Lost Boys Learning – Class 4 – Photo-realistic 3D Product Shot

When watching television commercials, you might not always notice that the products they are trying to sell you are increasingly becoming computer generated, most obviously those that are animated – who can miss a talking pop can or a dancing M&M? – and with more subtlety, the final beauty shot.

You’ll see 3D food products, mobile phones, razors, pop bottles, beer bottles, waffles, dominoes, handbags, volleyballs, soccer balls, pharmaceuticals and arguably the most extreme of all product shots – the automobile. Product shots are important to solidify the consumers “brand recognition” and maximize “product appeal” which is a vital issue in effective advertising. Perhaps due to the pressure that comes along with this responsibility more and more Directors are looking to 3D animation to allow more flexibility and freedom to design and manipulate the shot to meet greater standards.

Commercials are being created at many animation and visual effects studios – it is often the bread and butter genre for a studio. The list (in Canada) includes Red Rover, Guru Studio, Cuppa Coffee Animation, Hatch Studios, Spin VFX and Axyz FX in Toronto; deShed, Skuad and Buzz Image in Montreal; and Vancouver’s The Embassy VFX, Global Mechanic and CIS.

At Lost Boys Learning, one of our Term 1 demo reel projects is to create a photo realistic brand-name object for a simulated TV commercial product shot. Students have created shots for Lipton, Corona, McDonald’s, Chanel, Sun-Rype, Nestle, Advil, Molson, Starbucks and more, developing photo realistic texture mapping, lighting and rendering skills. Typically these shots are 5-7 seconds in which the product must be cleanly established and have suitable text or logo overlays displayed before the commercial ends. Simulating the fast-paced scheduling involved in commercial production, our students have two weeks to take their projects from concept to completion.

Read on as our Class 4 students talk about their process.

JongJun (Danny) An – Tropicana Orange Juice

“I chose Tropicana brand orange juice, using a “morning sunrise” lighting concept and incorporating sun rays and bright colours in the background. One of greatest challenges was UV mapping and texturing of the juice carton to make it photo-realistic. To get an accurate texture map I purchased the product and carefully unfolded it so it could be scanned and cleaned up in our paint software.” – JongJun An

John Lipskie – Sun-Maid Raisins

“After accurately recreating the Sun-Maid Raisin box I felt that the shot still needed something more to increase the nostalgic appeal of the product. After searching online for ideas, I was inspired to create a childlike illustration of a happy sun character. I did a quick test and found that the sun and the box were a perfect pair. The other challenge that I had to solve was seamlessly transitioning from the raisin box to the product logo in full screen. After numerous unsuccessful and tedious attempts to align the two elements the solution turned out to be much easier than I thought. I rendered a separate layer in Maya of only the product box and a surface shader with a simplified texture map which ensured correct alignment. I then cross dissolved the two layers in Nuke with a matching red constant around the logo.” – John Lipskie

Clifford Green – Virgin Mobile

“Setting up the lights for my product shot was challenging. I used an area light to solve this problem – the aim was to create a photo realistic lighting environment. Initially I planned to utilize polygon based modeling but the results were not promising so early on in the project I switched to using subdivision surface modeling techniques. This work flow was far more successful at achieving the smooth contours and subtle details that was required to accurately recreate the cell phone product.” – Clifford Green

Monica Rodriguez – Dolce Gabbana “Light Blue”

“One of the most challenging parts of my Product Shot Project was to texture the perfume box. In order to create the velvet texture of the box as close as possible with the real one, I had to create a custom reflectivity and specular roll off map. I then blended these together with Maya’s facing ratio utility to create the soft wrapping of light which is inherent to velvet. An additional challenge was locating the exact font used by Dolce Gabbana in their Light Blue campaign. After an extensive search of our font library I found a suitable match that only required a small custom tweak to the “G.” – Monica Rodriguez

Daniel Jackson – Monster

“I used Maya’s curve and revolve tool to accurately recreate the unique contours of the Monster can. Slicing a can into a flat shape that is suitable for scanning is more of a difficult process than one would expect. After a quick search online, I was able to locate the Monster logo which I then added the appropriate text/font to complete the cans textures. After animating a subtle dolly out, I added a small quaking effect to the product implying that something powerful was inside the can awaiting its release.” – Dan Jackson

Polished to a high degree of professionalism, this shot is an asset on a student demo reel, edited alongside a variety of visual effects shots created during the assigned projects and during self-directed studies in Term 3.

Feel free to comment with accolades or critiques – all feedback is appreciated and very helpful! For more student Product Shot Stills visit our gallery. Watch for further project posts of our UFO project and 24 Hour Short Film Project coming in the next few weeks.



We are now accepting applications for our intakes starting in May and September of 2009. Please visit our website and/or email us for further information.

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