Product Mockup of Carl Aid - Drink It!

Why You Want Product Mock-ups

The phrase ‘Product Placement’ usually refers to movie or TV production companies taking money from sponsors to promote products on screen. A family eating their brand of cereal, or a hero drinking a certain soda for example. That is not what this post is about. This is about Product Mock-ups.

In the design world, product placement has a far more literal and practical meaning.

Either photographically or by graphic magic, adding elements seamlessly into scenes to make the unreal look real (known as compositing) is the beating heart of modern marketing. Placing studio models onto beaches or into cars are two everyday examples. Compositing requires skill, planning, and time. This skill set deserves entire volumes of posts. Fortunately many can be found with a quick Internet search. The art of creating something which doesn’t physically exist… well. That’s next level.

Compositing non-existent products is a whole new ball game.

The product must first be created, usually from scratch while working closely with the client to match their product visualization. This requires design and practical skills beyond putting images together. You create from a blank canvas. The conceptual creation must then be matched with the angle, scale, and colour scheme of the carefully chosen target, and the lighting on the product matched to seem it was actually, physically, present in the scene. If done well, the viewer only knows when they are told that it’s a composite mock-up. That’s the Gold Standard: If you’re not told, you think it’s real.

What Are The Benefits Of Product Mock-ups?

A real and growing need exists for product mock-ups in the global business world.

Companies want to see how physical products will look before committing the resources to make them. Proof of concept mock-ups can be examined from all angles and discussed among stakeholders. Designs and packaging variations can be evaluated quickly, and costed accurately, without need to retool production lines or build multiple time consuming physical prototypes. It’s a much faster, more responsive, and far less expensive workflow for getting a product to market.

Startups seeking financing have more chance of securing funds when they can show potential investors one or more mock-ups as part of their pitch, even if they haven’t yet made a physical product. Focus groups can be given virtual products on which to provide feedback about packaging, shapes, colours, fonts, style.

Without spending a single dollar on production costs, it is possible to raise funds and take advance sales. For real-world examples, look no further than Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and GoFundMe.

These are just some of the practical benefits that can be leveraged with a mock-up. It’s clear to see that working this kind of composite into marketing and advertising campaigns can reap massive rewards.

Don’t drink the Kool-Aid

Compositing of any kind is a valuable skill, for sure. It’s also a very rewarding practical exercise and something I like to do when I have spare time and the mood takes me.

Tongue firmly in cheek, I created my very own product: Carl Aid. Clearly not a real product (unless someone wants to invest?) this proof of concept and shameless marketing tool is simply eye candy. It shows the power of mock-ups. A different colour? No problem. Move the logo? Done. Change the photo. Sure.

As a baseline target I used an iPhone snapshot of my real camera on a bar in Buffalo where we stopped for lunch. The napkin holder originally said ‘Kahlua’, so that had to go. Which led me to Carl, then to Carl Aid. Then, of course, I made and branded a can of soda, blending it with the low res original iPhoto and adding a little camera blur to match the depth of field. As a proof of concept, it does the job nicely.

As a purely practice piece this went quickly from ‘Don’t drink the Kahlua’ to ‘Drink the Carl Aid’ and… well. Here’s the finished proof of concept. Carl Aid tastes good and is good for you. Any business wanting to leverage this kind of product placement or work out campaign strategies can test that at any time.

Just pick up a phone. Let’s do lunch. Maybe have a soft drink as we work. Maybe try the Carl-Aid.

Drink it…

Product Mockup of Carl Aid - Drink It!
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Concept Art: Don't Pay The Ferryman

Don’t Pay The Ferryman

In the last article I used this image of me laying back taking a break from rowing. It was taken by my wonderful wife with her point and click. I liked it so much I wanted to play with it, and see where the muse took me. After a few enjoyable hours of play, I created this: Don’t Pay The Ferryman.

My apologies to Chris De Burgh for borrowing his title. His excellent song of the same name started running through my head as the work evolved into this final piece. It grew through several different ideas before I locked on this one. I’m going to work on variations, but this one works best for me so far. The image here gives a strong visual impact that tells a powerful story. This story.

The Ferryman

The Styx is the mythical River Of The Dead. To reach the afterlife, it must be crossed.

The Styx can only be crossed by ferry. There are no bridges. The dead carry no possessions. They have no boats. Swimmers attempting to cheat their way into the afterlife become disoriented and lost in the perpetual mists along the river, until exhaustion overtakes them and they sink down into the murky depths of damnation. Fearful souls too afraid to board the ferry spend eternity in the ghostly limbo between life and death. They can be seen along the shore, until they are lost in mist as the ferry pulls away leaving them behind forever.

The ferryman, whose name is Charon, guides the dead to their final home, rowing forever backward and forward between the shores of life and death. His ferry is the only safe path to the afterlife. He has to be paid for his troubles. Once you have paid his fee, you may board. Your fate is sealed. So unless you are weary of this world and ready for that final journey… don’t pay him.

