pix-us

Information

Happy Birthday to US!

PIX-US and the CGI industry turn 4 and 40, respectively. Today we start our fourth year in business as a full-service CGI company in an unlikely place—not L.A., not Silicon Valley or New York. We're in Greensboro, N.C., and like the CGI industry itself, it hasn't taken long for us to grow—first adding a variety of people in key positions, then more as our client roster grew. Now we're moving to a new, larger building. Just like the boom in our industry overall, we cannot be contained! The movie industry changed forever 40 years ago when 3D computer-generated images appeared in Futureworld (1976). University of Utah graduate students Edwin Catmull and Fred Parke created a CG hand and face for the sequel to 1973's Westworld. It didn't take long for the technology to take over almost entirely in films like Tron (1982) and The Last Starfighter (1984) eventually leading to recognition and acceptance in 1989 when The Abyss won the Academy Award for visual effects. Though the technology makes possible so-bad-it's-good movies like 2013's Sharknado, it also has been indispensable in beloved franchises like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, Star Trek, The Terminator, and Toy Story (as well as Pixar itself). Just ask PIX-US's very own Jeff Grigsby, one of our senior CGI artists, about working on the acclaimed, CGI-dependent Harry Potter movies. "When I step back from the work I did on Harry Potter and the Deathly Gallows Part 1 and Part 2, I'm very happy with how it turned out, and it's pretty cool to have a connection to the iconic characters and scenes." CGI may be rooted in science, but it certainly has a magical effect. Follow PIX-US on social media and stay tuned for our website revamp to see more of what our CGI wands can do....

Danny Austin Crosses the Pond to PIX-US

It was an exciting week at PIX-US when Danny Austin from Set Visions, our partner in the U.K., visited Greensboro to help refine our workflow. “It’s been absolutely fantastic and the results have been way better than I had hoped,” says Danny. “Each person approaches their work in a different way, so I sat with everyone individually to get to where we want to be with our production process.” The aim of the changes is to allow staff members more time and mental space for creativity and getting the job done right. It’s all about organizing the program to do what you want it to do, Danny explained. “You can’t just copy and paste what someone else is doing. You can learn from others, but you still need your own brain. You can know the software inside and out and still create bad work, or you can make it work for you knowing a fraction of the program and still create outstanding 3D images.” Danny was impressed with how quickly the staff absorbed the ideas. The team spent time bonding at various local restaurants including Natty Greene’s, Lucky 32 and Big Burger Spot. “I really enjoyed the Roots music at Lucky 32, and I had the best burger of my life at Big Burger Spot!” he said. On Wednesday, PIX-US took Danny out to the ballgame, where the Greensboro Grasshoppers took on the Greenville Drive. “I am a fan of the sport,” he says. “I figured it’s much like cricket in that there’s plenty of beer and good friends.” By the end of the week everyone wished Danny could stay longer. Cheers! ...

Is CGI Finally More Real Than Photography?

Okay, I can just imagine your reaction to this seemingly absurd statement. But if you are willing to pause and analyze your belief system surrounding photography you may be surprised at your thoughts by the end of this article. Photography has been unfairly burdened with the role of truth teller since its inception. The old adage “the camera never lies” was started as a way to persuade people who had never seen a photograph of themselves, that, yes, this was in fact what they looked like. Lines illustrating this point where used in the play The Octoroon written by Dion Boucicault and performed in New York in 1859: Scud: The apparatus [a camera] can't mistake. When I travelled round with this machine, the homely folks used to sing out, "Hillo, mister, this ain't like me!" "Ma'am," says I, "the apparatus can't mistake." The more modern use of the notion arrived later with the meaning that photography shows us that which is to be believed and is irreproachable. Let me pause as this point. It would be incorrect for the reader to think the purpose of this article is a vilification of photography. To be clear, I have been a photographer for 44 years and a professional advertising and editorial photographer since 1977. I adore photography and have always been active with my own personal work as well. I have followed the development of computer-generated images (CGI) for the past decade. Three years ago I became a partner in a company producing this type of work. I speak as one with experience and total respect for the traditions of photography, the hard working professionals, and fine artists who have used photography to inform, tell stories, entertain, and change opinions for more than 170 years. My utmost respect also extends to the people who have advanced computer-generated imaging to what it is today. I am amazed by what we are able to create, thanks to the hard work of both artists and software engineers. The fact that people still assign the belief that photography is reality is a problem for photography. But from its earliest days, photography was...

