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Prime Focus 1
Customer Success Story :: Taylor James, UK
15 August 2011
Interview with Glen Taylor, Siear Waizy and Dave Wortley
"V-Ray works best for Taylor James and we’ve used it for many years, with no other software coming close. It not only gives us great flexibility when controlling the rendering, but we can also rely on its speed and quality."
Taylor James is a highly respected creative production studio with an outstanding reputation for print and motion. After eleven years in the industry, your in-house services and expertise cover a powerful combination of CGI, post-production, photography and live-action, leading to the creation of various successful print, digital and broadcast campaigns across the globe.
Please tell us more about your company and what sets you apart from other studios not only in the UK but worldwide?
Glen, what does it take to establish and lead a creative company like TJ?
Glen: It’s been an exciting journey, taking Taylor James from a post-house to a complete production studio. As we cover a range of disciplines, all in-house, you get a unique perspective of the advertising industry working with a variety of people and skills, ranging from the best advertising agencies in the world, to commissioned photographers or directors.
Before, working as just a post-house, I felt Taylor James had more potential to expand its services within the industry and when the
possibilities of CGI became more apparent, it would become the ultimate tool that allowed us to really express our core creative skills. We have come a long way from just being a retouch house, always innovating and staying at the forefront of the industry. We now function as a 360° production studio specialising in CGI, post-production, liveaction and photography. Creativity is now an integral part of everything that we do having structured the company in a way that allows us to bring these ideas to life, delivering content for TV, digital and print media, from initial concept to final delivery.
Siear, you’ve been a major driving force as the Head of CGI at Taylor James, where do you find inspiration for all the great projects you are involved with? It will be interesting for our audience to touch briefly on how you have built your production pipeline and why you decided on integrating V-Ray into it. It has been more than 5 years since your first V-Ray for 3Ds Max license.
Siear: At Taylor James every project is unique and challenging in its own way. Our dedicated and diligent creative team works with our department on every brief in order to get the best out of a campaign creatively, most of the time this means pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved technically. This is why we needed a robust rendering pipeline. We changed the pipeline in 2006 from ‘Render Pipe’ to ‘Mental Ray’ and then to V-Ray. I have used V-Ray since it came out and have always been impressed with the speed, quality and flexibility to control the rendering.
Tell us of any recent changes to your production workflow and how V-Ray has contributed to your success in 3D visualization?
Siear: We’ve been using RT in production to help us light and shade our scenes a lot quicker, it’s very useful for previs, getting the lighting to the exact angle, getting the reflections exactly where we need them, being able to sit down with clients and in real-time they can see the tweaks that they want us to make. Combining V-Ray RT with using the VRayPhysicalCamera we can use it to expose our images correctly to get the best lighting and get the most from our HDR lighting.
Your portfolio has a remarkable list of projects for various worldwide brands and advertising agencies. Would you tell us more about the most challenging one in terms of CG? We would like to talk about three major projects of yours: MOTOROLA CITY, commissioned by BBDO, New York, this was initially just a print campaign and then it developed further into a website/digital campaign. BERMUDA TOURISM, through the agency GlobalHue, for US TV promoting the island as a prominent holiday destination; and the 30 second UK TV commercial for Calor Gas’ LPGenius ‘Think Tank’.
Glen: We have built up such a variety of work - with each new subject holds its own levels of problems. Bermuda was difficult because of the sheer scale of the project, with the live-action sequence being shot on location on the island.
Siear: Starting with the most recent, Calor Gas held its challenges in regard to the vegetation, we needed a wide range of high resolution vegetation, without VRayProxy it would be impossible to have so many polygons in the scene. The brief also required the ad to be stylised, which caused its own difficulties in terms of lighting and shading, but with V-Ray we have complete control over our shaders and can easily create a more stylized look.
Our work for Bermuda Tourism posed unique problems to us at the time, as our first live-action, CGI work for TV. Integrating live-action footage with a CG environment. We had a complex camera rig to blend seamlessly from full CGI to Live-Action; this required a very long camera move and meant we had to have the whole scene loaded with all the geometry which V-Ray dealt with very well. We used Eon-Vue for parts of the environment, it’s crucial for our workflow that V-Ray is able to work with other plugins. Motorola was a major project for us, and this was the first time we implemented it.
Before this we had some rather low resolution trees and cars, we tested out VRayProxy and found not only could we use higher resolution objects, but we could have more and the rendering time actually decreased! At the time we only had a small render farm and it allowed us to render all 6 fly-throughs in good time and meant we were able to render one continuous camera move and not require to break it all down.
Please give us a description of the brief for each of these and what was Taylor James’s role in each?