This myth has percolated in many forms and many cultures throughout history. It’s one reason the dead would have pennies placed on their eyes: To ensure they could afford safe passage.

Time and Tide

Two things which wait for no man are time and tide. Two more are death and taxes. The only one we are not sure applies here is taxes. There’s an interesting stream of thought…

I have never been one to give up easily. I will fight to the last, and if there is a way around a problem I will find it. One day, though, and being purely practical, my life will be over and I will reluctantly have to pay Charon. Probably. But not until I’ve explored every option. Which is where we come in.

So here I am, dead. Rowing a boat I somehow managed to contrive or conjure, exhausted from navigating the Styx and its mind-bending mists that ensnare and confuse and push the faint of heart back to the shore where they must pay the ferryman for passage. I’m sleeping the sleep of the terminally tired, not yet aware that my stubborn perseverance actually paid off: My little boat found it’s way to safe harbour.

I drifted into the channel, and am being carried by gentle waves to the futuristic landing stage of my next adventure (this is my afterlife, guys). As one closes, another door opens. Onward. Always onward.

Styx

The band Styx have absolutely no connection to this. They simply share the name of the mythical river. As I worked on this, it morphed many times. At one point I decided it would make a great concept album cover, so I went with it even though it’s not (yet) square. That’s another variant for another day.

The album is ‘Don’t Pay The Ferryman’. And it’s by a band called Styx Not. Not Styx.

Homage to a great band that I discovered through my wonderful wife and have grown to love, the members of which band will hopefully not try to sue me for copyright infringement. But hey, guys, if you want to use this concept as your next album cover, let’s talk. Just throwing it out there. Worth a shot. Hey, gimme a break. I may one day have a ferryman to pay. Or not.

Don't Pay The Ferryman concept art
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Port Colborne word cube

Thank You Port Colborne

While playing with the new version of Blender 3D this evening I was monitoring and enjoying feedback from my post about the Robin Hood Mill in Port Colborne. Close to two hundred people and counting have so far shared it across various social media platforms. Between them and their legions of friends hitting the site all at the same time, I had to double the monthly bandwidth allowance on the server – twice in 48 hours. That’s a factor of 4. It’s a problem every site owner wants to have.

I run my own servers so I was able to manage easily. I’m happy. I’m also very happy this post was so popular. Thanks to all those that shared and enjoyed!

This of course made me wonder about a follow up. It seems I struck a vein with Robin Hood, so what, I thought, should I write about next? That’s where I’m hoping to get your help with suggestions, dear readers. What in Port Colborne would you like to read about? And who should I approach?

Your suggestion may become my next personal project. Or the next word added to the Port Colborne Cube, below. Either way, please, let me know.

The Port Colborne Cube

It was while noodling that I doodled with 3D, making a short list of some places of interest. That list swiftly became this design, the Port Colborne Cube. I can add or change everything, and probably will as I continue to play. The words I chose show only a fraction of the things this fine city has to offer.

Words, lighting, camera angles, colours. I may animate it. Everything is up for grabs. I did nothing for the last two hours but play with lighting setups. Being a photographer and having unlimited lighting options? Priceless. I’m like a kid in a candy store. This may take over my weekend. I kid you not. Really.

By the way, if you might like your own Cube, get in touch. This design can easily be customized to your brand, colour scheme, placement, backdrop. On a wall it would be a great way to present a wine list, menu, or a welcome board on an easel at a wedding. Even a billboard. Just a couple of thoughts. I am the Design Guy, after all. It’s what I do. Spoiler alert, there will be a fee. Hey, I have bills to pay too. 🙂

Geek Stuff

OK enough of that, let’s quickly get some tech stuff out of the way. Skip this section if you have no tech inclinations. The LTS 2.83.1 version of Blender 3D is available for download. This amazing software can now do even more, even faster, and for even less money. Well, that’s not strictly true: It’s always been free.

The interface and speed improvements alone make it worth the cost of the upgrade (free). I created all these images in one evening and found myself exploring some of the more arcane features simply because the time overhead between click and finished render has all but disappeared. I found myself throwing stuff around just for fun to see if I could crash it. Which I did. Bad idea. Bad Carl.

New features galore for me to explore (happiness rhymes). The Eevee rendering engine is such a delight. Creating and spinning models around in real time, seeing them draw instantly is, frankly, hypnotic. It gives the creative mind a chance to quickly try ideas that previously took hours of fine tuning. Click. Done. Happy dance! I’m going to continue refining this. These are effectively roughs and this Cube and I are both far from finished.

Suggestions Please

OK, geek stuff done, I once more wish to thank everyone for the response to the Robin Hood article.

