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What are Real-time 3D Graphics, and why they matter

What are Real-time 3D Graphics, and why they matter


Our job at Crucial FX is to continually push boundaries with the experiences we create, and we use a wealth of the very latest technology to do this. One of our key technologies is real-time graphics, and you will see us refer to our real-time systems all over our website. But what are real-time graphics, and more importantly, why do they matter? If you are an event organiser looking to put on innovative and exciting events it is really important you know!

Many experiences we create, whether they are projection mapping shows, interactive walls or interactive games use computer-generated 3D graphics. In the simplest form this can just be some 3D text, but in the most advanced form this can be a complete city or 3D environment such as the world we created for The Angry Birds Interactive experience at Madame Tussaud’s. Creating an effective projection mapping show relies on advanced 3D graphics, which create 3D illusions using depth, lighting, and movement. Traditionally 3D experiences such as this have all been created in 3D software (such as Cinema 4D or Maya), combined with compositing software (such as After Effects). A video is then created which is played back on a media server which handles alignment with the building and playback control. Often creating or ‘rendering’ this video can take hours or even days if complex lighting and effects are used. The chances are, if you see a projection show, someone is pressing play on a piece of pre-rendered footage.

Real-time 3D graphics are very different. Rather than creating a video, all content is produced completely live in real-time using our high powered computer systems and custom software, in a similar way to the latest video games. The lighting, effects, and animations are all rendered 60 times a second from mathematical models, without playing back video. Our systems are so advanced that we can create content in Real-time which is indistinguishable from video produced the traditional way. We can replicate complex lighting and effects, and even generate whole cities or environments in live 3D. For the Angry Birds Experience it was critical the live experience was a perfect visual match for the movie, even though it was being rendered in Real-time.

But why would you do this? Why render content in real-time when virtually all other projection mapping shows and experiences use prerecorded video? A key part of our innovation strategy is using new technology to deliver better experiences for live events. Now that we are able to match the same quality of pre-rendered video in real-time there are several key advantages:

1) Interactivity
With a pre-rendered video there is no control over what happens, it has to be decided in advance. With our range of over 50 interactive sensors we can track movement and visitor interactions on touch screens up to 100m wide, and use this data to control the interactive content. The movement of the guests controls the scene, and the choices they make changes the content. Whether we use this to demonstrate products and show information or to create an immersive 3D experience, or an interactive outdoor 3D mapping show, you can be sure that an interactive show is much more memorable and effective.

2) Easy to change
Once a real-time show has been created it can be modified in seconds. A traditional video show has to be completely re-rendered, and often this cannot be done on site. We can even give organisers iPads to input text which is shown instantly in advanced 3D as part of the scene. Our clients find working with our real-time projects much easier as timescales are reduced, changes are easy to make, and flexibility is built in.

3) Social Media
Real-time shows are perfect for integrating social media. Rather than thinking of twitter walls as flat static 2D text or scrolling tickers, imagine your tweets on 3D billboards as you drive through a 3D city, or on the front of a newspaper being held by a virtual character, all generated live in real-time.

4) Resolution
Creating giant video files for large screen presentations is time-consuming, expensive and creates giant file sizes. For this reason, when you see a show using 20 projectors, it is likely that the content is scaled up from a lower resolution to fill the screen, rather than taking advantage of the true maximum possible resolution. With our real-time solution we can create live content at unbelievable resolutions. For our Reebok show in NYC we created content live 22,000 pixels wide! Every pixel on the projectors was individually created, and no scaling was needed. This led to razor-sharp text and images which looked great from 15meters away, but amazing from 2meters away.

5) Potential
Using real-time systems has enormous potential. We don’t just do projection – our shows are a combination of lighting, sound, video and special effects which are all synchronised and driven using our real-time engine. We also can integrate 360˚ immersive experiences and VR in a flash.

We really do believe this is the future of live events, and in 10 years time all content will be created this way. The experiences we create wouldn’t be possible any other way – contact us today to experience the different it makes, and take a look into the future of live events today.


Managing Director at Crucial FX