3D design makes clients’ products really pop out, says Radu Olteanu

Newsroom 14/01/2016 | 15:45

With more than 7 years of experience in advertising as art director, working for important agencies such as MRM, iLeo, McCann, Infinit Solutions, HyperActive and 3 years prior to that as graphic designer, Radu Olteanu decided in September 2013 to create his own 3D studio – Pixel Back Studio. BR met him and interviewed him about the 3D advertising and design market in Romania, its challenges and new possibilities, categories of businesses that it applies more to and international projects.

Romanita Oprea


How did you decide to go on your own and why?

I guess it is in my blood to take risks and go for the not so easy way, but a very fulfilling one. It is something you either feel or you don’t. I definitely do. So, after years of being an employee I took the path of freelancing, and it was a good choice. For a few years I did very good on my own, but in time it become more and more crowded to stay on that boat. So I decided to take the extra step and become an entrepreneur for real, founding Pixel Back, a multidisciplinary studio, working on 3D, special effects and design projects. I chose a niche so I can differentiate myself from other small studios or freelancers, but in the same time so I can provide my services for advertising agencies. Most of them lack this specialization so, time showed it was a good niche to take over.

For several years you were art director for important agencies present on the Romanian advertising market. What made you chose that niche?

Indeed, I was art director in several advertising or digital agencies in Romania (MRM, iLeo, McCann, Infinit Solutions, HyperActive) and I also had a collaboration with Saatchi & Saatchi Poland. After about 7 years as an employee I realized diving in this new waters of entrepreneurship does appeal to me and I took the risk. As mentioned above, the choice of the niche is on one side an emotional one, since I am passionate about this design branch, and on the other hand, a strategic approach to addressing market needs not fully covered in Romania.

How was taking the leap towards 3D design?

It took a lot of time to study and it was a rather long process of trial and error. Literally. I was like a school boy again, watching tutorials and trying techniques. I invested time and patience so I can evolve to the level I am now. But the habit of continuously perfecting myself has not faded. I still try to improve myself and find new ways to deliver better results for my clients. And in my field, this has nothing to do with corporate bullshit “philosophy”, it literally means not wasting any chance of learning a new trick. Basically I feel like I am a tool, an app, a software that my clients use. I have to constantly upgrade myself so I can match the latest iOS version. J

How did you choose the name Pixel Back and what does it represent to you?

You know, after a while, routine gets to you. It happened to me too, when I was working in advertising agencies. But what kept me going was the constant reminder that even a slight change can work miracles to boost your enthusiasm. For example taking chances and starting an entrepreneurial project. So “Pixel Back” stands for the rediscovered passion for my work. Whenever I feel burnt out, it reminds me how little I need to get back on track, like the time I thought I could no longer stand Photoshop or my Pixel-governed life, but I managed to rediscover my drive. You know, a pixel is such a little thing, yet vital in design. Without it, you have nothing in visual communication. Same as the little things that make a difference and get you going in this fascinating job I have.

Are clients open to 3D design in Romania?

Not as much as I wish them to be, but far more open than they were 2 years ago, for example.

It is an ongoing process and we all contribute to the growth of this sector. It is important for clients to understand the possibilities of creating spectacular presentation videos or key visuals that make their products really pop out. Both on a symbolic level and… literally. Technology now helps us create very accurate and detailed prototypes of products prior to their launch for example, video simulations for apartments, commercial centers or building offices or simply vivid images with products that you feel you could almost touch when you look at a magazine advertisement with 3D design.

What categories of business do they come from? Have you seen a change from this point of view in the last years?

They come from various categories. The number of  FMCG brands orienting towards this type of design solutions has increased considerably lately. For example, currently I work for 3D video simulations for a website for a soft drinks company. I also have a client active on the domestic services providers market. And some of my 3D works also include beauty products or alcohol brands. And it can be any brand, since what I do is simply enhance the product or highlight the service visually, so it draws the attention of the ever on the run, very active and more and more advertisement blind new age consumer.

Other clients come to us for some shooting session for their products, but they end up with more than expected: a mix of photography and CGI Computer-Generated Imagery), for example.

How would you characterize the Romanian 3D design market? (in terms of budgets, creativity, opportunities)

In Romania, the market is only just discovering its potential in terms of CGI and special effects. In US or the West of Europe, things are very different. The CGI market there is worth millions, even billions. But we still have a long way to go until we reach that level. The way I see it, the main issue is the fact that CGI is more expensive and more time consuming, so both clients and agencies tend to avoid it. But this approach lacks the bigger picture, since the benefits of CGI make worth the extra time and money spent. Also, another issue is that many CGI creations come from other markets and are only implemented in Romania, for big, international brands. Yet, there are times when the local touch should not be neglected. And for once, why wouldn’t we be the ones exporting our creative work globally for some brands?! It happened before for regional ATL campaigns with creative input from Romania. One day, it might be a CGI work created in Romania that can be implemented in other countries…

Who is your competition on the Romanian market? What do you offer different from it?

Since it is not very well developed in our market, my benchmark is worldwide. We take a close look at the works of ILM (Industrial Light and Magic), The Mill, Ars Thenea and learn a lot from them.

Are you also working on international projects?

We had a few international collaboration, but they have not been our focus. We want to grow organically, and still have a lot more to do on the local market.

However, from my interactions with them I can honestly say that even some of them still tend to avoid CGI so the process of educating them to accept this new solution available is many times a struggle also. For example, I had this client from Ireland, a provider of roaming & mobile security services. Their request was a very basic design brief and after explaining the things we could do in terms of video animations, they were first reluctant and I thought I lost them, but soon they realized it was what they were looking for but did not know how to ask it. Such moments are very fulfilling and make you believe you can move mountains.

Who are your major international points of inspiration?

We browse a lot through Behance and Dribbble and we also get our inspiration from magazines such as 3D World, CGI, 3D Artist. We also have subscriptions for Digital-Tutors and Gnomon Workshops. We always seek to improve ourselves.

What are the last year’s projects that you are most proud of?

I could not possibly choose only one. I am proud of every single day I convince a new client to join on this path and try CGI solutions. And I am thankful our clients have understood and acknowledged our work. I am looking forward towards new projects together.

How long does it take you to create a project? (from the brief, the idea to the finish)

It is not a short process, that I can assure you of! The workflow is quite clear: we receive a brief along with a storyboard or sometimes not and then we start creating tons of mood-boards. Each element of the visual has to be carefully taken care of. Let’s take for instance a tree. We will search for appropriate textures for leaves, we will search for colors and we will make simulations to see what fits better our purpose. So the steps, after receiving the brief are: creating the model, finding the best textures, animating it.

Not to mention, there are dozens of intermediary phases when we show a dummy model and simulated interactions between objects so the client can get an idea of how it will look at the end and give us feedback along the process.

What would you say to clients to make them invest more in this field?

Make the most out of you investment and invest in a versatile piece of work, that is my answer! When you create a 3D visual from scratch you have a key visual element that you can use on many media channels, preserving the consistency of your communication efforts. Even if you create a 3D visual for online, you can use it afterwards on print or other BTL projects with little adjustments. So, in the end it turns out to be very cost effective.

Secondly, choose to be user friendly! Consumers love, for instance, to dive in a website that creates a full, immersive experience. Don’t use the same pattern with text and istock photos! Choose instead to have original content, customized on your brand identity! In other words, CGI is the solution to immerse into the realm of possibilities! So, take the chance!

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