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Over the years, the importance of 3D product visualization in eCommerce has been increasing rapidly. Businesses are willing to test this technology out due to its cost-effectiveness and efficiency.

The global pandemic and broken supply chains fostered a deep interest in and a need for such technologies. We are likely to see more 3D and AR solutions implemented into the growth strategy of eCommerce businesses.

The fascinating fact about computer-generated imagery is that 3D visualization can benefit various businesses and fields - architecture, media and entertainment industry, product design and manufacturing, and many more.

At CGTrader, we are dedicated to creating high-quality 3D content for our customers.

We’ve been in the business since 2011 with a single goal in mind – to be the first designer-friendly 3D stock marketplace for buying, selling, and creating professional 3D content.

CGTrader ARsenal, a 3D visualization platform for eCommerce, was founded to help retailers accelerate their digital transformation and shift from product photography to 3D product visualization.

Currently, CGTrader is the largest source for licensable stock and custom 3D models globally, with over 1M 3D models in the catalog and counting over 150 Fortune 500 companies as clients.

To see how CGTrader changed and evolved over the years, we talked to Šarūnas Vendelskis – our Head of 3D modeling, and asked him to share his expertise gathered from more than a decade of working in the 3D modeling and visualization industry.

Šarūnas shared how 3D modeling is now compared to 15 years ago, some of the most common misconceptions when it comes to 3D designs, and more.

How has the 3D modeling process changed compared to when you started and nowadays?

3d modeler
More advanced modeling tools have decreased the rendering times in the 3D modeling industry.

The modeling process itself has not changed much. 3D Designers still need to go through the same steps to create a model.

But new model creation workflows and standards have been developed, such as the PBR (Physically Based Rendering) texture creation workflow. That being said, the basic model creation steps are still the same.

The most significant changes I noticed are in the software and computer hardware.

More advanced modeling tools (or even AI in the 3D world) were introduced over the years, making specific modeling tasks and texture creation easier and faster. Also, as computers got faster, visualization rendering times decreased significantly.

For instance, an image that used to take days to process 15 years ago now takes a few minutes. These improvements allow the artist to create more realistic and much higher quality visualizations in less time.

Every time you needed to change something in the image, let's say move a light or change an object's color, you need to re-render the final image. So, if it took a day to re-render, creating high-quality visuals would be a slow and painful process. But with the recent advancements in 3D technology, we’re able to make changes and re-render way faster than in the past years.

Expectations vs. Reality: What are the most common misconceptions about 3D modeling?

3D car model
A similar 3D model is often seen in many car commercials and new product launches.

One of the most common misconceptions is that 3D models are only used for games. That’s not true. 3D is everywhere: movies, advertising, eCommerce, design and manufacturing, medical applications, architecture, and the list goes on.

A well-done 3D graphic will be indistinguishable from real photographs or videos, and that’s why many people do not even realize they are looking at a 3D model.

For example, when you see a car ad on TV or a billboard, it seems like a real car. But it’s not real; it’s all made using 3D models.

3D models are hardly distinguishable from real photos. As a 3D expert, can you spot the difference, or is it impossible?

A well-made 3D model and visualization can be impossible to distinguish from real photos, even for professionals. However, to create a realistic image, everything must be made to perfection, even the tiniest details. Or more accurately - even imperfections have to be done perfectly to make it look real.

The biggest differences between a 3D model and real objects are often the little imperfections - all the small scratches, uneven connections, slight variations in colors, and so on.

It’s easy to make a perfectly shaped 3D model, but recreating all the tiny imperfections is usually extremely difficult.

It requires a lot of work, attention to detail, and professionalism from the artist. Not many artists can achieve that level of mastery. In many cases, all those tiny details give away that you are looking at a CGI image rather than a real photograph.

3D and Augmented Reality have existed for over 30 years. Why do you think eCommerce has switched to it only relatively recently?

Augmented Reality (AR) was never so easily accessible to the general public. However, technology has developed drastically over recent years. Now, as Android and iOS have AR capabilities, anyone can enjoy it without any additional equipment. This makes it easy for any eCommerce company to provide an AR experience to their consumers - just add an AR-ready model on the website, and that's it. It helps brands bring their products closer to the consumer and lets shoppers interact with the product and experience it almost as if they were shopping in a store.

When it comes to 3D visualization, the early adopters of this technology quickly understood the first benefits, especially in comparison to product photography, the traditional way of producing commercial imagery. The benefits included a better customer shopping experience, lower return rates, higher conversion rates, and more. Naturally, mid-sized and smaller companies took notice of the early adopters’ tactics and began looking for ways how to implement 3D visualization technology into their eCommerce strategy as well – and now 3D product visualization is going mainstream.

Can you please tell us more about CGTrader Arsenal’s 3D modeling workflows? How do they help to streamline the whole process?

3D car model
3D models are requested, stored, filtered & shared among teams through the DAM system at CGTrader ARsenal (Source: CGTrader.)

We have two different modeling pipelines so that we can create 3D models for different use cases.

One is low-poly models – optimized for real-time applications, such as AR and VR. The other is hi-poly models – used for non-real-time visualizations, such as 360-degree product spinners.

Both model types require different modeling skills, different modeling software, and have additional technical requirements. What’s more, both modeling pipelines are split into a few sub-steps:

  • preparation: a step to review and prepare all information for the modelers,
  • modeling: in this step, our selected group of modelers creates a 3D model based on the provided information and requirements,
  • technical validation: in this step, automated validators check the model’s compliance with technical requirements,
  • visual QA: in this stage, our quality assurance specialists compare the model with a reference image to ensure it meets the client’s quality expectations.

Only once the model passes all these stages can it go to the client. This process ensures that we deliver only top-quality models and catch and fix issues before they reach the client.

A large 3D modeling community and system automation help us to work with thousands of models in parallel and deliver large quantities of 3D assets to our clients in the shortest possible timeframes.

What is your number one advice for companies that need to produce large quantities of 3D models?

Talk to us before designing a pipeline or any technical requirements. We have a lot of experience in this area, and we can help companies get started and optimize modeling specifications for their individual needs and model use cases. Scaling 3D product visualization can be a challenge if you don’t know what to expect along the way.

Conclusion

The 3D modeling industry has evolved massively over the last 15 years.

As our Head of 3D modeling Šarūnas Vendelskis explained, the improvements in software and hardware have driven the most significant changes, dramatically speeding up the 3D modeling process.

The widening range of 3D and AR applications across industries could mean that more and more businesses will seek to leverage the technology and reap its benefits. Retail and the e-commerce segment, in particular, seem to be on the verge of a new, 3D-powered era.

To get 3D product visualization at scale right from the beginning, retailers and product brands can benefit from working with industry experts instead of building the 3D production pipeline in-house.

At CGTrader ARsenal, we’re building powerful 3D and AR solutions for e-commerce, combining the world’s largest 3D design community with our proprietary 3D automation system. 3D product visualization makes the customer journey more engaging, increases conversion rates, and offers shoppers a more personalized experience.

If you want to stand out from the crowd and drive more sales for your eCommerce business, give 3D product visuals a try!

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Lessons learned from 15 years in the 3D industry. Interview with CGTrader’s Head of 3D modeling

Haidi Kelly is the CMO at ARsenal. Formerly at WeWork, Haidi loves the challenges the B2B space brings. Excited about the transformative power of digital assets and content in eCommerce, Haidi helps individuals, teams, and companies reach their full potential. In her downtime, she is also a foodie, world traveler, and enjoys live music.

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