August 2008 – January 2010
Showroom was an 18 months project with tons of challenges to overcome, but also one of the most rewarding experiences.
The project goal was to create photorealistic catalogs where users could experiments with different products and different environments.
For example, if you are selling kitchen appliances (our first target), you would build or modify actual kitchens just to take a few pictures. Once done, any change or mistake was a big deal.
If you replace everything with computer generated images, all of a sudden your kitchens selection becomes much larger, changes are inexpensive, and the customer can see your product in a huge variety of configurations.
Showroom started as an Autodesk Labs project with some test kitchens and bathrooms. It was open to everyone to try.
Design and Development
These were the major challenges we faced:
- Extreme high numbers of combinations to pre-render, easily reaching hundreds of thousands
- Obtaining photoreal renderings within strict per-frame render times while automatically replacing materials and objects in a scene.
- Adjust the cabinets or other objects around the product as they change with different sized ones
My main role was to get to the photorealism required and to adjust all the environment to support the size variations of the products.
The rooms were models created by a vendor, but once in my hand, they underwent a huge number of adjustments to materials, lighting, and geometry.
Also, dummy controls were added to guide the automatic positioning of the products that were then swapped in and out by the rendering pipeline that created all the possible variations.
Then, a lot of time was spent tweaking every aspect of the scene to lower average rendering times while maintaining photorealism.
The strength of Showroom was the ability to show variations of products and environments. The gallery below gives you an idea of what we did for Dacor, which used our product for a few months on their web page.
Web page users were able to change no only the Dacor appliances by style and finishes, but also the rooms, the paints, the cabinet styles and materials, and the flooring.
Our management and marketing team at one point pulled the plug, but most of what was developed for Showroom found new life in what would later become the Autodesk Cloud Rendering service.
- Autodesk for allowing me to post the images.