DJS CGI @ STATE OF ART ACADEMY DAY #6

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For the second year running we sent two of our team over to Venice for the SOA Academy #6. This year’s theme was Discovering Technologies and the days were split between studios talking about CGI and Arch Vis workflows and software developers talking about how Architectural Visualisation studios can implement VFX and VR in their workflows. Something DJS CGI has been getting involved with more and more.

Check out the webpage for a little info on each speaker and some of their work: 

http://www.stateofartacademy.com/ad6/

Hayes Davidson’s Luis Inciarte and David Bullock kicked off this year’s speakers. It was interesting to hear them speak about the 26 year history in the industry that HD have and to see the progression from a tiny room to the bespoke open plan office they have today. Aside from their daily work, which often involves high profile jobs around the world, they spend time doing things to promote creativity and a good work/personal balance. They spent a day at The Ark to help the charity improve a garden space at their centre. They have creative sessions building with Lego and hold parties where they transform their office in to a disco hall.

There was some nice work showcased, including some time lapse videos they did with drones flying over London that had coloured lights attached that when played back created various shapes in the sky. The theory was that a series of drones could create an outline of a new developments shape and from a certain location, filming it with time-lapse showed the height and potential impact, it had a very artistic feel to it and I liked the idea a lot and it would definitely be fun to try! Luis showed the iconic image of Central London with all of the newest developments introduced in to it and David showed a nice set of images produced in Corona Render.

Hayes Davidson

Hayes Davidson

Next up was Victor Bonafonte from Beauty & the Bit. He spoke with a lot of passion. A mixture of slides and videos showing what they do and the usual pitfalls they have like any other studio. Their work is very soft and has a definitive style. They have a clear direction with every image they create and it appears to work well for them. They try and create an image quickly which will represent the final look and don’t really deviate from that if possible. This gives their clients confidence in the studios ability to produce the work required and keeps changes to a minimum.

Beauty and the Bit

Beauty and the Bit

Epic Games’ Wyeth Johnson was next showing off Unreal Engine. If you didn’t know Unreal is free for Architectural practices to use, with no limits and always will be. The theory behind that is that as a community we can use it and in turn help Epic to improve their software, it’s a win win. He showcased some of the cool features of Unreal, such as node based scripting, real-time rendering and the use of Unreal to create Architectural VR’s for Oculus rift, HTC Hive, Samsung Gear VR etc. There is an Evermotion store for 3D content created in Unreal and he spoke of the future of Unreal, suggesting we aren’t far away from having computers and chips powerful enough to be streaming live VR content to phones, glasses with HUD all rendered live on the cloud and it all appeared very exciting!

Watch some of the latest features of Unreal Engine 4 here:

https://youtu.be/eMF1Th5HK9A  

Bloom Images Christian Zollne spoke about how Bloom don’t really have asset style forever but move in phases where they like a style of a particular studio, artist or photographer and copy that style for a while until they find another they like. In doing this they have a portfolio of work which is very diverse. This is nice to see and over the 8 years they have been running they have worked on 2195 projects, in 35 countries and now have offices in Hamburg and Berlin, with 29 artists in total. On the second day they showed a render that they were persuaded to enter in to a photography competition to see if they could fool them in to thinking that the CGI image was a photograph, needless to say they won! Well-done Bloom images.

Squint/Opera not only create Architectural Visualisations but also VR, VFX for films, TV and Advertising, Games, Apps and Museum installations but did you know they also own a bar? The Doodle Bar in London.

http://www.thedoodlebar.com/

They showed an interesting work around when their client decided they wanted some additional footage for the 2 World Trade Centre animation they produced. Check it out here: https://vimeo.com/130208585. At 01:06 you can see they merged live foreground footage of the World Trade Centre Memorial and people with the 3D rendered buildings in the background. The challenge they had was to continue the camera pan upwards as the original footage didn’t contain the additional movement. 

