Profile: Rendermedia CGI, bringing products to life with inspiring VR, AR and 3D content
Bristol is often the first thought when it comes to the UK’s thriving virtual reality (VR) industry, especially with Europe’s biggest VR conference, VR World Congress, now in its third year of being held in the city. But for a Swindon-based team of creatives and developers at immersive content producers, Rendermedia CGI, business is also booming.
“For us, VR was an absolute no-brainer”
Its latest contract creating virtual reality content for multinational aerospace firm Airbus not only caught the attention of global mobile company HTC but landed them at internationally renowned consumer electronics show CES in Las Vegas just last month.
It’s easy to see why when you check out some of the amazing content they’ve created for Airbus in the video below:
Things haven’t always been this way though. 15 years ago, from a spare-room-come-office, self-confessed creative, business-newbie and Rendermedia founder, Mark Miles (pictured below right) decided he wanted to shake up the marketing industry by allowing people to truly visualise products with 3G and CGI. Despite limited technical expertise he set off on his mission in a flurry of creative optimism, overcoming many pitfalls and learning many lessons on the way.
Keen not only to find out more about his experiences working with huge brands and landing up in Vegas, we caught up with him to chat about grasping at opportunities, finding a niche and growing a startup from the ground up.
“You start out with this idea or dream in your head, Mark tells us. “For us, it was about taking high-end CGI used in television and using this to allow businesses to bring their products, processes or services to life.
“The immersion techniques we applied for Airbus instantly overcame the logistical challenges of how you get people to test out very large and expensive products”
“At first I worked primarily with other creative agencies but found it hard to upsell the benefits of CGI. We have been experimenting with interactive 3D since VRML 20 years ago but trying to get clients on board with this was a real challenge, especially when people were still happy to keep using PDF to get their message across. It wasn’t until we started to contact businesses directly that our eyes really opened up to the opportunities and relationships we could build.
“The real game changer was when VR and AR started to get out there with early dev kits from the likes of HTC and Oculus. For us, VR was an absolute no-brainer.”
A bolt out of the blue
Following a commission from Airbus to demonstrate seven of their products at Farnborough Airshow last year, Rendermedia is now set to revolutionise whole areas of the aerospace industry, from logistics and training through to design and marketing.
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Mark says: “Visitors to the stand were immersed in the experiences of flying low over the Welsh valleys, skimming the atmosphere of the Earth and traveling over the surface of Mars.
“The immersion techniques we applied for Airbus instantly overcame the logistical challenges of how you get people to test out very large (and expensive!) products anywhere, anytime, without leaving the ground.”
“Someone once called AR and VR the last medium. I am not so sure about that”
That’s not all though, as Mark was given the opportunity to talk about the company’s experience creating content for Airbus at a leading VR & AR conference at London’s Excel centre where he was able to connect with HTC.
He tells us: “Getting on HTC’s radar was a bolt out the blue. A gentleman approached me after I got off stage and asked if I could take a photo of his business card because he had run out, and I just saw HTC on the card and thought, that’s great.
“He then came back and said that there was strong interest in our VR experience and that they wanted to take this to form a part of their main showcase at CES.
“Since then we have worked with HTC in sharing the experience with their internal partners in the UK and their customers in the US, Europe and Asia.”
Finding a niche
As Mark explains: “We woke up to the notion last year that we were at that juncture where we were being required to become experts in so many different fields of software technology, like producing the absolute best motion graphics for brands, or CGI for architecture or automobiles. But this was putting a lot of pressure on the resources we had.
“For example, you can be the best creative agency in automotive in the whole of the UK, or even Europe, but you can’t be automotive, engineering, pharmaceuticals and energy all at once… unless you have some huge capital investment.
“So, you get to the point where you start to look at who you are and what you’re offering and positioning ourselves within a certain sector with a specific offering has really worked.”
The future of VR
Having forged relationships with companies like HTC, Intel and research bodies in VR and AR, the team at Rendermedia are now focussing on research and development, multi-user experiences and training.
“If you can think it you can create it, it’s just sometimes a case of playing catch-up”
Mark adds: “Someone once called AR and VR the last medium. I am not so sure about that. If you can think it you can create it, it’s just sometimes a case of playing catch-up.
“I think VR can cross over to so many industries and sectors, and really help us in our everyday lives. I think there are some areas that VR will completely disrupt such as marketing because allowing businesses to experience their unique selling point is just so powerful.
“Combining this with an engaging and user driven storytelling of a brand for innovation, sales, marketing and training as well as STEM activities is an unbelievable opportunity. This technology is so immersive it plays with your emotions instantly.”
“We are beginning to look at how VR as a technology itself can be used as opposed to just creating content for VR companies to use and are in the process of developing a white paper and case studies around this.”
VR in Swindon
Rendermedia’s home turf in Swindon has a lot to offer the South West, as Mark explains: “Our customer base spans Wales to Essex, and up far north as Manchester so this part of the world is great for us.
“Swindon is a great place to be based because there is simply so much talent here”
“Over the past year we have really begun to look at what is more closer to home because there are some great opportunities locally. We recruit locally, we share our work through STEM activities locally, and we have forged relationships with schools and colleges on our doorstep.
“Swindon is a great place to be based because there is simply so much talent here that comes for university and then doesn’t leave, so we have created a real base for people to come here from college or from university and we are there to support them.”
Nonetheless, Mark also tells us he has a lot of admiration for some of the innovation being carried out across the South West: “[I admire] the owners of E3 in Bristol because I love the story of how they set up by being offered the chance to pitch for the global website for the Orange account.
“Those kind of opportunities are just crazy and are once in a lifetime opportunities which you have to absolutely grasp at as they act as great foundations to build your business upon, which I can honestly relate to.
“I think more in our industry we are looking at what other companies are doing in our space that complement what we are doing such as Ultrahaptics that are developing ways to feel more immersed in VR using ultrasound.
“Looking more locally there is a scene in Swindon around gaming with small indie studios developing content and that’s great.”
Many thanks to Mark for chatting to us about his experience running Rendermedia. You can find out more about the company by checking out the Rendermedia website or by following them on Twitter here: @Rendermedia.
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