Title: Marketing and Storytelling Through Architectural Design
Guest: Andrei Dolnikov
Presenter: Wayne Bucklar
Overview: Andrei Dolnikov, founder of Binyan Studios, is here on Talkers.FM to talk about his business of creating 3D imagery and animation that inspires reactions and ensures that all objects work in harmony to tell a compelling and meaningful story.
Andrei Dolnikov is an Interior Architect and Founder of Binyan Studios, a leading Architectural 3D Rendering & Animation Studio. After working as a visualiser in the U.S., he has since guided Binyan to its place as a leader in the field. The team of more than 110 artists and producers is currently working on projects all over the globe from its 4 studios in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and New York. Collaboration has always been a key Binyan trait.
Wayne Bucklar: You’re listening to Business Radio Talkers.FM. My name is Wayne Bucklar and today I’m joined by Andrei Dolnikov. Now Andrei is the Founder and CEO of Binyan Studios and they’re a firm that does architectural visualization. And to tell us what that is and who they do it for, welcome to the show Andrei.
Andrei Dolnikov: Thanks Wayne, good to be here.
Wayne: I’ve had a look at your website and I don’t want to try and explain it, so you explain it.
Andrei: Let’s say you’re a property developer who wants to sell something to either buy as a property, or retail, or commercial tenants or investors and the problem you have is that you have not yet built said property, you need to show the potential buyers what it will look like one day when you will fulfill on the promise of building. We bridge that gap, we create photo realistic imagery or as known as “Rendering,” and films or used to be known as “Flythroughs” to portray the not yet built. And we try to do that not necessarily in a super dry and architectural way but more in a marketing, narrative, storytelling, emotion, inspiring manner and that’s what we really want to do.
Wayne: Now unfortunately this is radio and not television, but listeners if you’re interested, it is absolutely worth while heading off to the Binyan Studio’s website to have a look at some of these renderings. These are truly spectacular and I have to say Andrei, I haven’t looked at thousands of these and I’m no judge but I was absolutely enraptured by what you can do with animations.
Andrei: Yes. It really is incredible how far both the software and the skill sets of the artists and we call ourselves artist with some of those people get surprised by it. Well we are obviously in a commercial art but nonetheless, it is the artistic intervention of person that takes the work from being simply a simulation of unbuilt reality to something that speaks to a person and inspires those kind of “wow reactions.” So yes, we’re pretty proud of what we do, it’s a lot of hard work but it’s been a great journey so far and always feels like it’s just the beginning.
Wayne: Now Andrei I had a look at your team photo, that’s a pretty big team.
Andrei: Yes and I’m not sure if you even looked at the most latest one. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to get everybody in the room. You can really smash some targets and then we can ever get together in Hawaii because right now 80% of our team is in Australia, that’s about 85 people across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and we have a team in New York which is about close to 20 right now. So the whole team is I say I’ve lost count with the exact number but it’s around the 110 mark. We forgot to celebrate the 100th person, so we did do a little thing of a 100 plus GST for the 110th, but I’m not sure. But it’s roughly in those numbers now, so it’s quite a large team for this sort of work we do.
Wayne: I thought I saw Central Park on one of your animated videos. So that explains it if you’ve got a team in New York, that would explain why. Now, you obviously do work around the world by the sound of it.
Andrei: That’s right. So currently, 50% of our work roughly is Australian, is clients in Australia, projects in Australia and that means Australia and New Zealand as well. And the other 50% is a split between the U.S. which we’re working on projects in about 40 to 50 different cities. Canada, we actually funnily enough our biggest commission for a spectacular project in Vancouver. And then the Middle East which were doing a lot of particular animation and a large-scale film production work as well as Asia which is Hong Kong, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, we’re doing the tallest tower in KL and actually a project in Myanmar of all places which in a way when that came across my desk which is quite interesting. And we’re doing some really marquee projects such as Hudson Yards in New York and Dubai Creek in Dubai which is probably the tallest structure on the planet for a couple of minutes and then I’m sure they build something in Saudi that will be even taller.
Wayne: So Andrei, what do you start from because you’re doing this before, there’s basically a hole in the ground I understand. So you start from architectural plans or where do you start from?
Andrei: Ideally, we start from architectural plans. The level of detail that those plans contain really ranges. The more the architects and interior designers or landscape designers have developed a detailed design, the smoother it is for us to then create that photo realistic depiction of it. But it’s a not a perfect world and often times, we are filling huge crater-like gaps in the information and we’re quite comfortable to do that. That means the project might take a little bit longer because we need to interpret, go back and forth with the client to make sure we captured the vision that they have in mind. But essentially, it all does start with a two-dimensional drawing or a basic three-dimensional model from the architect and sometimes a sketch on a napkin can be the starting point as well. It just means that the workflow has to adapt to the kind of information the client has at that point in time.
Wayne: So if someone wants to come and work for you, are you employing architects or are you employing animation artists or both? Do you look for the same skill sets? Do you look for a mix of those skill sets in the same person? I just can’t visualize who I would recruit to do the work that you do?
