PI-VR Impress3D

09 November 2012

Users of VRED visualisation software gathered in Berlin this month to see cutting-edge rendering technology at an event with a classical automotive theme. Stephen Holmes reports

If ever there was a place to inspire the world of automotive visualisation artists, then the location for this year’s Impress3D event was it.

Berlin’s Classic Remise: the perfect venue for the event

PI-VR’s rendering conference and exhibition had presentations by some of the biggest motoring firms at Berlin’s Classic Remise, one of Europe’s most prestigious motoring museums and restoration houses.

As a result, the modern-day renderings on the screens of the auditorium stood side-byside with hundreds of classic motors and supercars.

Visualising needs

Straddling similar boundaries between the old and the new, Pascal Staud of Staud Studios, an international visual arts company, talked of how his firm blends photography and 3D visualisation work.

Having produced campaigns for Aston Martin, Mercedes and Volvo in recent years, it was intriguing to see how the team worked with both traditional photographic methods and a range of 3D visualisation tools to get the perfect image.

“You need a photographic eye to put it together,” stated Staud. “If you have to explain an image then you haven’t succeeded.”

Visual artists, he said, wish to be left to perform the creative flourishes, add emotion and life to an image. Their bugbear is data sourcing and management of the source material.

Having to work with a giant automotive company means having to deal with numerous suppliers, waiting on them to pool all the data, test it, move it towards production and prepare it for media. However this generally becomes a costly cycle of adjustments and changes.

Finding and assembling the correct data can take an age, while one change to a part of the model can mean a complete restart. Just because the engineers make a mistake, it doesn’t mean that the marketing budget goes up.

PLM for visualisation

Currently the industry struggles with weak data management, through little internal validation, and from the initial designers having little influence on the process once their designs have moved forward to production.

The solution, says Staud, is better implementation of PLM systems for the process to include visualisation data and materials.

German company Nviz presented its solution for this issue: its third-party add-on to Siemens’ TeamCenter PLM system can store materials, shading and VR scenes all mapped to TeamCenter data for use in VRED.

Should a change be made to the CAD model, then the same changes are automatically uploaded to the visual artists data model within VRED.

It seems to make sense to work in this way, however, for the time being it is limited to TeamCenter and VRED software.

Online issues

As modern media continues to go digital, motoring brands are seeking new ways to put across visual marketing.

The best examples of this came from Volkswagen (represented by its in-house design agency Bilderfabrik) and Skoda Auto, which both produce online 3D car configurators as sales and marketing tools for their respective companies.

By displaying all possible visual outcomes, from wheel trims to seat trims in a single 3D model, all parts have to instantly render and look great without any touch-up work or Photoshop.

Skoda explained how it has turned to using an online rendering configurator – Web 3DCC - developed with PI-VR, which it uses in 9 countries to support its configurator’s 7,187,131 pre-rendered images.

Images are created using VRED Pro, but it then implements four of PI-VR’s VServeR render clusters to run its online and offline rendering, and also for testing and developing 3D models.

The VServeR was displayed with slightly more traditional uses by another in house design team, Giugiaro, this time for Audi.

Giugiaro explained how expansion into the Chinese market means it uses VServeR as a solution for visual conference calls to connect its global design teams.

With one end of the call driving the software, everyone across Audi’s design network has live input to make real time changes to projects.

Next generation

VRED 6.5 was announced at the event, which seemed to offer a solution to many of the industry issues highlighted by the various speakers.

PI-VR CEO Matthias Stiller announced the introduction of a new CAD conversion engine to allow greater compatibility with VRED, while the rendering engine has been made nearly 30 per cent faster.

He further announced an improved user interface, which should help bring all this together, while streaming for mobile browsers will also be integrated.

Conference calling is to be upgraded to allow any party to drive the software, while support for cluster rendering is also improved; with enhanced speed promised and the creation of a failsafe should one element of the cluster stop working.

Spectral colour-range rendering will be added to the next release, meaning more ‘real’ lighting, especially for car interiors where LED lighting is prevalent.

Similarly, support for paint lacquer measurement tools allows for physically accurate exterior paint colours, including pearlescent and flip colour jobs.

The event was heavily automotive focussed, but it’s easy to see how these changes will affect the workflow of visual artists in all industries.

Visualisation now has a much more expansive role to play in the product lifecycle, and it was exciting to see an industry being so technically forward thinking while surrounded by so much of its heritage.

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