Thomas Burke & Others (TB&O) straddles the line of photography and CGI, using both to tell the stories brands haven’t thought of until TB&O shows them what’s possible. One of their latest projects is the Apollo twin for Universal Audio. You may have seen the product images, and most would say they’re great product shots. They are, but what many don’t realize is what goes into it all, and even more, how it changes and affects their future products and business. We wanted to find out more. Mike James, Principal at TB&O, tells us how they approached the visuals for the Apollo twin and how KeyShot helped.
How do you approach the project/decide on the visuals to produce?
For most of our clients, we have pre-determined viewpoints and lighting. So, for a traditional shoot, there will generally be three to seven shots that show all sides and features of the product.
Each time the client brings us a new product, we match what we’ve done before. That’s traditional photography. The benefit of working with KeyShot is that we can work interactively with the client to refine the viewpoints. Product imagery is subjective, so subtle changes make a difference to the client. Clients feel empowered when they can sit with us and dial in the exact viewpoint. They’re always surprised when we show them that we can change the lens from say 35mm to 39mm for example. This is just a small example of how the process in KeyShot is an eye-opener for the client. We love that working with us in KeyShot gets them even more involved in the creative process.
For the Universal Audio Apollo Twin project we knew we wanted to create imagery that could be used for packaging, in print ads and on the web. Additionally, we wanted to have images of various color ways; we wanted to produce a more dramatic shot using a wide angle lens and a dark background and dramatic lighting; and, we wanted a short “turntable” video. The client wanted the turntable video to be more interesting than just a 360 degree spin. They wanted the LED lights to move to music and they want to stop momentarily on the back of the unit. Obviously, it had to be well lit throughout the video.
When we were done with the animation for the video it was easy to show them how those frames could be repurposed into what we call an Inter•act experience–essentially a curated KeyShot VR. Bringing that to a client meeting and showing it first on an iPhone, then on an iPad and finally on our MacBook Pro created some real excitement. It got everyone thinking about how they could use that on the web to differentiate themselves and have viewers spend more time with the project.
How did KeyShot help with the Apollo twin project?
KeyShot was the linchpin in this project. We envisioned doing all of the images in KeyShot. There were some potential challenges. The contextual shot needed props and we had to acquire models of those. The whole idea was to take a product that has a lifecycle of say five years and create a computer model that could be updated as the product was updated. If the client makes an investment in getting the model right initially and getting the materials created, then there is a limitless amount of “quickie” images we can create for social or trade show needs. Really the benefit of KeyShot is letting us work fast and efficiently to iterate.
How have customer’s reactions changed to the visuals you’re able to produce over the years?
When we first started showing KeyShot renders to clients, our work began to approach photo-real. But, it wasn’t indistinguishable from images we’d shoot and work up in post using traditional methods. We knew we had to get better if we wanted our clients to accept CGI as an alternative.
Our advantage, being photographers, is that we really understand light and we understand how to position products and choose lens. Our post team knows how to take what comes out of the camera and make it sing. That said, we knew we had to get really good at material finishes. The combination of how we build our materials and how we create our lighting environments is what sets us apart and makes our discerning clients accept our CGI as photo-real. For us, the KeyShot Material Graph made a huge difference in how we approached creating material finishes. Every material we use is custom; it has to be. But, when we get it dialed in, it goes into our library and we can reuse it or at least use it as a starting point. Workflow-wise we have sub-libraries for each client.
Was this project a turning point in your CGI efforts?
It represents a major milestone for sure. With this project we demonstrated the essence of what you can do in KeyShot when you have a CAD model from a client. The Apollo Twin Mark II just launched and we’ve updated the imagery to reflect the changes to the new product. Obviously, there is a whole lot more we could do, for example, cut aways and looking inside the product. We can tackle those things fairly easily now when the need arises. But, this project is a nice example of how we can create all the needed imagery soup-to-nuts. I’m not sure where that expression originated, or what it even means. But, this project has everything but the kitchen sink.