24/09/2019No Comments

4 Questions // A brief insight into Dean and Punch Digital

I got asked these 4 questions below, and they really made me think about different aspects of myself and how I got to where I am with Punch Digital. So delve into my background, what makes me tick, and why I decided to try and make an impact in the creative CGI industry....

 

What do you do?

I run Punch Digital, a small, but very capable CGI studio, which I’m very proud to be the front of.

Personally, I’m hands on with projects, clients and R&D, but as the business grows I want to hand some of these tasks to trusted employees and partners, under my direction of course!

My background is in creating marketing CGI illustrations, working for other firms, before setting up Punch Digital in 2012. 

Who do you help?

Past clients include the likes of o2, Belling and Ford, and we’re just as comfortable working with small, local firms too.

Punch Digital / myself will work with a wide range of people and business, and have no real “ideal client”. Some of the most exciting and interesting projects have come from the most unusual clients!

On a personal level, I want to help folk break into the CGI industry. I feel people can be unprepared when it comes to landing their first job. The way I’m kicking this off is through a LinkedIn group - Helping folk break into the creative CGI industries, where I aim to offer advice, help and support to anyone who needs it!

What pain do you solve?

CGI imagery, animations and interactive apps are a great way to help folk visualise products, architecture and anything else. 

The biggest pain we solve is to remove limitations. 

Room sets aren’t restricted to studio walls; kitchens can be visualised in any interior imaginable.

Products don’t have to be manufactured, they can be illustrated from sketches and ideas, perfect for gauging interest, or even marketing for sales, before the expense of manufacturing.

Individual product variation can be shown, without the need to build and photograph each combination, through an interactive configurator. No more swatches or sample pots!

Ultimately, I want to make CGI marketing imagery as easy and as accessible as possible for anyone who sells a product, property or anything else!

Why do you do what you do?

I’ve always been a keen artist, even as little boy doodling in make-shift art folders. I must admit my fine art skills won’t win any awards, but it’s something I’ve enjoyed and pursued right up to Art A-Level.

I’m also great with numbers, figures and problem solving. Again A-Levels in maths and business studies helped build this passion.

Luckily, CGI imagery is a combination of artist flare, and technical ability. Figuring a small technical issue can almost be just as rewarding as building a beautiful illustration. 

I believe what I and Punch Digital does is purposeful, helpful and adds value for our clients, helping them to market and sell their thing.

There’s no greater high than receiving an email or phone call from a client, thanking us for our hard work and success on their project. 

I also love the constant evolution of CGI imagery. The CGI industry doesn’t stand still, advances in tech often push expectations to produce higher quality, speed and frequency of work, which is fine and part of the exciting challenges.

There are also amazing opportunities to explore and expand into new areas, such as virtual reality or augmented reality, with the aim of making this tech available, accessible and useful to clients, which is often the biggest, but very rewarding!

Ultimately I just love the mix of creativity, technical and innovative aspects of the creative CGI industry!

(Plus it’s less messier than being a plumber (sorry dad)!!)

 

Dean

14/08/2019No Comments

What would I do if….

Great question right? A good excuse to take a step back and look at things from a different perspective.

So over the next few weeks / months, I'll be doing just that in the form of a mini series to read at your leisure!

But what's the point?

Well, when it comes to creating marketing and promotional material for your business and products, the options can seem endless, or maybe there may be options that you haven't considered.

So, I want to use 15+ years of knowledge of the CGI, 3D, digital marketing industry, combined with an understanding of businesses needs, requirements and problems, to explain what I might do in your position.

The first piece will be "What would I do if I were a property developer?".

In this, I will look at the different options, from basic CGI artwork, to fully interactive applications, and maybe a few other options that perhaps you're not even aware of. I'll look at the pros and cons of different mediums, what to expect, cost guides and so on.

Essentially I hope this mini series will give you a good understanding of your options and maybe even help you to approach CGI studios so you get the most out of any future projects.

Don't miss out!

So this blog post is a little heads up for something that will be landing over the next weeks / months.

