Blue Sky CGI Gives a Lift to Automotive Advertising

February 6, 2012

By Barbara Goldman

© Blue Sky CGI

Blue Sky CGI Workflow.

Automotive and transportation advertising is taking notice of a new CGI studio based in Los Angeles.  Blue Sky CGI  is a boutique studio offering high-end CGI rendering and creative retouching services to the automotive, transportation and advertising industries.  With a combination of talent, technical skills and extensive advertising experience, Blue Sky CGI has the unique ability to accommodate a broad range of assignments from print to broadcast to mobile platforms.

The use of 3D technology has been around for some time in motion pictures. It has recently become much more widely used and accepted for broadcasting and print ads. As directors at Blue Sky CGI, Rick Chou and Lee Waters concur: “As modern equipment and software continue to improve, one major difference between how photography worked in the old days versus modern advertising is the exposure to digital capability and visualization. The role of the photographer is as crucial as ever, but the skills required have changed. While we have the ability to produce the necessary photographic source, we are also thrilled to be able to work with some of the most talented photographers from around the world.”

The speed and ease of global communications has opened up the entire world as a potential client base for Blue Sky CGI. Along with their U.S. clients, Blue Sky CGI is currently producing projects for Ford vehicles in Europe, Roewe luxury automotive in China, and they are working on images for a yacht designer in Amsterdam.

In addition to their global reach, Chou and Waters point out a few of the advantages that clients receive when images are produced in virtual space, using CGI technology. Security issues are easier to control, and the large cost of prototypes is eliminated. Earlier production starts are possible, and realistic visualizations of the final product are viewable during the design phase. There are broader creative possibilities, less dependency on weather issues, and it is easier to make changes updating the model year.”

Los Angeles-based Waters comes to Blue Sky CGI as a seasoned veteran in production and imaging.  Waters realized early on the revolution and potential that was about to come from the shift to desktop publishing.  In 1994, he started the company Digital Art Factory and produced artwork for a wide variety of projects, including creation and production of magazine ads, billboards, direct mail pieces and packaging and television commercials. In recent years, Waters’ photographic work has become a resource for production companies, special effects houses and CGI artists worldwide.

Fellow director Chou also has a broad background and has been on the cutting edge of advertising and automotive photography.  He has shot numerous assignments for major advertising agencies and clients around the world, many of them for automotive campaigns. At Blue Sky CGI, Chou oversees projects, coordinates and collaborates with clients, CG artists, location scouts and all other technicians and aspects of the production force.

To get an idea of how the process works on a typical Blue Sky CGI project, Waters takes us through a sample workflow:

A global ad agency needed to create a series of images for Ford Ranger. The location in mind was in Thailand. Due to the remote locations and unpredictability of the weather CG was clearly the way to go.” In the studio to generate 3D models of the car, CAD (computer-aided design) gets prepared for realistic shading and material mapping. At the same time, the photographic team, which usually can include art director, photographer, CG operator, producer, prop stylists and assistants, goes off to the actual location in Thailand.  As the photographic team shoots backplates and matching HDRI lightdomes, the source is then sent back to the studio where it is prepped and set up in the CG environment. The photographer and art director then work with the CG operator to set the camera and lighting. This can be done back in the studio or it can be directed remotely. Next comes the high-resolution rendering, which produces the product with its proper lighting, reflections and any masks the retoucher might require. Lastly, the image is composited into the background and final retouching takes place.

bluesky workflow

Although the technology has been advanced to a point that allows for super photo-realistic images to be created and generated in virtual space, Chou cautions that in order to execute a successful project, it is often very involved and complex. 3D programs are much more difficult to work with than programs like Photoshop. The photographers work differently because they are photographing locations without the real car (product), so the workflow becomes much more spread out.  In addition to all the technical complexities there are the constant issues of schedules and budgets, all of which are getting tighter and smaller. “However,” says Chou, “the upside is worth it. When a project is executed right, the results are often the best rewards.”

With a  prestigious client base that includes:  Audi, BMW, Buick, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Ford, Mercedes, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota… to name a few,  you know that  the body of work from Blue Sky CGI reflects the depth of their principal artists’ talent and their exceptional attention to detail. 

Blue Sky CGI is unique in its capacity in that it brings a complete workflow or a la carte service as needed to clients. Services provided include:

• Full CGI Rendering capabilities
 • 3D Modeling
 • CAD data multi-platform conversions
 • 3D Liquid Generation
 • 3D Landscape Generation
 • 3D HDRI Generation
 • Cloud and Sky Generation
 • Physical Deformation
 • Particle System Handling
 • Realistic Suspension Visualization
 • 3D Smoke Generation
 • 360 Fly-By and Turntable
 • HDR Backplates and HDRI Light Dome    Captures
 • On Location CGI Pipeline
 • CGI Consultation
 • Creative Retouching
 • Photo Composition
 • Digital Illustration
To see more of the work of Blue Sky CGI and for more information or a consultation, visit the site at: