Taking CLO to The Next Level: An Interview with one of our very own CLO 3D Designers

We are continuously inspired by our very own CLO 3D Designers. Being a master of the CLO interface and training brands around the globe on how to use 3D to their advantage, they have great knowledge to share when it comes to perfecting your designs. A great number of brands have implemented CLO into various stages of their supply chain and the long-lasting benefits that come with this digital transformation are becoming more evident. From product development and design and the ability to re-use 3D Assets to showcase collections in a more creative and unrestricted environment – 3D aids brands to become more productive, sustainable, and achieve faster, and more realistic results. 

A topic that has become increasingly popular, is the usage of 3D for Marketing touch points. This includes digital sell-ins, e-commerce, showcases, digital Marketing and advertising. Many designers strive to achieve photo-realistic 3D results that can be used for outward facing communication and which take away the necessity of real-life photo shooting and even runway shows – shifting these to a virtual realm. 

We had the opportunity to catch up with one of our 3D Designers, Simon Voelkl, who has found a passion for creating photorealistic renders driven from the inspiration of his favorite movies. Find out more about his background within the industry, his workflow, his favorite CLO tools, how he is able to create such realistic outputs, as well as his tips for designers who are looking to achieve the same high quality results for Marketing and e-commerce purposes. 

When did you first start using CLO?

I first got in contact with Marvelous Designer over 5 years ago. A former colleague showed it to me and we both were amazed about the fast live simulation. Other 3D softwares were always struggling with cloth simulation. I did some spare time projects with MD and also used it occasionally for special projects at my previous jobs, which demanded photorealism. Actually, it was when I applied at CLO Virtual Fashion, that I realized that MD and CLO are part of the same company.

What has been your background in the industry?

I have a Bachelor of Engineering in Media Technology. However, during my studies I focused increasingly within the fields of 3D visualization and design. After graduating, I started my first job as a Motion Designer for an internationally known TV broadcaster. After four years, I started working for a design agency, where I was doing basically the same tasks for architecture and big screens at events. Next to animation, 3D visualization was always a big focus for me and photorealism was the goal which I strived to achieve. My mentors pushed me to make my designs more realistic and showed me all their little tricks to get even more detailed. This is why the lighting and rendering is now one of my favorite parts of using CLO and I’ve become a specialist in these.

Where do you get your inspiration for your designs?

I’m personally a big movie and series fan. I can talk for hours about the topic and always welcome new recommendations. My designs are either derived from my favorite movies or are simply a tribute to the original creator of a specific movie ensemble. Another one of my interests is the visualization of outfits, which have only been seen in cartoons. This leaves me a lot of space for creative freedom and interpretation. After publishing my designs I engage my followers, family, and friends to guess from which movie the outfit stems from. I hope this inspires people to start building their own ideas or at least watch that movie. 

What is your workflow, when it comes to digitizing these ensembles? 

I usually research a lot of pictures of the outfits I am digitizing from various camera angles. Close up details are important. Sometimes it’s difficult to find proper references, so I have to rewatch the whole movie again – which I don’t mind of course. I then start with basic blocks and begin modifying them. When you don’t have to work with exact measurements, you can create a coat from a basic t-shirt in just a few minutes. I’ve created a library of different garments, which can be reused for other outfits with a few modifications. I do have my lighting tricks and favorite light set ups, but I always force myself to try out something new. All in all it takes me 8-16 hours for one outfit from start to finish.

What do you most like about the CLO interface and tools?
CLO is super intuitive. You don’t have to be a pattern maker or fashion designer to learn the software and start building. Everyone can do it. It’s not as abstract as other 3D software, where you have to skulpt or use box modeling to build your 3D Mesh. I was never good at this. In CLO everyone works the same way as in real life and this is why it’s so easy to learn. As mentioned before, the live simulation is one of my favorite tools, which was the main reason why I’ve learned it. I also like to spend hours in the render window and place my lights and adjust the materials.

How are you able to create such realistic outputs?
The trick is imperfection. As a designer we tend to create perfect things and everything needs to be flawless, but in real life nothing is perfect. There are wrinkles, smudges or micro scratches everywhere. Even our human face is not perfectly symmetrical. We need to tell our software with texture maps to be imperfect, otherwise we will get that flawless unrealistic look again. The next step is the lighting in combination with the correct material settings. You can get nice results already very quickly nowadays with CLO. But if you are willing to invest a bit more time into every garment’s material settings and adjust the positioning of every light according to the garment size and shape, then you can achieve even better results which can be used to replace real-life photographs and e-commerce imagery for example.

What is your tip for brands, who are looking to create high quality true-to-life renders for their E-commerce and outward facing communication?
Don’t be afraid of the render window and the render settings within CLO. You can automate your render process a bit if you consider this as the tedious part. Nevertheless, before you should take time to see how to achieve higher quality results. If you do have employees who are interested in e-commerce and rendering, then give them some free time, so they can dedicate themselves to get better. Start to analyse real photographs and the shadows of those pictures and try to copy them. Learn more about the theory of physical properties of light.  Once you know all these things, you are more aware about your execution. Beginners tend to place too many lights without knowing what effect the lights have and end up in a very flat light mush.

How do you think CLO and 3D technology will change the industry going forward?
3D will take over e-commerce product photography. It’s cheaper, faster and easier. No need to hire models, photographers and lighting artists anymore. You have more flexibility in changes and even more possibilities because you can do things which can’t be done in real life. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality with Real Time Graphic Engines will become more and more important for the industry as well. There is a chance that in the future big brands might sell digital garments as NFTs to their clients as well. Once there is a common language and understanding of 3D, you can even improve the working pipeline and simultaneously go into production and promotion. 

Last, but not least, what is your favorite part of working at CLO as a 3D Designer, helping brands through their 3D implementation?

I like to explain and share my knowledge with other people. It’s nice to see our customers grow and become better in short periods of time. Sometimes I’m afraid that one day I can’t keep up with them anymore.

Become inspired and discover more of Simon’s work via his Instagram page

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