Breakdown Bacon

Breakdown Bacon

WHAT

Bacon’s Version is a project commissioned by Bacon Clothing, a down jackets brand, and produced by Twinone, with the aim of digitizing an entire collection of puffers. We first of all helped the brand’s fashion designer with the development of the entire collection by bringing the long and expensive prototyping phase into a sustainable, fully digital environment through our true to life digital-twins.
All with Unreal Engine 4. 

“I’m very happy to have accepted TwinOne’s challenge moving into a virtual project which allowed me to enrich Bacon’s collection, without giving up the creativity that has always distinguished Bacon.
With TwinOne we made the best use ever of the digital twins which allowed us to create virtual samples, a lookbook, social media contents, video and still campaigns and a virtual catwalk that brought us for the first time to the Milano Fashion Week, gaining great visibility and confirming Bacon as innovative and very creative Brand.”
(Andrea Pilato Barrara – Bacon Clothing Founder)

WHEN

2020 was a complex year and, in some ways, a point of no return for a whole range of processes and industries. Bacon’s Version (Bacon’s Clothing winter collection 2021) was conceived, developed and deployed in the middle of the pandemic period and almost completely in smart working. On the one hand, the pandemic situation forced Bacon Clothing to rethink its marketing, sales model and its market proposition; on the other hand, Twinone moved all its processes remotely, exploiting video streaming and keeping stable the possibility of working hand in hand with the brand’s creative team.

“TwinOne was officially founded just 3 months before the beginning of the pandemic but thanks to our long lasting experience in the field of marketing and communication, and our two years of R&D with gaming technologies, we were able to immediately offer smart and efficient solutions to the content production industry, succeeding in demonstrating the strength of our Unique and Sustainable selling proposition.”
(Daniela Robba – TwinOne CEO)

WHY

Moved by the desire to accompany the brand on its path towards sustainable innovation, TwinOne triggered a virtuous process in which their ground-breaking technology, built with the power of Epic Games’ real-time 3D game tool Unreal Engine, became a medium to give life to the Bacon Winter Collection 2021, combining creativity, style, digitisation, economic and environmental sustainability. 

“In less than two years we have managed to evolve our digi-fashion technology to surpass all the customary and redundant business practices needed when it comes to design, represent and present a fashion product to the market. With Bacon’s Version, TwinOne has been able to define a new, end-to-end value chain from the designer’s mind to the manufactured product, propelling the potential of digital into the next level of physical. “
(Mauro Mastronicola – TwinOne Founder and Creative Director)

WHY UNREAL ENGINE 4

From the beginning, the goal of Bacon’s Version was to create a completely digital and sustainable project by putting their Creative Director, Roberto Lonoce, at the center of the process without changing his working methods or learning to master complicated tools.
Unreal Engine 4 has allowed us to create a working environment where the creative process guides the technical team that, thanks to the potential of real time rendering, is able to show instantly on screen and at the highest quality, the result of an in-depth stylistic research or, and above all, the intuition of a moment.
TwinOne’s biggest challenge was to create a dynamic and fluid pipeline that, passing through a diversity of softwares, skills and workflows, could allow us to generate all the final outputs directly from Unreal Engine 4.

Unreal Engine 4 is an artist-oriented tool, meaning it was created to be used not only by developers but also by creatives. There is no other real-time engine that has so many easily accessible tools dedicated to image composition and frame quality. This has allowed the creation of a large community of creators around the world.”
(Giovanni Visai – TwinOne CTO)

FASE 1 – FROM SKETCHES TO DIGITAL TWINS

References creation
Pursuing the goal of not changing the working method of the creatives, we started collecting the Fashion Designer’s creative research done with traditional analog methods. Drawings, sketches, images, videos, fabric samples. From these materials derived the references for the creation of paper patterns, shapes, prints and fabrics to be digitized.

