Category Archives: Posts By Me

A roof with a view….

Posted by , CastleView 3D:

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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.

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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.

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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”

Posted by , CastleView 3D:

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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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A 3d rendering haiku

Posted by , CastleView 3D:

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Just a brief poetic postscript to my “clairvoyance” post the other day:  🙂

stacking electrons

pretty pixel pictures bloom

the future appears

3D rendering of garden pool with floating waterlilies by CastleView3d.com

3D rendering by CastleView 3D


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You can be clairvoyant!

Posted by , CastleView 3D:

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Yes, that’s right!!  You really can see into the future!

And while clairvoyance can have its negative aspects (as in premonitions, omens, creepy “sixth sense” experiences, etc.), the kind of clairvoyance I can offer is definitely a positive experience.

How can I help you see the future?  Through the medium of photorealistic 3D renderings! (of course).

Seeing the future isn’t easy.  You have to begin with at least a vague idea of what you WANT to see in the future — some people might call that a dream.  But starting from just the barest outline, we can work together to turn that outline (also known as a floorplan) into a 3D model with walls, doors, windows, and a roof.  As the vision of the future becomes clearer, we can shade it in, giving it colors and textures, lighting it naturally and/or artificially, even landscaping, furnishing, and decorating it!

Eventually, a clear picture of your architectural future will begin to emerge.  Your dreams will have taken shape, and you’ll be able to see your new or remodeled home as clearly as if you were standing in it — before a single shovelful of dirt has been dug or a single piece of drywall hung.  Now THAT’s practical magic!

I’ve created 3D models of existing homes where I’ve measured and photographed the actual house in order to make an accurate model of it, and it’s always rewarding to feel like I’ve faithfully captured the essence of a house or a room.  I’ve also created many 3D models for architects and builders far removed from my little corner of the world — buildings I will never see and so have no particular connection to or investment in (other than doing a great rendering for my client).

But there’s an entirely different feeling that accompanies creating a 3D version of someone’s dream — AND THEN SEEING IT ACTUALLY BUILT IN REAL LIFE.  It’s sort of eerie — a sense of deja vu — to see something that has existed only in my mind and on my computer become bricks and mortar and sinks and toilets.  It’s hard to describe, but it really does feel like I’ve seen into the future.

I had this experience recently in my own home when we had our 1935-vintage bathroom remodeled. I created detailed 3Ds of what I wanted the finished room to look like — and then got that eerie feeling as I saw my renderings slowly come to life as the remodel progressed.

3D Bathroom Remodel Rendering by CastleView3D.com

3D Render of Planned Bathroom Remodel

Photo of Actual Remodeled Bathroom

Now maybe this shouldn’t come as such a surprise — I did design it, after all, so what did I expect them to build?  But it happens every time with projects like this — I feel that somehow I’ve been able to glimpse the future and capture it in pixels.

Have you ever wished that you could see into the future?  I can help.


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3D renderings are the new blueprints

Posted by , CastleView 3D:

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All the marketing gurus say that every company needs a “big, audacious idea” as its driving mission and reason for doing what it does every day.  Here’s mine for CastleView 3D:

Make 3D renderings as indispensable as blueprints or construction documents for any construction or remodeling project.

Before the blueprint was invented in the mid-1800s as a way of making copies of construction drawings, every architectural plan had to be painstakingly hand-drawn.  But the new “technology” was quickly adopted as an obvious improvement on the old ways.  Everyone could see the benefit — so why not use it?

My hope is that this same tale will someday be told about 3D CAD modeling and rendering for architectural designs.  The technology exists — why not use it to best advantage?

Yet there still seems to be resistance to the widespread adoption of 3D rendering as a standard procedure in architectural design.  Just today I got a call from a prospective client who was having trouble visualizing his new home from the plans his architect had drawn up.  He asked the architect for 3D images, “like the ones I see on HGTV,” but the architect refused, saying he just didn’t do those.  Luckily this guy was smart enough not to take “no” for an answer — always the mark of a true pioneer!  And his internet search led him to me.

Despite the inevitable holdouts (probably folks who don’t have the time or inclination to learn 3D rendering techniques), I predict that some day soon 3D renderings will become a must for all architects and home designers — not an extra or an add-on, but simply an accepted cost of doing business, like producing blueprints or construction documents.  I believe this will happen because savvy consumers will come to demand and expect it.

