Tag Archives: 3d modeling

Another inspiration (#5) – an architectural video animation

Posted by Kathleen Moore, CastleView 3D:

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Here’s a wonderful architectural video animation recently shared on the 3rd Dimension blog:

$17.9 million is what you can expect to pay for this 30,000 sq ft luxurious private residence in Florida. 3rd Dimension was commissioned to create a number of aerial photomontages and eye level 3D visuals along with an exterior 3D movie of the proposed development. It was an amazing project to work on — credit to the project architects Yates Rainho in Florida for such a fantastic design. The 3D imagery and animation were used for both planning and marketing purposes…. One neat little trick we used for the 3D movie was the animation of the ocean in the aerial photomontages. Panning the still images and having movement within them such as the ocean and cars makes it difficult to tell that they are CGI.

The design is gorgeous, and I have to agree that animation of the surf and pool waterfall adds realism and an even greater degree of visual interest to the images of this breath-taking mansion.  I would have liked to have seen interiors — but perhaps that’s another project entirely (one for CastleView 3D, perhaps!).

I really do get inspired by looking at the beautiful work that others have done, such as this great architectural video animation, and I hope you do, too.  If you see work worth sharing on Life Should Be 3D, be sure to bring it to my attention.


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CastleView is a verb!

Posted by Kathleen Moore, CastleView 3D:
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At a party celebrating my recent leap into full-time entrepreneurship, a friend  suggested that one of my goals in building my business should be to make the name of the business synonymous with the product.  In other words, I should aspire to be the defining standard in the 3D rendering business — to become such a known and trusted quantity that people would use the name of the business to refer not only to MY product, but to the entire class of similar products.

Great examples of this abound:

  • kleenex
  • jello
  • band-aid
  • popsicle
  • post-it
  • velcro
  • q-tips
  • frisbee

Frisbee

What else would you call these things?

But there are also company names that go beyond being merely synonymous with a product — they have become familiar verbs:

  • Google (“I just googled myself.”)
  • Xerox (“Could you xerox this for me?”)
  • Facebook (“I’m facebooking that photo right now!”)

or the curious case of

Spam

My friend suggested that CastleView 3D should aim to become not only a noun synonymous with 3D rendering — as in, “does your contractor provide castleviews?” — but also a verb:

I’m thinking of remodeling my kitchen.

How exciting!  Have you castleviewed it yet?

His suggestion made me smile — as it was intended to.  But it also got me thinking… hey, why not?

I wonder if Google or Xerox ever imagined that their company names would become common verbs?


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A different kind of 3D modeling

Posted by Kathleen Moore, CastleView 3D:

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Just something quick and fun today — a LEGO version of an architectural masterpiece!! You can now build your own 3D plastic replica of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, located in Chicago.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House in LEGOS

Maybe it’s because I don’t have kids, but I wasn’t aware of the LEGO Architecture Series.  In addition to the new FLW Robie House kit, it includes models of:

They range in price (list price) from $19.99 (Empire State Building, John Hancock Center, Space Needle, and Sears Tower) to $199.99 (Robie House).

Now that I’ve seen these, I want them all!  I wonder if they come with tiny LEGO furnishings?


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How to get good at photorealistic rendering

By , CastleView 3D
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photorealistic rendering of kitchen remodel by CastleView3D.com

3D rendering of kitchen remodel by CastleView3D.com

Five tips for improving your photorealistic rendering skills

Over the years I’ve learned a thing or two about how to produce high-quality photorealistic renderings, and I thought some tips might be useful for anyone trying to learn or to improve their skills.  But a few caveats are in order:

  • I don’t consider myself an expert in this area, just someone with some knowledge to share.
  • I’m completely self-trained.  (If this field of study had existed when I was in school, my life might have unfolded quite differently.  Or maybe not.)
  • What I’m going to say may only apply to architectural rendering, because that’s all I do.