As I say I hope to write similar items of just as much interest. Could be fun for us all. Please reply to this post, comment on social media, or email me through the contact form on the site. I’m open to ideas. All printable suggestions for topics will be considered and all will be greatly appreciated.

And remember, if you want a custom cube…

Car Toon: Cindy the precosious teenager

Car Toons

I love to combine photography with creative illustration. To that end, a couple of years ago I started making Car Toons. Car Toons are vehicle portraits given cartoon personalities. After creating the actual portrait (a photo shoot) I use a combination of Photoshop and Illustrator to ‘toon it into a highly personal caricature, usually of the owner or a family member. These Car Toons are proving popular.

Since I started making Car Toons I’ve been commissioned several times to create wall art and prints. A Car Toon, finished in brushed aluminium or on a canvas wrap, looks amazing when hung on a living room or garage wall. Being hand crafted, each is unique. Each one is a labour of love by me, gifted to the recipient by a loving spouse or family. Or sometimes the owner wants one for themselves.

I’ve been told a Car Toon is a great way to remember beloved relatives (and vehicles) long after they have gone to the great scrap yard in the sky. That’s a nice sentiment, I think.

Caricatures

Like any caricature the trick is matching the right trait to exaggerate. It has to be identifiable. Recognizable. Sometimes it’s a hair style. Sometimes a pair of glasses. With Anthony, a chipped tooth from a youthful tumble. That tooth has disappeared now his adult teeth have come in. The memory fades. But this Car Toon will remain. A reminder of youth. A snapshot in time.

Occasionally, as here, I take one of my photos and invent a personality to suit my mood. I get whimsical. Perks of being the artist. It can be a lot of fun just to play with different looks. Digital Mr Potato Head. It’s also great practice and really sharpens my creative and technical skills as I visualise the little touches, and plan how and where to add shadows and reflections of the non-existent features I’m about to create. Fun.

Are Car Toons realistic? No. They aren’t supposed to be. I could make them photorealistic, but to my mind that would lose the magic. Spoil them. They are Car Toons. Developed over time to my own tastes, this is my style. And I like them just the way they are. I hope you do, too.

If you are interested in having your own Car Toon made please get in touch to discuss details and arrangements. I would love to make something truly memorable for you.

*** Click to view these Car Toons in full screen goodness ***

Memories of 2019

Three Years and Many Miles Later…

I survived a stroke, three years ago this week. Recovery has been a bumpy road, but one I happily (if a little unsteadily) walk. Or jog. No complaints. Not one. That is not this story.

This is a story of Adventure. With a capital ‘A’. Even before the stroke I tried to live each day as though it were my last. Even more so since. I drag my long suffering wife around with me to enjoy all kinds of new adventures. Mile after mile after mile… hiking trails, driving around Manhattan, swimming in waterfalls. In one case leaping out of a perfectly good plane at 13,000 feet. We’ve done a lot.

When a text box notification popped up on Facebook this week telling me it was three years since my stroke, I thought ‘This isn’t enough. There should be… more.’ I went to work.

As a thanks to my beautiful wife for her support, love, and patience; and as a memory to keep us warm in our dotages, I made the video montage below. It is a labour of love, with some of my favourite photos from this year cut to a song close to my heart. Each photo tells a story, each gives a smile.

Technically

Technically, the workflow was quite a mini project. From Camera to Lightroom, Photoshop, After Effects, and Premiere Pro, I created something special, personal, for us. From scratch. No templates. This was all developed by hand, created from a fully grown idea I threw onto an empty canvas.

As a sidebar, 3D spacial calculations are not easy things to juggle around in your head. Worth it. I learned some tricks and overcame some hurdles, and now I have my own flexible template I can adjust to any length song and any number of photos – that makes me very happy. Let’s talk Future.

Future

It’s been a busy Summer. Next year’s will be too. And the one after that. For as long as we go.

As we wind our way slowly closer to decrepitude, senility, and eventual death, I declare once more that I will not go without a smile, and a laugh into the stormy face of life’s challenges. I will fight every step until death takes me, and then I will grin, look him in the eye and say “Hey, boney. Double or quits?”

And why not? None of us will get out of this alive. Let’s face it: Life is fatal. It’s what we do on the journey, and how we face those challenges, that define us.

Future Legend

This video is a nice bookend to our yearly adventures, with enough memories to bring back the highlights. As age takes it’s toll and memory and physical abilities fade, we can look back with smiles.

I plan to keep making one of these each year, for as long as I am able, and for as long as this fine and wonderful woman will walk that path with me. I figure we have another ten or twenty years if she continues to put up with me. By then we will have quite the library of adventures to look back upon.

This video is my Labour of Love. But she was there every step of the way. I would have it no other way.

Together, we will go hand in hand into the future. Whatever it may hold, we will enjoy the adventure.

Onward.