Photograph or Rendering? Sync Creating 3D Visualizations that Look like the Real Thing

That picture up top – that’s a 3D rendering, not a photograph. If you couldn’t tell the difference, you’re not alone. Advertising and interactive agency Sync‘s own clients sometimes can’t tell the difference between a photograph and the 3D visualizations the firm has been imagining for clients across the world, from Columbus to Denmark, for the last 15 years.

Based in German Village, the agency’s skill set spans renderings to building websites to guerilla marketing campaigns.

“For a handful of clients we’re completely omnichannel, which means we’ve done everything from their TV commercial to the flyer that they hand out at the location, and everything in-between,” says Brett Langolf, vice president of client services.

With clients in nutritional healthcare, like Isopure and Abbott Nutrition, financial services, including Telhio Credit Union, and many facets of  education,”Where our strength lies is we’re very good at taking complicated, basically unsexy content and making it relative and easy to digest,” Langolf says. “Everything we do we look at the consumer or the end-user first.”

Focusing on what the end-user will get out of the product or service, Sync does things like take a six page medial white paper and turn it into a human body pictogram, translating technical into easy to understand. That process also extends into product packaging – a main focus of the firm’s 3D visualization services.


Over the course of a decade and a half, Sync has swapped the photography department for the handiwork of Art Director Jim Langman. With a background in photography and illustration, “Both of those approaches play into 3D really well,” Langman says.

From brochures to websites to infographics to sales aids, “The executional list is almost endless,” Langolf says.

Being able to show a product in a real-life setting is one execution. Take a faucet, for example. Sync takes the product out of the package and into an ideal environment – marble countertops, kitchen sink – all without actually paying for any props. Everything is modeled, textured and lit up.

“We can match the specs to the actual product,” Langman says, and so has been the case with a window manufacturer they work with. Langman takes the CAD files for the windows into his 3D program and builds out model, a process that doesn’t require building an entire house.

We’ve built these props and set up a set and a year from now, if the product changes and they really need that image updated, I don’t have to guess where the camera was,” Langman says. “I don’t have to rebuild everything. I open up the file. It’s right there, and I make updates and re-render.” 

That same theory is a major plus when it comes to packaging.

“Larger companies have families of brands – different divisions, different portfolios – so they want everything to be consistent,” Langolf says. “This controls the environment and you don’t have to go back and reshoot it.” 

The 3D packaging visualizations have benefits for products that don’t exist to those that are in production.

Langolf recounts a prime example of how the process should work. He was introduced to Sync as a client before joining the team, using their services to render a product he was woking on that didn’t exist yet. With just ideas and art, Sync was able to render a package in three days to present to the board.

“They thought it was actually live photography,” Langolf says. “If you do it right, it feels like a photograph,” Langman adds. 

Sync creates a rendered product image then makes tweaks like seeing what it would look like from different skews, with condensation or splashing into water, or even shining under store lights.


On the production side, “We get it because we can produce an image while it’s being made so that they have an image to use to start gearing up for all their advertising, and coupons, and coming soon kind of stuff,” Langman says. 

While Sync can pass on advantages like cost savings and giving life to non-existent products to clients, the rendering abilities prove impactful for their full suite of services.

“It gives us an edge because sometimes if we’re working on something creatively and we need an image we have the resources to be able to make that happen,” Langman says. 

The visualizations continue to be a growing part of Sync’s business, currently accounting for about 15 – 20 percent of their services, and they’ve done more 3D product and packaging renders in the Midwest than any other agency.

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