Article by: Melissa Tokoryama
In Hollywood, a project gets Green Lighted. In VIP aviation, it's usually just a nod or a smile from your customer - followed by a call from their contracts people a few days later. But however it happens, in every case, a lot of talent, finesse and very careful attention to detail precedes the victory. In this article, we're going to look at what 'getting the yes' means to an array of critical resources - from Designers to Visualization Groups to Customer Guidance consultants and others.
THE MARVELOUS EVOLUTION OF DIGITAL RENDERINGS & ANIMATION
Every designer on the planet wakes up and goes to bed thinking about one thing. “How do I get the YES?. . . how do I get my customer to pick up that pen and sign off on my presentation? It’s the good dream, the bad dream, that neuroses, the excitement, the anticipation, the occupation of thought . . .and last but not least, the end game; the mountaintop from which everything else flows downhill. It is that exalted moment when the cocktail taste just a little sweeter, when the sky seems a little bluer and when that long airplane ride back home feels like a chariot passing you through the gates of victory. Oh sure you have to be talented enough to create an amazing design, poised enough to narrate your presentation to a billionaire who’s only got one hour to see you. And of course, your confidence in the notion that you’ve captured the design brief precisely and that your one Armani suit or Christian Dior dress hasn’t a single spec of lint on it. But trust me, you show up with lackluster renderings and there ain’t gonna be no chariot...and the cocktail(s) are suddenly going to become your pain killers!
The 'after moment' of the yes!
At the end of the day, it’s the images (or animation) you put in front of your client that are going to spell your success or demise; period. In decades gone by, much of what we put in front of clients were well executed renderings that captured our concepts in “reasonably” definitive terms. If we were lucky they responded well to the big hard-mounted, hand-illustrated original renderings we displayed on easels. And from there we relied on the customer being able to connect the dots - looking back and forth between the renderings and material boards we laid out on tables. But whatever you brought and however skillfully you delivered your presentation, there was still always an element of subjectivity imposed on your client. Either they got it...or they didn’t and if they didn’t, it began the arduous game of revision and re-presentation; an uncertainty in both yourself and the client over what it was that didn’t resonate or that had simply required too much guesswork.
Every detail unfolds with an unencumbered clarity that requires little or no verbal explanation. Today’s 3-D digital renderings and animations are to designers what the lightsaber was to Luke Skywalker - the ultimate weapon in skillfully bringing your customer to the yes, and have them asking as you leave….”Say, do you think you could help us with our yacht?”
The above animation of an Airbus A350, was created internally by the Lufthansa Technik design team in Hamburg, Germany - a stellar example of the hyper-realism attainable with today's rendering softwares and in the capable hands of the rendering studios that employ them.
In this piece we’re going to do something we haven’t done before. Instead of focusing on a single designer or animation group, we’re going to tell this remarkable story from multiple perspectives by allowing seven separate companies to unfold both the drivers and the advancements that have marked the evolution of this technology - and changed the entire game of getting the YES!
DESIGN PERSPECTIVE 1: Jean-Pierre Alfano; Airjet Designs (Toulouse, France)
All aircraft interior designers have one paramount objective once they’ve been hired: Capture your customer’s vision in every detail, get his or her sign-off and get it into completion. This more than anything is the single biggest driver to every project. It has to be done precisely, finessfully and expeditiously. Once a completion contract has been signed, everyone involved is looking to the designer to capture the design, bring it through PDR / CDR and get it into build. And it all has to occur within a timeframe that will redeliver the aircraft to the customer within the completion center’s contracted delivery schedule.
One of the absolute keys to accomplishing this is the rendering and/or animation package you put in front of the customer. If it’s done right and at the highest levels – then chances are, your customer is going react very well, and if you’re lucky perhaps even give his or her full approval during the initial design review.
Below is a very simple but highly effective set of tenets that Jean-Pierre Alfano and his team employ on each new project.
My personal experience on the subject is that “getting the yes” is the result of a process and attitude towards Clients that starts at the very beginning of the relationship.
It is firstly important to build trust and demonstrate our knowledge and expertise at the very start of the design process by showing Clients:
-We do know what we are designing (not as obvious as it seems),
-We have listened carefully to their initial brief and wishes,
-We have answered questions with clear answers.
When we do that, most often the YES comes quite naturally by the end of a design presentation.
