Category Archives: Posts By Me

Learning 3D modeling by copying the “old masters”

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When I was first learning to do 3D modeling and rendering back in 2007, I decided to try an exercise that many art students are given in their studies:  learning by copying the old masters.  With sketchbooks and pencils in hand, students visit the world’s great art museums to learn about an artist’s technique by trying to duplicate it themselves.

For my learning exercise, I decided that my “old masters” would be architectural and interior designers whose work I admired.  So I gathered a collection of photos from the web, many from Architectural Digest (which is, in my opinion, the best place to see consistently fine examples of both interior and exterior design).  I set myself the task of trying to learn something about their design techniques, as well as mastering my own modeling and rendering software tools, by trying to reproduce the photos as 3D renderings. I feel this approach really taught me a lot, and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to improve their 3D skills.

Now that I’ve been at this for almost 4 years, I still occasionally do this exercise, simply because it provides an excellent insight into a designer’s mind to try to understand why they did things the way they did in the building or room I’m studying.

Room designed by Suzanne Lovell

Room designed by interior designer Suzanne Lovell (photo from an article in Sept. 2007 Architectural Digest)

Recently, instead of tackling a new challenge, I decided to revisit one of my old favorite inspirations, a lovely room created by awesomely talented interior designer Suzanne Lovell in her own townhouse in Chicago.  Her home was written up in a 2007 article in AD (which unfortunately is no longer available online).

I liked my original rendering so much that I had been using it for years in my portfolio on the CastleView 3D website, despite the fact that it was a very early example and wasn’t actually produced for a real client.  But because the rendering software I use now (Kerkythea) is much more sophisticated than what I was using in 2007, I wanted to see how much the image could be improved simply by using the new tool.

I didn’t change my original model except to import it into Chief Architect X3 (to enable VRML export), but instead spent time tweaking the lighting and textures in the imported file within Kerkythea.  Below is a comparison of my original image with the most recent one (you’ll need to click to enlarge the images for a decent comparison).  You can see that in the 2007 version, the render engine wasn’t able to produce reflections, or even shadows!

2011 3D Rendering by CastleView3D.com of room designed by Suzanne Lovell

My recent update (April 2011), using the same model but re-rendered in Kerkythea

2007 3D Rendering by CastleView3D.com of room designed by Suzanne Lovell

My original 2007 rendering, modeled and rendered in Home Designer Pro

Of course I’m much happier with the more recent version, although as I look at the final product there are still things I would like to change in my addictive quest for photorealistic perfection.

Perhaps I’ll work on improving some of my original modeling, and post an update later. But in the meantime, this new image is definitely replacing the old one on my website!


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Google SketchUp: An easy way to get your 3D feet wet

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

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I was delighted to learn today that one of my favorite bloggers, Annie Elliott of bossy color blog, is working on a handbook for interior designers about Google’s SketchUp 3D modeling application. The book is being co-authored with Bonnie Roskes of 3D Vinci, and will be published by Pearson, a well-known higher ed publishing company, at the end of this year.

Annie is an interior designer in Washington, DC.  As you might expect, given the name of her firm — bossy color — Annie “never passes up an opportunity to nudge her clients toward unexpected color palettes.” She writes a popular, entertaining, and informative blog about interior design and the importance of overcoming your fear of color, which I always look forward to reading.

Bonnie is a structural engineer who started writing and publishing professional-level books and tutorials on SketchUp and other 3D applications almost 10 years ago. She has continued producing professional books, including her intermediate-advanced level Google Sketchup Cookbook.  But when her own children got interested in 3D modeling, she realized that it can also be an engaging tool for kids, and added many instructional projects for children of various ages.  Now 3D Vinci’s [love the name!] special niche is 3D design in education and for kids.  Their mission is “To help everyone think and create in 3D.”  (Obviously a company that totally gets that “Life Should Be 3D“!)

I look forward to reading their new book when it comes out, and seeing the tips and advice they offer on how to use SketchUp for 3D visualization of room designs.  As I mentioned in my last post the other day about my recent trip to the local home show, I was amazed that more of the interior designers weren’t using 3D tools in their design work.

By the way, just in case you’ve never heard of SketchUp, it’s a 3D modeling tool that was introduced in 1999 and acquired by Google in 2006.  SketchUp is fairly intuitive and easy to learn how to use.  You can build models from scratch, or download what you need from the Google 3D Warehouse, where people from all over the world have shared what they’ve made. You can even place your models in Google Earth.

Anyone can create 3D models with SketchUp.  You can see a long list of SketchUp’s impressive capabilities and features here.  And you can download the basic version of SketchUp for free here.  Yes, that’s right — FREE.  So now there is absolutely no reason not to try your hand at 3D modeling.  You just might get hooked!

