In his first guest post for WhichPLM this year, Amnon Shalev, CEO & Founder of Virtuality.Fashion, continues his discussion on 3D – this time, sharing a look at a generic workflow integrating 2D and 3D harmoniously. Virtuality.Fashion, powered by C-Design, believe in making virtual fashion prototyping effortless, affordable, and accessible to everyone.
It’s been almost a decade now that I’ve been involved with 3D visualization projects and workflow integrations. In retrospect, it’s safe to state that 3D adoption process versus ever evolving market trends and technology progress is no less than fascinating.
From the first steps of 3D virtual prototyping implementation, the new technology was coupled with 2D CAD i.e. production orientation. That said, following increasing pressure by marketing and product teams, 3D made inroads into the merchandising and marketing space.
As described in a previous article, 3D visualization solutions are being adopted by the fashion industry, including AVP (Artistic Virtualization Process). The main reason for that is the fact that in merchandising and marketing there is either very little time to go through the traditional 2D pattern and physical sample development process or the pressure to present new concepts either based on repeats or totally new lines.
Disregarding the 3D visualization technology utilized to produce the virtual collections – be it for marketing, merchandising or production – the question that will always hang in the air is: “how can we be sure that what is approved virtually will actually be produced?” In fact, this is still one of the main entry barriers for 3D technology in fashion: trust.
There are at least two main tracks to producing 3D virtual samples:
- Production oriented: either starting a 2D pattern from sketch or modifying existing patterns.
- Artistic: utilizing visualization systems which can generate rapid 3D prototyping for marketing.
In fact there are a few parameters influencing the 3D visualization results:
- Technology – Every 3D visualization software is based on algorithms developed with the intention to transfer 2D into 3D. Each software simulation engine is using proprietary algorithms and the results vary accordingly. There are quite a few parameters influencing the final result such as quadrangular versus triangular meshes’ usage, cloth simulation based on fabric parameters and their pre-defined impact on final visualization, and light settings, which has to do with the rendering engine having a great influence on the end result. In terms of fit assessment, the predicated pressure areas are estimates that simulation engines predict and cannot be regarded as “exact science”.
- Operator experience – Much is discussed recently concerning the new profile of a 3D stations’ operator. The skill-set required is definitely wider than “just” a patternmaker. Pattern mastery is a great advantage when it comes to operating 3D stations, but in addition, production and technical design experience are becoming essential to producing more accurate 3D visualization results.
- Input materials have a great influence on the output 3D result, not only in terms of quality, but also accuracy:
- Illustrations’ interpretation by pattern makers – Perhaps the most basic level where the experience of the 3D maker comes in handy. The challenge is creating a 3D visual that provides the right “feel”, not only in terms of look but also fit-wise, draped on the provided virtual mannequin.
- Fabrics – Colors, textures and physical parameters where the higher input quality, the closer to real-life result will be produced.
- AVP – A true-to-life 3D high-resolution sample can be a great visual input. In fact, an “accurate” 3D artistic sample can provide a better “feel” for the required garment versus a flat illustration.
- Workflow – The way operations integrate 3D may affect the communication line between all involved within the product development process. It is quite critical that the 3D operator will have clear definition with regard to what is expected to present in 3D based on the input materials and the purpose of the 3D virtualization, be it marketing or production.
And so, how is it possible, despite all the above-mentioned variables, to get as close as possible in production to virtual 3D presentation?
It seems that a widely agreed consensus is that the basis for every well-fitted garment is a good pattern. Creating a “good” 2D pattern might involve multiple physical samples’ production, which is an evil that the industry is desperately trying to reduce, if not eliminate. It is suggested to harness 3D visualization technology as a fitting aid tool.
3D as a fit assessment tool can be tricky. As mentioned above, there are quite a few parameters influencing the end visual result and technology cannot yet be 100% trusted in terms of predicting fit.
Experience shows that 3D stations’ operators with a skill-set including technical design, product development and production experience can better manage input materials and create a good 3D visualization reflecting expected fit. It’s important to state, as will be discussed later in this article, that bad fit represents a visualization challenge, many times even more than a perfect fit.
A generic workflow, integrating 2D and 3D, with the intention to increase the harmony between the 2D pattern creation and 3D visualization may look as follows:
- Input – As input into the workflow, the optimal raw materials combination would include technical files, fabric details, pictures, mannequin posture, base measurements, DXF files and an OBJ. The OBJ file, if provided, will indicate which pattern parts should be used to create the fit assessment. The OBJ can be very “abstract” and doesn’t have to include details. The next step of specialized virtual fit assessment will be done by a technical 3D expert and will take into account the base measurements, fabrics’ behavior etc. This set of raw materials may be outsourced or used in-house; in any case at this stage it is quite important to define what the next steps are, either checking the fit and correcting the pattern by the 3D technical team, checking the fit and allowing the client (be it internal or external) to correct the DXF for the purpose of re-evaluation, or creating a “sales sample” based on the raw materials with the purpose of promoting new design ideas.
- 3D as fit assessment tool – Perhaps the heart of this suggested workflow. As mentioned earlier, a “technical 3D” expert is best to fill this position in. At this stage, according to the instructions given at the start of the process, the pattern will be draped on the provided mannequin and the virtual fit is visualized. It may very well happen that the fit will not be correct; it takes a high level of mastering 3D visualization to present a wrong fit. According to the workflow definitions, at this stage corrections to the DXF may be preformed following feedback by the client, or the client will prefer correcting the DXF based on their production process knowhow, and ask for a repeat virtual fit assessment. The advantage of this process is reducing the pressure on the pattern maker at the start on the process. The pattern maker does not have to generate a “perfect” OBJ for the technical 3D expert to use, and the control on the DXF is on the client side. This process can be repeated several times and may result in sewing a sample, but the sample will be based on very precise pattern creation and corrections done to match a high level virtual fitting test.
- High resolution 3D rendering – This can be an additional step towards high-level collection presentation on a virtual showroom. Once the fit is approved, either internally or by the client, a high-resolution visualization can be produced to complete the process. In this way the collection will be based on 2D patterns that are very close to what is presented virtually and voting decision can be done relatively safely. Low risk production environment.
The above suggested workflow may sound trivial and simple to implement, but in reality it involves production, which may or may not use 3D or provide low quality input materials. This also involves “technical 3D” capabilities i.e. the capability to create great 3D visuals based on 2D technical data.
It is important to note that the above mentioned workflow provides full control on the 2D pattern to the pattern owner, be it the production service provider or internal product team. The workflow also provides full synchronization between the 2D and 3D processes. Lastly, the workflow can be adapted to different production chains with or without 3D input capabilities, and no matter what 3D system is used in the heart of this workflow for as long as the process is streamlined and fits the needs and the team providing the virtual fit assessment are skilled and experienced on both 2D and 3D technical and design aspects.