- Jean-Pierre Alfano
For more on Jean-Pierre Alfano & AIRJET Design, visit: airjet-designs.com
CUSTOMER GUIDANCE PERSPECTIVE: Thomas Chatfield - Camber Aviation Management (Vancouver, BC)
Each client has their own unique vision of their perfect aircraft. If they close their eyes, they can see it. Our challenge is to have them describe it, to articulate not only their ideas, but their intentions – where do they wish to travel and what do they wish to experience. Is it is strictly business, pleasure or a combination of the two? We leverage the sensitivity and experience to ask the right questions long before the selected designer can begin to design and render. If we, collectively understand the vision, then the design, the engineering, outfitting, artisans etc., then our completion management team can work closely with the center to perfectly transform vision into reality.
A simple example of asking the right questions usually includes whether or not the aircraft will ever be used for charter. Why? Because the differences, in terms of design, can be quite substantial. Aircraft designed solely for private use have much more room for artistic freedom, while still meeting certification rules. This is just an example but there are many such questions that we ask our clients in order to fully understand their vision - from every angle. This, more than anything, gives the customer the feeling of confidence that we know what we're doing and will actually bring substantive benefit to their project. And that confidence, for us at least, is what brings the yes!
I also must admit that photorealistic renderings do indeed now play a key role in a designer’s presentation to the client - not only for new-build aircraft, but also for complex cabin reconfigurations of pre-owned aircraft. A client wants to see what is possible before committing to the purchase. In the case of a pre-owned aircraft, being able to look beyond the current layout and the perhaps worn interior - is essential. And a photorealistic set of rendering will always convey that - Indeed perhaps the most essential element in deciding whether or not to move forward on the proposed design, or some variant thereof.
The renderings (or animation) must also be very close to the final delivered product, meaning the proposed design is technically realistic - that is to say has taken into account certification and engineering constraints. This is critically important in avoiding client disappointments further on in the engineering and completion phases.
For more on Camber Aviation Management, visit at: camberaviationmanagement.com
THE SOFTWARE PERSPECTIVE : Michael Kopecky – Lumiscaphe
On the software side, there are many players – companies that develop highly advanced software to meet the demanding needs of aerospace and automotive designers. Lumiscaphe is one such advanced firm. Operating out of Bordeaux France (with subsidiaries in China, Germany, Japan and the United States) Lumiscaphe is a software editor and technology provider for real-time visualization solutions (online/offline configurators, interactive animations, immersive experiences). Their core element is Patchwork 3D that enables users to sharply enhance their existing 3D CAD data with light-maps, materials, configurations and animations. That content then can be viewed in a complete set of visualization solutions like mobile apps, tablets, HMDs, powerwalls, CAVE-systems.
JCF caught up with Michael Kopecky, the company’s marketing director. “Aerospace that accounts for much of our business” he says. Kopecki is an effervescent spokesman for the company and his excitement immediately rings through. “We are elated over the strides Lumiscaphe has made and the sharp benefit it’s now bringing to our customers”. In speaking with him, he explained the reasons why. Users are typically designers (color and trim departments, design reviews) and marketing organizations (sales support, exhibition content, showrooms), where product visualization is an important element of their everyday job. Real-time rendering (or real-time visualization) becomes even a strategic key element where the instant generation of pictures is mandatory, either due to the high number of pictures to be generated (videos), the high combinatory of possibilities (configurators) or the impossibility to predict a user’s behavior in a scene (immersive worlds).
“Lumiscpahe does not take the place of or otherwise necessarily compete with software companies like Catia (on the engineering side) or Rhino or Studio Max on the visualization side” Kopecky explains. Lumiscaphe’s unique specialty is in “real time” interactive visualization of rendered environments. As an example, Michael explained that aircraft OEM’s are in fact one of their primary customer segments. To pose an example, let’s say Airbus wants to roll out a new corporate aircraft and in doing so, need to show customers various configurations possible within the newly developed cabin. Airbus’s designers will create the configuration options; the seats, the bulkheads, the monuments etc – then will employ our help in converting these options into a real-time fully interactive presentation that can easily be warehoused on Airbus’s site or anywhere on line – thereby accessible to its customers via granted access. Once there, the customers can simply select the cabin, select one of several configurations, change the color or configuration of the seats, the wood colors throughout, the accent plating and almost anything else in making decisions about whether the aircraft and its cabin fit their needs. And it’s all done real-time by simply making simple menu selections.
And the same of course holds true for Lumiscaphe’s VVIP and Head of State design customers. As all designers know, getting face time with your customer is a precious commodity and so it’s critical that when you present, you have all bases covered. Lumiscpahe and other companies like them provide an incredibly efficient means of presenting it’s customer’s designs to the end user at levels that are first and foremost photo-realistic in every respect – in fact completely indiscernible from reality; but more importantly in a format that supports instant reaction to your customer when he asks “Can I see the leather in blue instead of beige or can we change this piece of artwork to the other side?”
