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When and why to use CGI
Many companies, Creative Directors, Art Directors and Marketing Managers are hesitant to use CGI as a way of creating visuals for their advertisement campaigns and rather go the traditional route of working with photography studios and their retouchers. Reasons could be fear of higher costs for a full CGI rendering or low quality when compared to photos. In this blog entry we will discuss the various choices one has when commissioning images or video and the downsides and upsides of each, so one can make an adequate choice.
Photography / CGI / Illustration
Photography is a stable in the production of images and videos for commercial purposes and you can be sure that when you have a photo of an object or person, that it is a representation of it a 100% ... more or less. Retouching is another stable in the advertisement industry since many many years and no photo is delivered without passing through the post-production departement. Colors, imperfections or undesirable parts will be altered or deleted. When there doesn't exist the object you want to photograph though, you either have to build a dummy or circumvent photographing it altogether. There are two options for the later: old-school illustrations and CGI, although these two can also have a connection. More on this later, though.
For the purpose of illustration of what we are talking about, let's take a recent project we were working on - a series of door frame CGI visualisations for one of the leading producers of doors in Germany - Neuformtür
This is a relatively simple task - one door in a studio setup, no liquids nor effects.
To make photos of this door in a studio, obviously it has to be built and then cut according to the design. Same goes for the wall behind it. But wait, there is more than one door to be produced! So let's build 4 other doors too and fit them to the wall size!
And then there is this door, that has to have a different size and wall than the others; this will need a different setup.
So 6 doors have to be build and setup in a studio. Cutting doors to show their inner structure will lead to fringed edges and surfaces and will have to be worked on - either on the spot by a professional, or in post-pro by a retoucher. During the process you decide that you want a different wall size, a different surface finish than wood/aluminium/paint? Everything needs to be redone for each and every door. There will also definitely be a lot of people and machinery/equipment required in the process: the photographer and probably assistants, a retoucher, people who build and cut the doors and walls and handle these accordingly.
With CGI you will become more flexible
and time and cost can be greatly reduced.
In comes CGI. After building the doors from CAD data and getting the right textures, everything can be manipulated as you wish, as many times as you wish - even the surface finish is as easy as swapping a material; which of course has to be created, but that is definitely less expensive than building 6 new doors, especially considering that one material can be used for as many objects as one wishes.
The beauty of this is that everything is saved and can be reused later. So if you like to do an interactive web presentation, the time and money put into building these doors the first time was well spent and costs for future projects will be much less. Want an animation? Go for it! Want an illustration? Deriving simple lines, changing materials to look like a painting, advanced render engine effects are just a few methods to turn your photorealistic rendering into a professional illustration. All from one set of data - no studio rental or extra personel required.
There should be no fear that a rendering looks inferior to a photograph.
The experienced and professional CGI Artist will deliver an image that you can't differentiate from a photograph.
Using highly detailed textures and shaders, adding small imperfections that only your subconsciousness will notice, making use of high-quality scans of real-world materials and understanding how light and shadow and cameras work in the real world - many more factors will make the rendering indistinguishable from a photograph.
You might have come to the impression that CGI could at all times be superior to traditional photography, and I would say that a lot of times it is - if you have the right graphics production studio. There are cases however, that CGI is more labor and cost intensive than photography.
Let's say you have a sofa that you want to be modelled on the basis of real-world measurements and reference photos - for just one rendering in a photo studio. Modelling this complicated, rather organic shape, will take a lot of time to get the details right and could potentially cost more than building a real sofa and shipping it to the studio, which already has the setup for such shots.
If, on the other hand, you would want a variety of fabrics on this sofa and you want different lighting conditions and camera angles in a furbished, luxurious-looking room, and maybe add in some additional studio setups - it will become very quickly more feasable to do the whole project in CGI rather than photography.
In the case of our door series, we were to create another series of door panels, this time handmodelled from reference photos and measurements. We were able to reuse a lot of materials, thus reducing time and cost for the creation.
In any case, the usage of tools that we have for creating the images we want will always differ project from project;
One should always talk to a professional graphic production to find the right way so that the best result for the best budget can be found.
We are always here for you to talk and answer any question ;)