21 Feb 2014

Why a 3D Model makes great business sense..

Comments Off 3D, iPad


IKEA the Swedish furniture giant, has for decades spent more than two-thirds of its annual marketing budget on purpose built studios for photo shoots. In 2005 the company began to experiment with 3D Rendering and that year a single image of a chair which was created digitally was included in their catalogue.  Last year 12% of IKEA’s total image content for the Web, catalog and brochures were rendered virtually; that number will increase to 25% this year. They no longer have to throw away kitchens instead, entire ranges of bathrooms, bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens are rendered on a computer. 3D software allows them to adjust the colour of a cabinet for different regions without  having to physically repaint the unit.  Images can be produced far quicker and more cost effectively.

In our 10 years or more of developing websites, reservations systems and digital marketing campaigns for the tourism and hospitality sectors we saw first hand how much effort goes into photography. Shoots are planned weeks or months in advance and require extensive preparation on the client side.  We began to experiment with 3D Rendering technologies to see if we could, like IKEA, produce an image which would be of sufficient quality for a client to use it in their sales & marketing campaigns. Up to now 3D was used primarily in the construction and manufacturing sectors, to show what something could look like before it was created.  We felt these images always had a certain computer generated look to them and would never be compared to a high quality professional photograph. 3D was rarely used by businesses whose product was already operational  and generally booked out.

The process starts with a 3D Model whether it is of a single room, entire floor or building.  Once the Model has been created to scale and to rendered to match it is a valuable asset. Shots can be produced from from any angle, height, distance, rotation and light setting.  Elements can be added, removed, enhanced and adjusted over and over.

Since 2011 we have invested in developing this capability to the point where today we are producing floorplans, visuals and videos which clients have difficulty distinguishing from the real thing.  Our 3D Visuals and Videos are so realistic that clients are shocked when we tell them they can be produced without setting foot inside their business. This means no downtime for their room, no set-up or preparation and total flexibility when it comes to changes.

This is why a 3D is an absolute must.

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28 Aug 2013

How We Use BOXX To Take Our Services To The Next Dimension

Comments Off 3D, Tech News

We did a cool interview with BOXX Technologies, makers of the World’s Fastest Workstations, about how we use their powerful machines to output our 3D products. Read on:

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Visrez, a digital marketing agency based in Dublin, Ireland, specializes in the travel & tourism industries, building apps and providing digital marketing services on behalf of clients ranging from small businesses to multinational brands.

Founded in 2005, the agency works with over one hundred clients across Europe. To give us a take on their BOXX experience, Visrez director Nicky Morrogh recently spoke with BOXX senior copywriter and video producer John Vondrak.

1. Which BOXX system do you use?

3DBOXX 4050 XTREME.*

2. Within the travel and tourism industries, what types of projects is Visrez involved with?

We build iPad apps, websites, and run digital marketing campaigns on behalf of hotels, conference & event venues which generate millions in direct annual revenue for our clients. I’d prefer not to mention names, but you can find case studies on our website which feature client details. One of the areas we felt was traditionally overlooked was adequate floor plans for hotels, venues, and conference centre clients. These plans were usually one dimensional, along with a capacity table saved as a PDF for download on a clients’ site. In 2011, we began to experiment with 3D floor plans and photorealistic room renders by taking client floor plans and photographs and creating 3D room models and interactive capacity charts. The feedback from our early efforts was positive, so we soon began offering it as a service to other clients. Within a few months, we were experimenting with 3D animation—using a floor plan and photographs in order to create a video walkthrough.

3. Take us through your creative process, i.e., the steps involved in a typical project.

After we receive images and plans, we create a 3D model of the room, matching it in terms of texturing, lighting, furniture and fittings. When we’re happy with our sample render, we submit it to the client for feedback. Once they give us the green light, we set up the animation render and then handle the postproduction in Adobe® After Effects® to finish out the project.

4. What are some of the major challenges involved in this process?

The biggest challenge for us is producing high quality, photorealistic 3D content at an affordable price. Right now, for the majority of our clients, 3D is considered a “nice to have” option rather than a “must have,” so we pitch our costs at a level which makes them attractive for clients but still works for us.