They are running a 200 machine render farm, have customised scripts for repetitive tasks and have important standards that every artist must follow. Such as; never trusting a given model, cleaning materials and meshes, and creating 3 versions of proxies depending on how far the object is away from the camera. One useful script they have is called Render bomb which splits out all moving objects by layer names from a maxfile and renders it separately to the background so compositing people becomes much easier. They have maxfiles with camera real camera rigs setup so they can replicate video footage, or create movements realistically for the animation work. One small but very cool in house project they gave the office was for each person to create a 1 second clip using their logos / symbol as a base, using any way they wanted. There are CGI versions and some even used Excel. They then mashed it all together in to a Christmas video of all the clips and the result is great fun. Check it out! http://www.squintopera.com/blog/christmas-slashup/

Nikos Nikolopolous was up next promoting his Creative Lighting concept. The idea behind it is to teach how lighting is such an important media to show emotion not only in film and foe CGI too. He has a very keen eye and passion for this and took us on an in depth journey in to cinematography of films such as Worlds Apart and Only God forgives. Pausing to deconstruct how and why lighting setups were used in certain key scenes within the films. He showed the potential of 3 point lighting and book lighting and really drove home how important the real world and lighting is for the perfect look and feel.

He also showcased Maxwell render. A great piece of software that allows you to change the lighting of a scene live. You can turn lights completely on and off, their colour and other settings to completely change the look and feel of an image, all on the fly in real time. I found it would be good for product visualisations and small vignette shots.

Nikos Nikolopolous

Nikos Nikolopolous

iToo software Paul Roberts talked about their support system for users of Rail Cone and Forest Pack. His talk was quite a good insight in to how they approach people’s problems with a very hands on approach, often solving problems and sending complete setups in maxfiles back to the user who had a problem. I for one can vouch for this as there have been a few occasions when the iToo team have rewired a Railclone system for me so it works, or sent me a script to help me out with a problem. Their support is impressive and plays a huge part in the development of their software. If you’ve not had the chance to use Rail Clone or Forest Pack, there are free trial versions available and I urge you to give them a try.

http://www.iToosoft.com/products.php

We use them on a daily basis here and they are valuable tools to the DJS CGI arsenal!

Chaos Group – Vray’s Lohn Gros spoke heavily about Vray for VR. He had a couple of Samsung Gear VR’s setup to show an architectural CGI rendered in VRay using the stereoscopic helper. It was a nice tool but not as impressive as I thought it would be. Only because the screen resolution on the Samsung phones he used wasn’t great. As a consequence there was a lot of chromatic aberration and it was a little blurry. I’m sure on other devices this would be reduced and certainly as hardware improves in the future it will look more impressive. Not taking anything away from the concept, there’s definitely a place for it and we have created some VR’s in house and the results are good.

He also mentioned they had successfully used 300,000 NVIDIA CUDA cores to simultaneously render. He called it Massively Parallel rendering. The future seems good for VRay RT and I assume this can also be used in a similar way by Unreal, impressive stats! Especially with Corona rocking the boat with their impressive software over the last year, which only seems to be getting better.

Lohn Gros-Chaos Group

Lohn Gros-Chaos Group

The Boundary were there in force. It’s been a year since the announcement of this new studio as Peter Guthrie announced it would happen at last year’s SOA Academy. It seems they have had a very productive year working with some high end architects to produce some lovely work. Their blog is also a lovely insight and their ethos of sharing how they do things is very valuable to a lot of people. I’ve always liked that in this industry everyone shares their knowledge, although I expect they keep the best things and secrets to themselves. Check out Strom Architects Super House www.152Elizabethstreet.com and the new 1714 HDRI in the shop. They have even dipped in to animation, using their usual full on Brute force method to render out an impressive film for a house in Miami. It seems they are motivated by three things. Architecture, Geekery and Photography.

The Boundary

The Boundary

The whole event was wrapped up by Ronen Bekerman and he announced the winners of the Vineyard Challenge. A competition he ran based around Unreal engine to create a vineyard. The winners can be seen here. http://www.ronenbekerman.com/the-vineyard-challenge-winners-announced/ There was some impressive work and well done to everyone who entered and of course the winners. It seems the Arch Vis industry is really pushing the boundaries of what’s achievable using Unreal. He finished by announcing a new CGI studio he is setting up called The-Craft Coming soon. http://the-craft.co/

This was once again a worthy trip to take. Not only for the talks but for the obvious passion and friendly nature that everyone shares at this event. If you are interested in Architecture, CGI, photography or just 3D in general I urge you to go. Also , going out with 200 other people for Pizza and drinks is great fun! I’d like to thank Gianpiero and Roberto from the #soaacademy for making this happen and we look forward to SOA #7 next year.

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