Every single project we undertake allows our talented team of artists to push boundaries and try out new techniques to deliver ever better results. 'Better' can, of course, have different meanings. It can relate to the quality of the work - how photorealistic it is - or the time it takes to create - the sooner we can create the image, the sooner it can be marketed!
I happened upon an old animation of ours that we created way back in 2002. The project was a development called Tally Ho and was in a moderately highrise development in a suburb of London.
Here's a still from the animation:-
At the time, this animation was pushing quite a few boundaries. It was before the days of integrated global illumination (that software like VRay or Corona give us nowadays). Blurry, soft reflections and shadows were also difficult to achieve. The speed of the computers we were using limited the amount of ray-tracing we could consider using. If I recall correctly, I think we used Lightscape to generate and 'bake' the lighting model on these animations: a software product that has long gone (though I still have it sat on a shelf somewhere here in our studio, purely for nostalgic reasons!). It was also well before the days of drone photography. We were regularly perched on top of a cherry-picker taking photos on 35mm film ready to be scanned, stitched and edited back in the office!
Now, take a look at a recent still from an architectural film we have been working on:-
This image is just over 10 years on. Soft lighting. Blurry shadows. A richness and subtlety to the textures. A huge amount of model detail in all the elements of the scene. The software (and hardware) has certainly helped us get to these sorts of levels. But, if I'm honest, render times are probably similar, and the amount of effort is still similar. This is mainly because we push and push and push to get everything we possibly can out of the computer.
Now that we are pushing into real-time rendering and virtual reality, imagine what we will be producing in another 5 or 10 years!