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The Design Center, DT&G, Photoshop Department: Adobe & Orange County Choppers  

SUCCESS STORY:American Chopper

Orange County Choppers

Adobe software plays vital role at Orange County Choppers and popular television show American Chopper

More people may be familiar with Orange County, California, than they are with Orange County, New York -- but probably not for long. Nestled in the Hudson Valley in New York's Orange County is Orange County Choppers (OCC), a motorcycle shop that has garnered worldwide praise and recognition for its custom choppers. The shop is also the focus of the popular television show, American Chopper, airing Monday nights on the Discovery channel.

Set in the OCC motorcycle shop, the series focuses on the colorful antics of Paul Teutul Sr. and his sons and crew as they design, manufacture, and paint custom choppers, often for notable celebrities like Will Smith.

Artistic vision plus technological innovation

Teutul FamilyTeutul's three sons all work in either his steel business or bike shop. Danny Teutul is the general manager of the steel business, Orange County Ironworks. Paul Teutul Jr. is the chief fabricator at Orange County Choppers. Michael Teutul answers phones and orders parts at OCC. Behind the scenes, and increasingly on the set, OCC Graphic Artist and Designer Jason Pohl and Adobe software also play a starring role in helping OCC design award-winning choppers and create takeaway DVDs for clients detailing how their bikes were made.

"We're combining artistic vision with technological innovation using Adobe graphics and video software. The result is that we can design and manufacture even cooler custom parts than we could in the past," says OCC Graphic Artist and Designer Jason Pohl.

"And, we can offer clients a service they love: DVDs of how their bikes were made."

Custom bikes, from the ground up

OCC did not previously have in-house manufacturing machinery, so the shop had to outsource fabrication of most components, from kickstands to wheels, to other chopper shops. Now, using Adobe software and specialized milling machines, OCC can custommanufacture more parts on-site, faster and with more creative control over the end product.

Pohl designs custom chopper components in Adobe Illustrator CS and Photoshop CS software. He creates both graphical components of bikes such as organic-looking flames painted on fuel tanks as well as custom parts like wheels and shifters. Once the parts are designed, Pohl creates a solid model using SolidWorks modeling software. From there, the parts are produced on a water jet cutter or milled on a Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) machine. Graphics are cut out using a vinyl cutter and provided as templates for painting designs on the choppers.

Turning artistic visions into reality

Before using Adobe Photoshop CS and Illustrator CS software, Pohl drew all his designs by hand. Now, he can either scan artwork and then finesse and color it digitally. Or, he can draw designs digitally from scratch using a Wacom Cintiq interactive pen display, a tool that allows him to draw right on his computer monitor. By working with the pen directly on the screen in Photoshop, Pohl can take advantage of natural hand-eye coordination to work quickly and intuitively.

"Photoshop is a natural extension of my creativity," says Pohl. "Together with the Wacom Cintiq, I can draw as fluidly as I could on paper."

Streamlining fabrication

By creating designs digitally, components can be manufactured with speed and ease based on digital information fed directly into milling machines. Once designs are completed in Photoshop, Pohl brings them into Adobe Illustrator CS where he exports Drawing eXchange Format (DXF) files that can be brought directly into his solid modeling program, all without time-consuming file translation or workarounds. Using SolidWorks, he generates models that are cut or milled on one of OCC's machines.

According to Pohl, the new digital design-to-manufacturing workflow at Orange County Choppers if far more efficient and enables him to maximize his creativity. He can scan or develop artwork, and then experiment with a variety of ideas quickly. He uses Photoshop CS to try different colors, bounce light off gas tanks to make them look more realistic, and conceptualize the bike with different materials, from shiny chrome to more subdued brushed metal. "Using Adobe software, I can produce a rough drawing in under a minute," says Pohl. "In the past, it would have taken me up to an hour."

OCC-original parts

OCCThe digital design process also enables Orange County Choppers to manufacture an increasing number of bikes, all with more stylized, OCC-original parts. When OCC outsources manufacturing, the digital designs -- complete with accurate coloring and textures -- help parts fabricators achieve just the right look.

"Using a digital pipeline, the manufacturing process is smooth and efficient, from initial digital designs to accurate specifications that feed directly into our manufacturing equipment. Or, we can pass detailed designs along to fabricators," says Pohl. "It's enabling OCC to produce dozens more bikes each year, all with more OCC-custom components."

Creative leeway with Adobe Video Collection

Pohl uses Adobe Video Collection, including Adobe After Effects and Adobe Premiere Pro software, to create bike-building memento DVDs for clients who want to remember how their chopper was made. The DVD contains footage of how custom parts were designed and manufactured, as well as shots of the Teutul family in action. Pohl uses Adobe Premiere Pro to cut video and After Effects to enhance the video with graphical elements such as the OCC logo. According to Pohl, Adobe Video Collection is easy to use and learn. He picked up the software without having to use a manual.

"In addition to feeding the OCC parts line with cool, OCC-original parts designs, I'm producing DVDs for clients documenting their bikes being built," says Pohl. "That's where Adobe Video Collection comes in. I love using Adobe Video Collection software because it's so easy to use and offers a ton of creative leeway."

Bringing ideas to life

Increasingly, Pohl is appearing on American Chopper showcasing his part designs for high-end bikes such as the I Robot movie theme bike for Will Smith. No matter what his idea, Adobe software helps him bring it to life.

"I love to come up with the concept for how a bike's going to look and the draw it," says Pohl. "With Adobe software, I can work more efficiently, and I have ultimate creative freedom. It's awesome, because expressing myself through still artwork and video is what I like to do best."

Jason Pohl,
Graphic artist and designer,
Orange County Choppers

American Choppers

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