Because working with CGI artists for the first time can be daunting, I have prepared a FAQ (frequently asked questions) document to help us to work together a little better.
The FAQ will answer technical questions, project planning issues and payment details.
Q: What does CGI stand for?
Computer Generated Imagery – which means imagery generated by a computer.
Not created by. There is no simple button that makes things pretty any more than Microsoft Word has a simple button that writes decent novels.
Q: What is involved with 3D modeling and animation?
We create 3D models and animations in a virtual environment that mimics the real world very closely, very similar to CAD design.
Inside a 3D application we will need to place models, lights and cameras.
Just like real life, lights will illuminate the scene and cast realistic shadows. Computer cameras mimic real life cameras down to lens size, aperture settings and motion blur.
Many of the details associated with computer generated imagery are highly complex mathematical equations that can take the computer hours to compute.
So when creating an image we use low quality stand in items to work with, and then ‘render’ the image – which can take minutes, hours or even days for a long animation.
Q:What is ‘rendering’?
Rendering is ‘making it look pretty’ – where the computer is drawing light bouncing around, refracting and reflecting and generally making everything lovely.
If you need an image changed, say you need some paint changed to be beige instead of cream, it will take the computer a while to compute what is necessary.
Therefore, the turnaround between you asking for something and you receiving the file may take a while.
Think of it as ‘baking’ – I’ve put all the ingredients together already, but I need to put the ingredients in the oven for a while before the cake is baked and you can eat it.
Q: What are draft images?
A draft image or animation is something we will send you along the way to show you how the project is progressing.
However – just as if you hired some painters to paint your house, a CGI won’t look finished until it’s finished.
Your house won’t look painted until the walls have been sanded, primed, filled, undercoated and all the dust sheets and tools removed.
So a draft image, or ‘work in progress’ will have bits missing, stand in shapes and all sorts of things wrong with it.
Sometimes they are useful for you to make decisions but we will have to agree on what it is you are supposed to be looking for.
You may receive a draft animation, or ‘animatic’ or ‘clay renders’ or ‘screen grabs’ – ways of showing you how aspects of the project are coming along, without having to spend time rendering.
We use draft images when we don’t want to wait around for long renders.
Q: What if I need to change some of the details?
We completely understand that specifications change and that things look different once you’ve seen a CGI, but it really prolongs the length of the project if you start making changes after we’ve agreed a price.
You are allowed to change minor details twice before we start charging you.
We don’t mind letting you design via draft feedback, but please discuss this in advance.
It’s not unknown for clients to want to come in and sit with us and give real-time feedback – again, please ask before commencing the project!
CGI and animation is a funny beast – some things may seem simple to a layman but really take a long time – conversely, some things are very easy to change. Please check with us.
Rule of thumb: Always check with us!
PS – Our workflows may even be different from other CGI artists (we hope so, we think that’s what makes us unique!) – so even if you have experience with CGI, you may not have experience with our methodologies.
Q: If I we’ve agreed a deadline and I need to make changes, will the deadline change?
Yes. Because changes take time, and those changes eat into other projects – if you were at the front of the queue you could be pushing yourself to the back.
Make sure you ask for changes and amendments early – and ensure they are absolutely necessary. You can always buy your way to the front of the queue – but it’s much easier to plan in advance
Q: Can I have the source files so I can make my own edits later?
No. These are not included in the cost.
You may be able to buy them at an extra cost, but they are expensive.
Source files will contain trade secrets and intellectual property; it may not be legal to pass on in such a form.
Q: I showed your render to my intern/accountant/boss and they have suggested….
Everyone has aesthetic taste, but the more people that have a say in the project, the more complicated it becomes.
From the outset we should be clear on who will be giving feedback and why: engineers, designers, project leaders etc.
It should also be clear where their scope begins and ends as it’s usually best when everyone is on the same page about the goals of the project.
It is also helpful to manage what people are expecting to see – if we are discussing a draft image to see if a component is in the correct place, some people may not realise they are looking at an unfinished draft and not the final render.
Examples of unhelpful feedback would be:
- Opinions from the untrained
- Focus on minutiae not noticeable in the end product
- Advice that is too late to be implemented
Q: No, seriously, I just showed my boss the work you did and they pointed out that something needs to change.
That’s fine but please ensure that all feedback comes back in one complete batch. Make sure everyone who has a say in the image has seen it and that you collect all feedback into one email or document.
Please group things according to whether they are wanted or needed – this helps us to prioritise and potentially manage extra costs.
Think of it like this – you are leaving to go to the shops and you are given a shopping list – it’s not difficult to pick up milk while you’re at the shop; but if you drive there, do all your shopping, go through the checkout and come back and then realise you need milk – then we’ve all wasted a hell of a lot of time.
It may not be that bad, but I may have also have other jobs that need doing, and it delays your project too
Q: Is my project too small?
We welcome projects of any size.
Q: What software do you use?
We mostly use Autodesk 3D Studio Max and the Adobe Creative Suite – plus a range of plugins and scripts.
Q: What model formats can you import?
Most CAD formats, Sketchup – pretty much anything. We’ve not had anything we couldn’t import yet.
Please be mindful that a huge CAD/CAM models designed to manufacturing tolerances may have far more detail than we need. If you are sending me models, we may not need every single nut, bolt & engine part.
We really only need what is visible.
Q: Do use Mac or PC?
We use PCs, as 3D Studio Max does not run on Macs.
It shouldn’t make any difference to any data we will need to exchange.
Q: What equipment do you have? Will you be able to render my large animation?
We have a modest render-farm of PCs that can handle most work we get including large animations.
If we need more power, we can access an off-site render farm – the costs for which will be included in our original estimate.
The need to go off-site is a very rare occurrence because of the way we plan and implement animations.
Q: If I give you a photograph can you flip it so I can see the other side?
No. we can only model what we can see – so the more source and reference material we have, the better.
Q: How do you cost a job?
We have a daily rate. We will discuss with you how long we think the project will take and then send a formal estimate.
If you want to make a change this may incur a cost, discuss it with us and we can let you know how much
Q: Would your cost change after giving an estimate?
Only if you want something different to something originally specified, but we will discuss that before it goes ahead.
Q: What are your payment terms?
Usually 30 days, but depending on the project you may be asked to make milestone payments at pre-agreed points.
If for some reason this is problem, please discuss before the project begins.
The UK government has identified late payment as a huge problem for small businesses – and to that end has enacted statutory late-payment penalties.
Please only hire us if you will pay us on time – otherwise we lose out twice: once on your payment and once on the other jobs we could have taken.
Payment can be made through electronic transfer or cheque.
Q: What am I paying for?
You are ultimately paying for time and expertise. We will agree the deliverables at the outset – but you are paying for the amount of time professionals spend on your project.
If you pay painters to come and paint your house, and then change your mind before they have finished the last room – you are still going to have to pay them for the work they’ve already done.
That may sound obvious – but time is money in any industry.
Q: Will you put our work on your website?
We are always proud to promote the work we do, so we’ll assume we can make a blog post showing it off.
If there’s a reason why we shouldn’t do this, and you ask us, we won’t.
Obviously if the work is secret or your campaign is not due to go live, then we’ll automatically know.