Computer generated imagery, or CGI for short, is most commonly associated with Hollywood blockbusters, but it’s not just the likes of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg who know how to maximise the advantages of CGI technology. According to the UK’s online retail association, IMRG, some of the biggest names in retail have embraced CGI as they recognise it as being one of the most comprehensive, efficient and cost-effective solutions to their greatest product marketing needs. At the eBusiness Institute, we have created a user-friendly infographic explaining CGI technology and the advantages of using it for your brand’s Product eContent.
What is Computer Generated Imagery?
CGI uses imaging software to create hyper-realistic images in three steps:
- Building a wire-frame (also called chassis), which is basically the 3-dimensional model based on the actual physical packaging of your products,
- Adding texture, shadows and all other visual effects to the wire-frame to create the greyscale model, and
- Using the final artwork to wrap around the greyscale model in order to create the final render, a photorealistic image of the 3D model.
The Computer Generated Imagery build process
What basic product images challenges does this technology solve for brands?
The big advantage of CGI is that when you have created the wireframe and greyscale model, you can then use them across markets by applying the different artworks and develop final renders in a very fast and cost efficient way. CGI therefore enables you to overcome the challenges and at the same time significantly reduce the costs of using traditional photography. The same applies when you have an artwork change, either for a special promo on a pack or for a limited edition stock keeping unit, or SKU, or even for a new launch that uses the same packaging format.
The Computer Generated Imagery build process
The first step in designing a CGI image is building a wire-frame chassis to precise size and shape specifications, known as a “master chassis”, and creating a UV map. Packs that have the same footprint but vary in height, for example, require a chassis adaptation.
The second stage of the process is the initial render for approval. This is where pack layouts with placed artwork, lighting, materials and textures are all set ready for approval. Once this stage of defining the product look and feel has been approved, the render can be applied to all product variants.
The final step is the creation of the render where the agency takes the greyscale model and simply wraps the final artwork around it to develop a perfect looking pack, which is consistent across markets and different artworks.
What are the main advantages of Computer Generated Imagery for Product eContent?
The images are reusable. They can be repurposed for the creation of any asset from banners to key visuals and even videos.
- Cost effective
CGI is cost effective. While the cost of developing the wireframe and greyscale model can be significant, once the assets are created they can be used over and over again to produce multiple final renders using all the different artworks in your product range. Also, CGI means you can avoid expensive photoshoots and costly shipping charges as all the products can be virtually shipped online.
- Consistent look & feel
CGI images have a consistent look and feel which is important as brand consistency is a vital part of brand recognition, allowing consumers to get to know a brand on a personal level.
- Better quality
CGI technology produces images that are better quality and are also sophisticated enough to evoke a feeling in consumers. In other words, they help brands to overcome the virtual barrier and connect with their customers on a sensory level.
Why choose Computer Generated Imagery
When should brands not use Computer Generated Imagery for their Product eContent?
There are instances where CGI might not be the ideal solution as some of the above benefits may not apply. For example, products that have highly complex chassis are better suited to traditional photography rather than CGI. Take Nespresso machines. Nespresso still use product photography and an image processor (like Photoshop or Illustrator) to show the color variants.
When should brands adopt a hybrid approach that uses both Computer Generated Imagery and photography?
Some brands use a combination of CGI and photography, especially food brands with an element of transparent packaging in order for the consumer to be able to view the product inside the packaging. Here, the cost of using CGI to recreate accurate images of the food product contained in the packaging is too great, so CGI is therefore no longer cost efficient. In such cases, it is sensible for the brands to opt for existing photography instead.
The rest of the outer packaging can be rendered in CGI which means that local marketing teams with different artworks can easily apply their own images to the product.
Combination of CGI and photography
The Computer Generated Imagery process
At the eBusiness Institute, we have identified eight separate steps to using CGI which we have set out in this easy-to-follow diagram:
Steps to using Computer Generated Imagery
As we have seen, for brands and retailers alike, there are many advantages to using CGI technology for Product eContent. The photorealistic images it produces in a three-step process using imaging software are scalable, reusable, have a consistent look and feel and are more cost effective than those produced by 2D rendering or traditional photography. In addition, CGI provides brands with the capability to adapt and leverage master assets for use both online and offline in ways that are not possible when employing the old-style image processing. While there may be some instances when CGI is not appropriate for Product eContent and others when a hybrid CGI/photography approach is preferable, CGI nevertheless has the potential to empower company branding and enhance customer engagement which makes it the ideal solution for many Product eContent challenges.
This article was written and created by the eBusiness Institute Product eContent Team.
At the eBusiness Institute, we have extensive experience of working with numerous brands on their digital transformation, and particularly on their Product eContent. We understand the importance of an optimised consumer experience to drive your brand’s sales online and offline. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you.
Download the CGI Infographic
If you want the high-resolution PDF, please download it from here.