Is CGI Hollywood’s gift to retail?
Hollywood turned to computer generated imagery (CGI) to not only dazzle audiences, but as a practical solution to creating settings or even characters that are impractical to accomplish by traditional means. Retailers are now getting serious about the technology for the same reasons — to streamline operations and reduce production costs, but also to involve consumers in more immersive experiences.
Retailers invest major chunks of their budgets these days to produce still and video imagery for their online stores and catalogs. Company creatives are feeling the pressure to produce content that is not only enticing, but also highly detailed and viewable from 360 degrees.
Some retailers and brands do a good deal of their creative work in-house, but usually collaborate with agencies and third-party services for some portion of it. CreativeDrive is a leading “content service provider” (CSP) that lists among its considerable roster of clients Walmart, TJX, Unilever, Estee Lauder, Lands’ End, Google, Bloomingdale’s, Kohl’s and Office Depot. CreativeDrive runs 150 studios worldwide with a staff of over 1000 and a broad array of freelance talent.
“We have technology that’s fully integrated into their proposition to really expedite getting the content to market quicker and more effectively,” CEO Myles Peacock told RetailWire.
For some time, CreativeDrive has been looking to gear up with CGI capabilities, and last week announced the acquisition of 3D visualization and AR tech startup Decora in “a structured deal, potentially worth in-excess of $100 million,” according to a company release. Mr. Peacock saw in Decora the ability to produce CGI content efficiently and at scale. Currently, the Decora is delivering 15,000+ images and 7,000+ virtual scenes per month.
“I was very impressed with the fact that this company could in effect capture a 3D model, give it a much more integrated experience to the consumer for a cheaper price that it would be to ship the product itself,” he said.
CreativeDrive, in other words, will be able to integrate at the retailer’s DC or even at a manufacturing facility in China to create a 3D reproduction of the product, thereby eliminating the cost and time of getting that product to a studio in the U.S., let alone prop-styling, lighting and shooting it.
Decora will also aid CreativeDrive in modeling virtual sets for its retail clients, whether a Christmastime living room scene or a poolside patio. For each new season, art directors will update the look and add in the new CGI-created products, thereby forgoing the need for studio work entirely for those seasonal set-ups.
And yet it is the combination with AR and VR technology that CreativeDrive has their “future-proofing” eyes on.
“This is where we see a real game-changing proposition,” Mr. Peacock told RetailWire, “because Decora has built up hundreds of thousands of CGI models now, and our ability to then put them onto the digital shelf for consumers to interact with and then layer data over the top of that for an extended consumer buy opportunity — it’s just a whole user experience AR opportunity that’s immense.”
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How might retailers and brands best leverage CGI in the production of product imagery and sets? How big a role will CGI production play in efforts to create more engaging online experiences for consumers?