Accelerating Evolution: Origination, Automation and Innovation

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by Richard Wright

Wed, 01/22/2020 - 17:31

Burrows’ journey from Image Concepts and Art Direction into the world of CGI, Product Visualisation, Real Time Rendering and Raytracing has been an exciting time! With advancements in technology throughout the years, we’ve had to ensure we evolve and innovate our own methods and offerings. Burrows’ MD Richard Wright says:


I’m not going to shine a new light on Darwin’s 160-year-old theory of evolution, but I am going to explain some of the story that occurred before the Real Time innovation I described in my previous article.

If you read the Innovation article, you will understand how Burrows innovated, using gaming software to start to change how we create visual content. The story I told was based over the last 2 years of Burrows. That period is only the most recent example of our innovative, some would say pioneering, approach to Product Visualisation.


Early Beginnings

Burrows was formed in 1963 and for the first 35 years, the way we created an image of a product was to photograph it. We didn’t do the photography ourselves, but we worked on the image concepts, art-directed the shoots and carried out the post-production work, largely for Ford‘s UK market.

As the pressure came for us to be able to create images earlier and earlier, with the photo units available later and later, we looked at alternatives to photography. In the late 1990s we started to develop our CGI capabilities. In 1998 we delivered our first CGI project for Ford, 3 years before Monsters, Inc. was released and 4 years after DreamWorks was founded.



This is where our journey into Product Visualisation originated. Being able to create still images and animations without having a product. Normally we use the OEM’s CAD data, if that is not available, we can model the data based on a physical product, drawings or photographic references. 

This work started with technical images expanding to studio and location images, then moving into the realm of CGI animation. These animations can range from simple 360°, to dynamic film of the product in motion. They can feature areas that the eye normally sees by flying around the product or, using the true power of CGI, they could go where the human eye traditionally can’t - inside the workings of the product.

As we pushed the technology and our imagination further, we developed our ability at bringing product stories to life to help explain the feature/benefit of a product. This we now call engaging storytelling.

Throughout the 2000s we developed our technical abilities to manipulate OEM CAD and refined creative abilities to light cars so that we were delivering fully photorealistic images and animations. The problem with being a fast starter is that others soon began to follow and learn from the leader.

By the late 2000s we found that we were in a beauty pageant where there were a number of CGI studios producing some very good bespoke CGI. This meant that client decisions became subjective and the work became commoditised, leading to a race to the bottom in terms of price. Not I race we wanted to win!

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At the same time, we found that our clients were creating more and more personalized content and offering slightly different product line-ups across different markets around the globe. We knew that we would have to be able to recreate the extremely high asset quality across multiple markets and for multiple product lines. 

Moving our Image Creation to the next level, avoiding the commoditisation of the bespoke image, we started to build Automation Tools. These allowed us to create amazing CGI content, product-correct for any country around the world. In a recent Ford launch, Burrows created over 150,000 high resolution CGI images correct across 60 different National Sales Companies.

So, we had moved from just creating one stunning image to creating 150,000 stunning images. We enhanced the tools to become more cost efficient and to be more flexible in their outputs. But, again, others followed. So, we searched for the next step in change for Burrows.



That came in 2014 when we began our partnership with Epic Games as they moved from solely gaming into enterprise, particularly the automotive industry. They picked us to partner with - they recognized our abilities at lighting cars and wanted to combine that realism with the power of the Unreal Engine.

This was the birth of Burrows’ move into Real Time content and Immersive Experiences, three years after this we created our strategic vision: Staying Ahead of the Innovation Curve. The rest as they say… is described in my Innovation article.