To make sure you don't miss out, subscribe to the newsletter here -

Click to subscribe!

And we'll add you to our monthly newsletter so you get the info straight to your inbox!

 

Dean

22/12/2017No Comments

Our First Project to Mix CGI VR and Live 360 Footage

We love a challenge, so when our friends at Superla came to us and said they want to combine CGI VR with live 360 footage for a distracted driving campaign 360 video we said "hell yes!"

The concept behind the video is simple - distracted driving kills. But how we showed this concept wasn't as easy, and we had to overcome some technical and creative hurdles.

Don't let a single moment of distraction change your life. #ParkYourPhone and follow #Cartesy when you head out next time. Take the pledge here: http://bit.ly/2xpS7vE

Posted by Ford India on Friday, 13 October 2017

For our part, we produced the car interior, which is entirely CGI! The character is also CGI too. Creating photo-realistic content is something we do on a daily basis, but the challenges of the project pushed our technical knowledge to the limit, and beyond. To seamlessly blend the live footage, with the CGI car interior, we had to match the lighting, but more importantly, the reflections. Then throw in some motion capture, super high resolution footage, and numerous other challenges!

Distracted Driving 360 Car Interior Animation Video

Superla did a cracking job with the live 360 footage, post production and leading and directing the animation. For the character animation, we used the Rokoko motion capture suit, then refined the animation before rendering the animation. I personally love the text message alerts, which divert your eye away from the road, which is of course the video's aim is to distract you as you drive along.

We believe 360 video has a big future, especially when telling an engaging story. By viewing the 360 videos on a VR headset, the immersive experience is unlike any traditional media. I believe in 2018 we will see a growth of VR and 360 content, and it's certainly something we're excited to be a part of!

07/11/2017No Comments

Motion Capture Fun with the Rokoko Suit

Work should be fun right? So when we have the chance to have a go with a new bit of kit, and it really makes us smile, we know we're doing something right!

As part of a new project with Superla, we had chance to have a go with the Rokoko Motion Capture Suit!

This is very nice bit of kit indeed. In a nut shell, the Rokoko suit records the actors movement, which can be re-applied to a virtual character. Motion capture is often used in films and gaming as a way to simulate realistic movements, and it does a very good job. Check out this clip about how motion capture was used in the Pirates Of the Caribbean films.

 

Motion Capture Suit Rokoko

Stuart from Superla, capturing some questionable driving.

As I've mentioned, he process of motion capture isn't anything new, the technology has been around for decades. However the suit contains new technology, meaning that motion capture process totally different from what came before. Usually to do motion capture, you'd have to hire a studio which was specifically design and equip for motion capture. This is both expensive and very restrictive.

The Rokoko suit doesn't need a studio, all the motion sensors are built into the suit, meaning you can capture motion almost anywhere. All you need is the suit, a laptop and wi-fi.

Motion Capture Suit Rokoko

Data captured and applied to a virtual character.

But what makes it fun? There are several reasons as to why I strangely consider this fun. I love new tech, especially when it's affordable, so that's the first point. I'm always drawn to affordable tech, from 3D printing to 360 cameras.

I also think it's brilliant that you can do something very technical anywhere, and see the results right in front of your own eyes. OK you have to edit, refine and make changes to the data, but the instant feedback is great. The laptop we used wasn't anything spectacular either, so the guys who developed the Rokoko really haven't alienated themselves from a lot of users.

Generally the whole experience is easy and straight forward. No one likes a clunky process, or un-intuitive piece of software.

Motion Capture Suit Rokoko

And of course there's the skin tight suit, always worth a laugh right?!

Over the next few weeks, we should be able to show you what we used the Rokoko motion capture suit for. It's quite a unique project, mixing motion capture, 360 video, and some dodgy driving!

Dean

08/06/2017No Comments

Champions League VR Experience Review

Champions League VR Experience Review

Quite a game wasn't it, with some fantastic goals, and a bit of controversy too! But this blog post isn't really about the Champions League final, but about the VR experience that BT Sport offered.