Nowadays, why should anyone expect a customer to be satisfied with a flat, 2-dimensional blueprint or plan, when we have the technology and expertise to show them their project in mouthwatering 3D detail?

3D Kitchen Rendering by CastleView3D.com

3D kitchen rendering by CastleView 3D

My big, audacious idea is the driving force behind what I hope to accomplish with this blog and my other marketing communications — educating consumers of building and design services about their options.  I want them to understand that 3D renderings aren’t just some TV magic on home design shows like “Hidden Potential”, but that they’re available to anyone who understands the value in “seeing it before you build it.”

3D Renderings for All!” is my new motto.


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What’s the difference between a 3D render and a raytrace?

Posted by , CastleView 3D:

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When I’m discussing a project with a new client, I often get asked what the difference is between a “render” (or “rendering”) and a “raytrace.”  Sometimes I use all three terms interchangeably, which I’m sure can be confusing.  But are they actually different?  If so, how?

Answers to these questions could (and do) fill entire books and webpages, but I’ll attempt a very simple explanation here (which will still be way too technical for a lot of folks!).

Computer rendering* is a general term for producing an image from a model constructed with 3D modeling software.  3D modeling involves creating a mathematical representation of a three-dimensional object.   Once the model, or mesh, is created, it is possible to take a “camera view” of the object from any angle (hence the term 3D).  The information from the 3D model is transferred to a rendering program to be processed and output as a digital image file, typically using a simple rasterization or scanline rendering method.  Current processors can produce this type of rendering quickly and efficiently, pretty much in real time, and it is what is used in most computer gaming.

Raytracing is a specific type of rendering technique.  The name refers to the way the computer creates the final image — by analyzing the light sources in the scene and computing the paths of the rays (photons) produced by those lights.  The result is a very realistic image including reflections and caustics (light refractions through glass), resulting in lighting and shadows that are close to what would be observed in the real world.  Raytracing algorithms simulate light realistically as it bounces between different objects, calculating the exact color of each pixel based on its material properties and the amount of light it is receiving.  In raytracing, many different algorithms can factor into the computation of a pixel’s final shade, including the material’s absorption, reflection, transparency, translucency, and refraction characteristics.

Raytracing actually proceeds opposite to the way light normally travels, because it works backward, only calculating the paths of photons that actually intersect the camera’s view frame.  Although this makes the process more efficient than if it actually traced the path of every photon emitted from every light source in the scene, it does not always yield the most realistic results.  Other methods which combine both eye-based and light-based ray paths, such as photon mapping and bidirectional path tracing, can yield superior results, especially in scenes involving indirect lighting or caustics.

Rendering is generally less time- and computer-resource-intensive than raytracing. However, technology is improving rapidly and real-time raytracing will soon be an accessible reality.

* Of course there are also the time-honored “artist’s rendering” architectural illustration methods such as pen and ink, watercolor, colored pencil, pastels, etc.  Nowadays, the look of many of these traditional techniques can be produced using computer graphics and photo-editing software.  More on this topic another day.

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So, are you still with me?  What does all this technical stuff mean for someone who wants computer images of their new home or remodeling plans?  An example can demonstrate the differences best.  Here is a comparison of a render versus a raytrace of the same room.  The first image is a Chief Architect rendered camera view of a great room and entryway with curving staircase.  The second image is one I posted the other day, a raytraced image of the same space.

Great room and front hallway - 3D Rendering by CastleView3D.com

3D rendering by CastleView 3D

Great Room and Entry - 3D Raytrace Rendering by CastleView3D.com

3D raytrace by CastleView 3D

In the rendering, you can see that there is some differential shading of surfaces depending on their angle and the amount of light they are receiving.  But overall the scene looks fairly flat.  The lighting in the raytraced image is much more realistic — sunlight coming through the windows, reflections on the polished wood floor, and a greater sense of depth and dimension.

You can view another render-vs-raytrace example here.

Renders are fine for the initial stages of a project, when rough approximations of the look and feel of the space are sufficient for planning purposes.  But once the major decisions have been made, final raytraces are what really bring the space to life and promote confidence in the material and design choices.

