21/07/2016No Comments

Marketing CGIs and animation help sell luxury houses off plan!

Off plan marketing with the magic of architectural visualisations and animations!

Viver Green Housing Development, a project which we recently completed, has been a great success in helping our client to successfully sell many of their properties, even before the diggers arrived on site!

It's great to hear from our clients when the work we produce has been a real success. To be able to sell properties before work begins is incredible, and it shows what a great architectural design, marketing and of course great CGIs can do!

We produced 15 architectural visualisations and one CGI animation for Egg Homes, which were used in web and printed marketing. To see the all the images please check out the Viver Green Housing Development page.

There will be a video blog coming soon, showing you behind the scenes of how we created the images and animations. Until then, if you have any questions, would like to know more, or even have a development that needs to be visualised, then please get in touch!

Dean

05/01/2016No Comments

Inspiration – Best small spaces of 2015

I've always had a thing for small spaces and buildings. For others large open spaces are brilliant, and I agree to a degree, but I think small scale architecture is really a work of art. I love the idea that no space is spared, and each area has been very cleverly designed and thought though in order to maximise the space.

small spaces outbuilding garden house room diyCosy home-made outbuilding.

So when this feature on Dwell popped-up, I thought it was worth a mention....

Most Popular Homes of 2015: Small Spaces

The article features apartments, outbuildings and floating homes, however my favourite has to be the home inside a grain silo!

house grain silo small spaces homeYou wouldn't expect a home here!

The house features all the things you'd expect in a home, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and living areas, but the really amazing part is just how brilliant it looks, and actually how spacious it appears to be!

house grain silo small spaces home kitchen livingroom livingFantastic custom walnut and black metal kitchen and stairs!

The 190 square foot space apparently all custom made, with the Eames Wire Chairs being the only non-custom items, very impressive! The contrast between the wood and black metal work is also very nice, and it's a real credit to the owner in their boldness and design to use these dark colours without making the space feel small and claustrophobic.

house grain silo small spaces home garden outside landscapeThe beautiful landscape garden.

Overall the building is incredible in almost every sense, and the attention to detail is fantastic! It really is a unique use of a very unusual building, and perhaps we as a society and culture should embrace these structures more. The individuality in this building is what makes it what it is, so don't try to copy it, instead be inspired!

So that's a little bit of inspiration for the start of 2016! To read more about the converted grain silo home, check out the Dwell article. I'll be sure to blog more about these incredible small buildings and architecture in 2016!

Dean

 

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

05/11/2015No Comments

New Development Project – Loft Office

From time-to-time, we get the chance to try new things, move in a different direction (even it's only for a short while), and experiment with something outside of the day-to-day work, and being in the CGI / visualisation industry means that nothing stands still, and there's always an opportunity to develop, test and explore.

One area I've been wanting to explore is the interactive / virtual reality side of the industry. Interactive walk though, virtual reality, and other tech like this has been around for decades, and it's concept is nothing new, but I'm sensing a trend towards these applications more and more. The hardware is more accessible than ever, with it the computing power required now literally pocket sized with the advances with smart phones and tablets.

Anyway, I digress from the blog posts title, over the next few weeks / months / when time allows, I will be creating a virtual reality environment, a loft style office. The user will be able to walk around the space, explore the architecture, and interact with several objects. How far the interactivity goes may depend on time, but I think it would be great to add some quirky elements in there too.

2015-11-05 11.19.06

Quick sketch to kick off the new project.

I will be learning and building the virtual reality environment inside 3Ds Max (my standard 3D application), and Unreal Engine 4. Unreal Engine looks very exciting, giving a massive amount of control to us creatives, whilst making the programming less complex than other packages.

In the past I have sometimes viewed virtual reality as a bit of a gimmick, with no real purpose and too many limitations, but recently my attitude has changed as I see a massive improvement of visual effects that may soon rival traditional CGI, and the access to consumer-ready hardware, meaning you don't need a £2000 PC to view a simple interior.

Also, I'm very excited for 2016, when it looks like we may be treated to more virtual reality head sets. The Occulus Rift will be out of development and consumer ready, and others such as Sony, and HTC are also releasing their versions very too which all look very promising and may really shift the industry and projects more towards virtual reality.

Anyway, the loft office project has started! It may take a while to complete, but I'll be posting small updates as soon as I can, and also check out my instagram (@punch_ard_digital) and Twitter (@deanpunchard) for even more frequent, and even slightly random posts!

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.

ad15_portfolio_bi-folding_doors_black_featured_image

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

12/05/2014No Comments

Apline Lodge CGI Breakdown – From 3D polygons to print

In this blog post, I'm going to give a very brief overview and breakdown of how an image goes from 3D polygons to an image ready for print.

alpine_lodge_quick_breakdown_half

Image: From polygons to print

Recently I completed the Alpine Lodge CGIs. This project is typical of the way I construct a CGI room set, and as the images were really nice to work on, I thought I would explain and break them down to show various stages.

When working in the 3D software, in this case 3D Studio Max, previews are used to visualise the scene. Typically wire frame views, and simple shaded views will be used when constructing the 3D elements. This gives quick feedback to anyone involved in the project, as the composition and arrangement is quite clear to see. It does look untidy, and there is no lighting, but this kind of view is instant, unlike a final image, which can take several hours to compute and render.

alpine_lodge_quick_breakdown_wireframe

Image: 3D software wire frame preview

When constructing room sets, or even architectural projects, generally only what is going to be seen in the final image will be create. This is purely to save time. Objects behind the virtual camera are discarded, unless seen in reflections, and building or rooms float in an empty virtual world.

alpine_lodge_quick_breakdown_set

Image: Digital room set

After the set is constructed, lighting effects, material properties, and other detail are added. Now the images are starting to look like the final image. The image below shows how the 3D software produces the image. It isn't a one click solution, and time spent lighting and fine-tuning can be just as long, if not longer, than constructing the room set. The aim with this rendered image is to have a nicely balanced image, ready for post-production.

alpine_lodge_quick_breakdown_render-1

Image: 3D render

The image produced from the 3D software wasn't quite right, the image was too dark, parts of the image were the wrong colour, and the background needed to be adjusted. Some artists will try to achieve the final image solely inside the 3D software, but I find this very counter intuitive, as simple adjustments can be made in software such as Photoshop. When working in the 3D software, I want the image to have enough depth, colour range and contrast to make changes in post-production quick and easy.

alpine_lodge_quick_breakdown_final_image

Image: Final image ready to print

I also use a process of layers, adjustments and fine-tuning to control the image to control the finish, colour and look of the final images, perhaps I'll go into more detail on another blog post in the future, keep watching!

Dean

09/10/2012No Comments

Crazy times = no blogging :-(

Crazy times at the Punchard household has meant I have neglected my blog over the past few months. I would like to admit that the

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craziness isn't just down to work, but also down to a house move (we still haven't actually moved yet!), and also my little boy still won't sleep through the night!

Anyway, I thought I would post something that caught my eye the other day on a project and thought I'd share it anyway in an attempt to kickstart the blog back into action.

This image caught my eye whilst creating masks for a restaurant scene (to be added to the portfolio soon), and in its own right created an interesting image.

Anyway, that's it for now, back to the craziness!!

illumination2

Deano!

19/03/2012No Comments

Turbosquid account goes live!

I published my first collection of models onto my TurboSquid account this morning!

www.turbosquid.com/Search/Artists/Ard-Digital

Feel free to check out my

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models, and perhaps purchase a few!

Deano

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