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Founded in 2006 by Hilario Canessa (architect, entrepreneur and current CEO), and with offices in Chevy Chase, MD, and Montevideo, Uruguay, architectural visualization firm Studio 4D serves clients throughout the United States with a real-time 3D platform creating cloud-based virtual walkthroughs of real estate projects. Utilizing state-of-the-art gaming technology, Studio 4D provides a live, immersive experience, allowing project stakeholders to walk through VR environments before and during construction, thereby enhancing every element of the real estate development pipeline.

In 2016, Alejandro Boccardi joined Canessa and the Studio 4D team as CTO. An experienced IT professional, Boccardi knows what the Studio 4D staff of 3D artists, graphic designers, and architects need to support their compute intensive workflows. Client CAD files may be created using Autodesk Revit, Rhinoceros, SketchUp, or some other professional architecture, engineering, and construction application, but Studio 4D works from those files and then models in 3ds Max.

“What we've been working on lately is large scale urban development,” says Boccardi, “the redesign of an entire area of a city—retail, parks, etc. In most cases, our customer is the real estate developer creating the project, so they may have several different architects and firms involved.”

Once Studio 4D receives the information from each of the individual buildings and projects in the form of CAD files, they begin the 3D modeling of the area, and then move all of that into Unreal Engine in order to create the real-time experience. “We add everything there,” says Boccardi, “old environment trees, plants, cars, people, and make it look amazing.”

With all rendering done in Unreal Engine, Studio 4D provides customers a mixture of the real- time experience, plus some renders and videos. For a single project in Unreal Engine, Studio 4D can generate these different outputs. In some cases, usually for very specific projects without a real-time experience, they may use 3ds Max with a rendering engine like Chaos Corona.

Navigating in the Cloud

As a result of the pandemic lockdowns, Studio 4D explored the use of a cloud service as the only way to share their VR experiences. They researched all the commodity providers like Microsoft, Amazon, and Google, and chose Amazon because it technologically offered the least resistance. “From payments to setting up an account, everything was quick for us,” Boccardi recalls. “We started using AWS servers, but as our projects began to grow and we added more and more detail to our experiences, we came up short on the performance side.”

Studio 4D wanted to deliver high quality real-time retracing, but unfortunately, the frame rate would drop too low, making it impossible. “At some point, the AWS servers’ old GPU cards were not powerful enough to host our experiences,” says Boccardi. “So we decided to look for other alternatives and someone from NVIDIA recommended BOXX Cloud.”


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BOXX Cloud

What initially impressed Boccardi about BOXX Cloud was the ability to customize the servers. “We built the best possible configuration with the available hardware which allows us to push our experiences to the limit,” he says. “We use on-demand, so with AWS, that meant there was some delay when starting one of the servers. But with BOXX Cloud, the servers are always up so our users can have their session up and running very quickly.”

Although server customization was key, it was the level of performance resulting from that which won Boccardi over. “Performance is primary,” he says, “and BOXX Cloud allowed us to improve our experiences. We wanted the real-time raytracing feature Unreal Engine launched a few years ago. We have very complex projects with a very high level of detail. Enabling that with all the reflections we have on the buildings, facades, etc. is very taxing on the server. Our customers needed that in their experience, but it was not possible with the available hardware from AWS. That was the main drive to switch to BOXX Cloud.”

When I inquire about time or money savings as a benefit of using BOXX Cloud, Boccardi mentions National Landing, Studio 4D’s largest project which has been in process since 2019. “We showcase it on BOXX Cloud because when we want to enable the ray tracing functionality. It simply cannot be run on the AWS service.”


Keeping Pace

Boccardi believes that advancements in technology have increased real estate developers’ expectations of the photorealistic experience Studio 4D provides. “The kind of quality we can deliver has grown exponentially in a very short period,” he says. “This is not only because of the software improvements, but also the powerful new NVIDIA GPUs which allow visuals unimaginable just four or five years ago.”

Boccardi points out that Unreal Engine, like most creative applications and render engines, is constantly updating with new fixes and features, however, computer hardware has often failed to keep pace so creators can take full advantage of these advancements. That hasn’t been the case with BOXX Cloud, and neither was the implementation of the service which Boccardi describes as “pretty quick.” That assessment could also describe his interactions with BOXX Cloud technical support. “Whenever we report an issue, I receive a quick response,” he says. “They start working on it and the team makes sure they have the spares inside so that we don't have delays.”

The Next Phase

Boccardi is optimistic about Studio 4D increasing online experiences and growing a customer base using BOXX Cloud servers. He’s also looking forward to the next phase of BOXX Cloud technology. “They’re about to release some new servers and some new services based on them,” says Boccardi, “and we're excited to see what that is and if it has options that we can use instead of the other providers we still use in some cases.”

As the discussion centers on the future, Studio 4D Principal Aaron Stopak mentions the firm’s eagerness to expand into entertainment, media, safety training, and gaming. Stopak believes Studio 4D’s experience and expertise with Unreal Engine and NVIDIA GPUs, combined with BOXX hardware and cloud computing, would be a winning combination for additional industries with interactive and immersive needs.

“We’re happy with BOXX Cloud and the responsiveness of BOXX tech support,” he says. “Even though it’s a boutique firm, they provide the service of a bigger organization and we really appreciate that. Working with the whole BOXX Cloud team has just been a pleasure.”