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ARTICLE
iFrogz

iPods and iFrogz, Music With Style.

Article by Kathie Berry

In this day and age of high tech music players one stands out as the innovation that changed the industry. Apple®'s iPod® created a huge change for the company as well as the listening world. Before the iPod was introduced, MP3 players were designed by small companies with low budgets and no provision for any additional content. Since the introduction of the iPod by Apple, the industry has evolved to the point where most of the large computer firms in the world are embracing the digital music industry. We now find that CINEMA 4D™, the premier modeling application from MAXON™, is an essential component in the design and promotion of an innovative new product for iPod users.

To give you a little history of this innovative little player, it was the brainchild of Tony Fadell who formerly worked for General Magic®, Inc. and Phillips™. Tony's vision was a brand new MP3 player that would revolutionize the digital music industry. Creating a small hard drive-based player that was capable of connecting to a delivery system whereby users could legally download music was his dream. Tony came through with flying colors and first pitched the product to RealNetworks® in 2000. Since RealNetworks™ was already involved with their own delivery system through their premium radio and television channels, they passed on the opportunity. Tony then migrated to Phillips who also turned down the idea. Magic was created when Tony finally turned to Apple who embraced the plan. Tony was given a team of thirty developers and a year's deadline to bring the product to fruition.

Steve Jobs took an active roll in the project with frequent meetings where he detailed any problems he had with the prototype such as the interface, sound quality and more. This hands-on involvement assured Tony and his team that Apple was serious about the player and its development. In three short months, Apple had created a preliminary prototype of the user interface that would set the standard for the iPod's unique design.

iPod Cover

A scrolling wheel that allowed users to move easily through their playlists would become one of the features that sold the product to music lovers. The iPod released to mixed reviews along with some open hostility at first but Apple forged ahead with a successful European release as well.
The breakthrough came when Apple made the iPod compatible with the PC through MusicMatch® and included Personal Information Manager software.

Image Courtesy of Michael Capell
iFrogz Case

Steve Jobs then announced the solid state function buttons and a dock connector which supported Firewire and USB 2.0. Tony's dream of creating a product that boasted an entire business built around it had come to pass. The iPod was here to stay. Apple began including engraved text on the body of the iPod and some firms licensed their logos to Apple who engraved them on the back for special promotional items. The customizable iPod was on its way to setting an industry standard with unique designs and customizable looks to please each customer's tastes and desires.

Into this design rich environment steps iFrogz™. From the firm that created the Reminderband™, came an innovative new product for the iPod users, a silicone iPod case that offers unrivaled protection and style. The iFrogz silicone cases offer a vast array of design options for the users as well as providing unequaled protection for the player itself. The combination of design options from which the customer can choose is growing daily as well.

Image Courtesy of Michael Capell
The iFrogz Case is Customizable

iPod nano alien

Kent Wurthrich, a contract Professor at Utah State University and a consultant working with the iFrogz project, explained that the firm was looking for a product that they could get behind with their capabilities and resources. They felt that the iPod was a very broad market and decided to look into creating a product like the Reminderband which utilizes silicone and unique design. One of the signature aspects of the Reminderband was the customization capabilities. Having the choice to personalize the bands with color combinations and logos appealed to the users.

They wanted to bring those same features to the iPod market since the audience for the Reminderband spanned all age groups. They loved the idea of being able to express themselves making the iFrogz product unique and different from others. Late November of 2005 found Kent mocking up some prototypes in 2D graphics. Unique design and customization topped the list of features that the team was looking for. The team wanted to make sure that the website had a fun look and appeal without getting too far away from Apple since the products were compatible. Ifrogz will eventually go retail but for now the website provides all of the functions that the consumer needs to create their own special cases and designs. It was important to set up a Flash interface to show how you could integrate the different colors and designs and preview what the product would look like.

ifrogz pair

Dave Smellie was contacted by the Reminderband firm to create the web content depicting their new design and product for the iPod. It would become an ambitious undertaking involving Dave Smellie and Michael Capell for design and modeling work. Flash and an unbeatable web display with preview functions allowed consumers to choose their personal iFrogz design.

Image Courtesy of Michael Capell
Rendered in CINEMA 4D


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Michael Capell, a Graduate Student at Utah State University, has been teaching classes there for just over 5 years to both graduate and undergraduate students while working toward his Masters Degree. He also performs Web Design/Animation and is on the Utah State University's Graduate Senate Executive Council as well as being their Web Master.

Image Courtesy of Michael Capell
Designing in CINEMA 4D

Michael Capell

Michael has an associate's degree in Illustration, Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design and soon will have his Masters Degree with a focus in 3D and interactive design. His 3D modeling, animation and design include iFrogz, the Centre for Tactical Sensor System (CTSS) and the Utah Jazz as well as the Sci-Tech Museum.

