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.
At the start of this year we completed Punch Infinity, our interactive configurator, to make it easy for customers to easily allow our clients to visualise products.
In this mini series of blog posts I’ll be answering why, what, how and the future plans by picking the ONE thing that really focused a Punch Infinity into what it has become.
What is Punch Infinity?
Punch Infinity is an interactive configurator that helps businesses show their customers their entire product range or variations, whilst generating leads and to help assist marketing and sales.
Often customers can’t envisage different products, variations or finishes, especially when they're only presented with tiny swatches, sample pots or thumbnail images.
You could think of Punch Infinity as an interactive photo, where customers can interact, change and visualise entire product ranges, colours variations and finishes.
Enabling customers visualise their choices is great for customer confidence, which can lead to enquiries and sales.
But Punch Infinity isn’t just pretty and easy to use, it’s also incredibly functional. Punch Infinity can drive enquiries, help build a social following, and assist staff with their sales, but we'll dig into that in a moment.
What is an interactive configurator?
In a nutshell, an interactive configurator is a way for users to visually change and configure a product or product range.
You might use an interactive configurator to help you choose something such as a car or kitchen. A product might be available in different, styles, finishes, colours or components and so on and an interactive configurator could help you to visualise what you're planning to buy.
Interactive configurators aren't generally design tools. You can't re-design a car, or move kitchen cabinets around. For this kind of thing you need a specific piece of software to build the components. These "builder" tools generally lack visual quality (although I'm 100% sure in a few years they'll be near "photo-realistic" in quality). Design tools, unlike interactive configurators, can also be time consuming and require a certain level of knowledge of the thing you're building, and knowledge of the software itself. They're great for making sure you're kitchen will fit, but not great for marketing a product range.
How does Punch Infinity show different products?
We developed Punch Infinity to allow any business to easily show any product range or variation.
Punch Infinity is a system. What's shown in the configurator is completely up to you. In our demos you can see a kitchen, office chair and bathroom set. These all use Punch Infinity, but the imagery is bespoke to that configurator.
For example, if you are a bathroom retailer, chances are you'd want to have a room set that reflects your style, and of course your own products. We can create a bespoke digital room set using our CGI expertise, populate it with your products and create a configurator for your product range.
So, what's Punch Infinity's ONE Thing?
Our ethos is always to make anything we do as easy as possible, whether that's for the end user or our clients. Punch Infinity has been designed, tested, developed (numerous times!) to make the experience as easy and as simple as possible.
And that's been Punch Infinity's the ONE thing.
Punch Infinity had to be easy to use. It doesn't matter how fancy the visuals are or how in-depth the functions are, if people can't use it then it's failed.
Without ease of use, customers can't feel confident in their choices and are less likely to enquire or make a purchase.
What Makes Punch Infinity Different?
Firstly, Punch Infinity is readily available to anyone. Businesses don't have to develop (and pay) for a new configurator. Hiring programmers and developers can be very time consuming and costly (trust me on this!). Punch Infinity is ready to go. We create and upload the CGI imagery, and that's it. No programming or technical input required!
We've also made sure that Punch Infinity works on most modern devices, such as PCs, iPads and smartphones. Accessibility was also high on our priority list when creating Punch Infinity.
Punch Infinity has great functions too, such as save, share, print and enquire built in. These functions make it easier for customers and sales folk to continue down the route to a purchase. Detailed product information can also be shown too, without leaving the configurator.
Punch Infinity is an easy to use, accessible interactive configurator, available for any business selling a product range, or products with variations.
It's an ideal lead generation too, giving confidence to customers by ditching out dated swatches and thumbnails.
The built in functions make sure it's not only visually great, but also very practical with you marketing and sales.
If you have any questions, queries or think Punch Infinity could be suitable for your marketing, then get in touch.
Earlier this month we were approached by Made By Cooper to turn one of their clients designs into a 3D model, which will eventually be used in the manufacturing of the "Milkhouse" toy.
As I've said before, sometimes the most unusual projects are the most interesting, and this one certainly was unusual and very interesting! Having been a fan of The Simpsons since I was a kid, I jumped at the chance to create the 3D model. Millhouse is an usual character at the best of times, so envisaging him in a milk carton form is certainly different!Milkhouse CGI.
As with any project there we're tweaks and revisions, but the guys at Made By Cooper supplied excellent sketches and drawings which made our job easier and we were then able to hand over the 3D files quicker too. For this job we also uploaded the development 3D models to an on-line viewer so every possible angle could be seen, checked and commented on of needed.
Milkhouse 3D model wireframe.
There were two parts to this project, firstly to create a 3D model which will be used in manufacturing Milkhouse, and secondly to use the 3D model in a visualisation to show people exactly how the toy will look. The client supplied reference images for the material finishes, which we were able to accurately re-create in CGI.
Milkhouse 3D model in various colours.
The client also has plans for Milkhouse to be produced in chocolate, milk and strawberry variations. Illustrating the finishes quickly was also a great use of CGI.
