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3D Process Diagrams and Site Maps

Conceptual fly through using blend of 3D modeling/animation and After Effects’ 3D capabilities to blend 2D and 3D and create the animated site map (no audio).

Today’s Marketing Director will tell you they’ve known for a while that moving major marketing initiatives to the web was not a question of if, but when – and how. An imposing task, the need became more acute by longer term affects of the Covid-19 pandemic. A common request from our clients has been the creation a 3D Site Map depicting products and services in context of their specific markets. CraneDigital has more than 25 years of marketing and communications experience on top of the 25 years of creating compelling, complex 3D graphics to help you through this transition.

3D Site Maps, Process Diagrams
3D Site Map, Process Flow Diagram, Virtual World or Interactive Map: whatever the name, the idea is the same: to introduce your products and services quickly and clearly, in-context to a web-savvy market.
Schneider Electric, “Solutions for Cement”

Especially useful for large organizations with products in several (or many) different vertical markets, the Site Map concept may also be called a Production Path, Process Flow Diagram, Decision Tree or Virtual World. Whatever the label, these highly fictionalized yet plausible 3D graphic representations of industries allow translating complex, detailed concepts into easy to comprehend visuals that are perfect for providing a virtual overview contextualizing products and services.

Cement Crusher for Schneider Electric, “Solutions for Cement”

This approach translates complex, detailed concepts into easily comprehended visuals.

The ‘big idea‘ is for large organizations with interests across multiple markets to present their products and services in a plausible, accurate setting; a ‘virtual world,’ then position branded, engineering-precise product data in that environment. Once this virtual world has been created the 3D model has unlimited possibilities for selling, educating and training into the future. Deliverables might include a library of specific images your sales and marketing teams then build their own custom sales presentation using PowerPoint, Visio or any other presentation software. Animations and videos are also obvious uses – whether as stand-alone, product-specific shorts, or animated clips inserted into longer live action videos.

Schneider Electric, “Solutions for Mining”

CraneDigital has been creating with this concept for more than a decade, since our first Site Maps created for Shell Oil, which they referred to as a “Disneyland style” map. A great benefit of working in 3D is flexibility in how one chooses to approach creating a plausibly accurate virtual 3D world, but some of the most common consider the following:

Cyclones,Schneider Electric Solutions for Mining
Cyclones, Schneider Electric “Solutions for Mining”

The difference color makes is clearly illustrated above. Selecting color wisely eliminates distractions and unwanted messaging, keeping your main point clear: promoting your brand.

3D virtual world map for marketing: clean water process illustrated diagram for Milton Roy

a) The environment is often brand neutral – except for the client’s brand. This means stripping out excessive color, or anything that could be tied to other recognizable products, especially those belonging to competitors. This keeps the organization’s branding standards – treatment of colors, logos, proper spacing, applications, etc. – upheld, and devotes 100% of your marketing efforts and dollars to promoting your brand.

Schneider Electric, “Solutions for Steel”

b) The environment needs to be accurate, but not to a engineering level of precision. Plausible is the word we like to use. There are many reasons for this. Industry insiders need to immediately recognize that an organization knows and understands its customers and the spaces they occupy. However, committing to too specific a make or model of anything NOT directly related to your own product line suggests preference to one piece of equipment over another. So constructing believable – but not distinguishable versions of things is important.

Smart Crane for Steel Industry
Smart Crane 3D model, built for Schneider Electric “Solutions for Steel”

c) Level of detail is another big consideration. A significant cost-driver, over-building detail into environments is time consuming and therefore expensive – and – needlessly complicates animation. The vantage point, or perspective you’re viewing the scene from plays a significant role in this decision. For example, if a waste water plant is viewed from 10,000 feet you’ll not need every nut and bolt on every railing or ladder in the facility. If, however, the camera moves in for a closer look at a specific feature, examining how a product may me installed – level of detail becomes important. It’s better to approach Level of Detail in Phases.

3D Diagram of Wastewater Treatment Plant, color version
Wastewater treatment plant, phase 1: the 10,000 foot view.
  • Phase One might be the 10,000 foot view providing the environment for context. Whether a cement plant, steel mill, a mining site or municipal wastewater facility, setting the stage with accurate, plausible environments is considered a first step.
Wastewater Aeration Tank-wide shot
Phase 2: Close up rendering of a Wastewater aeration tank; the more detailed wide shot sets the stage for the phase three shot to come, showing more product specific information.
  • Phase Two might be a closer look at individual areas of activity. Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) are essential here to ensure the accuracy and detail as the camera moves closer. In phase two you’re making and refining decisions about what you’ll view next. For example, if your next PowerPoint slide or shot in a video is how your equipment may attach to the environment, you’ll build out enough detail to set the stage for that shot. Once established, cameras may be positioned anywhere in the scene for custom views and unique vantage points. Real world photography techniques like depth of field blur are used to enhance realism.
Wastewater Aeration Tank-Close Up
Phase 3: Wastewater treatment plant, phase three: this detailed aeration tank can withstand the close-up shot with its safety railings and detailed equipment. But for a 10,000 foot shot there’s no need for this level of detail; no one will see it. The trick is planning which is which.
  • Phase Three is where individual products are introduced into their proper setting. The environment has been established and it’s time to reveal the reason we’re looking at this world in the first place. This is where the detailed, accurate product is shown. Often times a CAD data set is the best approach to this, eliminating the costly process of recreating something that already exists.

Choosing how to spend time and budget wisely is important. Once we get into building a scene and an idea moves from abstract/theoretical to visible/tangible – requests for more and more detail come. It’s not a matter of whether something can be made more realistic. It’s a matter of will that help communicate your core message. Staying focused on the big picture and not succumbing to unnecessary level of detail (leading to scope creep) can be a challenge we’ll help guide you through.

Sometimes various color accents indicating common elements, such as water, can break up the monochrome look without contaminating branding.

So – you can overbuild the entire site to allow complete freedom of movement knowing that every nook and cranny can hold up to the close shot – which takes a long time and costs a fortune. Or– you can approach it in phases, which is far more sensible. There’s no point wasting time and money detailing a part of the site no one will see.

Building each machine is one of the most challenging – and fun – parts. Working from reference photos and other descriptions, machines specific to each industry are constructed to represent real-world counterparts – but again, not represent one recognizable brand or model – the final version of any considered an “average” of several different samples. There are times, however, that specific classifications of equipment are necessary. Recently there was an example of a (extremely) large shipping container transported by flatbed semi. It was important to communicate a drop-down flatbed as opposed to a regular flatbed due to the extreme weight requirements. So there are times a certain measure of detail is appropriate.

Each piece moves in animation, adding to the intrigue and fun. Let’s face it: part of the reason this approach is appealing is the fun factor for your potential customers to feel like they’re interacting with an environment.

Once your asset library is built, the heavy lifting is done and models may now be leveraged for any purpose into the future. It’s literally a drag and drop process for future marketing efforts. If individual assets require changes they are modified, their changes automatically reflected in future scenes.

Stacker & Reclaimer for Schneider Electric, “Solutions for Mining”

With more than a decade of experience, CraneDigital expertly guides what makes the most sense for your needs. Give us a call at 970-213-1828 to discuss how we can help navigate presenting your products and services on the web. We’re here to help.