1.  Train your eye.

Carefully observe the world around you to develop an understanding of the interplay of light and materials.  Notice how different types of light sources interact with different material surfaces.  Make mental notes about the shapes and depth of shadows and reflections.  Learn some of the basic physics of photons and properties of different materials to further inform your observations of light scattering and reflection.  Learn some stuff about photography to understand the ways various lenses and apertures and film types and speeds affect how a scene is captured.  Learn how basic rendering terms (specular, translucent, refraction, bump, anisotropy, sub-surface scattering) relate to the things you’re observing in the real world.

You don’t have to be an artist, just a good observer.

This first step can take a long time (possibly a lifetime), but you’ll never get photorealism if you don’t get this.  You have to have a deep understanding of what you’re aiming for in order to be able to guide your rendering program to produce it.  Some people seem to come by this ability naturally; but it’s a skill that can be learned with discipline and motivation.

2.  Master your modeling software.

No matter how good you get at rendering, or how powerful or expensive your modeling software is, you will never master photorealistic rendering if you don’t first master whatever program you use to produce your models.  If the model isn’t perfect, you will never produce a rendering that is indistinguishable from a photograph (or comes really, really close), because there will always be some jarring detail that is just WRONG.  It might not jump out at you, but subliminally the viewer’s eye will register that something is off.  A symbol that’s too blocky, a book “floating” a half-inch above a tabletop, or a chair leg that disappears into the baseboard are all things that can subtly ruin the realism of a model.  (Want to know how I know this?)

This requires more than a slight degree of obsessive-compulsiveness.  Go over your model with the proverbial fine-tooth comb to identify anything that’s not quite right.  Then do a preliminary render at a really big size to help you see modeling mistakes that might not have been apparent at a lower resolution.  Zoom in really close and go over every detail.  Only when you’re satisfied that the model is absolutely perfect should you proceed to step 3.  And even then you will most likely still find things that you didn’t catch before.

3.  Master your rendering software.

I can’t really give software-specific advice.  At any rate, a skilled renderer who has accomplished #1 and #2 above can produce decent results with pretty much any rendering application.  But whatever you use, the better you understand all the technical bells and whistles in your rendering software, the more power you will have to tweak even the smallest details to obtain the effects  you want.  Read the manual, do the tutorials, frequent the user forum, set up experimental renders to test lighting, materials, displacement, and special effects.

cover of book "Digital Lighting and Rendering" by Jeremy Birn - great resource for photorealistic rendering One of the best resources I know for learning more about how to set up realistic scenes for rendering (without being too software-specific) is Digital Lighting and Rendering (2nd Edition) by Jeremy Birn.  A classic.

4.  Practice, practice, practice.

I know this sounds like the old joke about how to get to Carnegie Hall, but there’s simply no better way to improve your skills and knowledge than to keep practicing them over and over.  Set up a render; see how it looks; decide what you don’t like or what could be better; tweak your settings; render it again.  Compare it to the first version (or the first 100 versions) and see whether it’s better, or not, and figure out why, or why not.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

Try something new, experiment, take a risk, see what you end up with.  Sometimes it won’t be pretty (the first time I tried displacement on a stone wall, it looked like the wall had blown up!).  The good thing is, it’s only pixels, so no one gets hurt, even if it doesn’t work.

A lot of times I hear frustration from beginners because the software won’t “give” them the results they want — like they expect to be able to simply push a button and produce a realistic render, just like taking a photo.  But your software isn’t that smart, no matter how much  you paid for it.  Some rendering software has very sophisticated algorithms built in with amazing plug-ins to take it even further.  But the bottom line is that it can only do what you tell it to do.  And this is where your trained eye and in-depth understanding of your modeling and rendering software really make all the difference.  Which brings us to #5……….

5.  Repeat steps 1-4 on infinite loop.

There is always more to learn, more observations to make, more to refine.  Never stop trying to improve.  If it starts to seem easy, you’re no longer growing or improving.  Get out of your comfort zone by doing more observing, more learning, more experimenting.

These suggestions are just one person’s opinion, and may even be painfully obvious — like “duh.”  So I’d love to hear others’ ideas about what you think it takes to get really good at this challenging and fascinating skill.


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

Posted by , CastleView 3D:

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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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Remodel, or move?

Posted by , CastleView 3D:

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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!

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

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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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