5. You obviously consider 3D floor plans a “must have” option. If I were one of your clients, tell me why I need 3D rendered images and animation—what are the benefits?

We are not selling the 3D on its own—it is delivered within a custom built iPad sales app for the client. The most effective method of selling such a product is to allow the client to see it for themselves, download an app, and play around with it. This moves the process along quicker than any other sales tactic. No one likes to be sold anymore, so you have to let people discover your product for themselves and then they get in contact. Traditionally, I think the cost of 3D was too high for consideration in an annual marketing budget, but as these costs come down and the quality improves, it starts to make sense. Anyone who uses one of our apps or sees a 3D video online says, “Wow, these are great! We love them, but I bet they cost a fortune.” We’ve heard this many times and have learned that the more expensive we quote, the longer it takes for a decision—increasing the chances of it not going ahead. Selling online makes it even harder because inquiries come and go much faster since you are not meeting prospects face to face. However, there is no doubt that in a few years, clients will be comfortable with ordering such a service online.

6. Describe your production workflow and the software applications you rely on.

To produce a floor plan or animation, we use Autodesk® 3ds Max®, and VRay® render. Here the BOXX workstation is central to our workflow. We also use Adobe® Photoshop® or After Effects, Creative Suite for video. Once we are happy with the final image, it goes to the client for feedback. Once they’re happy, it gets integrated into their preferred format, whether it be an app or a website.

7. You mentioned your BOXX workstation. Prior to this system, what type of workstation were you using?

Before BOXX, our system (and we still use it as second PC) was an Intel® Core™ i7 first generation 920-based workstation that we built, buying the parts separately and assembling it ourselves.

8. So how did you become aware of BOXX?

A little bit of research—spoke to some contacts in the industry. Most of them said that if we need a quality render workstation with a good balance between render power and price, we needed to consider BOXX. We looked at all the main hardware makers, but felt we neededsomething more specialized.

9. And why did you go with BOXX, instead of building another DIY workstation?

We felt that our time would be better spent getting our modeling skills up to scratch rather than spending time building machines. We chose BOXX because of the support and warranty. (BOXX sales consultant) Rich Petit was extremely helpful. Our call wasn’t transferred offshore to a call center and we liked the fact that we were immediately speaking to someone who knew more about 3D than we did. It is nice to know you have that back-up when you are getting into a new area.

10. Describe the experience of working on your BOXX system.

The 3DBOXX XTREME provides us more speed and flexibility within our workflow. We outsourced our first couple of test animations to a render farm in China. It’s something we would not recommend for commercial projects, but as a way of getting started, it worked. Once we got our first order, we knew we had to invest in our own in house rendering capability or there was no way the project would be finished. Having our own in house rendering capability has allowed us to constantly experiment, improve, and tweak our projects. We can agree deadlines and make multiple changes and revisions without any additional costs.

11. Discuss the future of your work and how you see BOXX as being part of that future.

We see great opportunities for using D in the production of images and videos for marketing campaigns. For example, the planning and costs involved in setting up a large venue for a photo shoot are significant in terms of staffing and photography costs. By creating video and image assets digitally, we are streamlining this process and locations are not an issue. We can provide the same services to clients globally without the need to travel to each destination. In the future, clients may order such a service online and we would like to be the ones providing it.

As we continue to develop, our plan is to expand our 3D facility and there is no question we will stick with BOXX. As we expand our services, we are particularly interested in the renderPRO and renderBOXX solutions.

To learn more about 3DBOXX 4150 XTREME: http://boxxtech.com/Products/3dboxx-4150-xtreme-workstation
To learn more about BOXX rendering solutions visit: http://boxxtech.com/simulation-rendering-solutions

Editors note: The 3DBOXX 4050 XTREME referenced in this interview has now been replaced by the new 3DBOXX 4150 XTREME, a compact, liquid-cooled, workstation featuring overclocked fourth generation (Haswell) Intel® processor technology (4.3 GHz) and a new space-saving chassis design (32% smaller than the previous model 3DBOXX 4050 XT).

