An Interview by 3D Visualization World Magazine

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Interview with Stefan Vittori by Jeff Thurston

Tangram 3DS Delivers 3D Modeling and Visualization For Ships and Facility Design

3D Visualization World Magazine | February 24, 2014 | By Jeff Thurston

Interview originally posted on 3DVisWorld:
3DVW: How did you become interested in 3D visualization and animation? What interested you in this type of work as a career?

SV: I started my career as a 3d architectural visualizer in 1991 during my studies at the Technical University in Vienna, Austria. I was fascinated by a very basic wireframe animation I saw on TV. At that time, to show a simple 3d wireframe was considered cutting-edge technology. Autodesk just started to integrate the first 3d tools, “Advanced Modeling,” tools into AutoCad. The operating system was still MS DOS and 3dsMax did not even exist. That 3d software was called “3d Studio DOS” developed by the software company Kintetix which became later “3d Studio Max”. Back then it was clear for me that I would like to start a career as an architectural visualizer and to create eye catching renderings and animations.

3DVW: Tangram 3DS has been centrally involved in numerous projects including the 3D modeling of the Portsmouth, NH, Naval Shipyard. Can you describe how you became involved in that work and what role you played?

SV: In July of 2007, facility management officials from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNSY) in Kittery, Maine, came to Tangram 3DS. They were seeking a modern, high-tech presentation that would represent the expertise and skills of the yard’s 200+ year history. To that end, Tangram went to work creating a fully detailed model of Seavey’s Island on which the yard is located, including nearly 300 unique buildings, dry docks, cranes, bridges, and other infrastructure elements. It was understood by the entire team from the beginning that this would be the largest visualization project any of them had undertaken.

3DVW: Many designers use multiple tools in their 3D designs and this must be the case for you because of your large and wide ranging portfolio. Does this pose unique challenges for you in terms of completing projects? How do you go about selecting the best tools for projects?

SV: We use a wide range of tools to create our work. That is the nature of our industry. It is a challenge for the business since most newcomers do not have the experience to use all tools needed. New employees need to be trained and learn on the job. Our Director of Visualization, Jared Foley, constantly researches the market to find out the trends and directions which our profession is heading, which also includes attending trade conferences, seminars and training courses. Thankfully, it does not challenge us in terms of project completion. Today there are online 3d communities, platforms, information and organizations available including 3D Visualization World Magazine, which keep us in the 3d visualization world informed, up-to-date and interested.

3DVW: Your company not only works on architecture, but is also involved in yacht design. What does that involve, how did this kind of work come about?

SV: The visualization rendering work for yachts and boats is much related to interior design and design visualization. We use the same tools, but it is a much more organic modeling process. But today with having to model mostly custom furniture on interior design projects top 3d modeling skills are required to work in a 3d Studio or agency anyways.

Our headquarters is located in Kittery, Maine, which is directly on the East Atlantic Seacoast. We have some of the best boat builders along the Seacoast and plus I always liked yachts and the ocean…for me as an Austrian native growing up surrounded by mountains, living here on the Seacoast feels always like being on vacation. To be involved in the Superyacht industry with creating renderings and animations is being able to have access to a $100 million yacht without having to spend that kind of money….ha, ha, ha.

3DVW: With your critical eye, what do you look for in high quality 3D visualizations and designs?

SV: I look for the excitement in a rendering which comes for me mainly how a camera angle is set up, the contrast in the rendering and how the light affects the scene. I ask my self “Does that rendering draw me in?” The first impression is the most important one for me. I love when I walk by the computer screens in the office and our artists are working on an image that catches my attention by just walking by. I have to stop and can’t stop looking at their work.

Only then, I start thinking more about what technical skills are involved to produce such a rendering. Then I see how much detail our team puts into the work and how their eye for detail separates us from our competition. In today’s world there is a lot of very good and incredible work available. It is extremely competitive. You need to separate yourself from the crowd and find your own style.

The problem is, that our work is so deadline driven which puts a lot of pressure on our artists to be the best and to be fast and meet deadlines at the same time. You have to always keep in mind what was the budget, timeframe and under what conditions was the image created.

3DVW: Tangram 3DS is expected to become more involved in the NorthPoint Cambridge revisioning project. Can you tell us more about that work and your participation?

SV: That project is in progress and I am not able to disclose it fully. NorthPoint is a very large and exiting project for Tangram 3DS. We have not had such a large scale project to work on since 2007, before the recession. Everything has changed since the recession and those large overall projects for a 3d studio are just not out there, and those that are, aren’t easy to get. We added new services and talents to our team and created a new division “Tangram iDs” (Tangram Interactive Design Solutions). We are currently still developing that division but you can get a preview of it here. To be able to offer new services, but very tied to 3d visualization and animation work was one factor that Tangram 3DS got the Northpoint project awarded. We will have the project finished in two months which will allow us to fully disclose and show that project.

3DVW: How has 3D and visualization changed over time in your view? What are the current challenges facing this kind of work? Are they technological, financial, policy or?

SV: The 3d visualization profession has changed quite a bit since I started Tangram 3DS 10 years ago. It changed incredible in regards of hardware, software and tools of course but also it became a huge economical market. We reached the top, at least in the USA, in 2007 when we could not even find people to hire. Then, we had the recession and many 3d studios went out of business.

Now things are coming back slowly but it is not enough to just create mere 3d renderings and animation work anymore. There is a lot going on in the architectural visualization business in regards of integrating Virtual Reality and game engine technology. We have to constantly research, try out new tools and workflows, add new services and invest money. Everything is just a lot more complex.

3DVW: We often come across companies leaning toward 3D city models and smart city concepts. Are you involved in these kinds of projects and efforts?

SV: When we use city models, we download those from the cities GIS departments or buy them online. We looked into the ESRI City Engine software and did some research but that is a whole separate industry and market.

3DVW: Do 3D mobility tools and technologies have a role in your work? Can you explain how and where?

SV: Currently 3D mobility tools and technologies do not play a role in our office.

3DVW: Do you have some projects that involve augmented reality? Can you tell us about those?

SV: We do not have any current augmented reality projects. That is a service that we offer through our partners at Tangram iDs. We work with a Brazilian firm which just offers Augemted Reality Services, they are experts in that field. We do not get the volume of work that requires investing into that service market.

3DVW: You are celebrating 10 years of operations this year. Are you doing what you expected? What has surprised you most over this time? Any reflections on the next 10 years?

SV: It has been a very rewarding time for me with ups and downs. The economic recession was the scariest part for me as the business owner. I am very fortunate to have the best talents as part of our team and to be supported by Jared Foley, our director of visualization, who is leading the creative team. I see great things happening for Tangram 3DS in the future with being part of the transformation in our 3d creative world.