Know Your True Colors

Everyone perceives color differently, and women are better at it than men. This dates back to the dawn of time and traditional hunter/gatherer roles. Over the years, color-matching has evolved to such a degree that a science has been developed around it complete with its own number values, scales and terminology. There’s also a science behind the human perception of color. It’s called colorimetry and involves the study of human physiology (color receptors in the human eye) and the technology employed to more closely determine how people perceive color. You may wonder how you personally see color. PIX-US recommends that anyone with professional imaging needs test their own color matching aptitude with online tests like X-Rite’s (formerly Gretag Macbeth). Another equally important step is examining your color-viewing tools environment, and that’s where this article can help. We tell you what you can do and why. In the photography and CGI industries, nuances between colors can make or break a project. That’s why we take it so seriously. We want to limit frustration over color-matching by providing background about our process and tips for optimal viewing of our images. The PIX-US Color-Matching Process At  PIX-US we have machines and software to help match the color of your product. These include color-calibrated graphics monitors, color viewing stations from Just NormLicht, and several different color analyzation tools. Several team members (including both men and women) assess the trueness of the match. As part of the color matching process, we pick an area in a mid-value light and not too close to strong colors. Then we work to match that area and have the other areas reach a state where the viewer logically understands it’s the same product whether in shadow or highlight. If we try to match the color of every piece of product in all areas by taking out all highlights, shadows, and color reflections we end up with a flat, boring image that looks like the product was just dropped in with Photoshop, leaving a much less desirable result. Here’s a look at our setup: 1. We have new, color-calibrated monitors. The ultimate goal is to match...

Four CGI Project–Planning Tips

Pre-production for a computer-generated image (CGI) is not unlike that of a photo shoot. Many of the steps are, in fact, the same. There are, however, a few differences to consider in order to make sure your project goes through our process smoothly and meets your timetable and expectations. This will help us help you! Define Your Project Goals We should all have a solid understanding of the projects expectations and use. Some important things to ask yourself are: Who is the viewer? Who is your audience? Consumer or B2B? Is this a product image or for a branding piece? Does the product line have an established look to follow? What are your competitors doing in this market? What would you like the image to accomplish? What story do you want to tell? A few other things to start considering at this point are the deadline and your budget—more on those in a moment. The answers to these questions help the PIX-US team start your project in the right direction. Resources and Inspiration Next, we’ll want to talk about assets you may have on hand, such as CAD files, drawings or photos, and other product information. We would love to hear about inspiration for this image, see colors that tie to the brand, or take a look at photos your team has gathered. These are all very helpful to us. Production Values We can talk about production for CGI in the same way we do for commercials. Every image needs to be well-executed, and sometimes simple is better. At other times you may need to pull out all the stops. Planning where to spend your imaging budget and understanding your expectations helps you get the most for your investment and gives us a clear path to succeeding on your project. We want to help you spend wisely. There are many reasons to choose CGI over traditional photography—the location can be anywhere, there’s less of a need for shipping product or renting props, and we can create images for your marketing even when there’s no product available. Later on, we can come back to the set and have everything still...

Why CGI? Part Two

Traditional photography or CGI? At Pix-US, we hear that question almost daily. Although traditional photography could be the right fit, there are many short- and long-term reasons to choose CGI. In part one (post below) of our series, we talked about versatility and some of the ways CGI can save resources. Here, we discuss ease of use, creative control, and post-production benefits. Easier to Use How many times have you gotten your images back from a photo shoot only to find that your product is covered in dust that requires hours in post-production to clean up? In the CG world our sets can sit forever without an accumulation of dust. Now that doesn't mean you can't have a little grit and grime in your work if it's appropriate. We just have to plan for it and add it into the texture files as we go. Just Science Want your images to look like they came from the real world? The one we actually live in? Well that's what this process is all about. With the Pix-US process, we can follow the laws of nature, how the light falls, how gravity works, or we can take artistic liberties to help illustrate the story we are trying to tell. We can place the camera in unexpected places, even seemingly impossible places. We are able to control all elements of time and space for the image in order to create the most believable, or the most unbelievable visuals you can imagine. Remember that files produced for engineering purposes can have elements that depend on things like gravity or materials expansion to fill out curves and need some gentle nudging to make them look just right. They're great for work on the factory floor but they're just not very pretty. But all of that said, great CAD files generally produce great results. Post-production We rely on the very best post production techniques and practices to make the images really shine. The compositing of live photography of organic props and fabrics, flowers and food items, clothing or people enable us to include real-world elements that are too time consuming (and less than cost-effective) to build...

