How Visual Content Studio Norm Li Renders The Cityscape

Photo via Norm Li's Facebook page

It’s not often that world class CG artists will work pro bono. But that’s exactly what Terry Sin and #normandthegang did for the United Way’s campaign #Unignorable which featured an Augmented Reality (AR) experience.

Sin, Norm Li’s managing director and architectural illustrator, rendered the image to represent the 116,000 people in greater Toronto who struggle to put a roof over their heads. If housed within a single building, the condo would be two and a half times the height of the CN tower.

READ: This ‘Unignorable’ Tower Could House All Torontonians Living In Poverty

Video by Terry Sin and Joseph Nguyen for Norm Li.

“The tower is a metaphor of the problem,” says Sin. “We all know about the housing crisis in this city, so it only made sense to contribute in any way we could.”

The tower raises awareness about poverty in the city — more people are living below the poverty line in Toronto than anywhere else in the country. While KPMB Architects designed the tower, Sin illustrated it and brought it to life via his architectural visualization software. “We feel fortunate to have helped visualize the city of Toronto,” says Sin.

He says the idea was pulled together fairly quickly because they used several images of the skyscape they already had. The photographer? Norm Li himself. “Norm spearheads Air Norm, our aerial architectural photography service. Norm and our team of shooters (Natalia Osmolovskaya, Artem Zavarzin and Joseph Nguyen) spend a lot of time in helicopters capturing the skylines and aerials of our city, which we use in our visualizations. These photos are essential to placing a rendering in its correct context,” says Sin. Maybe that’s what makes the “Unignorable Tower” seem so life-like?

READ: Toronto’s Homelessness Crisis: Years In The Making

Norm Li: 2019 Demo Reel from Norm Li on Vimeo.

Still, Sin gives the most credit to Taxi Agency. “They are the true force behind the campaign,” he says. Taxi Agency worked with the United Way to conceptualize Toronto’s homelessness epidemic.

“Poverty is a big problem in the GTA. But we’ve got a strong network to tackle it and a region of people ready to show their local love,” Daniele Zanotti, president and CEO of United Way Greater Toronto, explained.

“United Way’s network of community agencies helps the person experiencing homelessness find shelter, helps newcomers get settled in a new environment, gets workers skilled-up and connected to good jobs, gives kids the best start in life, and supports women escaping domestic violence. Together, we can connect people with the opportunities they need to thrive.”

READ: Address Housing Before Mental Health To Fight Homelessness: Study

“We had great art direction from Taxi Agency and from KPMB,” says Sin. “Then we used this photograph of Li’s that was a remarkable shot of a blue sky – it’s an image that is looking from Toronto Island towards the city.” Sin says that Li’s images are what enhance the realism in every rendering the company does.

“The quality of the rendering if far superior if you have a real photo that you are inserting a rendering into,” says Sin. “Instead of the other option, which is to render the entire cityscape. But that doesn’t lend to a tactile quality – so merging renderings with real aerial shots is our trick.”

READ: Up With Women Founder Proves Homelessness Is Not A Dead End

Sin’s expertise has led many of Li’s projects from start to finish. “I jumped onto this project right away, especially once we knew what it was for,” says Sin, who adds that he didn’t need to add much to conceptualize the building. “This is a powerful idea and it’s a perfect way to represent the problem we have in the GTA right now. We were honoured to be chosen to communicate this story.”

Volunteerism like this is simply #Unignorable.

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