Author Archives: Life Should Be 3D

A career in 3D — it’s not all glitz and glamour

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Skyscraper rendering by Stanley Tang

A career in 3D modeling and rendering — sounds very exciting and cutting-edge, doesn’t it?  Movie premieres of the latest 3D films, gaming conventions, consultations with leading architects on their newest skyscraper or high-end real estate development.  How thrilling!

But trust me, that’s far from reality — at least MY reality.  Although this occupation certainly has its moments of excitement, it’s actually pretty nerdy and requires a high tolerance for sitting at a computer and working by yourself most of the time.

And it doesn’t lend itself to a jet-set lifestyle, either, in terms of time OR  income.  At least in the beginning, you end up doing pretty much any job that knocks on your virtual door, just to be able to make some money.

I was lucky:  early in my rendering career (way back in 2007) I landed a dream job — clients who wanted to pay me a handsome sum to create a complete “as-built” (i.e., an exact detailed model of an existing structure) of a gorgeous multimillion-dollar house they were buying, which they would then use for remodeling and redecorating the home.  And I accepted, because I was too green to realize that it was way beyond my skill level at the time.  Luckily my 3D mentor, Kay Nordby, was willing to help with some of the trickier bits.  I completed the job, the clients were very pleased, and I learned a lot and cemented a lasting virtual friendship.  More on that big job — including further developments — another time.

So far I haven’t done any other project that has been on the same scale as that one, and certainly nothing so grand as a skyscraper.  One recent job was really the antithesis of glamour — a quick rendering of a bunch of self-storage units for a developer, something he could take to the town for permit approval.

Decidedly non-glamorous rendering of self-storage buildings

Decidedly non-glamorous rendering of self-storage buildings

But no matter whether it’s the big cool challenging jobs or the quick moneymakers, I’m happy with my second career in 3D modeling and rendering:

  • It allows me to combine my artistic and technical skills with my love of architecture and interior design.
  • It’s always full of new challenges, new design problems to solve, and new rendering techniques to practice and perfect.
  • It allows me to be my own boss and run my business the way I want to.
  • I can work in my jammies and bunny slippers if I want (not that I would ever do that, of course — I don’t even OWN bunny slippers.  But you get the idea).
  • People pay me to do something I really enjoy and am passionate about.
  • It provides daily opportunities to be helpful to other people by using my skills to translate their 2D ideas and plans into 3D images — and sometimes into gloriously detailed photorealistic 3D images, if that’s appropriate for their needs.

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Another inspiration (#3)

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Every once in awhile, I see an example of 3D modeling or rendering that really inspires me.  I ran across one today on the “Architectural Illustration” group on LinkedIn that I wanted to share.  Showcasing 3D architectural work by computer graphics artist Fabien Valour of Switzerland, this short demo reel features lots of cool effects like flowing water, blazing fires in fireplaces, flickering candle flames, a bubbling hot tub — and a unique approach to showing how the final products take shape.

Enjoy!


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Remodel, or move?

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I was contacted recently by someone looking for 3D modeling and rendering services.  He and his girlfriend had lived in their home for 13 years, and had done a number of upgrades to it.  But they were at a point where the home’s floorplan configuration wasn’t working for them anymore.  They wanted a larger family room and deck, an expanded first-floor master bedroom, bath, and walk-in closet, and a new main entry.  They were debating between undertaking yet another major remodel/addition project versus selling and moving to a different house.

Proposed remodel floorplan drawn up by architect

Proposed remodel floorplan drawn up by architect

Proposed remodel elevations drawn by architect

Proposed remodel elevations drawn by architect

They had already consulted with an architect about their remodeling options, and he had done some nice drawings for them.  But the clients were having trouble visualizing the changes from what the architect had drawn up (a floorplan and two exterior elevations).  They asked the architect for 3D images, “like the ones we see on HGTV,” but the architect refused, saying he just didn’t do those. So they  did an internet search and found my website.

Working from the architect’s drawings, plus photos of the current house, I was able to model the house in Chief Architect and produce some basic renderings of what the proposed modifications might look like.