Shapes Digitisation
The process of digitizing the cuts, curves, sizes and proportions is a fundamental phase, blocking and not scalable. From the quality of the geometry and the fidelity of the finished digital twin, derives the quality of all subsequent phases and, of course, of the final result. To create the paper patterns, static geometries and simulations of the garments we used the software Clo3D.
At the end of this process we got the 3 main down jackets used to develop the final 60 SKU’s of the digital collection. We produced two versions of each puffer, a soft version and a hard version, to get a more faithful representation of the different types of material. The “soft” garment, once simulated on the avatar presents more folds; the “rigid” one, on the contrary, remains more composed.

“Using the Clo3D software, let the user simulate the garment, acting on patterns, fabrics, and materials’ physical properties. Changing parameters such as thickness, bending, and stiffness of the fabric makes it possible to give a preview of the model as it would be made in reality using different materials.”
(Matteo Jorge Serra – 3D Fashion Designer)

Fabrics Digitisation
In order to obtain the most faithful result possible to the real fabrics, we scanned the samples provided by Bacon Clothes.
Thanks to the work of Twinbru, a Belgian company specialized in the digitization of fabrics, we obtained the digital copy of the physical fabrics using the AXF format. Thanks to this format and the shading system we developed in Unreal Engine, we were able to control 100% of the physics of the fabrics and to entirely modify colors, add prints and embellishments.

Avatar Creation
We used the DAZ3d software to create our virtual models. Together with Bacon Clothing we created five different female avatars. Starting from the basic human shapes provided by the software, we modified the geometries, the ethnicities and skin textures to get the best result that we envisioned. Once the avatars were created, specific poses were chosen for each virtual mannequin. In all, 5 avatars were created with five different poses. 

“Leveraging the Daz Studio Software and its 3D content with the team was the move. We were able to adapt the rigged 3d human models from Daz’s library as we pleased, by editing and blending morphs. Despite such a curated process we managed to build 5 digital avatars smoothly within a short span of time. Softwares like Daz3D boost the creative process and when combined with Unreal Engine, it unlocks its potential and opens up new frontiers in the field of digital humans.”
(Novella Mazzei –  TwinOne Art Director)

FASE 2 – FLY INTO UNREAL

Once the digital twins of the puffers are created, the phase to create game-ready assets begins. This process has two main objectives: the first is purely technical optimization of assets (geometries and scanned materials); the second is more aesthetical-creative, enabling the concept of instant creativity – the ability to customize virtual to real garments mixing, combining and assembling an endless variety of materials, prints and colors with no limit to extemporary creativity, in real time within Unreal Engine.

Arranging shapes, colors, fabrics, prints and embroideries as in a bookcase can be considered as the extreme parallel of the work that a designer does when he thinks, imagines and creates a collection, but with TwinOne it’s reality.
On an energetic level, this method and system of digitization provides me with zero limits (if not of the client’s budget) regarding my imagining.
Zero limits in my imaginative library.
(Roberto Lonoce – Bacon Clothing Creative Director)

Asset Optimisation
At the end of the digital twin creation phase, for each piece of clothing we had the geometry of the down jacket itself and an avatar in a specific pose.
After cleaning the geometries (excess vertices, flipped normals, lamina faces, ngons) of the puffers and avatars, the long but fundamental process of creating the UVs for each garment began. The number of UV sets created for each piece of clothing is equivalent to the number of particular combinations of materials present on the down jacket, in addition to the standard one, composed of a single material per asset. Given the complexity of some fabrics, the UVs were managed to obtain the least distortion possible of the various geometric patterns. Each change of material is then concurred with a different Material ID.
This process was then repeated for each avatar considering also the different accessories (glasses, heels, sneakers, leggins and t-shirts). The attention paid during this step has allowed us to enable the possibility of instant adjustments of materials inside Unreal Engine.

