Home Case Studies Going back from Mac - a graphic designer's experience

Going back from Mac - a graphic designer's experience

Are you Mac or PC? That’s the question asked by the now infamous advertising campaign that pitched PC users as dull, data-obsessed automatons and Mac users as quirky, creative thrill-seekers. But fast forward a good decade (or so) and is there any truth left in the old cliché that “Macs are better for creatives?”

One man who has been asking himself that question recently is Norman Hayes, the founder and creative director of Waste Studio. Norm is “not a PC guy” by his own admission. But an ambitious recent project for Nike required more processing power than a Mac could provide.

Norman invested in a Novatech workstation that was able to take care of some of the “beefier” requirements of the project. Will Norm and his team be sticking with the PC ecosystem full-time now that they’ve shaken off their prejudices? Or is the magnetic pull of the Apple ecosystem simply too strong to ignore?

Moving on from Mac

 

Going from Mac to PC

Norm has, by his own admission “been Mac” his entire working life. But last year, his Nottingham-based creative design agency Waste Studio was asked to deliver the in-store digital experience for Nike’s newly opened flagship Barcelona store. This involved designing and building a permanent “Sports Hub” installation that would bring together and display localised data from the Nike apps and local sports facilities.

This job required the heavy 3D rendering and data processing that only a bespoke Novatech machine could handle.

Norm realised that the humble iMacs and MacBooks were insufficient when they started using Cinema 4D to produce 3D renders for the Nike project. He explains: “We started getting into 3D work doing self-initiated stuff like character design and modelling. When it came to the modelling, the Mac was fine, but when it came to texture and lighting it was a case of moving a light and waiting 10 minutes for it to update before we could move on. It was such a painful process because Macs don’t have the graphics cards and the processors that are able to handle that kind of work.”

A friend of Norm’s promised him that one of our rigs would be able to process lighting changes almost instantly. Now they use it for most of their 3D rendering tasks.

 

Just Do It

The project that necessitated the shift from Mac to Novatech was an ambitious project for Nike. Norm says: “We just opened a store in Barcelona with them which involved a lot of 3D motion graphics and that work was made a hell of a lot quicker thanks to the workstation. But after time, we realised that even using something like After Effects was so much faster on the Novatech (machine). A render that would take 5 hours on the Mac took half an hour on the new system.”

As we speak, many of the same digital assets Norm and his team created for the Barcelona store are being rolled out worldwide, requiring continual alterations. Thanks to the processing power of his new PC, Norm has been able to alter a file and show the client within hours rather than days – a game-changer for Waste.

He elaborates on the project: “The Barcelona store job was pretty much done solely on Novatech PCs. It started out as just the entrance tunnel to the store itself, which was covered in screens showing moving graphics. But then it moved all the way back to the back wall, which takes up two floors and spans the full height of the store.”

They developed a 3D grid in Cinema 4D and composited it together with the typography and everything else in After Effects, all rendered out via the PC. And, of course, then there was the Sports Hub – a series of screens showing live localised data that needed to be completely updatable and had to work together with the graphics. This all needed to be turned around in just three months, which is something that never would have been possible in the “old days” of the Mac, particularly with COVID-related complications.

 

Are you Mac or PC?

As powerful as the Novatech workstation might be, old habits die hard and Norm still uses his trusty Mac when he’s feeling in a “creative” mood to “sculpt” his ideas, before moving onto the workstation to finalise them. He explains: “You start with a block of clay, and you don't know quite where you're going so you need the freedom to experiment and the Mac gives me that. But then once I know where I'm going, the PC gives me the speed and technicality that I need to finalise the job.”

It sounds like quite a copacetic relationship, but he admits it’s not been an immediate revelation. Like all the best things, it’s taken time. Ultimately, Mac has been a creative industry standard for generations now and we’re all liable to get used to a certain way of working.

Norm elaborates: “It's little things like the fact that the windows are different and the way you save stuff. It's a different set of rules for the PC, even though they're both fundamentally the same once you understand them.” He adds: "I was so anti-PC and it’s largely because of all the bad press; the stories you hear about PCs being ridden with viruses and constantly breaking down.”

But in reality, they are a lot more robust than he assumed. The days of the virus-riddled PC are long behind us - as long as you have the right software installed, of course. So, while Norm initially wanted to keep the workstation as a siloed machine to just work on rendering, it’s slowly become an important part of his workflow with the Adobe Creative Cloud.

Once he was inside that familiar territory of the Adobe suite, the lines slowly started to blur to the extent that they almost completely disappeared. Indeed, he admits: “I'm gradually being converted, to the extent that I think I could see myself leaning more towards a complete PC workflow in six months.”

PC…

Norm has had the workstation for around a year now but it arrived during the first lockdown when his head was all over the place. When they upgraded their Cinema 4D subscription to include Redshift and he started playing around with it, however, he soon began to realise the benefits of moving to a more powerful rig. Indeed, it’s allowed him to consider more ambitious and sophisticated work.

He says: “We do a lot of photoshoots and the ability to move the light around and have it follow you just like in real life was incredibly freeing. Right now we’re investing in 3D printers too, and the ability to create a 3D build in Cinema 4D and ZBrush and then output that physically via a 3D printer to make prototypes has allowed the studio to become a full-fledged digital design studio.”

Their bread and butter was photoshoots and web design. Indeed, they had rarely ventured into the worlds of motion graphics and animation. But since they started playing with Cinema 4D on their workstations, clients have seen that they are capable of just about anything.

Norm points to a recent presentation they did for the Nike retail department: “They were blown away by what we were able to accomplish and how slick the animation was. So we’ve been in contact with other departments in Nike that have similar jobs lined up for us.

“I’ve always been a believer that if you’re creative, you can do anything and that’s true whether you’re hanging a shelf or drawing a picture. It’s all problem-solving. Now that we can render things so much more realistically there are so many more problems we can solve.”

If you’re interested in the hardware Norm uses to create the exceptional Nike store project, fill in the form and one of our friendly Account Managers will be happy to help.

 

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Published on 21 Apr 2021

Last updated on 21 Apr 2021

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