Peloton Tread Renderings
Late 2017, I had the honor of aiding Peloton in a successful product unveiling at CES 2018. I provided Peloton with high-resolution product renderings using KeyShot before the treadmill was ready to ship. The project came together during a very busy time of year and on short notice, but was a success for everyone involved. Here’s how it went down.
For those who don’t know, Peloton Tread allows you to experience live cardio and strength training classes by top NYC instructors while fitting into your busy schedule. It’s your own private fitness studio.
November 5, 2017. NYC. I receive a message from Peloton’s Director of Industrial Design asking if I could make some renderings of their latest product for its unveiling at CES 2018. I was excited to have the chance to work with them since (fun fact) I used to be a competitive runner, and I love the fitness and sporting goods industries as well. Not to mention, I’d seen Peloton’s exercise bike featured for both its design and innovative business model that is now being called the ‘Netflix of the fitness industry’.
I had to say yes.
If I can’t meet a deadline, I won’t take on a project. Originally, it looked like I’d have a bit more than a month to complete the renderings. This was appropriate as I had to work around my full-time day job. However, after accounting for the schedules of everyone else involved in the project, my travel schedule and the Thanksgiving holiday, that month shrunk to about one week.
In order to make this work I would send an update every night and make revisions during the evenings after work. This ensured that everyone was aware of what changes were being made and there were no surprises as we neared the deadline. Eventually, the images would be printed in large-format for the product unveiling at CES 2018.
I was grateful to find all parties involved to be professional, highly-responsive and generally on top of things. For reference, I received a set of images where the talent (fitness instructors) were running on a prototype treadmill in a studio setting. I would use these images to match perspective and camera angles for the final renderings.
Peloton provided me with a CAD (digital 3D) model of the treadmill and exercise accessories as well as reference photos from the photographer. I would use KeyShot to build the scene and create the final renderings. The first task was to set up a KeyShot file that matched the studio lighting in the reference photos.
Matching studio lighting can be tricky because a photographer can adjust the lights between each shot. I had to draw upon my own photography experience to reverse-engineer each light, its placement, size, brightness and color to make the lighting match. And if that wasn’t enough, it varied shot-to-shot, which meant I needed to adjust the setup for each image.
Once I’d matched the studio lighting, I needed to dial in the materials that were applied to the different surfaces of the Tread. The materials initially applied to the model weren’t done in the studio lighting scene that I’d created. When your environment changes, so does the appearance of your materials. Switching from image-based-lighting to physical lights required some tweaks to the materials.
Another challenge is rendering black products on an all-white backdrop. Black products on a white background tend to get lost and create a silhouette. I had to manage the materials well to keep them from looking too flat.
KeyShot 7 saw the introduction of Studios, a feature that makes managing large-volume rendering and revisions a breeze. I used KeyShot to create a bunch of studios. I could then group models and assign different lighting scenarios to each shot, ensuring the light and materials were perfect in each rendering.
Since the talent would be composited into the renderings to produce the final images, I needed to hand off a file to make the retouchers’ job as easy as possible. I chose to create 16-bit layered PSDs (Photoshop Document) with the crucial lighting and shadow passes and separate backgrounds for maximum flexibility.
It turns out this approach worked quite well and allowed the retouchers to work quickly to complete the images.
The retouchers took my layered PSD files and combined them with the photos of the talent to create final images. This process is called compositing. It’s often done to create images that can’t be created with a single photo or exposure. The final composites were created by a couple of artists at Urban Studio NYC. They were flexible, easy to communicate with and did a nice job on the final images.
The unveiling of the Peloton Tread at CES 2018 in Las Vegas made quite a splash. It was exciting seeing the product covered on various news sites such as Men’s Health, Forbes, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and many more. The handful of images I helped create were used to build buzz and excitement by showing exactly what the Peloton Tread would look like. Gathering pre-orders is easy when you can show exactly what the final product will look like.
One of the benefits of using renderings for final product shots is that photo-realistic images of the product can be created long before the final product has shipped or even before prototypes are complete. In this case, the renderings enabled Peloton to have a successful product launch prior to the product being ready to ship.
I’m both thankful for and proud of the outcome of this project. I’m honored to have been a part of it.