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Animated about architecture

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Impact Interactive uses animation to help people understand how buildings will look and behave. It is also visualising the future of construction

Impact Interactive is a visualisation and animation company based in Berkshire, set up by architects to offer its services to other building professionals. It distinguishes itself from other companies in two main areas - by understanding the architectural principles behind projects and by focussing on animated rather than still images.

Impact Interactive was established In May 1997 and is a division of Impact Audio Visual Ltd (iav). iav in turn is part of the Lanyfax Group which was founded in Sweden over 25 years ago. Justin Kennington uk operations in 1992, specialising in the design of presentation environments for conference, meeting and training rooms, with particular emphasis on integrating technology into the room environment.

Impact aims to help clients understand its solutions through visualisation and animation as part of the audio-visual sales process. It was this approach that resulted in the adoption of 3D Studio max. Another factor in the choice of software was price per seat.

While other packages offer better functionality in terms of price performance, max is hard to beat. Trevor Smith joined Impact in May 1997 to pilot these services within the audio-visual environment. This proved extremely successful and it soon became clear that widening the scope into office interiors and exterior building construction would be beneficial.

Impact began with office interiors to illustrate various interior schemes and to provide visual awareness of space planning. The ability to convert architectural plans into a three-dimensional vision is rare, even in the seasoned professional, let alone for anybody else. From office interiors, the company progressed to exterior elements, using the team's architectural experience to incorporate detail, and realistic lighting and materials to create interesting and believable visualisations.

Currently Impact Interactive has three full-time skilled max. artists who between them share over 40 years of experience in 3D computer graphics, and have all been trained as architects. Impact also has its own in-house renderfarm facilities with more than 25 PCs, full non-linear digital video- editing suites, multimedia cd-rom and web-creation facilities. While many companies focus solely on visualisation, Impact is able to offer clients a much more comprehensive service.

Boots commissioned Impact to provide a computer animation of a new link building at its headquarters site in Nottingham. The primary function of this was for Boots to show its relevant staff how it was going to bring the functions of eight buildings into a single building. The whole presentation was designed to focus on how this would change the way of working for many of the Boots employees. A video was made available for the staff to familiarise themselves with the new building.

The final video combined animation with live footage, text and voice- overs. Boots also used some of the smaller animated sections on its intranet. The 3D model was built with the cooperation of Architects degw, mace the project managers, and the furniture company Tynedale. One of the interesting side-effects of this process was that staff were already familiar with the new surroundings when they moved in, saving a great deal of the wasted time normally associated with a move of this type. When staff down time resulting from the confusion of a move is calculated, the cost of providing the visualisation and animation material is trivial.

Bryant Homes commissioned Impact Interactive to provide visualisation of a new housing development in Chester. This was a pioneer project for Bryant. Still images were designed for more traditional marketing purposes, while QuickTime vr files were destined for use by potential buyers on computers installed in Bryant sales areas. All of the modelling represented as closely as possible the materials to be used on site, and gave a 'true to life' picture of the development. This enabled Bryant Homes to show prospective house purchasers views of properties as they were going to look, in terms of style and their surrounding environment.

Obviously this would all normally be impossible until the entire development was completed, but now can be done before even a turf is cut on site. The QuickTime vr files allow the viewer to stand at various points in the development and look around the site in their own time. This technology also potentially removes the need for consumers to travel to different locations unnecessarily, as all the images can be viewed across the Internet. While the main objective of the project was the marketing aspect, Bryant Homes found the images particularly useful as a means of reviewing design objectives, with certain architectural issues having surfaced and been resolved before the project commenced.

One of Impact's latest ventures is the creation of a cd-rom for the Construction 2020 project. This involved a number of visionaries proposing ideas for the way the construction industry would work in the year 2020. Among the ideas developed were automated building processes, intelligent hud hats and intelligent building materials.

Impact was charged with producing animated shorts of several of these ideas and came up with a short film showing how construction could radically change in the next century. The key to all the ideas expressed in the film is that they are practical and possible within the time frame.

The process starts with automated construction vehicles and deliveries. Robots could then be used to put together intelligent building materials. These materials would have the ability to self-diagnose and transmit detailed information back to a central location via satellites. Architects and builders could make use of hud displays on hard hats that would show construction information in context. In much the same way that pilots are shown navigation and targeting information, the hats could be used to identify areas of construction that did not match with the detailed cad plans stored within them.

While this project differed greatly from the more down-to-earth work undertaken by Impact, it showed how visualisation could and will be used in the future. For more information contact Mel Cornish at Impact on 01344 637712 or e-mail him at mcornish@impact-av.com.

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