When I was just beginning my journey in creating CGIs I remember visiting a very cool studio who did all sorts of non-architecture CGI – and on their front door was a print of the outstretched arm of the character of God from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Ceiling – beckoning you to enter the room – and a caption saying, “play God…”.
That’s what CGI is – it’s a tool to create ANYTHING you want – the image can do so much more than show architecture, it can evoke emotions, nostalgia, hope or dread and awe – it can take the audience on a journey and convey the essence of the project brand in a very deep way.
Usually, it’s the details that are key to making this possible – a stylishly lived in the interior, with magazines, art, and accessories that tell you who the lucky inhabitant of the space may be. A coffee mug on a benchtop out of focus that with the gorgeous view in the background puts the viewer into this moment and activates their sense of belonging and desire.
When the technology was originally applied to the world of architecture it was all about helping the viewer understand the design that the architect has drawn up in a set of plans and elevations.
These days, the leading companies go way beyond this – the building or design detail is simply the subject matter – the character in a story if you will – how you portray it and what story you tell is where the CGI artist shines.
It’s much less of an architectural exercise, and much more of a marketing exercise – we think about the campaign message, the brand aesthetic and the target demographic we are communicating to – and the craft images and film content (and more) to speak to and connect with this audience. The same building may appear friendly and welcoming, exclusive and unattainable or ethereal and otherworldly – there are so many visual approaches we can take. Likewise, our influences are typically drawn not from the world of architecture, but from film, concept design, art, and photography. A less is more approach to composition is vital here – where a series of small detail images or vignettes tell a far more photo-realistic and personal story of the project.
Another very important point is that today the Still/Static CGI is just the beginning of the content creation process. Most important campaigns will have a film created to take the story-telling to a whole new level. These films – no longer called fly-throughs- have production values and finesse of the quality you would find in a car commercial or music video. The best ones have actors, a story and bespoke created music – something we feel very strongly is a must when seeking to move your audience.
Even in projects where the budget may not allow a full film, cinema-graphs – static CGIs with an animated element (a curtain billowing or trees swaying) - or Instagram CGIs are very powerful to bring your project to the audience in a more engaging way.
From film & animation, we move to VR and immersion experiences – Black-Box or Immersion Rooms are becoming more and more the norm in Real Estate marketing – these experiences allow you to immersive and envelop your audience in the brand experience of your project. A film is projected on 3 or 4 walls of a dark room, with a powerful audio-visual experience unfolding all around you.
Likewise, user-driven experiences such as VR and 360 Renders – which allow you to navigate throughout the apartment interior have become a more common component of a project marketing toolkit.
A recent project that I feel really took a progressive approach – and attained not only record sales figures in a tough market – but a tremendous amount of earnt press, features and PR opportunities – is Aqualand’s Blue Lavender Bay.
The client came to us with an open and curious mind – asking “what can we do to not be just another project” - we put forward a content strategy designed to engage the audience at various touch points in the customer journey.
This included Instagram-able imagery & film content that is less product focused and more narrative based for social media – focusing on the once in a lifetime location and views; an immersion room for a spectacular brand experience upon arrival in the sales centre, and user selected ‘mini-walk-throughs’ for each apartment type that were projected within the immersion black box.
At the core of the campaign was photo-realistic CGIs of the product itself – which acted as a springboard for the immersive content mentioned above.
It’s crucial to start every project with the question “what content do I need to engage my audience?” – the answer to this may or may not be a collection of CGIs – it will likely be a suite of bespoke progressive content that will make your campaign, and investment in CGI many times more powerful and memorable.