In my last blog post Watch the UEFA Champions League final in VR I looked at the past sporting VR content, and made some predictions and thoughts on how a VR experience could play out. I was critical of BT Sports YouTube channel, and I hoped, but didn't expect, that the VR experience for the final would be much improved. I'm glad to say my expectations were exceeded, and the final was enjoyable in VR!

The experience begins with the BT Sport app. I'm a big fan of keeping as much as possible to the browser window (for speed, accessibility and convenience), but there are limitations, so downloading the small app was necessary. The app beings with a virtual environment, perhaps loosely based on a corporate box overlooking the stadium. There isn't a lot to do here, other than have a quick look around and press the play button to load the live stream.

VR headset sport google cardboard football soccer live 360

Once loaded you are transported to the stadium, and immediately you can see the difference in design, quality and experience from the YouTube VR clips. The build up and pre-match show for the final was also streamed, which was nice, but I think it would have been amazing if we could have seen something a little special. How amazing would it be to have a camera in the players tunnel, or even in their changing rooms? Maybe next time!

VR headset sport google cardboard football soccer live 360

The app sadly didn't let us into the dressing room, but we could watch the match from 8 points around the stadium. The interface at the bottom of the view is very easy and straight forward to use, but does involve a lot of head movement to select your choice as the "cursor" is controlled by where you're looking, quite annoying if you're drinking a pint!

VR headset sport google cardboard football soccer live 360

Some of the view points are from the position of seats within the stadium, others are from positions closer to the pitch. You do get a feeling of being there, and it is nice to choose your view point.

VR headset sport google cardboard football soccer live 360

But I'll be honest, the camera positions aren't great, and you're so far away from the action that it can be hard to follow the football at times. This is one of the pitfalls of football, you simply can't place a camera in the middle of the action, which could be possible in other sports such as Formula 1.

VR headset sport google cardboard football soccer live 360

One nice feature of the VR app is that highlights of the match are shown on virtual screens above the pitch. This helps with keeping track of the action and anything we might have missed. We take highlights for granted when watching a match on TV, and without them it really does take something away from the experience. Now here's a side thought, will we be able to watch a game in person, but with features like this for us to use via augmented reality technology?

One notable and quite considerable frustration was with the virtual screens and commentary. To view the virtual screen and commentary you had to watch the game in "auto" mode, meaning the camera position was controlled by the TV station. As soon as you selected your own camera position you no longer had the virtual screen and commentary. I'm sure this is an easy fix, but it did take away from the experience.

VR headset sport google cardboard football soccer live 360

Other features are also incorporated into the app, but have little substance. Checking a players stats is nice, but do we really need to know Gareth Bale weighs 74kg? I would like to see live stats, that actually mean something during the match. How many passes did he complete, or how far has he run?

VR headset sport google cardboard football soccer live 360

All in all, I did enjoy the VR experience, and it did exceed my low expectations. Did I watch the entire match in VR? No. I wanted to get a flavour of what is currently possible, but my desire to enjoy the match took over, and I admit I watched most of the match on the TV. The camera positions were not better or worse that I expected. This is where the TV coverage is still leaps and bounds in front. Perhaps a zoom / virtual binoculars function would help?

But perhaps we shouldn't be comparing VR to TV. Instead we maybe should be comparing VR to being there in person. In that respect the VR option offers more flexibility, features, and is a whole lot less expensive! But does it really compare to actually being there? Well sadly no. The buzz you get from arriving at a stadium, finding your seat, and watching the game with thousands of others isn't really replicated in VR. It is immersive, and enjoyable, but it's just not on the same page, yet.

Virtual reality for football and sports is right at the beginning of its journey, and I did fear that it might be another giant flop like 3D TVs. However I'm slightly optimistic, and can see the potential to make the VR experiences brilliant. Firstly I think we need a way to make the TV and VR experience become one, or at least much closer. How can people be persuaded to ditch the 50" LCD for a VR headset? What can VR do that TV doesn't? Will TV always be one step ahead of VR? All tough questions, and I sadly don't think there are any quick answers.