All of this is not only possible but is rapidly becoming the new paradigm for presentations to VVIP and Head of State customers where missing something the first time around might mean waiting another month or longer in getting another audience with the customer. Lumiscaphe’s software will also allow designers the ability to get on line with a group of vendors and engineers real time – wherein monuments, seating and other planned design elements can be moved around in real-time allowing DERs, engineering heads, vendors and other critical factions to weigh in “simultaneously” on the placement of specific components – so that it meets all certification and engineering concerns.
Suffice to say, rendering and animation software play a key role in the ongoing advancement of 3-D presentations and how they can more effectively convey designs to customers.
To learn more on Lumiscaphe, visit: lumiscaphe.com/fr
DESIGN PERSPECTIVE 2 : Mauricio Cabal - Mauricio Cabal Design Studio
For our third perspective, JCF was lucky enough to catch up with Mauricio Cabal (Mauricio Cabal Design Studio) out of Parkland, Florida. Mauricio as with most successful designers, has a very keen eye which is the primary asset all designers carry to the table in bringing their customer’s dreams and stylistic vision to life. But one thing I found of interest in interviewing Mr. Cabal was just how much of his keen eye is spent on directing and refining the rendering process. According to him,”Ultimately there simply is no more important part of the process. The idea is to capture every detail in an entirely natural, photo-realistic setting that places my customer IN his finished aircraft. When I can do that” says Cabal, “then I have done the biggest part of my job - and from my customer’s perspective the paramount part of what I was hired for.
When asked if Maricio Cabal Designs produces renderings in house, his answer was quick and emphatic: “No”, he says. “I have learned over time that for us, it is better to rely on professional rendering studios whose sole professional enterprise is this kind of work.” I was curious why Cabel’s answer was so resolute and pressed the point a bit. “Well it’s not because we couldn’t produce our own renderings” he admits. “It’s about leveraging the pinnacle of the art, the very best of the best in aircraft interior renderings and I just don’t think any small design studio can reach that level producing renderings every so often. There is a very clear and sharply elevated difference in the renderings I normally see that are produced in house vs. what our preferred supplier provides. We use 3-D Visualization Studio (J.P. Magnano), claims Cabal, “also here in Florida. First of all” says Cabal, “their studio has a strong focus on private aircraft renderings which means they understand the uniquenesses and nuance of aircraft going in; which is no small advantage. And secondly they have invested a lot over the years in state of the art programs and extremely well-tenured artists to produce the renderings.” According to Mr. Cabal, this elevated difference represents perhaps a 15-20% quality edge over anything we could produce in house. And that he claims is precisely the edge that wins the day when you walk into a design review - the precise edge you never want to be without in front of a client.
“I usually take three to four thorough reviews with Mr Magnano, claims Cabal in finalizing a set of renderings. It’s all about getting the details, the lighting and the scene settings perfect - nothing out of place and no inconsistencies in quality. And in that regard, J.P. and his studio completely understand what we’re going for and fully embrace this refinement process. In short final output renderings are incredible and if my client wants to see a small detail on a cabinet ledge, I can zoom in to within a few inches and still have perfect resolution! That level of presentation provides a lot of confidence.
Mr. Cabal and his firm undoubtedly place a very high value on the rendering process and have discovered what best works for them. Sounds like Mauricio Cabal studios has a rather refined philosophy on the importance of renderings and it seems to have transposed itself to some happy clients.seats, the bulkheads and monuments etc – then will employ our help in converting these options into a real-time fully interactive presentation that can easily be warehoused on Airbus’s site or anywhere on line – thereby accessible to its customers via granted access. Once there, the customers can simply select the cabin, select one of several configurations, change the color or configuration of the seats, the wood colors throughout, the accent plating and almost anything else in making decisions about whether the aircraft and its cabin fit their needs. And it’s all done real-time by simply making simple menu selections.
For more on Mauricio Cabal Design Studio: http://cabaldesign.com/
THE COMPLETION CENTER DESIGN PERSPECTIVE: Greenpoint Technologies, Everett, WA
Greenpoint Technologies is a major completion center in Everett, WA - specializing in VVIP and Head of State narrow and wide-body completions. In speaking with Greenpoint’s senior illustrator, Shawn Bomers, we found out that Greenpoint produces all 3D and fly-through artistic renderings in house. “Our Design Team is made of senior illustrators/3D artists, drafters and interior designers,” says Bomers. The Greenpoint Design Team works closely with engineering to produce authentic, photo-realistic renders per the client specifications and designed elevations.