Their place is an old farmhouse that has already been remodeled and added on to a number of times in its 100+ years, so there are numerous roof pitches and floor levels to contend with (always something of a modeling challenge).  But I think the final images capture the essence of what the remodeled spaces would look like.  Here are a few examples:

Front view with new entry

Front view with new entry

New entryway looking up

New entryway looking up

New family room looking towards kitchen and entryway

New family room looking towards kitchen and entryway

New bedroom with bath and walk-in closet

New bedroom with bath and walk-in closet

I haven’t yet heard whether this family has decided to go ahead with the remodel, or move to a new home.  But at least with these 3D images in hand, they have more information to use while considering their decision.

One final note:  The images I provided for this client are not high-end, photorealistic raytraces.  These are just simple 3d renders to show the basic layout of the plans — sufficient for this stage of their decision-making.  Detailed raytraces are more appropriate for the later stages of project planning, when trying to make decisions about final finishes, lighting, and decor.


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The Google 3D Warehouse — like shopping without a credit card!

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Examples of free stuff you can get in the Google 3D Warehouse

Examples of free stuff you can get in the Google 3D Warehouse

Have you visited the Google 3D Warehouse yet?  This is an amazing free resource where you can find 3D models of just about anything you can imagine.  It’s part of Google Sketchup (Google’s free 3D modeling program) and connected with Google Earth, a worldwide geo-modeling project which aims to put every village, town, and city in the world on the 3D map!*  But for someone like me, who specializes in 3D renderings of interiors and exteriors of homes, I’m usually visiting the warehouse looking for furniture, appliances, lamps, or plants to include in my models.

Browsing the “stock” at the warehouse can be addictive — and time-consuming.  It has a good search function (no surprise there).  But almost every search brings up so many examples that it takes a while to sort through them all to find what you want.  And of course, just like shopping at a real store, you always see other cool stuff that you weren’t looking for but have to have (because did I mention that it’s all FREE??).

The 3D Warehouse has been especially useful for Chief Architect software users ever since Chief added a drag-and-drop feature in version X3 — you download the model from the 3D warehouse and simply drop it into your Chief plan, no import process required.  So easy even a …. well, we don’t need to go there.

The quality of the models in the warehouse varies.  It’s like shopping at a store which carries everything from IKEA to Roche-Bobois to Stickley, all under one roof!  And as a general rule, the better the model, the higher the polygon or face count (and I don’t believe the polygon count is included in the model info).  Sometimes if you furnish a room with a lot of high-polygon furniture, it can slow the performance of your modeling or rendering programs down to a crawl, so you need to keep an eye on that.

Spending time in the Google 3D Warehouse feels like shopping without a credit card.  You can “buy” anything you like — even the Eiffel Tower!  The only cost is polygons.

*Is it my paranoia, or does it seem like Google is on a quest for world domination?  Just wondering.

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What’s new in Chief Architect X4

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Chief Architect SoftwareMy favorite 3D architectural modeling software, Chief Architect, will soon release a new version of the program, version X4.

Watch this video to get a summary of new features expected in X4:

http://www.chiefarchitect.com/scripts/flash/whats-new-x4.html

No release date has been announced yet, but rumor has it that it will be sometime this summer.

UPDATE:  Chief X4 was released in July 2011.


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A roof with a view….

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I was recently contacted by a realtor in the San Francisco Bay area.  He was working with a client who owns a small one-story house with a great view of the bay — if you stand on the roof!!

He and his client felt that the house might sell better if potential buyers were able to envision themselves enjoying that view from the balcony of a second-floor master suite.  So they contracted with CastleView 3D to create a virtual second story for the house.

The realtor climbed up on the roof and took a series of photos of the view.  Now THAT’S a dedicated realtor! (Gordy Burton at Coldwell Banker.)  I just hope he used proper safety precautions.

I stitched those photos together into a panorama in PhotoShop:

Panorama photo montage of San Francisco Bay from roof of house

Panorama photo montage of San Francisco Bay from roof of house

Photo of house from the front

Photo of the house from the front

He also sent me a sketch of the floorplan and several photos of the house to use for creating the 3D model. Here’s an example of what I was working from:

Because they didn’t want to over-promise, they asked me to model just a simple second floor over the left side of the house.  They wanted a rendering of the house with the new “second floor” as seen from the street in front, and another rendering of the bay and valley view from the virtual second-floor balcony on the back of the house.