“Being able to communicate correctly with the fashion designer was fundamental for the optimization of assets. Knowing the exact positioning of the fabrics and their patterns allowed us to create multiple avatars from a single asset. This has significantly eased the workload inside UE4.”
(Christian Borò – TwinOne Tech Artist)

Material Optimisation
The AXF files are plug and play within UE4.
We have created a new master material to meet our needs. We have lightened some of the functions that convert the textures in the standard PBR and added parameters to facilitate the control in the various instances.
With some fine tuning in photoshop we were able to implement the insertion of the Pantone value directly into the engine, thus offering the possibility to allow the Creative Director to choose any color he wanted. All the necessary changes made to the scanned fabrics together with the generation of the masks for the modification of the Pantone value and various tuning of the maps were done in Photoshop and Substance Designer.

Instant Creativity
The creation of game-ready assets allowed us to put in play our Instant Creativity method and gave us the possibility to work side by side with the designer of Bacon Clothing, following his requests, visualized at the highest quality possible and, most importantly, live. The in-depth work on materials allowed us to modify virtually every aspect of every fabric, thus supporting the creative process of Bacon Clothing.

“Time is an important variant in the formula “designing a collection”.
Thinking of INSTANT CREATIVITY as a possible Reality is what I experienced working with the TwinOne team.
It’s imagining and seeing everything in such a realistic way
as to be empathetic and immediately communicable,
usable with the client and the final buyer.
It’s creating with the things that aesthetically and graphically I love,
and immediately see them on screen ready for an Instagram post.
Let me explain better: In the moment of designing a work for a client, there is a time of creation-ideation (by the designer) and then the time-step of presentation of this project. With the TwinOne Team I understood that the moment in which I would exhibit the project, could coincide with the act of communicating it to the market, on any platform, in real time.
Creativity, planning, fruition and communication:
everything runs at the same speed to propel a 360° vision.”
(Roberto Lonoce – Bacon Clothing Creative Director)

FASE 3 – READY, ENGINE, ACTION!

Once all the assets were imported into Unreal Engine, we started building the set for the shooting of the digital lookbook. All the images of the lookbook were shot on a plain background. We created a set of lights for each different avatar pose.
Where necessary, we modified the intensity and position of the light to enhance the rendering of the materials. Especially for the darker garments it was necessary to play with the light sets. Some Pantone values were close to chromatic zero and this created an almost total absorption of the light with consequent fading of the most characteristic details of the fabric texture.
The photoshoot consisted of a two days live session with the client and the designer. Each look had three different angles that varied from total shots and medium shots. For each avatar we then set up two dedicated close-up cameras to highlight the details.
At the end of the second day of shooting, this process generated about 200 different images, in 4k, both with background and with alpha channels. The versatility of the project structure within Unreal Engine, allowed us to create promotional video content, compositions with multiple avatars in the scene, close-up images of the fabrics and puffers, in addition to the images required for the lookbook. The high quality of the outputs delivered, gave Bacon Clothing the freedom to compose their still AD campaign combining Twinone’s digital avatars and real life models shot live on stage. 

FASE 4 – BRING THEM TO LIFE

The biggest challenge of the whole project was with no doubt the creation of an entire fashion show with all the avatars and down jackets animated.
In this case the technical team and the creative team worked in parallel, to plan the creation of the show.

Generate animation with Mixamo
The animation of all avatars consists of a walk, a stop, an idle and a restart loop. The animations were selected from the Mixamo library, in which we also created the rig system. All the animations have then been sequenced in the Maya Software, creating a long version of the walk in loop, for each avatar.

Clothing simulation in Clo3d
Using only one merged animation, allowed us to make a single simulation for each puffer. The simulation process took a long time mainly because of the high quality required to achieve the definition and fidelity we have set as our goal. Setting the distance between each vertex to 5mm has allowed us to obtain a very high quality of the simulated down jacket at the expense of very heavy files that required an intense work of optimization.

