Preparing Your Products for CGI Rendering
So you are thinking of using CGI product images to display your product lines, but there are a few things you need to do in order to prepare yourself for the process. This is a brief cut down guide that should give you an outline as to what is involved in the cgi process and where you, as a client, should focus your energy. In doing so you will get the best value out of the CGI studio and, ultimately, the best user experience for your customers.
If your product is customer configurable and comes in lots of colours and options, chances are you are going to be dealing with a large data set. To give you an example of the potential numbers involved; if you have 10 products that come in 10 colours and are viewed from 3 different angles, that's 10 x 10 x 3 = 300 images. If that product comes with a scatter cushion that is available in 10 alternative colours, that now requires 3000 images to cover every permutation of colour combination and camera angle. So immediately we can see that numbers can grow exponentially, which means you need to plan how to deal with the extreme quantity of cgi imagery that could be delivered at the end of the project. You could also at this point decide that a 'product configurator' may offer a more sensible approach if your total image count is in the tens of thousands.
Now we've established that the data set will most likely be too big to keep track of in our heads, a spreadsheet needs to be drawn up. Furthermore, since the quantity of images is huge and we will need to allow for non-humans (computers not aliens) to interpret the spreadsheet in order to guarantee the integrity of the resulting imagery. Why? Because if we get a colour wrong, or miss an option out, it can cause havoc down the line with customers not getting what they thought they had ordered.
Here are some tips on filling in better spreadsheets:
Decide on your categories, these could be 'fabric colour', 'cushion colour', 'camera angle'. So an entry might look like this.
Notice the way the lists of colours are separated by commas and words are separated by hyphens or capital letters. This is because spaces can cause problems further down the line.
Your final delivered assets can be named and placed into directories according to any convention you like. The key here is that they always remain uniquely identifiable, easy to find and easy to recognise. Using the example above you might name a your file as follows:
Note the use of underscores '_' to separate the columns.
For each unique fabric type we need a large physical sample, the bigger the better, a square length off the roll is the best, usually about 150cm x 150 cm. Small swatches are not big enough to show the overall grain of the weave and will instead look like those repetitive patterns you used to see on desktop computer backgrounds in the 80s. If the fabric comes in lots of different colour ways then you need only send us small customer swatches, we will simply take the colour information from these and apply it to the big sample. We take each fabric and photograph it using our special rig, using special lights and filters we can extract all sorts of details about the fabric, its colour, its reflectivity and (in the case of velvets) its sheen.
Reference photos taken from a variety of angles can help describe the shape of an object we are modelling. They don't have to be great photos, it doesn't matter what's in the background and they will never be used in the final image. They can be taken from a warehouse or showroom, even with an iPhone, in fact the additional data contained in a smartphone photo can tell us about the lens used and the exposure settings which can help our modellers understand the shape better. Details about the features of a product are essential to ensure not only that the shape is right but also to make sure we have the right number of buttons or legs
Much of the work we do is about creating different sizes of products that you, the retailer, may not be familiar with. A small-double headboard for a bed or a 4 seater left-handed corner sofa may not be a stock item but we need to know how many pleats/buttons/legs these variants have. Be prepared to consult your suppliers and designers for answers to these questions.
External dimensions are really important, but we need fewer than you might think. Using 3 reference photos combined with width height and depth measurements is usually enough to create an accurately scaled object.
Everything we do at Blotto is exactly to scale in mm, this means patterns have just the right amount of repeats on a sofa and thin surfaces like smoked glass have just the right amount of translucency.
In e-commerce scale is important, ask anyone who is trying to get a new sofa up their stairwell.
Avoiding returned items is essential in e-commerce and we can help alleviate this problem by presenting all your products to scale; so small looks small and kingsize looks ... bigger. The downside to this is that your product images may have a lot of white border for a small items if the bigger items are to fit into the same frame. This is an important factor to consider when planning a project that includes a products that come in different sizes.
Decide whether you want shadows cast onto the floor or whether you want to have products floating in mid air. Our CGI can offer you all the advantages of a white cut-out but with the addition of soft shadows cast onto a surface. Natural looking photos that can be dragged onto any background, not just white.
We can work fast, we can scale, but if you want to get the best out of us please allow some time for us to do a great job. Large projects can take up to 12 weeks to procure and deliver, as you can see above there are many aspects to creating product images that can slow down the process. Smaller jobs of 1 or 2 images can be dovetailed into our daily routine but with a sensible lead time we can plan a delivery schedule that will always hit your delivery targets.