But will VR replace going to the real event? This I'm really unsure of. The ability for VR to instantly transport you to anywhere in the world is a huge advantage. Time is becoming an increasing commodity, and in a society where life can sometimes feel too busy and exhausting, could VR be an answer?

At the moment, I can't see how VR could ever replace the buzz from going to a sporting event, and I don't think this is a bad thing either. Going to a match is so much more than what you can see. It's about the atmosphere, the noise, the people, the bad weather! Maybe one day we'll fool our brains into digitally replicating these things, and stadiums will be filled with rows of VR cameras instead of people. I hope not, and I hope we can have the best of both worlds.

Anyway, if you haven't yet tried the BT Sport App, download it here for android, and here for IOS and have a go. Let me know your thoughts and ideas too!

Dean

02/06/2017No Comments

Watch the UEFA Champions League final in 360° VR!

Watch the UEFA Champions League final in 360° VR!

The UEFA Champions League final is this Saturday! The high light of the football season for many, and it never disappoints! But this year will be slightly different, as you'll apparently be able to watch the match in 360° VR!

Read more

31/08/2016No Comments

360 Virtual Reality Chair // The future of VR?

360 Virtual Reality Chair

If you're a gamer, virtual reality guru, or just want a glimpse of just how immersive virtual reality will be, then spend a minute and watch this 360 Virtual Reality Chair...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKQ7U8ix2zY&feature=youtu.be

I'm excited by tech like this; for me it seems to offer a lot of solutions for many issues is virtual reality.

Solving problems with virtual reality?

Firstly, many folks complain of motion sickness when using the virtual reality headsets. Theoretically a virtual reality experience is so immersive that the users brain is tricked into believing what it sees. At the same time the users brain has little or no connection between the physical and virtual worlds.

For example, in a virtual world the user can turn a corner, but they don't physically move. Users may then experience motion sickness. The virtual reality chair's solution is to physically turn the user 360. The chair also features pedals so the user can control speed distance and orientation with their feet. Both of these features link the physical user to the virtual world.

Virtual Reality Treadmill, an alternative to the 360 virtual reality chair

There are VR treadmills (check out this video for more info on virtual reality treadmills), which allow the user to physically walk. They look impressive, but in my opinion are perhaps a step too far for the home user. However these could be very useful for training simulations and serious gaming where it's important to mimic real life as close as possible.

Standing or sitting?

For the average user, a 360 virtual reality chair may be an ideal solution. Standing can be tiring, and for virtual reality to become mainstream the tech needs to be as easy and comfortable to use as possible.

The chair could be used for various genres of virtual reality, such as driving simulations. But also let's not forget that the majority of users are use to sitting when gaming. Users may eventually become accustom to standing, however right now sitting would be the obvious solution.

The future?

Without doubt the 360 virtual reality chair has a future. The chair may solve issues with motion sickness which is a massive plus. The chair is ideal for virtual gaming in many genres. Add a steering-wheel or a joystick and the chair could give amazing virtual reality experiences.

Users can buy the chair for only $599. A virtual reality set-up with a high end headset and PC isn't cheap, so adding a chair isn't unthinkable.

This 360 virtual reality chair may be the first step towards a complete VR home experience. In years to come the technology will advance, and inevitably these chairs will be fitted with hydraulics, heat, wind and maybe even odors! Imagine that!

For now check out www.rotovr.com to learn more. Get in touch with your ideas and thoughts, and maybe even some predictions for the future!

Dean

11/07/2016No Comments

A Virtual Experience of Solitary Confinement

A Virtual Experience of Solitary Confinement

We have been playing, tinkering and mainly having fun with virtual reality, all in the name of research of course! The sheer number of apps, videos, experiences and games already available is amazing, and we've only really scratch the surface with our research. However one piece of virtual reality content really stood out, and that's "6x9: A Virtual Experience of Solitary Confinement"

Blog Virtual Reality Solitary Confinement App Video 360 VR

Created by The Guarding and The Mill (see more info here), this virtual reality experience is a great example of how a virtual reality experience should be! It places the viewer in a horrible 6x9 cell, and gives us a glimpse onto just what solitary confinement may be like. Let's just say it's not very pleasant!