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So there you have an oversimplified explanation of the differences between rendering and raytracing.  I was enchanted and enthralled the first time I produced a simple rendering with my beginner-level Home Designer software.  But once I learned how to create raytraces with Chief Architect’s POVray, and later on with Kerkythea and Thea Render, it was impossible to feel satisfied with anything less realistic again.

My sincere apologies to anyone who is more expert in this area than I am.  I’m an intelligent, educated person, but thinking about the technical explanations for all this makes my brain hurt.  I’ve done my best to distill a very complicated topic down to a few paragraphs.  However, I realize I’m in way over my head here, and I’d be delighted to hear a more correct or complete explanation of the differences in the Comments.


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Reasons for NOT using 3D images for your building or remodeling project

Posted by , CastleView 3D:

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What are some reasons for NOT using 3D images for your project? 

There aren’t any. 

You might think cost could be a reason.  If so, then either:

  1. You haven’t fully understood the value of 3Ds, and/or
  2. You haven’t found the right professional to create them for you.

For help with #1, read How to estimate the value of 3D visualization, A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, Deep thoughts on 3D Biz, or 3D Rendering with Chief Architect.  These posts from seasoned 3D designers and artists should make the cost to value ratio abundantly clear.

For help with #2, contact me at CastleView 3D, and if I’m not the right person for your project, I can refer you to one of the other professionals I know.

Other “reasons”:

  • Time:  See #1 above.
  • Scope:  See #1 and 2 above.
  • “I wouldn’t know who to ask or how to get started”:  See my answer to #2 above.
  • “My architect/builder/designer doesn’t do 3Ds”:  See my answer to #2 above.  There are many 3D design and rendering specialists who can work hand-in-hand with your current architect or builder, or we can work directly with you on images that you can use to improve communication with your builder.
  • “I’m not exactly sure what I want yet”:  See #2 above.  Some 3D professionals specialize in creating concept images to help you choose the features and design elements that are most important to you.

So you can see that there really are no valid reasons not to utilize 3D renderings and raytraces for your building, remodeling, or decorating project, unless you’re the type of person who enjoys big — and possibly unpleasant — surprises.

3D images are a valuable asset for improving communication, ultimately saving you time, money, AND sleepless nights!

3D Kitchen Rendering by CastleView3D.com

Kitchen Remodel -- Design by Louie Carter of Grayson Homes; 3D rendering by CastleView 3D


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The ’80s called — they want their bathroom back!

By , CastleView 3D | Like CastleView 3D on Facebook

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I recently got a call from a friend.  He and his wife are planning to put their house on the market soon, and are sprucing it up to get it ready to sell.  It’s a beautiful, unique builder’s home, situated high on a hill with an incredible view.  But the home was built in the 1980s, and some features have never been updated.

Their concern right now is the master bath.  It’s a lovely space with skylights, lots of mirrors, and a garden tub.  It has “good bones.”  But the cabinets and countertop are mauve-colored laminate.

In case you don’t know what “mauve” is (and trust me, you are not the only one), consider this definition from Wikipedia:  “Mauve (rhymes with “stove”) is a pale lavender-lilac color, one of many in the range of purples.  Mauve is more grey and more blue than a pale tint of magenta would be… Sometimes mauve can be considered a dirty pink or a shade of purple.  Mauve can also be described as pale violet.”

Well thanks, Wikipedia — that really clears things up.

1980s Mauve Laminate BathroomI think “grayish pink” actually comes closest in this case.  Mauve was a very popular color for decorating in the 1980s, particularly in business offices and dentist’s waiting rooms, and especially when combined with gray or teal.  (Did I mention that this bathroom has a gray tub and sinks?)  When my friends first bought the house, the same charming mauve laminate was also on all the kitchen cabinets and the dining room built-ins!  Mauve overload!  Luckily all of that was replaced early on.

My friends want to bring their bathroom into this millenium, but without spending a lot of money on it — just enough to make the bath a selling feature rather than a liability.  So they asked for my assistance in envisioning what a coat of paint over the laminate, a new solid surface countertop with vessel sinks, and new carpeting could do for the space.  CastleView 3D to the rescue!

After measuring the space and taking photos, I created a 3D model of their bath using Chief Architect.  I added the vessel sinks and Corian countertop they wanted, “painted” the mauve laminate cabinets a neutral shade of ivory, and put in a new carpet.  The raytraced images below show how much these small changes will improve and enhance their bath.  Goodbye, mauve!

