reference is an angled photo, and generally the photograph will be of medium - low quality or resolution. So to create the furniture does require some educated guess work, and as such can't be too accurate. Clients will sometimes be able to physically send items to be turned into 3D models, which means a greater accuracy can be achieved, and is generally the only way to be certain of getting the 3D model just right.

Although I do find creating 3D models from scratch very useful, sometimes I do purchase 3D models. For interior room sets, I will often pick items from Design Connected, and occasionally TurboSquid and 90% of the time I'll be happy with the purchases. Purchasing these type of models will help speed up the process, which is very useful on projects where time is limited.

Both buying and creating 3D models has its advantages and disadvantages, and the majority of the time the decision to buy or make is made on a project by project case. As I've mentioned cost and time are two factors, however if possible I will always aim to use items I've created myself, this ultimately helps keep my work fresh, up to date and unique.

Dean

05/06/2015No Comments

Interactive Configurator Launched

Over the past few months, I have been working with a web development team to create a new interactive application, which utilises the flexibility of CGI with some web programming magic. We wanted to create an application to allow users to interactively configure anything, then share, save or print their configuration.

The application has been given it's own brand new website, check out www.constructandconfigure.com to see what all the fuss is about, and to play with the two demo applications.

The application is a "configurator" and has been designed to enable users to change finishes, features and other options by clicking on buttons to access menus. In the kitchen demo, the user can change the kitchen finish, the door handles and the worktops, but almost any visual element of a product, space or architecture could be configurable. In the kitchen demo we could if we wanted to add the ability to change the appliances, the stools, or even the floor and wall finishes. This is one reason why using 3D is great, we can create these CGI variations quickly, store them digitally, and present them in a way which is quick and easy for the end users to see.

The interactive kitchen demo application.

The application has been designed to work on most modern devices, PCs, laptops, tablets, smart phones, iPads and anything else with a modern web browser and a reasonably fast internet connection. We wanted to make the application accessible to as many people as possible, so it made sense to make the application run inside a web browser, without the need for any software downloads.

As standard, we have added 3 features to the app, save, print and share. The save button will download an image, overlaid with a description of the configuration, to your device. The print function simply prints the configuration, and again with a description so you know exactly the chosen configuration. The share button is perhaps the most complex function, but something we felt was required to allow users to share their configuration quickly and easily. When the user clicks the share button, a pop up window is displayed with a unique web address. The user can then highlight, copy and paste this address to Twitter, Facebook, email or anything else. When the address this then re-opened in a web browser, the users configuration is displayed. For this app we wanted to avoid user log-ins and passwords as we wanted the experience to be fast and user friendly, and using a unique web address works perfectly.

The app works on touch screen devices, as well as a traditional mouse.

We see this app to be primarily used to visualise and configure products. A sales team could use the application to show potential buyers the various configurations of their product, which may help the buyers visualise their potential purchase, and hopefully secure a sale. Similarly the app could be used in show rooms, where it's physically impossible to show all the product variations, but with the app customers could quickly and easily see any configuration they wish.

The application could be used by housing developers to show potential house buyers their new home, and then allow them to choose fixtures and finishes, which many house builders now allow. The possibilities for the app is limitless!

Use the app on the go, but be careful using it on 3G or 4G as data charges may occur!

The application has been fully custom made to suit our requirements. We did this for one important reason, we can modify, change, or add features to the application when required. The application is web based, and with the advances in HTML 5, more and more is possible. As an example we could add a clip board, user log-in, or even link the app with an e-commerce website allowing the users to purchase directly from the app.

View the configurator anywhere.

Currently the configurator doesn't allow the user to build products, they can't alter the kitchen layout for example, but this isn't why we created this application. In order to visualise the products in a photo realistic manor, the app uses pre-rendered CGI images, layered on top of each other to create the users configuration. Advances in real-time visualisation has shown we can create almost photo-real visuals using technology such as Unity 3D or the Unreal game engine, however using this kind of software means the users have to download plugins or software suitable for their device, which is something we didn't want to do. In the future I'm sure this will change, but for now we believe our current approach is the best way!

So head over to http://www.constructandconfigure.com and play with the application demos.

If you have any questions or comments about the configurator, please get in touch!

Dean

24/03/2015No Comments

Digital Room Sets Will Never Be Built

"Digital room sets will never be built."

This is a realisation I had whilst working on a current digital room set project, and it's not something I've ever thought about before. With architectural visualisations and product CGIs, the purpose of a 3D visualisation is to preview or to sell something, that one day will become real. A CGI of a building is pretty good representation of how the end architecture will look, and so estate agents can sell the house before it's built. The same goes for products. These things will be built, and I love seeing the real thing, and then comparing the digital to the real.

Room sets though will never be built. The products that sit in the digital rooms may one day be manufactured and sold, some might even be available now, but the room will never exist, and it's almost certain to say that the exact configuration of a kitchen or bedroom shown within a CGI is very unlikely to be exactly replicated.

Digital room sets are entirely 3D polygons, computer generated textures, and simulated lighting. Wooden beams, or a stone chimney breast are only pixels, with little consideration is often made to whether these architectural features would be strong enough, durable, or even possible in reality. So long as they look correct and give the impression of realism, then that's usually as far as the design will go.

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An alpine digital room set to visualise bi-folding door.

By removing the need for these room sets to be built, we can allow ourselves to build digital room sets which might not exist in reality. The 3D room set used in the Student Mattress Room Set Project doesn't exist in reality, but it could. However by removing the constraint of the room needing to the accurate, strong, and true to technical aspects such as building regulations, the temptation can be to create something un-realistic.

ad15_portfolio_bi-folding_doors_mahogany_featured_image
A student digital room set created to visualise a new mattress.

With 3D there are no size or design constraints, we can make rooms as large, unusual, wacky as we feel. This can sometimes be a mistake. For example, with the student room set, we could have easily made the set 10m wide, with elaborate architectural detail, modern furniture, and so on, but it would have quickly not looked like a student room at all. Yes the furniture we added is slightly unusual, and the room is perhaps more elaborate that the student rooms I remember from my University days, but it's still believable, it could be made like this. I believe this balancing act is key to creating a great interior digital room set. Realistic 3D models, materials and lighting only work well if the design and architecture is spot on to begin with. As I've said already, structural and other constraints don't apply in 3D CGI projects a literal sense, but they do apply in a believable sense.

There is the other side of the coin with to the lack of constraints, and this is we as artists and designers have total freedom to create what we want. If you want to show your product on the edge of a volcano, or even on the moon, then CGI and 3D magic can make these possible, at a tiny fraction of the cost of doing it in real life.

Digital room sets can also be stored away on tiny hard drives, archived for later use, amends, or new products. There's no need to de-construct the set, and there are no time limits on how long a set can stay constructed for. Digital room sets can also be quickly changed, re-styled, and given a new look very quickly. Check out the interactive applications over at the interactive page to see more about how interactive applications can be used in conjunction with digital room sets.

Anyway, I'm straying from my original point slightly. To the average viewer, a digital room set may look no different to a traditional, photographed room set, and I guess that's why digital room sets prove popular with clients and customers. My point is that for all the design, styling and virtual construction work, the sets are merely polygons and pixels, and will never be built, touched or experienced in the real world.

 

Digital room sets will never be built....

....and this makes me sad....

....but I think I'll be OK!

 

Dean

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PUNCH DIGITAL

Punch Digital Services Ltd

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Peel Walker
11 Victoria Road
Elland
HX5 0AE

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