“Accuracy is our primary goal” he says. “We mandate that the artistic visualization must be as close to the actual product as possible. The final interior should not be a surprise, and we take pride in providing our clients with photo-realistic renders that fully reflect the end result”.
Emotions are another important aspect of what goes into Greenpoint’s digital rendering according to Bomers. In addition to providing their clients with an accurate representation of their final interior, Greenpoint seeks to ensure the design captures the excitement and enthusiasm of their vision - an aspect that goes beyond merely an accurate rendering. “Soliciting an emotional response to the creation of one’s aircraft interior,” claims Bomers, “not only confirms the design elements selected, it fosters a creative energy that allows us to better understand our client’s desires. If the rendering doesn’t elicit a positive response, we alter and adapt methodologies to capture the desired outcome. This may include adjustments in lighting, color scheme, amenities, tone, etc.”
“Our ultimate goal” claims Mr. Bomers, “is to avoid unexpected surprises for the customer during the design and completion process. We focus on accuracy from the start when building our 3D environments. Building these assets in house benefits our clients by increasing our response rate when the design, engineering or perhaps an elevation changes.”
On the subject of animations, Mr Bomers explains that historically, animation fly-thrus are produced once the interior layout and design are approved, for example after CDR. This offers Greenpoint the opportunity to demonstrate the artistic vision of the final interior in real terms; as if the customer was actually walking through the aircraft. “With the advancements of technology”, he explains “we have been experimenting with use of interactive node based panoramic, virtual reality and augmented reality. We continue to explore interactive and innovative methods of showcasing our work, but with consideration of cost and return on investment.”
Clearly Greenpoint has a process that works for them - and demonstrates yet again the diversity in approach when it comes to digital renderings across the industry.
THE RENDERING STUDIO PERSPECTIVE: 3-D Visualization Services, Miami, FL
For our final perspective, we come to perhaps the most well-known visualization studio serving aviation; 3-D Visualization Services (a.k.a. 3D Viz) in Miami, FL. We talked with the company’s founder and director, J.P. Magnano for a few insights on how and why their customers use them in constructing high-level presentations and marketing media.
My first question to Mr. Magnano was why - in a world where even relatively small companies can have their own internal digital departments - do they choose to outsource that work to you. His answer smacked of Don Draper’s (Madmen) quick wit. “Because we’re professionals” he says, “we have a vast array of experience in working on a multitude of varied projects, a lot of computing power and a large team”. Clients come to us for the same reason that major corporations retain ad agencies to sell their products into the marketplace. It’s no different here,” claims Magnano. We provide our customers with an extremely high level of service and a product that in most cases internal departments are not able to achieve - which at the end of the day provides a lot of comfort and confidence that whatever we’re doing for them will consistently hit the mark.
And on the economics side, Mr. Magnano explains “we have assets both here in Miami but also in Argentina which has positioned our hourly rate very compatible with the industry.”
According to Mr. Magnano, his client base is a mixture of Designers and OEMs; both commercial and private. “We’ve done more BBJ’s as an example, than any studio in the business” he claims, “25 to be exact; full end to end projects”. He further boasts that Boeing Business Jet (the company) selected 3-D Viz for some of their own marketing visuals - “based largely” he remarks “on our heavy experience and working knowledge of the airframes.”
When asked about animations, Magnano explains that it’s a pretty consistent part of their business as well; certainly not as much as static renderings but will accompany perhaps 70% of their projects - usually occurring at or near the close of CDR, once everything’s been signed off on by the customer - as a “fly thru” visual summation of the project.
Indeed this company has found it’s niche and while some still choose to keep it in house, there does, according to many of 3-D Viz’s clients, seem to be a consistent level of continually advancing quality that is captured by utilizing such a firm. Essentially it becomes a question of whether or not you want to engage a host of continually advancing programs and the learning curve that goes with it - or leave that part to a firm that manages all that for you as a part of their provided service. According to Mr. Magnano, “there will always be those who prefer to produce their own renderings - but even within that sphere, we often here from them when either time constraints or quality concerns command our involvement - and we’re happy to help them, even if they’re not consistent clients.”
From our perspective at JCF Magazine, 3-D Viz’s work speaks for itself. At the very least, their body of work represents an extremely high standard in digital renderings and animations for aviation projects.
