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CGI and its Birth at Pixel

History of CGI - early computer

It’s becoming the unavoidable norm: after months of arduous journeying through the bureaucratic jungles of planning permission, you finally have the go-ahead for your meticulously-imagined development of beautiful, high-quality homes.

So the next step is to build them and sell them. Or preferably sell them whilst building. If you’re lucky enough to have a reliable, preferred CGI supplier then you’ll give them a quick bell, wing your plans over and fingers crossed, within a week or two they’ll be sending you a low res architectural visualisation of your development.

You make a few changes, tweak it here and there, and hey presto! Before you’ve even ordered the scaffolding you’re armed with a jpeg which no-one would know wasn’t a photograph, unless you told them. You’re sorted for brochures and hoardings and your sales enquiries start flooding in.

Nowadays we take all this for granted, but CGIs have only been a property marketing staple for the last few years.

In conversation with a long-term customer the other day, I found myself marvelling at his tales of CGI yore: ‘Back i’the day,’ he said (imagine strong Yorks accent) ‘we dint use computer graphics at all. I’d get the plans off me architect, pass them onto an artist. He’d have a bit of a look and paint a picture o’ it, and that were that.’

The Pixel Workshop was one of the few early CGI companies which paved the way from these rudimentary beginnings of architectural visualisation to sophisticated CGIs becoming the bread and butter of the property marketeer’s world.

It all began with a father and son website design team, who, back in the late 90s, were visiting a large local Manchester builder with a view to designing his website.

As with many pioneering ideas, Pixel’s first CGI was fuelled by a chance remark in a conversation that might never have happened. The builder in question wondered if a computer generated image of the house could be produced even before he had built the house. Vijay and his computer-savvy son looked into the concept; they found there wasn’t a go-to company which could provide such a service.

What they did find was the software to do it, which had recently dropped in price to the point it was worth taking a punt on. They also discovered that the North-West had a glut of recently-qualified gaming artists straight out of uni. Swathes of graduates who could easily wrap their minds around modelling buildings instead of modelling spear-shooting dragons in archaic gore-dungeon castles.

And so Vijay took the risk. He bought the software and placed an ad on the student union notice-board. In his own words: ‘We did it. Looking back on it now, the image was rubbish, but the client loved it because no-one else had such a thing. And we had spotted an opportunity to mine.’

With their first successful computer generated property image securely emblazoned onto the hard drive, Vijay and his son took to the phones. They called every house-builder in the area, offering their new service. They were met with an understandable degree of scepticism until they pointed out that their first client had already sold the house he was building, months before it was finished. They sent their image across and soon enough the orders started to come through…and thus The Pixel Workshop was born.

Click the link below to see how far we’ve come since then.

architectural visualisation