“We only use Autodesk 3ds Max for our visualizations. Working with detailed AutoCAD files, plans, elevations, sections, and some rough sketches, we were able to create animation and stills that not only helped with the sales pitch, but provided invaluable design elements as well. With help from our visualization, the new stadium won the right to host Super Bowl XLV in 2011, and it’s not even built yet.”
—Tara Scarrow, Studio Supervisor, Heartwood Studios
Heartwood Studios Uses Autodesk 3ds Max to Visualize World’s Largest Domed Structure and New Home for NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.
by Michael Abraham
Though based in New York, San Francisco, and Orlando, Heartwood Studios went deep into the heart of Texas to help football fans (and prospective ticket buyers) visualize the enormous new home of the NFL® Dallas Cowboys® football team which is scheduled to be completed in time for the kickoff of the 2009 season. Heartwood’s 25 member team of digital designers and artists, used Autodesk® 3ds Max® software to create internal, external, and specific seat views of the as-yet-unfinished stadium which, at 2.3 million square feet, will be the world’s largest column-free room and domed structure; capable of accommodating the Statue of Liberty and its base with the stadium roof closed. Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones had some big plans, and Heartwood was ready for all of them.
Armed only with AutoCAD® software files and some rough sketches, the Heartwood team was tasked with creating a seamless and realistic exterior view of the completed stadium as it will look in its location in Arlington, Texas. Raw footage of the building site was shot from a helicopter, and it was then up to Heartwood to convey the unprecedented scope and sheer size of the stadium within its eventual context.
The resulting exterior visualization, complete with enormous screens to give passing drivers a taste of what they are missing, is nothing short of breathtaking, giving prospective season ticket holders and potential investors the opportunity to truly experience the stadium, even before it is real. The accompanying musical soundtrack, recorded by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, adds to the truly epic effect. More than simply placing the structure in context, however, the Heartwood visualizations also include detailed, elegant views of over 200 luxury suites, unique “open endzones,” field level views, sight lines from particular seats, the spectacular retractable roof in action, and much more.
Heartwood Studios created animations and stills not only for the sales pitch, but as invaluable design elements in the final design.
“Heartwood’s work on the new Cowboys stadium began in 2006,” says Tara Scarrow, studio supervisor at Heartwood. “Essentially, the Cowboys were looking for a way to sort of pre-sell the stadium and its features. Marketing departments often benefit from the kind of work we do, because design visualizations provide a better feel of the space, proportions, and general look of the project. Our animated and still previsualizations of the stadium helped fill the gaps between drawings and the finished project.”
Due to potentially overwhelming scope of the project, the Heartwood team of artists anticipated some significant challenges. With only the provided AutoCAD files, plans, elevations, sections, and some rough sketches, the Heartwood team would have to seamlessly blend the stadium into its surroundings as captured through the raw helicopter footage. The intricate integration of the 3D model was complicated by enormous polygon counts which would bloat the files, making them very difficult to open and render in a timely fashion. Adding to the challenge was the fact that the creative vision of the stadium continued to evolve as the project progressed, resulting in ongoing changes to the detailed animated fly-through that would be the heart of Heartwood’s contribution.
In addition to providing the Heartwood team with easy optimization of their polygon counts, Autodesk 3ds Max enabled the team to split the model into more digestible, self-sufficient portions and areas, which were then more easily updated as the project went on. Compatibility with Chaos Group’s V-Ray rendering system also eased what could have been a prohibitive rendering process, and saved time and money for Heartwood and the Dallas Cowboys.
Heartwood’s visualizations ended up bringing much more to the project than great looking presentations of the stadium and its features. Although not their original task, the studio’s work had significant impact on the design of the stadium by proving what was and was not possible. In at least one case, an entire luxury suite was created according to Heartwood’s design.
“They simply asked us to visualize one of the Suites,” says Scarrow. “We had a lot of fun with the design and, when it was done, they included it in the official stadium plans. They showed us a great deal of trust. We only use Autodesk 3ds Max for our visualizations. We were able to create animations and stills that not only helped with the sales pitch, but provided invaluable design elements as well.”
Heartwood’s digital solutions are already paying dividends for the Dallas Cowboys. The animation has already helped the new stadium win the right to host the NCAA’s Big 12 Conference Championship in 2009 and 2010; the Cotton Bowl in 2010; and Super Bowl XLV in 2011.
With Autodesk 3ds Max in their corner, Heartwood Studios turned some big plans into an even bigger success.
“After evaluating proposals from a number of firms, we chose Heartwood Studios for this project because of their innovative and exceptional work in the areas of 3D architectural renderings and animation, Heartwood’s outstanding work will go a long way in allowing us to visually demonstrate to Cowboys fans and others around the world both the tradition and innovation we are bringing to our new home.”
—Jerry Jones, Owner, Dallas Cowboys.