06/02/2020No Comments

The Importance of Not Standing Still

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kind of makes sense, right?

So here's to diversity!

Dean

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

10/09/2019No Comments

VR Hits The Arcades, and it’s an obvious hit!

Recently I blogged out the Alton Towers Galactica ride, which is a mix of a real roller coaster and virtual reality. I thought the initial concept was great, you could fly through virtual worlds, and experience the G forces from the roller coaster. However it seemed to me that the ride makers were really missing a trick by only having 1 virtual world, and ZERO interactivity.

I know how expensive creating virtual worlds can be, but I also know that with a digital format, such as virtual reality, the cost to make physical changes to hardware or equipment is zero.

Recently whilst on a break, I noticed Virtual Rabbids The Big Ride in an arcade. It’s essentially an arcade game, where you sit on a motion simulator, wear a HTC Vive, and experience virtual worlds, from pirate adventures to Christmas sleigh rides!

OK this game doesn’t give the same thrills as the Galactica ride, and you can’t expect that from an arcade machine. However it does deliver an accessible, engaging, immersive experience without the need for a massive roller coaster.

It’s an obvious hit too. Out of all the arcade machines, Rabbids The Big Ride was by far the most popular, even though it was 400% more expensive than the other arcade games. OK perhaps the price and popularity are down to the uniqueness of the game, but it does go to show the appetite and willingness to give VR a go.

I personally see VR being a big hit in arcades, and might even spark a return to the arcades of decades gone by. I am still very much skeptical about VR. Will we ever overcome the social acceptance of the technology? It’s hard to convince people to wear a VR headset, and also hard to see how virtual reality can be anything other than a solo experience. But with a virtual reality arcade, I can see how a group of friends could use it in a very similar way to a normal arcade game, and that really does give me hope for the future of VR entertainment.

VR Virtual Reality

So is VR saved?

Who knows!

But I am glad that virtual reality is slowly becoming more and more mainstream, and being adopted in ways that actually give value though enhanced experiences.

Do I still think there's a massive social hurdle to overcome? Of course! But little steps like are paving the way.

Would you try a VR arcade game? Could you lose yourself in a virtual environment? Is VR the future of entertainment?

Drop me your thoughts!

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

16/07/2019No Comments

Virtual Reality // The Misunderstood Medium

Fantastic Tech

New tech is fantastic. It changes on a daily basis, and brings us new and exciting things.

But virtual reality can almost seem like it stumbles and trips way too often. Let's not forget that VR isn't anything new, Oculus Rift was funded on Kickstarter over 7 years ago!

Misunderstood

Like a stroppy high-school teenager, VR is misunderstood. It doesn't know what it wants to do in life, it's not sure where it belongs, and perhaps even a little confused about its upbringing!

Virtual Reality misunderstood

The issue

For me, virtual reality is often being shoe-horned into a situation that doesn't really fit, and it's really hurting it's reputation and potential. People think "VR, that's cool, how can we jump on this bang wagon" without really thinking about what they're trying to achieve.

VR is fantastic for occasions where the user needs to be isolated, such as training simulations. They can safely immerse the user in dangerous, expensive and complex situations.

However, I believe VR isn't great for social groups in many situations. That could be 1 person wearing a VR headset in a group of people, or several people each using a headset. There is a massive social issue for VR to overcome.

If you're the 1 in a group of many, and you're the only one in the virtual world, you are no longer connected to the group. You are alone. There's no two ways about it.

Again if you're in a group of VR users, you are alone.

Virtual Reality misunderstood

And this social and psychological issue is massive.

Trust.

Respect.

Relationships.

All of these things are tested every time you wear a headset in a social environment. How many times have you handed someone a VR headset, for them to wear it for 15 seconds, then hand it back? Or you wear a headset, and you become too isolated from the real world. These are the kinds of the big issues VR is facing.

 

The big VR fix

Well, is there a "fix"?

I think we need to really think about where virtual reality is used.

Maybe we just need to plough on, and try to make VR common place?

Or perhaps, as an entertainment platform, VR is already dead in the water, and we should look towards alternatives such as augmented reality?

Virtual Reality misunderstood

This blog post isn't a dig at virtual reality, or those trying to use the medium for brilliant things, but I think content creators really need to take a step back, and figure out if virtual reality is right for their end goal and end users, before irreversible damage is done.

 

Dean

08/11/2018No Comments

5 Reasons why I love the Google Cardboard

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

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

1. Any modern Android smart phone will work.

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

2. The price.

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

3. Customise it.

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

4. It's recyclable.

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

5. It’s a pocket rocket.

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

Finally

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

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

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

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

Dean

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!

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

07/02/2017No Comments

Follow us on Behance

Follow us on Behance

Behance is a great platform to share, view and appreciate anything visual, and we love it! That's why we're now posting our finest work on there for all to see.

Feel free to follow us, our page is Punch Digital, and if you like our work, give us thumbs up and click "appreciate"!

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

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Punch Digital Services Ltd

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