VirtueGraphics: Animating the Yachting Industry

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VirtueGraphics bridges the gap between engineers and customers. 3D animation is the most effective communication solution to translate an engineering concept into a visual marketing tool.

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... voila ... Once we show them how much they can save and it takes less time, they love it.

Advancement of business in the global boating market is making significant gains as companies turn to industrial animation to bridge communication gaps between engineering lingo and their consumers, not to mention accelerating operations from concept to design.

Organizations such as Fort Lauderdale-based Quantum Marine Engineering and Holland-based Mulder Designs are turning to VirtueGraphics, a CG (computer generating) animation house located in Phoenix, Arizona.

For those who are new to the concept of industrial animation, it is a cost-effective marketing tool that empowers manufacturers, designers, and customers. For example, while a product or service is still in the concept stage, instead of presenting technical data to customers, ship builders now can show them the actual product in a make-believe environment.

“One of the problems in marketing an entirely new technology is the difficulty in explaining to ship builders and yacht owners exactly how a system works,” according to Mike Perkins, Vice President of Business Development at Quantum Marine Engineering, a stabilization manufacturer. “I show them the animation and they get it right away.”

Launched in 1998, VirtueGraphics has grown quickly from a two person crew into a flourishing operation with a solid reputation for delivering quality 3-D presentations, Web sites, and digital video. Their growth can be attributed to savvy business management, the availability of powerful computer platforms, and relatively low labor rates in Arizona.

“Arizona is an ideal location, with a number of industries investing in this 3-D platform, from nanotechnology to medicine to the military,” says VirtueGraphics CEO John Koop. “And the costs of operating are relatively low. We pass those savings on to our clients.”

Their client list is impressive, ranging from nautical manufacturers to aerospace, medicine, and military.

“CG Animation is more than a creative choice; it is a cost-effective way to deliver a high-end visualization solution that provides clients with a competitive advantage in winning new business, educating customers, and securing approval for high-concept designs. We approach our clients with the direction of a proven investment rather then another marketing cost,” says Koop.

He launched VirtueGraphics in 1998. Their first client was Quantum Marine Engineering, and they remain a client to this day. Quantum Marine Engineering turned to VirtueGraphics to help them figure out how to educate new customers about their stabilization systems. The first challenge was to demonstrate how systems work when located underwater. But even a bigger challenge was that their greatest innovations didn’t exist yet.

The question at hand was how to educate a prospective customer who was foreign to the physics pertaining to roll stabilization or high-performance hydraulic systems. How does one describe the basic physics and practical aspects of such innovative systems in both modes of ship operations: underway and anchor?

Mr. Perkins was tasked with finding a solution.

“We approached VirtueGraphics with a rough concept of what we wanted to accomplish. They came back to us with preliminary images and animations, and it turned out to be exactly what we were looking for.” says Perkins “Their skills and knowledge of our business was vital to translating confusing engineering data into a user-friendly visual component that we used to convert potential customers into buyers.”

VirtueGraphics has worked with Quantum for more than six years and has been a key contributor to Quantum’s success, helping them become a leader in the roll- and pitch-damping market. Quantum’s revenues are up over 120% as a result of the partnership.

“There’s no doubt that VirtueGraphics’ services have had an impact on our business. There is a direct correlation between Quantum’s success and VirtueGraphics,” says Perkins.

How It Works

The first step to create a 3D animation is capturing the necessary data. A client can provide either an AutoCAD file or a rough sketch. The next step is to transform these 2-D images into a 3-D object. VirtueGraphics’ artists work closely with clients to ensure accuracy and a high level of detail.

The approved specifications are brought into a digital production environment where the invention is digitally crafted. Artists add lighting and textures, and they surround the invention with what looks like a real world environment. Finally, artists bring the invention to life by adding motion [animation or moving a virtual movie camera around the invention and through the environment.

The possibilities are endless. A virtual camera and host can take a prospective client on a journey above or below the sea, highlighting invention details along the way that can impact a purchase decision. An interactive feature can be added to provide prospective customers with total control and to empower them to make logical decisions in terms of size, shape, and colors. This feature is ideal for a trade show or Web site.

“Production is done in the computer,” says John Koop from VirtueGraphics . “No underwater production, no elaborate travel or hotel accommodations, no production insurance … it’s a controlled environment.”

What if you have to make changes?

“Well, it’s relatively simple and cost-effective,” he goes on to say. “The 3-D case model is already built ... an animator would make adjustments ... hit “render” ... voila ... Once we show them how much they can save and it takes less time, they love it.”

By: Brian Beyer

Contact: John Koop, 480-862-3533

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