3D Rendering of Bathroom Remodel by CastleView 3D

3D Rendering of Bathroom Remodel by CastleView 3D

3D Bathroom Rendering by CastleView3D.com

3D Rendering of Bathroom Remodel by CastleView 3D


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Real, or 3D?

Posted by , CastleView 3D:

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I’m not 100% certain, but I believe this fascinating yacht design, from South Korean designer Hyun-Seok Kim, is all 3d modeling and rendering, not photographs.

Click the photo to see a series of wonderful images of the interior and exterior, published in the web magazine Yanko Design.  What do you think?

I’m not typically a yacht sort of person, but I think I could be comfortable spending an extended stay on this one.


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But is it Art?

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There is a very cool grassroots art show in Rochester, NY, called ArtAwake.  It originated in 2007 as a student-driven initiative whose purpose is to strengthen the community (and, presumably, showcase art).  It has become an annual one-day festival of creativity taking over a vacant urban space and transforming it for the occasion.  ArtAwake is organized by a team of students from the University of Rochester‘s Urban Exploring Club, but involves collaboration between many local organizations. For the past three years, ArtAwake has transformed three vacant buildings in Rochester through the participation of hundreds of local artists and musicians.

Alliance Building in downtown Rochester, NY, built in 1926

Next Saturday, April 16, will be the fourth annual ArtAwake event.  ArtAwake 2011 will feature over 150 works by local artists, from paintings to sculptures and architecture to fashion, plus 22 musical artists, catering by Lento (a popular locavore restaurant), and a wine tasting.  This year the festival will take place in the old Alliance Building in downtown Rochester.  Built in 1926, the Alliance Building is a 15-story, 167,000 sq ft neoclassical style high-rise in the heart of what’s somewhat grandiosely called the Central Business District.

Now in general, downtown Rochester is not a particularly happy place these days, but strides are being made — restaurants and clubs are opening, loft conversions are happening, and big plans are being discussed.  And events like ArtAwake are part of what’s driving renewed interest in downtown.

Well, OK, that’s all very interesting, you say, but what does it have to do with 3D design?  The answer is that for the first time this year, I submitted some of my 3D renderings to ArtAwake.  Here is one I submitted which I called “Chopping Tomatoes.”  (Hey, it needed a title!)

Chopping_Tomatoes, A 3D Rendering by CastleView3D.com

3D rendering rejected by ArtAwake

My renderings were not accepted for the show.  And no comment or reason was offered regarding why.  But I was curious (and a tiny bit suspicious), so I pressed for further explanation, and received a very interesting email from the show’s directors:

“CAD renderings are difficult, and we had quite a bit of discussion about how your works might fit into the show.  In the end we felt the viewers would have a hard time understanding them and how they related to the rest of the works. We appreciate and understand the time and effort that goes into a CAD rendering, but unless the images are unusually striking we did not feel the average viewer would take the time to consider the interesting intersection of art as utility and vice versa.”

In my reply, I thanked them for taking the time to explain their decision, and offered the following:

“A great deal of time and artistic talent go into creating photorealistic renderings, in addition to technical skill.  The computer is simply a tool used to generate the final product — it doesn’t create the scene.  I’m sure you must have other examples of computer-generated art in the show — photos that have been photoshopped for example, or digitally manipulated.  And I’m pretty sure you’ve seen examples of advertising art, which is certainly the intersection of art and utility, that people don’t seem to have a problem understanding.  So I have to key in on your phrase ‘unless the images are unusually striking’ as being the deciding factor.  What you’re saying is that my art just didn’t grab you.  Which is OK.  Perhaps next time I’ll try to create images that are more ‘unusually striking.’ “

I offer all of this because I’m still struggling with the question of whether 3D renderings can be considered “art.”  Obviously “Chopping Tomatoes” isn’t the Mona Lisa — I have no delusions about that.  But is it art at all?  Can CAD-modeled pretty pixel pictures be considered art?  Do the kinds of images I create have any rightful place in an art show?  How much more “unusually striking” would this particular image have had to be to engage the average viewer in the same way that a painting or sculpture or photograph would engage them?

Are 3D renderings merely “utilitarian”?  Or was I the victim of “art-ism” — discrimination against the type of art I create merely because it’s different and non-traditional?

I would really love to hear opinions about this so I hope you’ll share your ideas in the Comments.


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