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Exploring the Success behind Brooklyn Digital Foundry’s Viz Pro of the Year

2024-05-16
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Brooklyn Digital Foundry is a full-service creative agency renowned for its cutting-edge work spanning across a wide range of industries. Their exceptional talent and innovative approach have recently earned them the title of "Viz Pro of the Year" at the highly acclaimed CGarchitect 3D Awards with their work "Williamsburg Condominiums". Fox Renderfarm as the industry's top cloud rendering service provider and leading render farm is honored to interview John Szot, who is one of the founding partners and creative directors at Brooklyn Digital Foundry. Let’s uncover the secrets behind their success through this in-depth interview.

Fox Renderfarm: Hi John! Thank you so much for accepting our interview! Could you please introduce your team to our readers?

John: I am one of the founding partners and creative directors at Brooklyn Digital Foundry, which is a full-service creative agency. We work on various projects in various industries doing interactive architectural visualization, product visualization, video production, communications consulting, and campaign management. We have a team of 11 people, half of whom work on our computer graphics-oriented projects. We worked with fashion houses, architects, real estate developers, and non-profit institutions. 

Fox Renderfarm: Congratulations on winning the CGarchitect 3D Awards’ "Viz Pro of the Year" category! How does your team feel about it?

John: We’re stoked! We had the good fortune of winning a CG award in 2012, and CGarchitect has provided a tremendous amount of inspiration throughout the years for our studio. Many of the newest things going on in visualization are happening in real time on that platform. You have access to a lot of very talented people who are deeply dedicated to what they do. To be recognized within that forum is a tremendous honor.

Fox Renderfarm: What significance does the name "Brooklyn Digital Foundry" hold, and how does it represent the essence of your work in digital visualization?

John: The name of the studio comes from a deep-seated interest in the palpable quality of digital media. It's always been our belief that digital media has a timber and a texture of its own which doesn't necessarily fit into words. We attempted to communicate our commitment to that idea through this name which is also meant to locate us in a very specific place. We believe that our physical surroundings play a significant role in shaping creative output. Brooklyn, where the founding partners, including myself, were deeply inspired to establish the company and pursue a distinct aesthetic vision, holds a special place in our hearts. Since then, our company has grown to many more people and we have a much more diverse set of voices.

Brooklyn SolarWorks © Brooklyn Digital Foundry

Brooklyn SolarWorks © Brooklyn Digital Foundry

Fox Renderfarm: Could you give us a brief overview of your work "Williamsburg Condominiums" and the inspiration behind it? 

John: Much of our inspiration comes from the conversations we have with our clients. Our job is to absorb and understand our client's values and then project them into the media that we produce, so in a certain sense we have to be transparent. We spend a lot of time trying to understand where our client is coming from in order to make sure that the work we produce feels authentic. The client, in this case, came to us with the need to sell real estate. The building is located in a very inspiring place in New York City, so we want to showcase the beauty of the city as an important offering that comes along with the ownership of the building featured in the image. Our first move was to grant both subjects equal prominence within the image frame so that it is as much about the beauty of the New York City skyline as it is about the beauty of the building.

Williamsburg Condominiums © Brooklyn Digital Foundry

Williamsburg Condominiums © Brooklyn Digital Foundry_

Williamsburg Condominiums © Brooklyn Digital Foundry__

Williamsburg Condominiums © Brooklyn Digital Foundry

Fox Renderfarm: What were the key design elements in your project, and how did they contribute to the overall aesthetic?

John: I'd say the key design elements in this project are the compositional nature of the subject, and finding a way to harmonize that with other elements in the frame so that the subject feels like a part of its environment, which is very important from an architectural point of view. Yet at the same time, has the clear individuality that we need to bestow on our subject so that the material can do its job as part of a sales pitch. That’s essentially the fundamentals that we adhere to to maintain the authenticity of our work.

Fox Renderfarm: Can you tell us about the pipeline of your work?

