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From planning the London 2012 Olympics site to the regeneration of a Tyneside toffee factory.

Stratford Masterplan

The term ‘legacy’ was bandied around the London Olympic Games well before any athlete took to the track.

In order to avoid an isolated, unoccupied, publicly-funded white elephant, plans were put in place to make the site saleable even before the starter’s gun went off.

As a visualisation partner, London-based Glowfrog provided CGIs for the athletes’ village, from early site-wide concept design to individual plot planning submissions and marketing. For over five years the team of 15 CGI illustrators and retouch artists worked on visualising drawings from 15 different architects. The results show the 700-acre site in various stages, including post-games design.

Glowfrog met with the clients’ project management team, each separate architect and their design team to discuss their working practice, software used and setting in place data procedures for an efficient flow of information between all parties.

“We shared 3D models with an animation partner on the project, Hatton Associates, who work in Autodesk Maya,” says Glowfrog managing director Nigel Hunt. “Between us we perfected a pipeline to share 3D assets and reduce the cost to the client by maintaining a single up-to-date global 3D model of the entire site that could be used for producing detailed CGI renderings and regular animation flythroughs of the project.”

Working with all the different architects meant the team needed to adapt to each building plot separately.

“Some architects provided 3D models from SketchUp, others Rhino, Revit, MicroStation, Vectorworks, AutoCAD 2D drawings; basically everything and, for a period of time, all at once,” explains Mr Hunt.


The team first prepared the data, drawings and 3D models received from clients during pre-production. Moving into the production stage, buildings were modelled, materials and lighting were applied and the image was rendered in passes. The team primarily used 3ds Max and Vray, working on Boxx workstations, with its own in-house render farm.

In post-production the image passes were composited together by retouch artists using Photoshop, adding additional details such as people, sunny skies and trees.

The sweetest thing

This regeneration project of the Toffee Factory in Newcastle upon Tyne was a bold step for regional development company 1NG’s first project.

The semi-derelict building was surrounded by demolition works, so it was a challenge to get the right photographs to work from

The remains of the old factory building were to incorporate bold and contemporary additions, to be planned and approved using photorealistic visualisation.

The series of five images was produced over a two-month period by Newcastle-based visualisation team Eyelevel.

Creative director Neil Clark led the project, taking into consideration the viewpoints for each shots that showcased the important design aspects of the proposals, with the existing building offering strong elements such as the chimney, viaduct and rooftop additions.

“We prepared the 3D model from the architect’s 2D drawings and added detail after reviewing the images with the architect,” he said.

Images of similar details, materials and reflections in the area were used as references in order to achieve realistic 3D rendered counterparts, using the same images to establish the mood for the lighting

Eyelevel used 3ds Max Design for 3D modelling and camera match and V-Ray for lighting and rendering.

Because the visualisation was built around a photographed background almost half the project took place in Adobe Photoshop, including post-production.

Because the visualisation was built around a photographed background almost half the project took place in Adobe Photoshop, including post-production.

The semi-derelict building sat on a small footprint surrounded by demolition works. This meant it was a challenge getting the right photographs to work from.

The dark, northeast winter photographs had to be brightened and enlivened for the marketing material, adding greenery, removing snow and adding warmer low level sunlight flare.

“We had to adjust the perspective of the available photography with some careful post-production work, which means the final image is a mix of photography and realistic textured 3D model,” says Mr Clark.

“One of the shots included the River Ouseburn, which was brimming with bright, reflective water during the photography reconnaissance. When we returned for the shoot the lock gates had been opened and the river was a bed of exposed mud, so we had to superimpose a computer generated river complete with reflections.”

All this extra work proved worthwhile as the completed building went on to win the RIBA Regional Sustainability Award and Building of the Year Award 2012.


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