* * * * *

Now before I reveal the “after” part of this “before-and-after” story, let me just say that the realtor currently estimates that this small house will sell for about $850,000. That’s eight-hundred-and-fifty-THOUSAND-dollars, people!  While it looks like a very nice house, that price is just unbelievable to me!!

In my little corner of the world, here’s an example of what $850K will get you (actually this house, 5 bedrooms and 6980 square feet, is listed at $859,900, but it will give you a general idea of the market around here):

House currently for sale in upstate NY, listed at $859,000

A house currently for sale in upstate NY, listed at $859,000

Interior view of house currently for sale in upstate NY

Interior view of house currently for sale in upstate NY

Here’s a description of it:

SECLUDED CUSTOM BUILT MANSION ON 7.44 BREATHTAKING ACRES, NOTHING BUT THE BEST OF EVERYTHING IN THIS HOME, LIVING AND DINING 17′ CEILING, FINISH CRAFTSMANSHIP UNSURPASSABLE, STUNNING GRAND STAIRCASE TO SECOND LEVEL, SUNROOM, ELABORATE CHEFS KITCHEN WITH 2 SUBZEROS, COMMERCIAL APPLIANCES & INDOOR GRILL *EXQUISITE FURNITURE GRADE CABINETRY *MARBLE,STONE,HARDWOODS * MULTI ZONE HEATING SYSTEM, 4 CAR HEATED GARAGE *WALKOUT LOWER LEVEL TO OUTSIDE AND TO GARAGE, METICULOUSLY MAINTAINED, ARCHITECTURALLY LANDSCAPED DESIGN

This actually seems MUCH more realistic in terms of what one should be able to expect for that kind of money.  Now it’s true that the California house IS in California, with all its natural beauty, Silicon Valley, moderate weather year round, Pacific Ocean, mountains, etc., etc. I guess it’s all relative.

But my question is, how can anyone afford to buy a home there?  I’m serious!  Do all jobs in California pay 10 times the salary of comparable jobs in upstate New York?  It just baffles me.

* * * * *

But I digress.  Time for the big reveal.

Here are the renderings of the bay view house with its new virtual second story:

SF Bay house with new virtual second floor

CastleView 3D rendering of SF Bay house with new virtual second floor

SF Bay house showing view from new virtual second floor

CastleView 3D rendering showing view from new virtual second floor balcony

The realtor and homeowner were very pleased with these images.  They felt that this was a relatively inexpensive way to get buyers thinking about the undeveloped potential of the house, and could increase its perceived value and selling price.

And I think this was a very creative idea on the part of Gordy, the realtor.  The world needs more realtors who are willing to climb up on the roof of their client’s home in the interest of putting more money in both their pockets!

What do you think?  Is showcasing a home’s “hidden potential” like this fair game in the real estate business?


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“thread of calm”

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I recently discovered one of my renderings displayed on a webpage called “thread of calm.”

I’m not quite sure what the site is about, and that particular thread looks like it hasn’t been updated in over a year.

But hey, even though my image was hijacked, I kind of like knowing that someone somewhere found it evocative and calming.

3D Rendering by CastleView3D.com

My cat, Oedipuss Rex, is soaking up the calming 3D vibes and enjoying the painting by my friend, artist Lynette Blake, from her “cosmos” series.

As a former therapist, this suggests to me a quasi-therapeutic use for 3D renderings:  create (or have a 3D artist create) a virtual “happy place” designed to your specifications — a space which has the ability to calm and soothe you just by looking at it — maybe a real place, or something remembered from your past, or perhaps completely imaginary.  Then you could set the image as wallpaper on your computer or phone, and “go to your happy place” by gazing at your 3D image whenever you need to take a step back from the stresses in your life and lower your blood pressure by a few points!

What do you think?  Is there a potential market for a service like that?


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