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  • Writer's pictureJamie Wilkes

The Road to Resolution Studios

Updated: Nov 4, 2022


I’ve always been fascinated with how people get to where they are in life, and what decisions, opportunities and challenges have shaped their journey along the way. I haven't always worked as an architectural visualiser but I have always followed what I enjoy, persevered through the tricky times and made a determined effort to never stop learning. That’s the short version of my journey from spotty teenager to director and lead visualiser at Resolution Studios! In this blog I am going to share exactly what led me to set up Resolution Studios and I hope to give you an insight into the experience, skills and values behind the images.


This story starts when I was at college in Stourbridge, West Mids, studying for a GNVQ in Construction and the Built Environment. At school I’d enjoyed and excelled in technical subjects such as maths, physics, design and technology, IT and graphics. I’d also had plenty of hands-on experience throughout my childhood making all sorts of things in my Dad’s workshop using off-cuts of wood from the family carpentry business!


The college years

Part way through my first year at college I was introduced to AutoCAD and it didn't go so well. We were asked to draw up a site plan for a land surveying module that we were working on. Using a tablet and stylus for the first time, I got in a terrible mess! I even did the unthinkable and found myself drawing in ‘paperspace’ when I should have been in ‘modelspace’ (if you know, you know!).


The following year, the opportunity for a second CAD module came up, and we were asked if we would be interested in giving it another go and stepping it up a level. After the difficulties we’d faced the year before, we agreed, but with some apprehension.


A few weeks later it was sorted. This time, an inspiring and knowledgeable guy from the local council came in to teach us. He was brilliant! He began with the basics and we built on this each week. To keep it real, he arranged for us to go and measure up a nearby derelict barn. We each took a section, made our measurements and then returned to college and drew it up in AutoCAD - this time I loved it and really took to CAD drafting. I think it must have been the combination of technical drawing and IT skills which had me hooked!


Once we’d all finished we combined our work and printed it using an old-style pen plotter. There was something magical about a pen plotter at work; watching your drawing build up in front of you; the pen going left and right whilst the paper was fed in and out. We all stood round the plotter and saw our CAD work appear on what was a blank page - we were mesmerised.


At around the same time I was looking into university courses. When I saw that Wolverhampton University’s well regarded School of Construction ran a CAD & Construction course, I knew it was the route I wanted to take. It sounded perfect for me and I was delighted when I was accepted.


It was that first construction course at college, over 25 years ago, that taught me so much about the fundamental principles of design, construction and the built environment that still influence my work today. At Resolution Studios we are committed to ensuring that construction details are accurately represented, in order to achieve photo-realistic images for our clients.


The uni years

It was at Wolverhampton University where I first started working in 3D, mainly using AutoCAD to model and render our work. The course also covered construction technology, project management and the management of CAD systems. But I was always in my happy place if I had a challenging 3D CAD task to tackle!


A particularly memorable module, and the one I was most proud of, was when we were tasked with modelling a piece of existing architecture. Flicking through a book of architectural designs I remember seeing Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Hill House in Scotland for the first time (it's worth googling if you like interesting buildings and you’re not familiar with it). I was immediately caught up with thinking about how I would model the different shapes and spaces of the house. No two elevations were the same and I had to piece the information together from books in the uni library - access to online plans or images was limited then!


That Easter, I gave up every spare hour I had to work on the project. It was a genuine challenge at the time but immersing myself in 3D modelling and problem solving along the way was the best way to learn and improve my skills. My determination to ensure that finer details are accurately represented and my commitment to ensuring that every image is the best it can be, hasn’t changed since.


The world of work

After graduating, I worked as an architectural technician at several West Midlands based firms. Most of my work was 2D drafting and I soon realised that the potential opportunities for 3D work would be limited in my role as a technician. Knowing that 3D work was the route I wanted to take, I spent lunchtimes, evenings and weekends generating 3D models of the projects I was working on. With each project I did, and each challenge I faced, I learnt more and more. My 3D modelling and rendering skills improved further still and my early portfolio started to grow.


Meanwhile, I heard that a few colleagues in a similar role at my firm were attending a Photoshop course. At the time I lacked any Photoshop skills, so I asked if I could also be considered, but my request was declined.


I was disappointed and realised that if I wanted to progress my 3D career it was down to me to do something about it. I’d already been looking at masters degrees and there was one that particularly caught my eye. The lack of professional development opportunities where I was, proved to be the push I needed to get my application in. That night I went home, filled out the forms and took them to the Post Office - no online application portals back then! I remember to this day posting that letter; dropping it in the post box and thinking this could change everything!


A few weeks passed and I had a letter back from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne with an unconditional offer, I was due to start the following September!