John: It is a common practice in architectural visualization for many professionals to start with a model, often created in Rhino or occasionally in 3D Studio Max. In this case, we were provided with a Revit model to work on. The typical workflow involves transferring the model to 3D Studio Max for applying materials and performing lighting studies using V-Ray. Lighting is usually prioritized at the beginning to establish the overall space in the image, followed by the application of materials. This is mainly because it's much more challenging to establish a sense of space through materials than it is with light. That is usually the proper hierarchical approach to maintain a powerful composition in the final product. Once we are done with rendering the necessary passes in V-Ray, we bring those into After Effects and balance them out properly, doing the necessary color correction. There might be some work in Photoshop if there are post-production effects that we need, but we try very hard to do everything on camera because we get the most accurate lighting effects through this technique. Painterly type effects lead to a painterly type of interpretation, and in most cases, we're going for something that has the correct perspectival math and light balance that mimics physical reality.

Fox Renderfarm: During the process of creation, were there any instances that brought joy? Additionally, which experience stands out as the most unforgettable?

John: I'll mention something in the larger picture that I believe any CG artist can resonate with. That is the moment in which the information that comes out of the rendering engine finally gets put together in the post-production stage. You're then given the opportunity to hone those layers of information to bring the stimulated material reality into sharp focus. That moment which happens pretty much on every project is very special from my point of view because it’s the culmination of many small and complicated steps. The satisfaction that comes from that moment when you finally can collect the data and bring it into focus is sacred to me.

Fox Renderfarm: How has your approach to architectural visualization evolved over the years?

John: One of the things that has been a huge game changer is the quality of the professionals on our team. We have built our team very slowly over many years, by now the people that I work with have been working with us for many additional years. Their skills and dedication to the job continue to be the cornerstone of how we move forward. It's also that curiosity and dedication they bring to the table that essentially catalyzes the evolution of our craft in-house, so they deserve a ton of credit for making sure that the studio stays healthy and continues to evolve technically and creatively. Our work goes from rather punky attempts at telling a story to some of the most vivid examples of CG artistry that I can think of. I am regularly humbled by their ability to push that envelope with every project. Every time we complete a project I noticed a new level of nuance and commitment to developing a higher degree of fidelity and palpability to our work. I'm looking forward to the future, especially with some of the recent algorithmic tools that can produce high-fidelity material on such a rapid basis, I can't wait to see where our team takes that. 

Fannie Mae HQ © Brooklyn Digital Foundry

Fannie Mae HQ © Brooklyn Digital Foundry

Fox Renderfarm: How does your team stay updated with the latest tools and technologies in the CG industry?

John: CGarchitect has played a big role in that! But spending time online and interacting with other professionals is pretty critical. A little conversation at the corner of the industry could shed light on what we’re doing. I know that the team that I work with spends an enormous amount of time thinking about the technology outside of the deadlines that we have in the studio. As a result, when we do find ourselves on deadlines, we usually have several fresh ideas that might change the project in a way that makes it unexpectedly rich. How do they do that? I think it just comes from their innate tenacity and enthusiasm for the technology. I think you really have to possess that if you're going to compete in CG visualization.

Fox Renderfarm: Have you ever used the render farm services offered by Fox Renderfarm? If yes, what are your thoughts on Fox Renderfarm's cloud rendering offerings? 

John: We are familiar with your company! Winning this award has helped us learn more about the services that your company offers. Sadly we have not worked with your company before, but this is the perfect opportunity to do so. We are on deadline at the moment so a render farm plays a critical role in making sure that deadlines are met. There have been times in the past when we have gone to third-party services to provide the necessary computing power to meet a deadline. Now that we are in touch with Fox Renderfarm, I look forward to seeing how your services assist us and turn our projects to the next level.

Fox Renderfarm: What advice would your team give to aspiring professionals in the CG field?

John: When we we started the business, architects were just getting familiar with computers and the idea that somebody would make a video to promote an architectural idea was a rather farfetched notion. We began making videos about architecture in 1999 when we had our first major architectural video commission. Although it wasn't a huge commission in the larger scheme, but it marked a pivotal moment as it was our first engagement with a client for video production services. The collaboration led to the creation of our very first viral architectural video. After that video, we launched our studio’s production unit, and we found ourselves getting a lot of work after that. That wouldn't have happened if we hadn't been experimenting with technology before meeting this client. Our approach enabled us to be prepared to offer the services our clients sought when opportunities arose. So my advice to people getting started in the visualization industry is to identify what excites you about technology and allow your creativity to drive exploration and utilization of these tools. Avoid letting concerns about marketability dictate your experimentation; instead, focus on honing a clear vision with the tools at your disposal, as market success will naturally follow.

Thanks again to John for accepting our interview! Wishing new heights in your professional career!

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