Andrei: That’s a great question because just yesterday, I had a meeting with one of the leading universities here in Melbourne where I’m based just 2 months ago. And right now we’re in deep dialogue and collaboration with several universities in Australia to begin creating educational pathways for people studying typically architecture, interior design, maybe gaming, maybe industrial design to learn the cohort of skills required to work in this industry now. So typically, the people that we hire are architecturally educated graduates or people who have an experience working in the architecture field, interior designers, industrial designers, filmmakers, etc. Then of course, we have account service, professionals, project managers who manage the logistics of every project, it’s highly complex in terms of the client group, the information gathering and the project delivery side of things. But we do look for people that have a passion for 3D and have a passion for architecture. I’m an architect, everybody here is at some point another fell in love with architecture and design and that’s where we come to it from. We’re not coming to it from a strictly technical perspective though of course we have to know how to operate the software. It’s much more about the interest in design and storytelling and through architecture, that’s important to us. So we’re hoping that the universities come to the party, they have been very open to it and they are quite taken aback that someone from industry is approaching them and saying, “Hey, give us some graduates, we’ll give him some jobs.” So far it’s been so far so good and we’re hoping to have some graduates coming through the doors in the near future. We’re also establishing internships to encourage and facilitate that as well. So I’m quite optimistic that it’ll be easier for us to find these kind of people but right now, it is a little bit like looking for a needle in the haystack.
Wayne: Yes, I can believe that. And I’m always impressed by the number of businesses and occupations that are embracing gaming. You tend to think of someone who’s a gaming graduate as a very trivial and lightweight experience but I’ve talked to so many people in medical simulations, in architectural visualization, in sports equipment who are all looking to acquire the same skill sets that graduate gamers have.
Andrei: Well that’s right. You’re right because it got the word “game” in it, it makes it sound trivial but I think far from it the skills that a person who would be studying gaming is picking up, it’s going to be applicable to professions we don’t even know about as if they don’t even exist yet. The skills to be able to virtualize and visualize an environment in a realistic, interactive and immersive way is just beginning to be recognized as an extremely valuable set of skills I think. I don’t exactly know how but it will be a leading profession in time to come. It might not be called “gaming” anymore, it might get some sort of fancy new edgy name, disruptive virtualization immersion or something like that with some more jargon thrown in but it’s definitely one for the soon-to-be future.
Wayne: Andrei, what led you to this particular occupation? You’re an architect by trade, but it’s a long way from a drawing board and a pencil and paper.
Andrei: Well it is a long way from a drawing board from pencil and paper but these days in an architectural firm, visualization is enmeshed in the design process to a very, very great to a very, very high degree. So for me, my personal journey I was actually living in Pittsburgh in the U.S. at the time when my wife’s family is from, working in a couple of small architecture firms as they inhouse 3D guy. That led to some moonlighting for some clients at the time which led to some more work from them and at a certain point, I thought to myself, “Hey, this is something I could really get into it at a deeper level.” So I thought, “Let me give it a shot.” So for me, I learned these skills while studying interior architecture in New South Wales. My tutor at the time at uni was my dear colleague Chris who today is one of our directors and was one of the first employees that ended up joining the team. So serendipity has a big part to play how I ended up here, certainly it wasn’t planned. Although, I sometimes make it seem like it was.
Wayne: I have to say Chris that my career has followed a very similar pathway of serendipitous accidents so I can sympathize with where you got to where you are and you’d have been congratulated because if I’ve got this right, you’re now the founder and creator of a multinational architectural visualization firm which by Australian standards is very big with over a hundred staff. That’s no small figure so congratulations.
Andrei: Thank you. Well look, at the risk of sounding too proud although I can be too proud but I’m actually really proud of what we do, we are also one of the leading companies globally because it is such a young industry. Most companies who do what we do are typically 5, 10, 20, 30 would be the upper level until you get to kind of break through that 100 barrier hasn’t been done before. I’m excluding different types of companies that might be in third world countries where it’s a little bit more of a kind of a ‘turned out’ approach but bespoke handcrafted personalized very high-end type of imagery – the companies that are great at this, there’s a few in Australia, a couple in the U.S. and quite a few in Europe and amongst those we’re certainly one of the leading ones. So I’m also proud of the fact that we’re an Australian company and it just shows that. I’ve always felt and it’s not just us, some of our best architecture firms that will be opening up offices in New York and London and people are really recognizing the level of design and architectural skills and vision that exist in Australia and it’s something that’s for me, I’m always out they’re also representing the Australian design community in one way or another so it does give me a lot of pride.
Wayne: And they’ll be some of our listeners who are I guess involved in creating new buildings or a new piece of architecture who will be thinking, “This Andrei Dolnikov is exactly the guy we need to talk to.” How can most people reach out to you?
Andrei: Just on our website, any of those emails end up in me. Either on LinkedIn, I’m very active on Linkedin, email on the website. Our website is www.binyan.com.au. People can reach out and tell me to meet them wherever they might be, I’ll show up.
Wayne: Well if you see smoke signals over the ranges behind Melbourne, you know they came from us.
Andrei: I always assume that’s someone’s calling me for a meeting.
Wayne: That’s a good way to be. Andrei, thank you for making yourself available to us. It’s been a pleasure having a chat with you today.
Andrei: It’s been my pleasure, thanks very much.
Wayne: And listeners, if you’ve just joined us then you’ve missed my chat with Andrei Dolnikov and you’ve missed truly an interesting insight into a world that I did know existed, Architectural Visualization, a world leading Australian firm. And it’s well and truly worth having a look at his website at binyan.com.au. But if you haven’t just joined us, you haven’t missed out altogether because on our website, we have a transcript for the interview or if you prefer to listen rather than read, we also have it in podcast form and you can access that on iTunes, YouTube and SoundCloud where you can listen to the interview in full. My name is Wayne Bucklar, you’re listening to Business Radio Talkers.FM.