Finally the Milkhouse 3D model was rendered 36 times, at 10 degree intervals, so that Milkhouse could be viewed in a 360 degree way. Eventually all the angles will be loaded into an interactive viewer. Again, this is another advantage of using CGI, we could quickly render the 36 images, and supply them ready to use.
To read more about the artist, Tattoo Dave, and to see the original pin badge, for which the Milkhouse toy is inspired by, head over to The Toy Chronicle article.
And of course if you require any 3D modelling, or pre-production CGIs get in touch!
3D printed miniatures come in all scales. Over the past few months we have been 3D scanning and printing 3D model railway folks in what's know as 16mm (16mm = 1 foot), but the print size can be almost anything.
Over the past 2 days we've printed miniatured from 2cm to 20cm high, all to suit different model scales. The 3D scan can be scaled to to any size, which is one of the advantages of working with digital files!
From tiny to large, we print in a range of sizes!
The largest "miniature" here is the driver, standing at 20cm high! The smallest is only 2cm tall. The size difference is large, but the process of 3D scanning and 3D printing is largely the same.
A 16mm figure looking very smart!
16mm is the most common scale we print, meaning the miniature stand at around 10cm high, with the smaller two models being 2cm and 4cm high. 16mm is a great size to work with, you can see a lot of detail in the miniature, and it's a great size to paint and hold.
Printing at smaller scales can be very tricky, the printer only has a certain resolution, and also the strength of the prints is decreased as we reduce in size. You would struggle to break the largest model even by jumping on it, however a child could snap the smallest print quite easily! A miniature at 2cm high is really the smallest we could print at.
If you're interested in having your very own miniature model, please get in touch!!
Recently I have been exploring the use of the 3D printer, and one of the avenues I've been experimenting with is using the 3D printer to produce miniature figures.
The process is relatively straight forward, we use a 3D hand scanner coupled to a laptop to 3D scan the person. This captures the figure in 3D, and works incredibly well. We then refine the 3D mesh, fixing errors, or adding parts which the scanner hadn't quite scanned correctly, and then we send it to the 3D printer.
The above figures were created for use with model railways, and are printed at a scale to match the railway. These figures stand at approximately 95mm high (a scale of 16mm - 1ft), but figures can be produced to other scales quite easily.
Once the prints are complete, they are then handed over to the customer, who can refine, sand, and paint the figures as they desire! Here are two figures I painted, badly, but if gives an idea of what can be achieved!
I'd love to see what a professional miniature painter could produce, if you are a painter, get in touch, it would be amazing to collaborate!
Anyway, that's what the 3D printer has been doing recently, and it's definitely been a learning curve, but adds something a bit different and alternative to the Ard Digital portfolio!
Finally, if you're potentially interested in being imortalised as a 3D printed miniature, have a read at the 3D Scan & Print a Miniature You page and of course get in touch!
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.
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!
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.
Stock 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 and tap created from a handful of photos and dimensions.
A 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.
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.
The course is aimed at beginners, but as always there might be some tips and tricks even the seasoned pro's might have missed.
To receive the coupon, all you need to do is subscribe to the ard Digital newsletter, and in the comments section of the sign-up form type "free course", and I will then email the coupon code to the lucky first 50 subscribers!
As part of the constant tinkering and testing with 3D printing, I have released a free download of 2 little characters I have created. "The Blanks", as I've named them, are two little characters, 10cm in height, with no real distinguishable features, perfect for a blank.
But what is a blank? MakerBot released Zee Blank, and the concept is to 3D print your own blank, and modify it however you please. Some of the creations on the Makerbot site are brilliant! The concept behind The Blanks is the same, print the 3D models, and then modify, paint, customize to your hearts content, then share your creation with the world.
The Blanks, 3D printed and awaiting customization.
I wanted to create The Blanks as an alternative to Zee Blank, as I felt Zee Blank is just too big, and very masculine in form. I created the couple as a male / female combination, but either could be modified to what ever gender you like.
The 3D model is set-up ready to print.
The Blanks are printed in several parts, which then fit together perfectly without the need for glue. Ideally the prints need to be sanded first, then painted to give a nice finish, or alternatively you could use a high build-up primer to give a smooth finish. The choice really is yours, and I can't wait to see how The Blanks will be modified. I will be having a go myself very soon, please don't laugh at my below average painting skills, I'm far more capable with a mouse and keyboard than a brush and paint!!
In the future I plan to release "add-ons" for The Blanks, maybe some new shoes, different heads, and possibly other props too. Let me know what you'd like to see added, and of course let me know if you have any comments! Follow me on Thingiverse here and of course sign up to the mail list to hear of the latest releases and info.
Also send me pictures of your creations, I'd love to feature them on the blog too!
Many of the 3D models used inside my scenes and environments are created from scratch, either from drawings, sketches and even photographs. This always helps projects to feel unique and different from other studios and work, and ensures images aren't restricted by stock 3D libraries.
This quick video time-lapse shows the creation of an alloy wheel for a future project, and gives a brief insight into how I create custom 3D models, from the simplest of information.
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