Blog Virtual Reality Solitary Confinement App Video 360 VR

6x9 is one VR experience that really stand out for us and does so for few reasons. Firstly it's based on interesting and engaging content. Real convicts who have been in solitary confinement talk about their experiences. Even if 6x9 had been a news article, or a pod cast it would have still grabbed my attention.

Secondly the visual experience is good. OK the graphics aren't photo-real, but to me that doesn't matter. The room is dark, dirty, and not a very nice place to be all. The room changes, weird effects happen to suggest different feelings or even hallucinations that an inmate would have. The user is guided through the experience, and one thing I like is that you can look behind you, but the content is delivered in front of the user, so you can sit comfortably on the sofa without having to break your neck or stand up and turnaround to see the content! Sometimes you almost forget about the quality of the CGI as I found myself listening to the audio or reading the graffiti style text.

Thirdly, and perhaps the most important reason why this works so well in my opinion, is that the creators have taken great content, and then chosen the best medium to tell the story through. In this case they've used virtual reality, and by doing so they've enhanced their content and experience. Too often I see people with the thought of "we have VR, how can we use it?". This can lead to badly built experiences, and people simply trying to force their content into virtual reality. Look at how many best selling mobile games are being butchered to use VR, simply to jump on the band wagon to be part of the VR scene. It's lazy, cheep, and will damage the reputation of virtual reality as a medium if we're not creating brilliant content.

Anyway, back on topic. The 6x9 is a lesson in how to produce virtual reality experience. Please check out the app, all you need is a smart phone, Google Cardboard, GearVR or something similar. There's also a little trailer if you can't get your hands on a VR headset....

Enjoy (if that's even possible in a 6x9 cell?).

Dean

14/06/2016No Comments

Virtual Reality is here!

Virtual reality is here, and there's no hiding from it!

As we all know, the tech world doesn't stand still, new devices and innovations are constantly being brought to the market place, and it's very easy to become overwhelmed by the constant stream of new tech. However one area of technology we're very keen to get our hands dirty with is Virtual Reality!

Virtual Reality Headset VR 3D

For those who are less acquainted with the concept, virtual reality is essentially a way to immerse yourself in digital environments and content, via a wearable headset. In the past, the term "virtual reality" has been used for numerous 3D based ideas, such as interactive walk-thoughs, but it is now being commonly used in context with the headsets.

Anyway, why are we excited by it? Well firstly we love new tech! And secondly I believe this is a step towards fully 3D content for everyone. 3D TVs came and have almost gone (fantastic!), and virtual reality should be the next big thing.

There are many headsets on the market now, such as the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, but the one we have gone for is the Gear VR. Out of those 3 we have perhaps chosen the least powerful, weaker graphics, and not quite the cheapest even, but what it does have is the ability to go anywhere, it's fully mobile, literally.

The Gear VR is essentially a Samsung smart phone (ours is the Galaxy S7), coupled together with the gear VR headset. The viewer inserts their phone into the headset, and straps on the Gear VR, and they are immersed into Virtual Reality! The HTC Vive and Oculus Rift both need to be connected to a powerful PC, for which gaming is a must, but we feel this limitation will be a huge sticking point for a lot of casual users.

Virtual Reality Headset VR 3D Samsung Gear

The Gear VR Headset.

Most people now have smart phones, and just about any modern Android phone can be turned into a virtual reality headset with either the Gear VR or Google Cardboard, and I'm sure the likes of Apple and Microsoft won't be too long in releasing their own versions.

So what can you do with a virtual reality headset? The easiest, and perhaps one of the most interesting things to do is go and watch some amazing 360 videos. Youtube, Facebook and others now host 360. There are also 100s of apps and games to play and use, from simply watching Netflix in virtual reality, to engaging, playing and meeting people in virtual social worlds; even Facebook has plans to turn their social network into a VR experience!