The iFrogz project called for Michael to model the product, create Quicktime® VR (virtual reality) output and update the prototype and VR files as the project proceeded and the design changed.

animation wrapz

Working in CINEMA 4D R9.5, Michael found that the expansive functions and capabilities of the program provided the ease of use and updating that the project required. CINEMA 4D's integration with Adobe™'s Macromedia Flash was seamless and provided the bridge needed to complete the layout.

Image Courtesy of Dave Smellie
Creating The Animation

The product was modeled from a prototype that Michael had in hand which was an actual early version of the product. Ongoing discussions took place between Michael and Dave Smellie while the design was being refined and developed. Michael sent VR renders at each stage of the development until the final design was in place. A final VR render was created. When the web layout was ready they asked Michael to contribute to an ad campaign for Rolling Stone, Photoshop User and MacWorld, and he made a series of several high resolution renders for use in those ads.

Image Courtesy of Michael Capell
Just flip the iFrogz case to see the back.

ipod screenshot

As Michael remembered, "CINEMA 4D's ease of use and wonderfully fast and detailed rendering made the project possible." Photoshop and Illustrator were used to make the texture maps for the model and get the logo accurately placed onto the various locations of the cover for the magazine illustrations. Dave then brought the final VR Render into Photoshop and Flash to create the various web elements. Quicktime VR allows the creation and viewing of photographically captured panoramas and the exploration of objects through images taken at multiple viewing angles. It functions as a plugin for the standalone QuickTime Player, as well as working as a plugin for the QuickTime Web browser plugin. Virtual Reality (or VR) has come to mean any technology that simulates a first person visual experience, even if depth perception is lacking.

You are able to simulate looking to the left, right, up and down, and as well as view what is behind objects in your path. This format fit well with the new iFrogz project since it allowed the website visitor to customize their cases. You are able to choose separately the wrapz™, bandz™ and screenz™ designs in any color and style combination to create their own special look and feel.

Michael used CINEMA 4D because the initial design needed to be done in less than 36 hours, all while he was teaching a class and finishing some research. He found CINEMA 4D to be an easy choice because of its ease of use, quality and speed of rendering and Quicktime VR options. CINEMA 4D also allows for ease of export to software such as Adobe After Effects.

The export function to Quicktime VR enabled Michael to export the files for the web directly, saving time and providing a sound and expedient pipeline for the project. Michael stated, "C4D's Quicktime VR features made it easy to get multiple views done quickly and import those into both Photoshop and Flash with alpha channels for further precise editing." He was able to get the initial 3D designs to them quickly so that various refinements in the product could be made. These included a clip on the back of the case and adjustment of subtle details. The renders were then converted to Flash by Dave, creating the web interface that shows off the uniquely customizable cases.

workspace color selector

Kent Wurthrich designed the logo and handled the advertising campaign. His ads emphasize the fact that the cases allow you to express yourself and had a "hip-hop" or fun, fresh look. The tagline "Make Your Case" says it all.

Image Courtesy of Dave Smellie
CINEMA 4D at work

The iFrogz product has met with incredible success. Users have found that the unique design with virtually hundreds of options for color and artwork has allowed them to personalize their iPods while protecting them with state of the art materials. iFrogz had barely hit the market when orders began flooding in from as far away as Germany.

The website is a delight in function as well as color. As can clearly be seen, the options for choosing the design are colorful, attractive and easy to navigate. The interface also provides the option to click the iPod and spin it so that you may view the back as well. Visitors to the iFrogz site will see that iPods can now be tailored to each individual's needs and wants. Plans are afoot to incorporate many new features and products into the line that will establish the iFrogz brand as a major force in the market. Soon you will be able to design your own image and look for the navigational wheel cover and upload it to be incorporated into your personalized design. Specialized themes are also in the works.

Michael has created illustrations with CINEMA 4D for book covers and has used it in compositing a Claymation project among other work. He uses CINEMA 4D in conjunction with Photoshop as well as Flash, AfterEffects and Dreamweaver for website design. It is his main application for use with After Effects in creating motion graphics and video. As for how CINEMA 4D integrates with these programs he says, "It's nice to move things back and forth and be able to edit on a channel by channel basis and do something on the fly if you need to. That is really helpful."

Image Courtesy of Michael Capell
Web Selection of Options

site front

We have come a long way from Tony Fadell's innovative idea in just a few short years. Function, enjoyment and now personalized design and protection all rolled into one small package that has revolutionized the music world. It's anyone's guess as to where we are headed next, but I can assure you, it will be exciting and I will be along for the ride.
If you would like to see more of Michael Capell's work you may visit his 3D site, his Ionic Design™ site, and he can be reached at Michael R. Capell, (Ionic Design™) - mcapell@ionicdesign.com.

Story by Kathie Berry
Websites: http://www.berry-designs.com
http://www.planit3d.com
Email: kathie@berry-designs.com

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