18.09.20
By Lautaro Vogel

We’re a company that imagines the impossible, but we couldn’t have imagined the events of the last few months.

Restrictions were implemented, daily routines altered and working practices changed over night.

But with these changes, came a positive shift within property + place. We’ve noticed brands, companies and clients embracing new ways of working, designing and imagining futuristic spaces and places and needing alternative ways to showcase them.

Thinking outside of the box isn’t unusual for us. We’ve always pushed our client’s boundaries - we’re known for always questioning if and how we can create better content, projects or experiences for our clients and their customers.

But, if we’re always challenging our client’s thinking re. projects, we’ve got to constantly question ourselves and our practices too.

 

 

Below, I'm sharing five ways in which we've been exploring and experimenting with new technology, software and tools:

1. In the last year or so, we have been exploring great tools such as Lavina by Chaos Group, Layama by MotivaCG and UE4 by Epic Games - some of which have already become an important part of the services we provide - immersive and real-time experiences of the spaces our clients imagine and design.

 

We have been testing the possibilities that game engines such as Unreal Engine 4 offer. Here, we have used GPU lightmass to improve light-baking times as well as the real-time ray-tracing features of the latest RTX graphic cards from NVidia.

 

 

2. Layama by Motiva CG allows us to create “explorable scenes”, which are a series of pre-rendered 360 degree images that the users can navigate as if they were walking through a space. 

The advantages of this tool over a real-time solution are that we can easily convert any project from “still” to “explorable” whilst maintaining the superior quality of off-line renderers such as VRay or Corona, and the added bonus of being able to access the explorable scene from any device regardless of its processing power. 

The only downside is the rendering power needed as we are talking of dozens of 12K+ high-quality images that need to be produced for every space, but luckily for us this issue is becoming less and less important as software and hardware evolves - plus we have our own dedicated in-house render farm at Uniform.

 

 

3. We've increased our use of WebGL technology. A lot of optimisation is needed for data such as geometry and textures, but it also means it can run on almost any device.

Here, you can see a fully interactive webGL model of Greenwich Peninsula allowing viewers to explore the masterplan and get an understanding of the characteristics of the different districts being created, through embedded 360 imagery.

 

 

4. For some of our challenging (and secret!) animation projects we've used our full suite of high-end software, hardware and workflows. 

In this behind the scenes image, the mountains and landscape were created in Houdini and have a layer of satellital image-driven terrain generation + some procedurally generated shapes and assets on top. 

We used Itoo’s Forest Pack to distribute an insane number of trees, bushes, rocks and other landscape elements around, and RailClone to procedurally generate some structures that are also easier to update.

Crowds were created and animated with Anima by AXYZ Design, who we also collaborated with earlier this year when beta-testing their amazing brand new 4D models.  

We used Chaos Group Phoenix FD to more naturally simulate the river flowing through the wadi and some fountains in-between the buildings.

There are also rigged animals and cars in the scene, and some Particle Flow generated birds. 

Some of the distributed vegetation proxies were procedurally created and animated with the help of GrowFX by Exevel.

The whole scene was created in Autodesk’s 3ds Max and rendered with VRay. We can’t show the end result because of the NDA but hopefully we will be able to do so soon! 

 

 

5. We've implemented Pulze's Scene Manager tool into our production pipeline. This allows us to quickly create concepts for our projects, as well manage large, complicated assets and scenes with many different combinations of look, lighting, viewpoints, output formats and resolution, in an easy and straightforward way.

Check the video to know more.

 

 

A very important part of reviewing our pipeline and testing new software and technology is having a close relationship with the developers behind them, as it ensures a bridge for constant feedback and support, and allows us to make these tools work the way we need them to as much as possible. 

As you can see, all of the points above are highly dynamic and ever-evolving processes that we pay a lot of attention to. Mastering them is a form of art in itself and a very essential skill for any company that wants to keep pushing the boundaries and offering their clients the chance to stay ahead of their competitors.

Psst, we are always on the lookout for mutual-gain collaborations with software and hardware developers behind exciting and ground-breaking tools so if you are one please drop us a line!

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