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CG Tech Renders Autos Obsolete

Television commercials are designed to grab our attention – to motivate us to take some action, based on the emotion created. As such, national TV spots are often expensive (as in millions of dollars for a 30 second spot), and in some cases risky, too. Thanks to some new automotive technology, at least one part of the formula is about to change.

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A British firm, Burrows (www.burrows.info) is using computer technology from ARTVPS that changes the landscape for car commercials – literally. ARTVPS is applied to CG automobiles and along with the use of appropriate shaders, creates realistic reflections, shine, gloss, matte, and other “material” images. Most importantly, the technology will work in a 360-degree “stage” and apply real imagery to a CG auto, truck, or SUV. Let’s say the same thing again in English: Now, you can shoot a city street at sundown and add the car later in the studio. Yup, no car on the set, no need to keep it clean, positioned, etc. It’s the perfect example of, “we’ll fix it in post.”
In earlier CG commercial applications, an engineer/designer would have to spend extensive time working with 3D light sources, virtual cameras, etc., to get a CG vehicle to look “semi-realistic” on a TV screen. Now, using HDRI-based light, it’s literally a snap. A scanning camera is used (typically one from Spheron). It captures a true 360 x 180-degree spherical scan of the location and each scan and each pixel records a range of 26 f-stops of brightness. As such, all of the detail of a scene is captured and can be used for appropriate application to the CG model.

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Brian Tyler, CEO of ARTVPS says the combination of light and HDRI visualization will fundamentally change how commercials are made. “Photographers and art directors can still go on shoots, but they don’t need to take a vehicle,” he says. “There will always be a need to shoot cars, but companies are seeing what can be done with 3D visualization in engineering and want to know why this can’t be applied to marketing applications. Well, now it can.”
Burrows works with the Premier Auto Group at Ford, including Volvo and Jaguar, as well as Ford itself. The imagery created is amazing – even a close up shot of a multi-faceted headlamp or a Jaguar hood ornament reveal realism that cannot be distinguished from the real thing.
The next step is to apply the technology to motion shots – and Burrows, ARTVPS, and several other companies are busy working out the kinks, creating visuals with challenging components, such as wet streets, puddles and mud (often used in truck commercials).
Now that all automobiles are designed using computers, the ability to quickly and easily implement the ARTVPS technology for marketing purposes is relatively easy – certainly simpler than the logistics of moving a series of vehicles into a major city and blocking streets for a shoot. As for cost, it’s still expensive. The Spheron HDR camera costs bout $60,000. The render drives used (and Burrows uses 20) cost $13 grand each. Still, it’s less expensive than many auto shoots – and the director and designer have complete control over everything, from color of the vehicle, to the reflections in the rear-view mirrors. No doubt the game industry is banging on these companies doors as well, eager to make the most realistic driving sims possible.

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