Whether you realise it or not, CGI is an integral part of the automotive industry. It’s always there – unseen – blending into reality seamlessly. Ironically, CGI is at its best when you can’t notice it. But that is also the beauty of it, and why it continues to be a popular choice for a multitude of reasons.
And with advancements in technology, what can be achieved today is outstanding. Bleeding-edge tech makes for some of the most detailed and realistic work you’ll ever see. And these advancements are leading to some new trends that I believe will become the de facto experience in the industry.
If there is a downside to rapidly advancing technology, it’s the requirement for meaty processing power. The more details you include, the more strain you put on the computer. If your computer isn’t state-of-the-art, it can end up chugging along, making for a lacklustre, jagged experience. This would hurt your configurator as very few could run it in their own home – nor could any dealerships – and don’t even think about running it on a tablet or phone.
But streaming can solve this problem with ease. Many other industries have jumped on the streaming train, with it pervading music, TV, film, and video games. Now the automotive industry can benefit too. What this means is all the processing is done by the manufacturer – either on their own system or through the cloud. With a good internet connection, you can stream to any device for a clean, smooth experience.
In fact, it can adjust based on the signal strength. It will provide the optimum choice depending on the signal, reducing the chances of having a bad experience. It’s a particular boon for dealerships who need to find ways to adapt to new consumer trends. Having a configurator running in-house is one such way to do this. With some more investment, they could make it even better…
3D and VR
What makes these solutions so jaw-dropping is their use of 3D visuals over 2D. What this means is more cutting-edge configurators will use a 3D engine – such as Unreal Engine 4 – to render the car in 3D in real-time. This means each change made to the car is being reflected in real-time, as opposed to simply loading a different asset. It makes for a more realistic, immersive experience, allowing the user to explore the tiniest detail of a car in close up, such as the embroidery on a seat, for example.
And when you combine this with virtual reality, you can create something special. Users can get inside the car and see it with their own eyes – they would almost believe they could touch it. This is something car dealerships need to look into. Not everyone at home can invest in a VR setup, so adding it to the dealership makes it an experience worth travelling to. Something they need in this internet-driven market.
Ray-tracing is a particular advancement that is very exciting to behold. The technology allows light to react correctly as it does in real life, allowing for amazing effects, shadows, and reflections. In the automotive industry, this simply means cars have never been able to look better in real-time, with lighting and reflections genuinely representing elements such as paint, base coat, flake, and lacquer. It feels as if it truly reflects the world around it.
It’s just another dimension to add to car configurators and goes back to what I said at the start – the best CGI is the one you don’t notice. A common complaint from buyers after using a car configurator is how it doesn’t look the same in real life. This is because configurators don’t tend to offer different environmental backgrounds. Not anymore. With 3D rendering and ray-tracing, you can create stunning and accurate portrayals of how the car will look.
CGI is an art. And what it is doing for the automotive industry is nothing short of outstanding. With big-name brands pushing technology to its limits in the name of realism, the pursuit of flawless CGI will be a race we will always love to see.
At REALTIME, we are on the cutting-edge of what can be achieved – just look at our work with Lotus. Our experts are always pushing the limits and we would love to join you for the ride. If you are interested in discussing your next project, get in touch at [email protected].