But what about what we plan to do with VR and the Samsung Gear? Firstly we're going to have some fun! We're going to fire up some VR apps, watch some 360 videos, and research (yes researching can be fun!), and we'll see what grabs us, and what doesn't. There's no point in diving straight in and producing content that either doesn't work, doesn't engage, or isn't useful.

After that we'll know more about the direction we want to go in. At the moment we see two paths, 360 video, and interactive environments. 360 video is become quite well established, with YouTube and Facebook both supporting 360 videos natively inside a web browser (essentially all you do is load the page, and the video will play, so no need for any software downloads). 360 videos are relatively straight forward to create, similar in a way a CGI image or animation is created, however ensuring the user is engaged, entertained and even guided by the content will be just as important as the content itself.

Interactive environments and worlds are more complex to create, and are quite comparable to computer gaming and interactive walk-thoughts. An entire environment is created, and the user can play, explore or even learn through interacting with the virtual content. How the user interacts depends purely on how the game or app is created. With some apps you can look at an object, and press the button on the side of the headset to "click" the object, and other you may need a gaming controller to move easily though the world.

Both 360 videos and interactive environments have their pros and cons, and as I've already mentioned, once we've done our research and had chance to digest what we think works and what doesn't, we'll then start to take steps to produce demos and really get our hands dirty!

For now, all I can say is we're excited and really can't wait to get stuck in and start creating brilliant VR experiences!

Dean

01/04/2016No Comments

360° Video Gives us a View into Pre-historic Life!

360° video gives us a view into pre-historic life!

360° video is on the rise, and it's becoming a fascinating way to engage with viewers. The technology is very new, and as such people don't quite know the best way to use it, or even produce it, but this 360° video is one of the best examples I have seen so far. David Attenborough stars in the video where a giant dinosaur appears to walk past him, but the beauty of using a 360° video is that it allows the viewer to look around and really feel like you're there.

The video is hosted on Youtube, which is brilliant as it's accessible on PCs, laptops, tablets and smart phones, so go ahead and watch the video.

If you're on a PC use the mouse to click and drag on the video to look around, and if you're on a phone or tablet, hold the device up and turn around (and ignore the odd look from others!).

If you're using a smart phone and the YouTube app you may have noticed this symbol in the bottom right corner...

google cardboard vr headset 360 interactive

When watching the video on your phone, clicking this button will make the video will split in 2, which allows the user to strap on their VR headset, such as the Google Cardboard or Gear VR and fully immerse themselves in the 360° video, brilliant right? OK it might take some time to get use to viewing content this way, but it is fun, trust me!

Anyway, back to the video. In my opinion what this video does, which other 360° videos perhaps haven't quite mastered yet, is the ability to direct the views whilst telling a story. Other  360° videos they can be visually great, but not really engaging or have any purpose. Take for example the Star Wars 360° video; it looks great, and ties in well with the movie release, but it really doesn't tell a story, and as such it doesn't engage with the viewer. You don't know where you should be looking, and as CGI nerd I find myself picking apart the 3D and finding errors, which if I was engaged I may not initially notice. Others might simply just stop the video after 10 seconds, either way it hasn't fully reached its potential.

When we create 360° videos we will have to be very mindful to engage the viewers. With 360° videos the user can look anywhere, so directing the viewers without being forceful will be the key to a successful video. Creating beautiful videos and CGI won't be enough, and although the technical challenge to create visually great videos is the first hurdle, it wont be long before 360° videos are mainstream, and we'll see where content and story telling really set the good and bad videos apart.

360° videos, I hope, are here to stay, and only time will tell just how successful and useful they can be. We're working on plans and ideas to bring 360° videos to our services, we're already experts in creating virtual environments, so the next step is to take our expertise from 2D images and animations to 360° videos and other virtual reality content. We've already tested the Google Cardboard and YouTube 360° video with this little interior apartment test, and we have plans to create something quite exciting, so watch this space!

Dean

 

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PUNCH DIGITAL

Punch Digital Services Ltd

Registered Office :
Peel Walker
11 Victoria Road
Elland
HX5 0AE

Company No:
07938732

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GB 282 4398 77