Next time you look through an IKEA catalogue remember this: 75% of those photos aren’t even photos. That’s right, from the incredibly natural looking interior ‘photographs’ to the product images themselves, many are actually very well done CGI renderings. Perhaps this is why their images look so impossibly perfect.
This fact came to light in a fascinating article from the Computer Graphics Society which details IKEA’s early exploration into creating computer rendered images beginning in the summer of 2004. It wasn’t until the fall of 2006 (and after a number of bad visualizations) that they put their first CG image in a catalogue, a chair called “Bertil”:
Today, about 75% of IKEA product images and 35% of their non-product images are fully CG (i.e not photographic composites). The original motivator for IKEA wasn’t a dislike of photography, but rather that their products are made in so many countries that shipping prototypes to one location for photographing was a logistical headache.
CG images for individual products started the ball rolling, and soon the company was creating entire rooms with the technique. It’s a choice that has allowed them to quickly rework the entire layout of a room (click for larger view):
Martin Enthed, the IT Manager for the in-house communication agency of IKEA told CGSociety about a brilliant move the company made to increase image quality:
“We have a manager Annelie Sjögren, and she decided that all the 3D artists had to learn photography, and all the photographers had to learn to be 3D artists. There was a very intensive period of training where the entire photography team met with V-Ray gurus over in Bulgaria and came back with a number of tasks to complete – more 3D pieces to create. And for the 3D artists, it was the opposite way around. They were trained in photography in the studio. This process is absolutely what made for an increase in quality – both in 3D AND photography. Actually now some of our photographers have completely “gone over” – they’ve become 3D artists. And some of our 3D artists have abandoned their computers and become photographers! There’s been a real merge. It’s been astonishing, really.”
The company now renders images in very high resolution (4k by 4k) giving them the ability to use any image in a variety of manners, from online applications to large scale in-store wall imagery. You can read more of the fascinating article here.
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