pix-us

PIX-US Team

Merry Christmas from PIX-US!

We promise the Grinch didn’t steal our Christmas! All of us Whos down in Whoville (Greensboro)—the tall and the small—are thrilled at the progress being made in our new headquarters. By this time next year, the cavernous space you see here will be full of character, creativity and innovation on top of the regular holiday hustle-bustle. And you’ll have no problem finding us since we’ll be just across the street from where we are now on Wendy Court. Stay tuned for progress photos, and in the meantime, have a holly, jolly Christmas and a happy New Year!...

Sew Happy

Our images are stunning and unique because of the people behind them. Contributions often come from areas of expertise that may not be directly related to CG imaging, such as cooking—or in Mandy Powers’ case, fabric and textiles. “I love building things, making things out of nothing, doing stuff with my hands. Sewing from a pattern is very soothing for me,” she says. Mandy, who has sewed since she was little, uses her mom’s old Kenmore machine to make clothes, curtains, craft projects and Halloween costumes for her kids, including a dog, frog, witch, princess, pirate, storm trooper, grim reaper, zombie, and Wonder Woman. A bit of a Wonder Woman herself, Mandy's other skills include knitting, designing knitwear and spinning her own yarn. And if that weren’t impressive enough, she’s even published a book of knitting patterns and sells her patterns on Ravelry.com. As project manager at PIX-US, Mandy oversees our process from idea to image. Even though her job focuses on logistics, she draws on her life experience in fabric and textiles to make significant contributions to aesthetics. “When I review PIX-US images in production, I can quickly spot mistakes with textiles that wouldn’t be obvious to the average viewer,” Mandy says. “For instance, I can tell what material should or shouldn’t be used to upholster a sofa or chair. And if you’ve never knitted your own sweater, then you might not understand the qualities, drape and construction of knitted material.” Out of habit, Mandy’s eyes dart directly to any textiles in our images. “Because we’re a small team, we all give our input,” she says. “When I’m able to give input on a fabric-related item, it helps production.” ...

PIX-US Welcomes Eileen Heilsnis

A 2015 college graduate, Eileen Heilsnis joins us from Dallas, where she was working as a junior look development artist. “Ultimately, I like creating pretty pictures,” says Eileen. “That’s what I left the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) looking for.” And she’s found it at PIX-US, which is also close enough to her family for weekend visits. While at SCAD, where she majored in visual effects, Eileen worked on a video for NASA with other students in a collaborative learning center. They created a short animation with graphics explaining the purpose of NASA's ICE-Sat 2 satellite. When her mind wasn’t on the stars, Eileen took advantage of historic Savannah. “The town itself is very picturesque 100-year-old oaks and Spanish moss hanging down,” she says. “Our classes were spread all across town by the river or the railroad tracks. The college bought historic houses and turned them into classrooms.” Eileen has enjoyed her first few weeks at PIX-US where she gets to use her lighting, texturing and modeling skills. “Just because I majored in visual effects, doesn’t mean I do explosions or blow things up,” she quips. “There are many disciplines.” In her spare time, Eileen plays video games, watches movies, hikes and explores the outdoors....

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! ...

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....

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....

Our Halloween Photo Shoot

One afternoon a few weeks before Halloween we pulled down some items from our prop collection and had a bit of a dress up party. The PIX-US team had tons-o-fun and decided we would have a little contest of guessing who is who, We had a tie for the most correct answers, thanks to everyone who played along....

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