The uni years, part 2

It was time to pack up and move my things to wonderful Geordieland for twelve months while I completed my masters degree. The course was brilliant and I enjoyed every module we worked on. We studied digital buildings, future cities and virtual reality. I found all of the modules interesting and engaging, however it was virtual reality (VR) that really caught my interest and I loved using the Unreal Engine game development software as a platform to explore my work in real time.


I know gaming and architecture seem a million miles apart, but when you take out the guns and bad guys, you are left with a really good platform for exploring virtual buildings. You can read more about my experience with game engines in architectural visualisation here.


The Digital Architecture master's degree was certainly challenging - as any masters level study should be. But our lecturers were fantastic. They loved their subject and made no apology for pushing their students to get the best out of us. At the time it felt relentless but looking back I am grateful for all of the things we covered and learned.


My thesis was about VR in architecture and 18 plus years later, it's still a fast moving and fascinating part of the industry that I am excited to be working in.


I was over the moon when I was awarded a masters degree, with a merit, in 2004.


Back to the world of work

After completing my masters, I returned to the Midlands and took another role as an architectural technician, generating plans, elevations and occasional visuals for mixed use developments. Unfortunately, 3D work remained scarce yet again. I wanted to maintain my skills and fully specialise in architectural visualisation and I knew I needed to become more familiar with 3D Studio Max software. When I spotted a 3D Studio course at another local college I signed up and it was here I got to grips with the fundamentals of this software.


Meanwhile, I was made aware of a position at a Birmingham based interior design firm, who were on the lookout for a 3D visualiser to join their team. The role sounded perfect. I was offered an interview and took along my portfolio. The interview went well, or so I thought, however a week passed by and I had not heard anything back, so I assumed I’d missed out.


I was wrong! I was called back for a second interview, presented my work to the other directors and was offered the role that day.


Work - not work

It was here in my first role solely as a 3D visualiser that I really learned the tools of my trade. Using 3D Studio Max every day, my modelling skills developed and the VRay render engine took my work to the next level. In this role we had a real mix of projects to work on, from themed bars and nightclubs to bowling alleys and bingo halls. To be fair it wasn’t really work - I was being paid to do what I enjoyed doing!


Towards the end of 2007 I was so busy and caught up in delivering 3D visuals for the practice, I didn't see it coming. Work had started to drop off and as people left the firm they were not being replaced.


Unfortunately in early 2008, as the ‘credit crunch’ began to take hold, a number of my colleagues were made redundant. Work was really busy for me at the time but I realised that my position could be at risk if things didn’t improve for the sector as a whole. I thought long and hard about my possible next steps and looked into starting up a business of my own. The more I thought about it, talked about it and researched it, the more I was drawn to the idea. As we moved through 2008 it became more apparent that work in our practice was drying up and that redundancy was on the cards.


Unfortunately (or fortunately depending how you look at it) I got the call to go through to the meeting room one Friday afternoon. My heart sank and my head was spinning as the three directors who sat across the table told me that I was to be made redundant. Not an easy day for anyone involved, I could see it in their faces and hear it in their words.


I was gutted. However, a decision had been made and I was to go it alone.


In business

Within weeks I had made an appointment with my accountant and set up my own business. His advice to me was ‘just get started - and keep good records’! So began my adventures in the world of business (and a whole new learning curve!); marketing, quotations, accounts and invoices were soon to be added to my skill set.


This was on 28th August 2008. Every year on that day I feel immense pride as I remember the day it all started and how far we’ve come. Happy Birthday Resolution Studios!


My journey from experimenting with hammers and nails in my Dad’s workshop and designing levels on my Amiga as a child, to running my own architectural visualisation business has been brilliant, but not always easy. However, thanks to great role models, inspiring mentors, a few lucky coincidences, several leaps of faith and lots of hard work and determination, here I am!


I hope you found this insight into how Resolution Studios came about, and some of the events and challenges that unfolded along the way interesting. It hasn't all been plain sailing and I have no doubt there will be challenges ahead. I will share more of an insight as to how we got from day one of Resolution Studios to where we are now and where we plan to take the business going forward in a future post.


About the Author

Jamie Wilkes has worked as a 3D visualiser and has over 20 years experience working with 3D CAD in the architectural industry. He is now owner and director of Resolution Studios, a 3D visualisation firm based in Hagley in the West Midlands.


Starting out as an Architectural Technician, Jamie worked on a number of commercial and residential schemes, producing CAD plans, elevations & sections of buildings. After completing his Masters in Digital Architecture Jamie then followed his passion for 3D & took a role as a full time 3D visualiser working mainly in the leisure sector.


Resolution Studios was established by Jamie in 2008 and has since provided 3D visualisations, animations and interactive imagery for planning applications and marketing developments in many sectors throughout the UK and abroad.


Do you want to be making use of the latest tools and technology with your next project, if so then please get in touch and we can see how we can work together.


Email me at jamie.wilkes@resolution-studios.co.uk or 0121 674 40 20


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