How to Commission CGI and 3D Animations

With the choice of CGI studios in the UK and worldwide being so broad it can sometimes be a daunting task ensuring you choose the best company to supply you with the most appropriate images at the right cost.

Whether you are an architect, a developer, a seasoned property professional or a little fresher faced to the market, I wanted to put together this little guide to prompt some of the right questions to ensure you find your way through the dark forest and into the glorious open planes of visualisation glory.

To simplify the process I have assumed the development in question is a 15 unit mixed use/residential development in an urban setting. The process below may vary depending on the type of development and if the visuals are interiors or exteriors but I hope this helps. Feedback very welcome via twitter @djscgi


1. A Question of Timing
When are you hoping to market the property? Do you have planning permission, do you need visuals for the planning permission and if so do they need to be verified visuals.  These questions will be linked to your overall ambitions for the site in question and its current condition and the local planning authority.  Some planning authorities require visuals to be included in the application but many don't so check with your planning consultant.  Many clients want to market the site ASAP and this can conflict with the architects design schedule leading to a chicken and egg situation of visualisation companies trying to show what has not been designed.  Often the visualisation company can liaise with the architect to ensure that the visuals take into account the design as it is developing.  Getting the visuals complete and ready for marketing can lead to tempting early sales  but this needs to be tempered against ensuring the architect has time to complete their work.  Visuals produced early in the life cycle of a scheme can be updated at a future date, good CGI production will ensure that modest updates can be included into imagery quickly and efficiently and without significant cost.  Typically CGI companies are approached at the planning stage, then often the images are updated for the marketing phase, try to plan your visuals, sometime the same image can suit planning and marketing but often they are very different in style and requirement.


2. Money/Cost/Value
I expect in the world wide market you could pay anything from £150.00 to £6000.00 for a visual with a variety of results.  In some situations, normally at the design development phase the cheaper end of the market can be more flexible and responsive but you need to ensure accuracy and quality control are met.  You also need to consider the production values of the studio you use, are they using licensed software, do they have proper back up procedures, are they experienced and quality orientated.  Equally if you use a more expensive studio are they going to offer you the flexibility, and responsiveness you need, when can they work on the project and how to they handle design changes and comments.

To understand cost you need to appreciate value.  A director at Foster + Partners once told me while raving about an image…"these images travel" by which he meant that strong images really do get around the modern world, they impress, they excite, they get people talking about your development.  While we talking about travelling lets use the analogy of a taxi; you could get into a Kia Picanto taxi, it's a good car, it does the job but its not a car you will ever love but you will most likely arrive at your destination.  You equally could jump into a classic Ferrari and travel in style and grace but the cost is a factor and it might break down.  Possibly the Mercedes would be the best bet.

Know your target market, talk to your planning advisers, your architect and consider the market and who is available.  Equally talk to your Cgi supplier, often they can suggest a course of action that can give significantly more value for money.

3. Sweat your Assets
Talk to your CGI company, get to know them, discuss in depth your project and how they can help you.  Often they are just another supplier on a project but if the images are key then perhaps you should get to know them a littler better. They might be able to suggest ways to make 1+1=3, often certain facades have been modelled for the main images on a project but now that 3d model is developed there can be additional images that can be made to support the marketing.  These cameo shots can offer great value and sometimes end up being the signature shot for the development.  Make the 3D model work for you.


4. Deadlines 
Often despite buildings being years and years in the planning certain property exhibitions or brochure deadlines mean that time constraints curtail what you can achieved, again talk to your CGI company, see what is possible. But also challenge your deadlines – is it worth some quality sacrifice to achieve a deadline? CGI companies are used to working to tight deadlines but some will have more resources to throw at the problem and a larger more available team.


5. Style
Many Cgi companies offer certain specialisms, some will be experts in planning images, some in conceptual work.  Consider how you want to present your site and see who will work best for your vision.


Written by Gregg Stone, Co-Founder, DJS CGI
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