Market trends
Min. reading time
Profilbild des Autors
David Wischniewski

Get product images for online shops faster with CGI

Crystal glasses in a display case
April 12, 2021

Product photos are particularly important for successful online retailers. Without being able to convey the haptic feeling, they must persuade their customers to buy. This can be expensive in the long run. The cheaper and time-saving solution is to be delivered through digitally created product images, Computer Generated Imagery (CGI). What is charming about this is the possible continued use of augmented and virtual reality apps, which are intended to revolutionize the future shopping behavior of online customers.

Interview about the challenges and meaning of CGI

Nora Petig (iXtenso — Retail Magazine) talks to David Wischniewski (CEO - RenderThat) about the challenges and purpose of CGI.

What is Computer Generated Imagery and how does it work exactly?

“Computer generated imagery (CGI) refers to 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.”

What are the benefits for retailers and customers?

“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 and even after the project is completed, it is still possible to exchange the products and scenes or show them from a different perspective. For example, the digital twin of a bed can easily be placed in a youth or parents' room and adapted to the needs of the target group. It is precisely this flexibility that means that many companies are already choosing CGI over traditional photography and that we are expanding rapidly.
For customers, it makes little difference whether the products have been photographed or created on a computer. However, CGI guarantees high image quality and allows renderings to be reused in augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) apps.”

What requirements do retailers have to meet to implement CGI?

“It depends on whether the retailer wants to implement CGI in-house or through an external partner. In-house CGI production requires software, hardware and numerous other peripherals to produce high-quality 3D visualizations. In addition, 3D artists must be found who have the necessary quality and know-how.
It gets easier when production is handled by an external partner: The retailer simply has to provide technical drawings of the products that are to be visualized. Another advantage is that CGI is compatible with previous work processes and publications. A solution using CGI therefore replaces traditional photography on the one hand and creates synergies and cost savings for retailers on the other hand.
Depending on digitization and visualization needs, it makes sense to think about a CGI content pipeline. This digital production chain creates mostly automated 3D visualizations for every type of publication.”

That sounds like a big effort for a small company.

“The cost of in-house production is manageable, but hardly makes sense for any company. Acquisition and maintenance costs are quite high, technology is evolving very quickly and personnel must be constantly trained. If these parameters are not met, this has a negative effect on the quality of the results.
Even with external production, the effort is quite low: Depending on the performance and scope of service provided by the CGI partner, the retailer only needs to submit the design data or photos of the products to be visualized. In addition to this, expectations must also be coordinated. The target groups, presentation, formats and environmental standards are particularly important here.

So far, an automated CGI pipeline has only paid off for retailers and platforms with several thousand products. However, as soon as the pipeline is set up, production costs and times will be reduced immensely. An effects CGI pipeline, for example, creates hundreds of visualizations within minutes for all possible channels, such as websites, catalogs, brochures and social media.”

Which retailers is this procedure suitable for?

“Basically, all products can be visualized with CGI. However, it is only worthwhile for retailers who actually sell a large number of their products. Of course, unique items or small editions can also be rendered, but here the costs for CGI visualization are disproportionately high in comparison.”

Rendering is the precursor to displaying products in augmented (AR) or virtual reality (VR) apps. For which retailers does this make sense?

“Basically for every retailer. AR apps are suitable for products with a manageable size. Of course, it is also possible to display larger objects. However, this requires a corresponding amount of space. Household appliances and furniture are therefore best suited for AR apps.”

What added value do customers get from an AR app?

“The app enables customers to digitally test the products and view them in their home and test whether the chosen piece of furniture actually fits into the home.”

Do retailers already offer such apps?

“Industry giant IKEA, for example, has been working with CGI for many years. Almost all visualizations on the website and in the IKEA catalog are 3D visualizations. But many retailers — from discounters to hardware stores to e-commerce platforms — are already working on converting most of their content creation to CGI. The reason for this is obvious: In addition to saving time, the ability to present visual content from different suppliers in a uniform style is also convincing.
Ideally, retailers will then also use the synergies of CGI directly. With the renderings created, you can animations (product videos), augmented reality and even configurators for the website are created. This increases efficiency, improves customer experience and saves costs at the same time.”

How much do traders have to invest?

“Simple product visualizations are relatively inexpensive and cost a few hundred euros per image. A great deal of time is also saved, especially compared to complex photo shoots. Logistics costs and internal personnel costs for organising the shootings are also eliminated.
Creating an automated CGI solution is a bit more expensive, because the system landscape must first be recorded and the automated production chain integrated into the existing systems. Depending on the size of the company, this can take a few months to a few years and therefore also entails high costs. However, an efficient pipeline also allows product visualization costs to fall by the cent.”

What else is possible in the future?

“In the future, CGI will completely replace retail photography, because the visualizations can already be created during the development of a product and tailored to the respective target group. In addition to computer-generated images, augmented reality models will also be standard. This allows end consumers to digitally test the product at home. In addition, this feature will make it relatively easy to offer features such as an instruction manual or training.”

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 New York City, the company employs over 130 people from over 30 countries.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up to get the latest blog posts and don't miss a thing.

Make yours Product digitization more efficient

We help companies digitize product portfolios with hundreds of items. Our workflows are tailored to your company and ensure maximum output with minimal effort.

Eine Person beim Scannen eines weißen Turnshuhs