Tag Archives: 3D Rendering

“Leap and the net will appear”

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

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leap and the net will appear

Today I make my big leap.  I’m trusting that the zen wisdom in the quote above will prove true.

I’ve been employed in the field of higher education full time (sometimes MORE than full-time) pretty much without a break for almost 25 years. Working in higher ed has been rewarding in many, many ways.  There’s a lot to be said for the professional challenges and stimulating intellectual colleagues of academe — not to mention the steady paychecks, health benefits, paid vacations, holidays, sick time, generous contributions to retirement accounts, etc., etc.

But today I choose to leave all that behind.  Today is my last day of job security.  Today I leap into the world of entrepreneurship. After a lifetime of working for other people, as of tomorrow I will officially be self-employed (which some people seem to think is a euphemism for UNemployed).  As you can imagine, I have very mixed feelings about all of this.

It’s not a complete leap of blind faith, however.  I’ve put 4 years into preparing for this drastic life change.  I have plans in place, some big dreams, and an exit strategy, if it comes to that.  So I’ve created my own net, of sorts.  But it still feels like a leap into the unknown.

Butterfly on Lilac BlossomPeople tell me that it takes guts to walk away from the field I spent 8 years training for and most of my adult life working in. I seem brave to some, foolhardy to others.  I may have guts, but my guts have butterflies.

But I’m also very excited, because I have found my passion, work that fascinates and challenges and sustains me like no other.  And just as important for an INFP like me, I believe in its potential to add value to people’s lives.  Embarking on a building or remodeling project can be a big question mark — a big EXPENSIVE question mark — and my visualization and rendering services can help provide a bit more security and peace of mind in a process fraught with tension and uncertainty.

So let the new adventure begin.  I’m ready to leap.


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Another inspiration (#4)… and some thoughts on virtual reality

Posted by Kathleen Moore, CastleView 3D:

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An inspiring 3D rendering by Jon Coles

An inspiring 3D rendering by Jon Coles

Here’s another inspiring example of 3D modeling and rendering that I happened across recently.  The lighting and textures in this image are beautifully done.  The only tiny quibble I have here is with the wood texture on the chair — something’s not exactly right there.  But other than that, it looks pretty perfect to me.  The beveled matte on the painting and the wood grain on the chest are great.

This rendering was done by digital artist Jon Coles, a freelancer in Bristol, UK.  I couldn’t find a website for him, but more information about his work is available here.

Seeing renders like this makes me wonder if someday we’ll get to the point where we truly won’t be able to tell reality from virtuality.  I always loved the concept of the “holodeck” on the Star Trek series — virtual reality so real it felt as though you were actually living it — but it always seemed so unattainable.  But when you think about how far this art-science-technology has come in the past 30 years, and how the speed of new developments only seems to be accelerating, who’s to say that we won’t have created something akin to a holodeck before I depart this world?

I find that possibility exciting and intriguing.  Do you?  Do you think it will happen?


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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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Using 3D modeling and rendering for interior design

Posted by , CastleView 3D:
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“Seeing it before you build it” with 3D modeling and rendering is really important — even crucial — when building a new home or remodeling your current one.  These projects represent huge investments of money, time, and risk, and you need to be sure you’re getting what you want, and that you and your contractor or builder are on the same wavelength in terms of the design.

But another great application of 3D technology is for less drastic, but still risky, interior design projects.  Perhaps you won’t be knocking down any walls or installing new plumbing fixtures, but when you’re trying to decide on paint and trim colors, fabrics, furniture, upholstery, rugs, window treatments, and accessories, “seeing it before you redecorate it” can be just as much of a sanity-saver as it can with larger construction projects.

Nowadays, a few interior designers do use basic CAD or Sketchup to model the rooms they’re working on.  But in my experience, they are the exceptions.   The majority really aren’t up to speed on 3D modeling and rendering techniques and so can’t offer this as a service to their clients.  Luckily there are home visualization services (like CastleView 3D, for one) who can work with you BEFORE you consult an interior designer, so that you already have some good options to share with your designer going in.  We can also work hand in hand with your decorator or interior designer, translating their ideas into 3D renderings so you can see how their plan of colors, fabrics, and finishes will look in your own rooms.  Or maybe you just want to explore different decorating ideas, trying different fabric swatches and color combinations in a room to decide which you like best.

As an example of how this can work, here are some renderings I did for someone who was considering painting and redecorating his kitchen.  He didn’t want a big remodel of the space — that had already been done a few years earlier — but simply a different look and feel to the room.  He had some ideas, but wasn’t sure how they would work in his space.  So CastleView 3D provided several different possibilities for consideration, combining various aspects of his preferred colors and decor ideas.  The images below show a rough floorplan of the kitchen, the current decor (light green walls and green laminate countertop), and three decor options using a more earth-toned color palette:  one French country style, one cottage (or “rustic cabin”) style, and the third capturing the Craftsman look prevalent in the rest of his home.

Image of a kitchen floorplan to be used for 3D modeling and rendering

Kitchen floorplan

3D Rendering of current kitchen decor

Rendering of current kitchen decor

Kitchen rendering -- French country style decor

Kitchen rendering — French country style decor

Kitchen rendering -- cottage style decor

Kitchen rendering — cottage style decor

Kitchen rendering -- Craftsman style decor

Kitchen rendering — Craftsman style decor

If you’re working with an interior designer — or even if you’re doing your own decorating — you’re already investing in the beauty of your living spaces.  Doesn’t it make sense to take advantage of 3D modeling and rendering capabilities to make sure you will actually love the finished product?


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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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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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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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A 3d rendering haiku

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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!

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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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