We are back with an interview with Fernando López, founder, together with Juan Martin-Calero, of PPG Studios, one of the most consolidated Spanish architectural communication studios. In this interview they will explain their origins, their business approach and how they face the challenges that lie ahead.
We hope you enjoy it!
1. How was PPG Studios born and who is part of it?
PPGStudios was born with the idea of creating a “Spanish Dbox” and was born from the union of two people. Juan-Martin Calero and Fernando López with more than 25 years of experience in the industry. We met at the last company we worked for, which was forced to close due to the crisis. At that time, we made the decision to create PPGStudios. At first it was born as a window dressing company using transparent screens with rear projection. The idea was to use this technology to energize the shop windows with “floating” elements. That’s where the name comes from. Pepperghost Studios which is an illusion technique used in theatre, magic tricks and attractions like haunted houses. We wisely contracted the name to PPGStudios. We soon realized that there were certain issues with reflections that were complicating the business model.
We had an incursion into the subject of digital magazines and we also spent some time trying to make the model work, but it was then that we started working again on the presentation of projects with the presentation of the award for the Riyadh metro. We were hired by the FASST consortium to work as specialists in the presentation of large projects and we were locked up in a hotel for 4 days working. We had in our hands 7 billion Euros of budget at stake. Everything went well and that was the starting signal. More projects came later, the Expansion of the Castellana in Madrid, the Canalejas Gallery, the Fifth Tower (Torre Caleido). And we realized that where we had to focus was on improving every day in that sector.
2. What type of projects do you usually cover? What is the PPG Studio client prototype?
Well, of all kinds. As I have commented before, it is presentations of large projects that define us, but in reality we work with all kinds of clients. We can work to present the new expansion of La Castellana in Madrid, as luxury villas in Marbella with a film crew from the Amazon Prime series El Cid and as a model for Miss World Spain 2020. In short, our type of client, is a very demanding client, who seeks the highest possible quality, very tight delivery times, and a plus in terms of functionality in the range of Proptech tools, of which we are a leading company. Our Proptech solutions won an award a few years ago when Neinor Homes, one of the largest developers in Spain, presented its solutions for points of sale in awards for the most innovative idea of the year.
3. What is your workflow?
Throughout all these years, we have been refining the processes to make our company more resistant to the continuous changes that all clients demand for the realization of any project. Basically it is condensed in closing stages of development from the creation of still images and their approval, to the production of video and various tools. We are a company specialized in the creation of videos. We have all the infrastructure prepared and optimized for it. In our industry it is relatively “easy”, to find companies that make very good still images, but it is in the video where the quality and power of the studio really shows. PPGStudios has at its disposal one of the largest rendering farms within our offices, to be able to make videos comfortably, and we have a built-in recording studio with a green background, with everything necessary to integrate real characters in real time into our projects.
4. How do you face the technological changes that are taking place in our industry?
I think that like any company that wants to progress and improve its services. Analyze each trend and find how you can improve your processes and products. What we have learned is that not all trends have to establish themselves as a viable solution to change your business model. What I do tell you is that with artificial intelligence many things are going to change because they touch many sticks and it will be a revolution for our sector. The other day, without going any further, we had to make a voiceover for a video, and before making the final voiceover, we went to a voiceover service generated with AI, and the truth is that it is difficult for you to distinguish between the voiceover generated by this service and professional made in a studio.
5. What is your company culture?
Hire the best profiles that we can afford at all times. But taking into account his way of being. Above all, they are good people. We are 15 professionals who make up the study and quality is our hallmark. It is very important to improve our infrastructure every year. 10gb/s internal network, better render servers, more RAM to be able to cover larger and larger projects. In this sense, we are all geeks and as the person in charge of the company’s systems, I know perfectly well how to improve. As an operator I always like to work with the latest hardware and that is why I know how important it is to have an agile machine. We all work with the latest Workstation, 3 monitors and in a bright and spacious office.
Talent retention is a day-to-day task. We always work in a very relaxed way, the work is a collective effort and we never dismiss any point of view when it comes to moving forward with a product. We give people freedom when it comes to reconciling and whenever we can, we all go out to eat together.
We do not do overtime, nor do we work on weekends. Before the pandemic, we had a Kart championship, with a symbolic delivery of trophies. But the pandemic stopped our championship. We have to get it running again. Fridays are the Fridays of chicken wings and beers, and on Thursdays whenever work allows us, we eat ramen, where the topic of conversation is always the same, 200ml or 400ml…
6. What has been the most ambitious project you have carried out?
All have been in some way a challenge. Several should be noted. We participated in the presentation of the new Real Madrid stadium, the Riyadh Metro, videos for the Madrid Olympics, video mappings on cars, cathedrals… But as a spearhead for the type of project, and the risk we assume financially and the one that has given us the greatest prestige has been Epic Marbella by Fendi. A project in which we get involved and coordinate the entire process. A super pro film crew, by the standards of our industry. We are talking about Miguel Alcantud, a famous film director known for directing Águila Roja, Ministerio del Tiempo, CID Campeador for Amazon Prime among other major productions, and as the protagonist Ana García Segundo / Miss World Spain 2020. If you think about it, for By Spanish standards it is very difficult to undertake this type of project since the national industry is not like the American one in which budgets allow large projects to be carried out.
We always try to take projects to the maximum exponent, and if we have to hire a helicopter to shoot aerial scenes in Madrid or Barcelona, we have done it. Just like any top-tier international studio.
7. What recommendations do you have for people who work in our industry?
For those who are starting out in the sector, who are looking for an academy that really teaches them well, with the fundamentals and the real needs of the companies. It is very difficult to find talent. We have found a common denominator in many of the profiles that are really worthwhile, and that is that many have studied in School-ing. It is a seal of quality that distinguishes some profiles from others.
And for those who have been in the industry for a while, put themselves in the place of the real needs of the companies and try to cover those needs. Our sector is very complex since we have to control many disciplines and only experience gives us that security when solving the day to day. Are we in part decorators, architects, graphic designers, video editors, filmmakers, cameras, modelers, cinematographers, surveyors…?
8.What are the next steps for PPG Studio?
Undoubtedly, consolidate our internationalization since in Spain we work with all the most relevant Players and it is a natural evolution to go out to more competitive markets that allow us to continue evolving our product and our list of clients, each time more Premium. We currently work for several international firms.
9. How do you see the future of the Architectural visualization industry?
We see that everything tends to a global market and that which is not based on solid foundations at the company level, is going to have a bad time.
From a technological point of view, artificial intelligence will undoubtedly change many things. Everyone thinks that it is going to take away our work and that our clients, through a prompt, will be able to write things like, “ultra-realistic image, with Nordic decoration, of a living room, etc..” and a great image will come out in seconds . Perhaps that day will come in this decade and our hands are taking advantage of this technology to improve processes.