Market trends
Min. reading time
Profilbild des Autors
David Wischniewski

Why CGI will replace traditional product photography

2 white gold porcelain bowls in a transparent glass case
February 26, 2021

Computer generated images (CGI) are on the rise. But why is that actually the case? And why are more and more companies turning to renderings?

Interview about the benefits of CGI

In an interview, Katharina Degenmann ( talks to David Wischniewski (CEO, RenderThat) about the benefits of CGI and where the CGI trend is heading.

CGI, i.e. computer-generated images, is currently a trending topic. What exactly can you imagine as CGI?

“CGI stands for computer-generated imagery, i.e. images created on a computer. This includes anything — from abstract motifs to photorealistic product visualization. In order to be able to create so-called renderings, the first step is to reproduce the physical product on a computer. First, all details are reproduced so that we get a “digital twin” as a 3D model. The next step is to cover the 3D model with the right materials and place it in a virtual space.

Many companies contact us because traditional methods such as photo shoots are too lengthy, expensive and inflexible for them. In addition, taking pictures is impracticable, especially with larger amounts of images. With CGI, we can place any product in any environment. To this end, our interior designers and interior designers create scenes that are adapted to the respective target group. The digital twin is then placed in this scene. As a result, it is still possible to replace the products in these scenes or show them from a different perspective even after the project has been completed. It is precisely this flexibility that makes companies choose CGI over traditional photography and we are expanding rapidly.”

CGI is also very popular among furniture and furniture stores. What is the advantage of CGI over photography?

Furniture and furniture stores usually receive image material from manufacturers, which must then be used for their own marketing. This image material very rarely corresponds to the visual language of retailers or other manufacturers. As a result, brochures and websites often appear restless and of low quality. With CGI, furniture stores can create new artworkwithout having to unpack the actual furniture and deliver it to a photo studio. The visualizations can therefore not only be created uniformly, but also adapted to the respective product and target groups. It also makes us independent of factors such as lighting and weather conditions or interior and exterior scenes.

We often also work directly with furniture manufacturers, to whom we offer a range of different approval options, interfaces and content creation options. In concrete terms, this means that furniture manufacturers can also provide other retailers with uniform image material about us, which also corresponds to their corporate identity. As a result, furniture retailers have uniform image material and catalogues look more high-quality.

This saves costs and creates synergies, because we are not only already familiar with the products of the respective manufacturer, but also already have the corresponding digital twin in our database. New images, videos or even augmented reality apps can thus be created in a very short time.

Why isn't CGI used more often if the method is so good?

Especially because decision makers don't know exactly what CGI is and how it works. They often don't dare to try out new methods — even if there are already advocates in the respective company. In addition, the move towards CGI always involves a change in existing working methods. The initial effort is also slightly higher compared to photography, as the digital twin of a product must first be created. However, this additional effort is put into perspective very quickly because dozens of product variants can be implemented in all perspectives within a very short period of time. It is also often overlooked that the model can be reused in 3D product configurators, augmented and virtual reality applications.

What are the best practices for implementing CGI?

“Implementing CGI isn't difficult. Basically, it is a new, modern and efficient alternative to photography. But you have to look at the issue more globally Because there are dozens of synergies compared to photography surrender. That's why it's important to know right from the start what you actually want to achieve: Do I only need images for a one-off project? Am I setting up a digital warehouse? Should all my channels and publications be delivered? What is the role of suppliers? Especially for the first phase, we have launched RenderThat Consulting. Our consulting department helps customers understand the scope and potential of CGI and implement it in the best possible way. Only then are the products digitized. Depending on the type and quantity, we either develop our own infrastructure for each customer or integrate it into our existing processes. This enables a smooth and speedy process. Parallel to the review and approval of the visual content, the delivery of images and apps is planned and structured. For small quantities, the customer can simply download the final images from a project room. However, several thousand images are often created for different images, which are then managed in a content distribution system in the best case scenario. This is an internal system that is connected to the customer's system and brings the respective content to the right place.”

How do you think computer-generated images and their use will develop in the coming months and years?

We expect that CGI will replace traditional product photography. All major platforms and retailers such as IKEA, Amazon, Otto and Wayfair have been investing in this topic for years. Many companies are currently increasing investments and sometimes require uniform CGI images from manufacturers in order to be able to sell via the respective platform. But small and medium-sized companies are also jumping on the bandwagon and are increasingly leaning towards CGI. In addition, 3D models are not only used for images, but can also be used in animations, augmented and virtual reality apps. This can provide end consumers with an ever better shopping experience. Pictures can be automatically adapted to the target group, as Netflix does with movie covers, for example. For example, we are currently working on optimising images using methods from brain research. This will help our customers present the same products in dozens of different scenes, views, images/styles to help end consumers make a purchase decision.

In addition, the same “basic material” (3D models, images, etc.) is also used for customer service after the purchase. Such visualized user instructions simply show customers how products can be used or maintained. In a coffee machine, for example, it is easy to show which components must be removed in which order in order to replace the lime filter. Thanks to augmented reality apps, products can therefore not only be placed virtually in your own home before purchase, but the product details can also be recognized. In parallel with all of this, we are working on the automated creation of visual content. Although we already produce one million a month automatically, this can be significantly increased. Our goal is to enable real-time content, i.e. content without processing times.

About RenderThat

RenderThat started as a digital agency in Aachen in 2012 and is now on its way to becoming an international SaaS company. The agency's core business is visualizations using CGI, in particular “digital twins.” The RenderThat specialists develop digital images of physical products. Once digitized, there are various options for product presentation, which in some cases massively reduce marketing efforts and costs. With the digital twin as a basis, RenderThat offers its customers flexible content options in the areas of automation, virtual reality, augmented reality, digital trade fairs, product configurators, and product images and videos. The next major development step is the RenderThat Hub — a platform that allows customers to manage and scale their content more easily and conveniently collaborate from anywhere in the world via interfaces.

RenderThat's customers include beyerdynamic, Duravit, Schlaraffia, Hilding Anders, Bosch Siemens household appliances and BMW. At its locations in Hamburg, Berlin, Cologne, Munich and recently New York City, the company employs over 130 people from over 30 countries.

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