A simple house modeled in SketchUp, from Google Warehouse

A simple house modeled in SketchUp, from Google Warehouse

 


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A distinctly two-dimensional Home Show

Posted by , CastleView 3D:

2011 Home & Garden Show

I spent some time today wandering around our local Home & Garden Show at the Convention Center. This annual show, sponsored by the Home Builders’ Association, is a very popular event. More than 170 vendors, decorating and home improvement seminars, culinary demonstrations, wine tastings, and beautiful spring garden displays — complete with water features — are some of the highlights.

3D Rendering for Master Bath Remodel by CastleView3d.com

3D Bathroom Remodel Rendering by CastleView 3D

Chatting with one of the local remodelers I know (I did 3D renderings for a bathroom remodel he worked on), it seemed that business was good — he said his company is already booked up with work until August.  So things seem to be picking up again in the home building and remodeling industry.

But I was surprised at how few of the exhibitors seem to be using the power of 3D visualization to connect with their potential clients and customers. Only three or four that I saw were offering that as a service or using 3D renderings in their advertising or displays. One man that I spoke with, a pool and spa builder/installer, had a lovely 3D fly-around running on a large monitor in his booth. It showed a house with a beautiful in-ground pool plus a large hot tub on a deck. He could switch back and forth between a daytime view and a nighttime view that included great lighting effects in the pool and near the house. It was quite a visual treat and drew a lot of traffic to his booth. He said he had modeled it himself using a special software for pool designers.

It seems a shame, considering all the money people might be shelling out for building and remodeling projects, that home show exhibitors aren’t taking the opportunity to a) entice them with the possibility of what their project could be, and b) alleviate some of their anxiety about the unknown, which might make them more willing to shell out that money in the first place.  An excellent selling and marketing tool is being under-utilized.

Next year I plan to be an exhibitor myself, so I’ll be able to talk with people directly and get them excited about the benefits of “seeing it before you build it” with 3D visualization!


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How to estimate the value of 3D visualization

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I was talking recently with a potential client, a builder from New Jersey, about doing some 3D renderings for him and his clients.  He was very impressed with the quality of my work, but when we got around to discussing prices, he balked.

He said, “Down here people aren’t willing to pay a lot for 3D renderings, although they can see the value of them immediately.”  I’d like to say I was shocked, but unfortunately this was not the first time I’d heard a statement like that — and not just from New Jersey.

So how does someone make a decision about “value” and the price they’re willing to pay for something they admittedly perceive as being of value to them?

A current client recently called to rave about the benefits of 3D visualization for him and his wife in the process of remodeling and redecorating their home:

  • saves money
  • saves time
  • aids decision-making
  • reduces aggravation
  • improves communication
  • eliminates costly re-dos and change orders
  • increases peace of mind

I’d say those things are priceless!  This couple feels that, for their money, 3D visualization offers a great return on investment.

3D Rendering by CastleView 3D.com - Entry hall from great room

3D Rendering by CastleView 3D

I recently conducted some impromptu focus groups with women attending a higher education conference. All of them were well-educated, all were homeowners, and all at some point had either built or remodeled their home — sometimes numerous times. But before our discussion, the majority of these women were not even aware that 3D visualization was an option for them — they thought it was just high-end pixel magic they had seen on HGTV or in million-dollar architectural presentations!

As we talked, their feeling was that 3D visualization and renderings would be of such value to them in their building and remodeling projects that they would be willing to pay 5-10% of the total cost of the project, depending on size and complexity, to be able to actually see and make decisions about their project in advance.  That’s quite a different story than the one I got from the New Jersey builder and others.

So, how do you approach the value proposition?  How do you decide what’s it worth to be able to “see it before you build it”?


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The big question

Posted by , CastleView 3D:

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As I contemplate my impending leap of faith from a fairly cushy position in the ivory tower to the cut-throat world of self-employment as an artistic entrepreneur, I keep coming back to the big question, as delicately posed by my husband:

“But dear, how can you call it 3D visualization when what you’re creating is obviously flat and two-dimensional?”

Well, that IS an excellent question.  And I can see where he’s coming from.

To most people, the images of homes and interiors that I create look like photos (hence the term “photorealistic renderings“).  But the big answer to the big question is that I’m taking a flat floorplan — basically just a blueprint in the x-y plane — and through the magic of CAD software (Chief Architect X4, to be exact) I’m giving it an added dimension.  Height!  The z dimension!

So a simple kitchen floorplan goes from looking like a bunch of lines on graph paper, like this

Kitchen floor plan drawn in Chief Architect by CastleView3D.com

Kitchen floor plan

to a beautiful rendering like THIS:

3D Visualization of Kitchen floor plan by CastleView3D.com

Kitchen floorplan converted to 3D visualization

3D visualization is a way to convey more information about design — a tool to improve communication between home owners and their designers, builders, remodelers, contractors, realtors, decorators, and others.

And to me, that seems like a very valuable service.  Enough to inspire a leap of faith.


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