Glen: The real buzz for Taylor James is when a project is presented to us and the commissioning agency isn’t too fixated on the creative and is open to suggestions from our team. With Bermuda we completely developed the initial idea to include a continuous camera-move through the island. This meant that we could film and create the different transitions in and around the island, showing the contrast between the sheer beauty of the Island and the activities and the intimate moments people were sharing on vacation. Developing the treatment and selling the vision into the agency and client is the most exciting part for us.
Motorola ran in the same vein; again we took the initial client idea, which was just a print campaign, and we built a completely digital microsite to run in conjunction with the print work, fully expanding the concept to motion and storytelling. This was for BBDO, NYC, an advertising agency that has a very high-standing within the digital community. They were more than happy to see us take the concept from print to a fully integrated microsite, using visual stories to showcase the latest Motorola technology.
What was the most challenging part of any of the projects and what was your best achievement? Did they influence any changes in your production workflow?
Glen: I’m only happy if I’m challenged. Bermuda probably tested me the most creatively. This was my directorial debut, so directing the creative vision and working with a 40-man crew on a technical production within such a backward working environment, was a challenge. The Island is so remote with no real production facilities; it was a balance to get what I needed.
THE BACKSTAGE EXPERIENCE
We are curious to understand more about the role of V-Ray in your production pipeline and in these particular projects. What made you trust/choose V-Ray?
Siear: There are some crucial factors influencing our decision in regard to V-Ray. After using it for so many years no other software has come close. The main reasons are: flexibility to control your rendering, reliability, and speed.
Dave: We have a great relationship with Chaos Group and V-Ray, we’ve been working together in developing V-Ray. It’s very important that if we need something and that we have an open dialogue with the developers so we can get the features we need in the next version and improve our pipeline efficiency and the quality of our work.
What was the approach when you had to render low detailed environment from far away and highly detailed areas close to the camera in one continuous shot?
Siear: V-Ray allowed us to create the entire scene in full 3d and render the entire scene from a long distance very quickly, so there is no need to use a different level of detail models.
Did you like it working with all the V-Ray physically accurate tools such as the VRayPhysicalCamera and the sun and sky system? Did it help for creating realistic looking images?
Dave: We’ve found the VRayPhysicalCamera to be incredibly useful. Our projects are always about getting the most realism we can and being able to take an HDR image and use it to light the scene and then expose this correctly and get correct DOF and motion blur without a massive overhead on rendering time.
How did you set up the global illumination in your scenes? What was the approach that you chose with V-Ray?
Siear: It really depends on the type of project. We usually use brut force and light cache for animation and print. If it is simply a camera animation then we back out the Light Information.
Do you normally use many render passes for compositing during the post-production stage of a project?
Dave: We always separate out our renders into Render Elements to give us the maximum ability to tweak things in post-production, we then create bespoke passes and mask to add extra effects and give our compositors the maximum control. We will sometimes split our render into Background and Foreground elements to help render times and only have to calculate light maps for certain passes.
What was the average render time per frame in the animations?
Siear: Although we got a powerful render farm here at Taylor James we aim to keep our render times as low as possible. With the flexibility of V-Ray you can easily tweak your render times. Normally we aim for 30 min per frame for an HD frame on a 16-core machine.
You are well known for producing photo-real still and motion work. In both Motorola and Bermuda Tourism, photo-realism plays a key role, however for Calor Gas’ Think Tank, it was a much more stylised animation. Did you find V-Ray capable of creating both these effects with ease?
Dave: We find we can always get the results we want from V-Ray because we can easily understand the way the shaders work so it’s easy to create both types of effect.
There are a lot of discussions about the use of CG to recreate photo-real images/animation. CG is permanently evolving, getting more and more refined and realistic. How do you see the future of the industry and your place in it?
Glen: As you said CGI is heavily involved in production of content for advertising, film and it’s about to cross-over further into other industries. I think CGI has a very strong future. It’s going to be all about the companies that understand how CGI works and create innovative ways of using it. We feel strongly that we need to continually invest in CGI and our R&D department, in order to push the ever-changing technology forward and be part of those companies who are paving the way in creative media application.
How do you estimate V-Ray in terms of rendering speed in these three projects?
Siear: So far, I have been very happy with it, V-Ray always performs well, we try to keep our renders at a maximum of 1-2 hours per frame for the full final production renders.
What other features would you recommend to be added in new versions of V-Ray?
Dave: We’d like to be able to control reflection/refraction exceptions by material, our texturing guys would love to see Ptex Support. There seems to be some interesting developments in Deep Compositing which is looking like it could be a very powerful tool in the future.
Are there any future projects you would like to share with us that are underway?
Dave: We’re currently working on some really nice automotive projects that really showcase the VRayPhysicalCamera, with some nice transitions from Day to Night, we’ve been using VRaySun/Sky and V-Ray RT as a very powerful tool to do our previs.