Tag Archives: 3d modeling

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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You can be clairvoyant!

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

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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

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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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Real, or 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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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

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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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