To see and learn more on 3D Viz, visit at: 3dviz.com
THE O.E.M. PERSPECTIVE: Pilatus Aircraft, Broomfield, CO
JCF also caught up with Marie Marchner at Pilatus Aircraft for the inside scoop on digital renderings and animations - from the unique perspective of an OEM. We began by asking Ms. Marchner whether Pilatus produces their own digital media in house or as an outsource function. She explains that in their case, they rely on a well tenured partnership with 3D Visualization Services in Miami. According to Ms. Marchner, their Pilatus PC-12 prospective buyer or new owner, can create, customize, compare and share his exterior concepts through the Pilatus Configuration App - available in the App Store.
Next we asked; what specific aspects of the rendering do they focus on (e.g. lighting, amenities, realism etc.)? “Pilatus has always strived to offer a spectrum of designs”, claims Marchner “designs that appeal to a broad audience - from the most conservative owner to the owner that wants to make a bold statement on the ramp. With this selection gamut, some of the most important factors to consider with the 3D renderings are aircraft viewing angles, lighting, color palette, availability, likeness and especially stripe/accent placement on the PC-12 fuselage. All of these factors”, she explains “have been taken into consideration during the development of the Pilatus Configurator app”.
That then begged the question, when you do outsource renderings to an Independent studio like 3-D Visualization, how does the process work? What do they usually want in beginning their work, in progress dialogues etc? Ms. Marchner cited another example, explaining a collaborative partnership they have with Designworks USA, A BMW Company. “We look to their designers’ expertise for the trends in the luxury automotive industry” she explains “and pair them with the demanding requirements and uniqueness of business aviation. The result is the conceptualization of custom PC-12 paint designs and interior design lines that are developed on a regular basis specifically for our PC-12 market.”
Finally we asked; How important is a good rendering package in meeting your marketing objectives? “Presenting high-quality renditions in the style, design and colors that the customer desires is always a paramount aspect of our sales efforts”, Ms. Marchner asserts. “It sets the expectation of our Pilatus Class customers and has become something of a company motto in fact; one that extends to our sales network around the world, our factory in Switzerland and the Completion Center in Colorado where the majority of PC-12s are finished and delivered to their new owners.
To learn more on Pilatis Aircraft, visit: http://www.pilatus-aircraft.com/
JCF Magazine wants to thank each company for participating in this second annual multi-pronged editorial piece. Regardless of your perspective, one thing is resoundingly clear; digital renderings and animations today have reached a level where the only difference between reality and rendering is the smell of the leather. That kind of photorealistic visualization affords designers with the best chance possible of walking into a customer design review. . . and coming out with the yes!
Another way of summing it up is, if you’re not “getting the yes” on your amazing badass design, you may want to rethink it - because the old excuse of failed artistic interpretation is for all intent and purpose, a thing of the past!
Ms. Annika Wicklund (Design Director - Greenpoint Technologies) is a good example of someone who is skilled at, and quite used to, Getting the Yes!
Getting the Yes...
& The Marvelous Evolution of
Digital Renderings & Animation
Today however, there are tools at our disposal that quite literally are capable of capturing your design and your clients dreams with the clarity and hyper-reality of an actual walk through of the final delivered aircraft. We can show our customer’s the double French seam down the side of an armrest in terms that are so literal and precise that only the sensation of touch is left out. We can deliver the precise visual experience of banking east at altitude; exposing a sunset through the windows as it paints its warm rich light across your exquisitely designed dining table - replete with Spode China and Baccarat Crystal. And if it’s all executed properly, it will literally paint a grin across your client’s face leaving nothing more than a nod of acceptance or a quick question about this or that. No carefully rehearsed presentation dialogue and no narratives explaining how the sidewall will look or how the table will rise and convert to a desk-space. Every detail unfolds with an unencumbered clarity that requires little or no verbal explanation. Today’s 3-D digital renderings and animations are to designers what the lightsaber was to Luke Skywalker - the ultimate weapon in skillfully bringing your customer to his knees and have them asking as you leave….”Say, do you think you could help us with our yacht?”
If you think I’m exaggerating, think again. For those who really know how to use advanced versions of programs like 3-D Studio Max, Alias lV and others, creating a presentation that to the human eye, literally betrays reality; it’s all in a day’s work. In fact the extreme quality of such images is so “up there” that many designers these days prefer showing renderings over photographs of their finished projects. Remember the old term “virtual reality”? Well strike the word virtual - because absolute visual reality is what’s being created today; images and animations that are literally indiscernible from the completed space.