“Simulating garments means animating them in a 3D virtual space, reproducing the behavior of materials in movement. Achieving a higher quality in terms of resolution is possible by operating with geometries subdivision and letting the processor calculate a more complex surface and finally getting a more refined and realistic simulation in the time frame.”
(Matteo Jorge Serra – 3D Fashion Designer)

Planning a digital fashion show
At the same time, the fashion show was planned. The client chose the order of the catwalk exits and the total looks of the virtual models that needed to be featured in the runway show.

“On one hand the many outputs we had to create and the many materials we received, made it essential to have a strict production plan, on the other, to work with the Instant Creativity needed on this project, we had to have a fluid and constantly evolving production pipeline.”
(Bernadette Pedote – TwinOne Project Manager)

Create game-ready animations
To import the animations inside Unreal Engine we used the Alembic format, which has the main characteristic to save itself inside the simulations and the cached animations.
Unreal Engine 4 has recently updated its Alembic import plugin.The use of this plugin has facilitated the management of animations within the engine, but forced us to generate a single asset for each puffer/avatar combination because in Unreal Engine 4 the alembic format does not support separate meshes. However it is able to recognize the different IDs that make up the geometry.
To avoid having an unnecessary number of animated avatars, we kept the same workflow as the lookbook. Meaning that for each avatar, we recreated the same IDs and UV sets for each variation of the same down jackets. 

“The plugin used to import alembic files in ue4 was a bit tricky. We had to run some tests to find the most suitable workflow, especially considering the optimization of the assets themselves. But in the end the result was more than satisfactory.”
(Christian Borò – TwinOne Tech Artist)

Create the set and import all the animations in Unreal
The location of the fashion show has been produced by TwinOne’s team, with the aim of creating a set that embraces both technical and creative requirements. The lighting of the environment is dynamic and exploits the calculation of the GI in ray tracing in real time. Each avatar has its own specific set of lights to enhance the details of the garment.
Once the Alembic animation was imported into the engine, all we needed to do was add our geometry cache to a sequencer, thus obtaining a single instance complete with the total look (the down jacket, the avatar and the accessories) ready to be placed in the scene.

Shooting
Once all the animations were set in Unreal Engine, the shooting phase began. In terms of direction, the structure of the runway consisted in having the avatars enter in three different rows on a specific timing, with specific key blocks with the aime to create a harmonious rhythm. The direction plan was based on a set of camera movements and angles that were repeated on all the avatars. In this way, the technical team was able to work autonomously and, during the editing phase, there was the freedom to choose the best shots. 

“Given the complexity of the work and the large number of avatars, it was essential to organise the sequencers as optimally as possible to facilitate the rendering phase: we created one sequencer per row, containing all the avatars and the needed cameras. The latter were initially created on a single row and then copied and moved to the others, adapting them to the different speeds and heights of the avatars. Moreover, the beginning and the closing sequence of the show were separated from the main part and organised not only on different sequencers but also on different levels”.
(Francesca Simoni – TwinOne 3D Artist)

Export
Once all the cameras were created and the animations were set within the sequencer, the export phase began. To write on disk the sequences of images, we used the new Unreal Engine tool: Movie Render Queue. After several tests of time/quality/stability we obtained a full hd export. The variables that can be inserted into the export tool have been of great help and allowed us to work in viewport easily and to activate the ray tracing only during the render phase, pushing on the quality of the final images.

FUTURE IS NOW

The project Bacon’s Version was a great challenge, both creatively and technically with little to none technical papers and best practice available.
The singularity of the project led us to design, from scratch, a pipeline that ensures the best possible efficiency for any kind of industry and application.
Despite our experience with Unreal Engine and with the creation of digital content of the highest quality using real-time rendering, this digi-fashion project gave us the chance to push our limits and define new and interesting processes. Undertaking that we share with the goal of pushing more and more, where possible, towards the processes of digitization and virtual design to generate a more efficient and sustainable way of working. Thanks to the incredible results that real-time rendering is achieving, these goals don’t seem so far away anymore.