Why CGI? Part One

Traditional photography or CGI? At Pix-US, we hear that question almost daily. The truth of the matter is that your product and desired end result will determine the answer. Although traditional photography could be the right fit, there are many short- and long-term reasons to choose CGI. Here, we examine just a few of them in the first part of our series on the case for CGI. Dollars and Sense One of the immediate, and largest, savings generated from the Pix-US process is that the hard-prototyping cycle  can be beaten or eliminated. Photo-realistic, print-quality images can be produced long before products are available for shooting, and the required architecture needn’t be built in the real world or in a studio, keeping the project both green and on budget. Add the savings realized in not having to ship all of your product (your products move as CAD files via email or ftp) or salvage product at the end of a project, and the advantages become even clearer. Versatility Cutaways and exploded product visualizations don't require destroying anything. If you need different views that emphasize other features, they can be produced without a lot of grief. Unlike traditional video methods, exploded views can be mapped and executed until the final refinements exactly match the production needs. And, since these are digital files, they're stored for future use and changes when the need arises, a process that simply doesn't exist with traditional capture methods. Investment Virtual Sets. That's the name of the game. They exist, and they have for a long time. There's no need to tear them down to make way for a new project that's coming in behind yours. Or at any time! They're sitting there, painted, lit, rigged, and waiting for re-use. Simply getting an actual camera back to the same spot on set is nearly impossible. Yet with Virtual Sets your starting point for changes and re-use are where the project left off before. Change the color way? Okay. Move the camera into a tight corner? No problem. In fact, both cameras and lights can be positioned into places that are actually impossible in the real world, giving you more versatility overall....

A bottle of Shine, or what to do when you don’t have the bottle!

When our friends at Mitre Agency called and asked if we knew anything about moonshine we figured something special was up.  Their client was bringing a new product to market but the bottle manufacturer hit a snag in supplying samples for artwork.  That's when PIX-US stepped in and created the perfect packaging for Copper Barrel Moonshine. We modeled the bottles, filled them with "white lightning" then applied the labels.  The resulting ads are as smooth as the real thing itself. Give us a call to discuss how PIX-US can present your products in ways you've never imagined. 336.854.0551...

The PIX-US Story

PIX-US serves clients across North America with handcrafted CG images for use in print, web and motion applications. Our work is a combination of technology and art. We can provide you with beautiful images that are photorealistic, and we save natural resources at the same time. We reduce your need to ship large heavy products that end up as waste along with the sets that were built for your project. We also eliminate the need for expensive locations, scouting time, and production costs associated with location photography. We are able to deliver a better result with more control. We approach our work from a background in studio and location photography but with an eye towards the future. Stunning Images PIX-US produces handcrafted CG imagery using your company's drawings, CAD files, photographs, or from our imagination. These are photorealistic images created to help you achieve your teams marketing goals. We create accurate models and textures and combine them with beautiful lighting and camera work; then our highly skilled post production team wraps it all in the final look. These images can be used for web, print, or collateral marketing. Visualizer Solutions We are able to help you with sophisticated technology for marketing your products with our VISUALIZER solutions. We can create interactive and virtual reality tools showcasing functionality and product attributes. These can be deployed by web, in-store or by mobile device. Please call us about these solutions or see a sample here. These projects can be large and complicated, PIX-US has the team, the experience, and the process to handle all phases of your project from image creation, to deployment, to hosting and management. We are able to produce your site in multiple languages and deploy to servers worldwide. Motion Video PIX-US can create video from any of our projects. We can show moving parts of a product, show products in a wonderful setting, or create an animation. With animation we can produce 360˚ views or changes in space and time. This work is perfect for TV commercials or product videos....