26 Jul 2013

Tips & Tricks to Get Around Rate Parity Agreements

Comments Off Marketing, Travel

The hotel industry might be the only sector where one of the strongest sources of business is also a major competitor.

Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) such as Expedia and Travelocity enable hotels to fill rooms that might have otherwise stayed empty, but they could also potentially be stealing business. These websites have become such a destination that many customers exclusively use this channel when they travel.

This is likely the result of customers assuming the OTA will always have the better deal (rate parity clauses in OTA agreements forbid hotels from advertising the same room for less elsewhere). Read more

12 Jun 2013

3D Renders or Real Photography

Comments Off 3D, iPad, Marketing

As a Digital Agency with extensive experience in the Travel sector we have worked with some excellent photographers who have produced stunning imagery for our clients websites, apps and online campaigns.  Getting clients to pay for the high-quality photography is not that simple.  The best photographers are booked up well in advance and the logistics of setting up a large venue for a photo-shoot requires time and planning on the client side.

Now if you think it is difficult to arrange a single photo shoot imagine the process on a truly enormous scale.  IKEA the Swedish furniture giant, has for decades spent more than two-thirds of its marketing budget on purpose built structures for producing images in its’ catalogs.   In a giant warehouse they would build exact replicas of each kitchen, living room or dining room in every style and colour combination available. Once photographed these rooms would be broken up and thrown out.  IKEA began experimenting with 3D Rendering in 2005 and last year 12% of IKEA’s images  for the Web, catalog and brochures were rendered in 3D. this will increase to 25% this year.  They don’t have to throw away kitchens anymore . Entire rooms—spanning kitchens to bathrooms to porches—are mocked up and created on a computer screen without the help of a single camera.  This allows them to adjust the colours  for different target markets to match the local tastes.

This is the real advantage of 3D as it allows the creator to update the image again and again once the room model has been built. In the example above if the client changes flooring or furniture they just take a photo with their smartphone and send it to us and we can update the item within the 3D model.

A few years ago we began to experiment with 3D technology to see whether we could create images for client campaigns in-house.  Progress was slow as we began to understand the process of 3D image rendering.  Once we had got our modelling skills up to a reasonable level we invested in professional hardware which allowed us to render files much faster than standard desktops.  A few months later our team were creating 3D images which clients did not believe were digitally created and not the real thing.  We took on more and more complex rooms to develop our skills.  Today our 3D Images are used in print, online and mobile marketing campaigns by a wide range of clients.  So can you tell which of these images are Real and which are 3D ?

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3D Render of the Spa at the Marker Hotel Dublin.

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3D Render of the Marker Hotel Dublin

 

Andrew Bradley

Photo by Andrew Bradley

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Photo by Andrew Bradley

 

Powerscourt Estate

3D Render of Powerscourt Estate

26 Nov 2012

Google Integrate Their ‘Hotel Finder’ Into Search Results

2 Comments Marketing, SEO

It has finally happened. Google have moved their ‘Hotel Finder’, previously only found at www.google.ie/hotels into the search engine results page (SERP) in what will prove to be yet another headache for hotels.

It had been long anticipated that Google would start to move more proactively into this space, and since their announcement of a Hotel Finder in July 2011, it has simply been a matter of when, and not if, the product would be moved into the SERPs. This move will increase Google’s user base and it’s potential as a hotel booking originator significantly.

Below is a screenshot of a search for ‘Dublin Hotels’ – Click image to view larger format:

Google Hotel Finder Search Results

Google Hotel Finder

So what this basically means is that any organic search engine traffic now appears well below the fold, meaning you have to pay a premium to appear in the top place results…a premium that is absolutely unsustainable for any hotel aiming to pursue premium keywords.

In a nutshell, Google has figured out a way to generate incremental revenues from the search engine results real estate it provided for free in the past, such as Google Places, Google Maps, etc.

Who Are The Winners From The New Google Hotel Finder?

Read more