MONEY Home furnishings

Why Ikea Items Look So Good… In the Catalog

The firm has embraced a cutting-edge technology to create images of scenes that don't actually exist.

Ever wonder why your Ikea chair or sofa doesn’t look quite the same as the one in the catalog? Turns out that many of the glossy images you’ve been drooling over aren’t actually photos of a physical chair, sofa, or any other object placed in front of a camera. Instead, the Swedish furniture firm uses 3D rendering technology to create digital models of their products, which can then be dropped into any room or scene the artists and photographers create. That way, they can easily tweak anything from the angle of the chair to the sunlight reflecting through the window to the placement of the fruit bowl on the table.

According to a post from the CG Society, an organization for digital artists, Ikea now uses the technology to create 75% of the product images in its catalog. The firm told CG Society that using 3D rendering is less expensive and logistically easier than trying to ship items from all over the world to be photographed. It also allows for more flexibility. For example, if an item is changed, it can simply be digitally tweaked rather than reshot.

Of course, this technology also allows the company to get the absolute “perfect” shot. “With a lot of those images from Ikea I could tell immediately they were done with 3D,” says Shamus Clisset, a New York City artist who generates his creations using similar technology, and has a show opening next week at Postmasters Gallery in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood. “It is just a little too perfect about everything. The hard thing to get right in 3D is the imperfection.”

For instance, when you build an Ikea chair yourself, it may have a little nick or scratch—imperfections you’re unlikely to see in a digitally-rendered image, unless they’re added. Similarly, if you screw together a table, one of the legs may not stand completely straight, causing the table to tilt ever so slightly. The computer, on the other hand, can generate a perfectly geometric table.

To be fair, companies have always used tricks to create the best possible images of their products. “It isn’t that different from how product shoots were done in the past,” Clisset says. “When you see a bowl of cereal on the front of a box, it isn’t milk in the photo. You use glue instead because you have more control over it. Now it’s just done digitally.”

Clisset explains that the technology has come a long way in the last ten years, to the point where 3D artists can create images that are indistinguishable from an actual photo. “I have been doing the 3D stuff for almost ten years, and when I first started out people couldn’t even grasp the concept,” he says. “But today people are getting more familiar with it.”

Now an artist—or furniture company—can choose between, say, many different types and colors of wood, and simply digitally render them onto a model product, such as a floor or table.

You’re also likely to see this technology in auto ads, says Clisset. Want the car in the mountains? Sure. Desert? No problem. City? Just decide where to place the people.

Here is a thread that includes before and after shots from television and movies produced with the help of these techniques.

The challenge now for consumers will be to be able to discern what is real, and what is digitally created. That is, if they even care.

Click here for the original CGSociety post, which includes photos.

TIME Travel

See Images of Airplanes at Night Like You’ve Never Seen Them Before

This is what your Labor Day vacation flight looks like shot as a long exposure

While Labor Day is first and foremost a tribute to the nation’s workers, it is also billed as one of the worst travel days of the year. For many, it’s the final opportunity to take a three day weekend before the chill of fall, and eventually winter, sets in. Nearly 35 million people will be traveling this weekend, with nearly eighty percent traveling by air.

This summer, photographer Kevin Kunstadt began making long exposures of airplanes as they flew over the New York City area at night, creating these surreal and eerily beautiful images that chart the flight paths travelers will take this weekend. “A bit of guesswork and luck was involved due to the variability of the flight paths and the time it takes to set up each shot — you can only kind of estimate where the planes might go based on prior flight paths that you might see while framing the shot, ” Kunstadt told TIME. “The website Flightaware.com was tremendously helpful as far as gauging the timing of potential planes, and figuring out when to start an exposure. The exposures themselves were between 3 and 30 minutes.” His images capture light trails usually invisible to the human eye, and a view you are unlikely to see during this weekend’s travel.

TIME China

These Aren’t Wrestlers, They’re Chinese Women Modeling the Latest Beachwear

Headed for the beach? Don't forget your facekini

When you look at Kevin Frayer’s slightly unsettling images, you ask yourself if masked Mexican wrestlers have invaded the coastal Chinese city of Qingdao. But no.

The lucha libre look is just the latest in beachwear, a must-have for women worried about getting too much — or, um, any — sun. And while they may look a little frightening — “other people may worry you plan to rob a bank!” observed one netizen — they are the talk of the town, from China’s stodgy state press to supposedly chic French fashion magazines.

The facekini, or lianjini in Chinese, first made waves in 2012, when a bunch of Chinese women were photographed wearing them in Qingdao. An Aug. 19 report in Xinhua, China’s state newswire, said 58-year-old resident Zhang Shifan created the look to protect herself from jellyfish and the summer sun.

Pale skin is prized in China — so much so that the slang term for an attractive woman is bai fu mei, or fair, rich, beautiful — but even Zhang said she was caught off guard by the level of interest. “I’m so surprised that this mask is so popular,” she told Xinhua.

That makes all of us, auntie.

TIME Athletes

Here Are 8 Bizarre Yet Beautiful Photos of Women’s Rhythmic Gymnastics

Gymnasts are known for their incredible flexibility, but rhythmic gymnasts take it to new levels, wrapping their bodies around ribbons, clubs, balls and hoops—all with a dazzling smile.

The secret to their rubber-band like contortions? Hours and hours of training, including more time spent in splits—hanging from bars or stretched across foam blocks—than the rest of us would consider humane. These athletes, competing at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China, represent the eight top-scoring qualifiers in mind-bending acrobatic routines in the individual all-around finals.

TIME indonesia

Isolated Javanese Community Celebrates Founders

On the fourteenth day of the month-long festival, the Tenggerese throw offerings of food and livestock into the active Mount Bromo volcano

The Tenggerese people, an isolated community on the island of Java that primarily identifies as Hindu, is celebrating the festival of Yadnya Kasada this month.

The festival honors the 15th century princess Roro Anteng and her husband Joko Seger, said to be the founders of the community. According to legend, the couple asked the Gods for children and were granted 24 children on the condition that the 25th be thrown into the volcano–Mount Bromo–as a sacrifice.

TIME space travel

Photos from the Curiosity Rover’s First 2 Incredible Years on Mars

On Aug. 5, 2012, NASA's Curiosity rover successfully landed on Mars. Here are pictures from its exploration thus far

TIME viral

Jeff Goldblum Recreates Jurassic Park Scene in This Awesome Wedding Photo

Pamela and Jesse Sargent Wedding
Adam Biesenthal Photography

Hold on to your butts

Look, if Jeff Goldblum is at your wedding, it’s perfectly understandable that you’d see that as an opportunity. An opportunity, for example, to take an awesomely over-the-top Jurassic Park-style wedding photo.

Photographer Adam Biesenthal captured the shot at the request of the groom, Esquire reports. (The dinosaur was photoshopped in later, obviously.) Goldblum was attending the wedding of Pamela and Jesse Sargent, who are friends of the actor’s fiancée, Emilie Livingston.

Biesenthal told Esquire that Goldblum was “a very cool guy, who when the groom asked him to do this shot he enthusiastically agreed.” In fact, he was one of the few people who really got into character for it. Everyone else was just smiling!

We can only hope he found a moment to throw in his famously weird laugh:

 

TIME photography

11 Fun Photos to Start Your Weekend

From beach-goers to North Korean dance parties, here's a handful of photos to get your weekend started right

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