Tag Archives: 3D Rendering

Recycled architecture

“I need an oil change and two tickets to Macbeth, please”

Posted by Kathleen Moore, CastleView 3D:

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I love the trend of “recycled architecture”:  reusing and repurposing existing buildings.  I admire the creative minds that think up new uses for structures originally designed to be something else.  Turning old churches, barns, or industrial lofts into homes and condos, and converting railway stations or homes into restaurants are common examples of this, but there are lots of others.

photo of Pattaya Thai Restaurant, Penfield, NY, an example of recycled architectureFor example, a run-of-the-mill branch bank building in a neighboring suburb has been turned into a Thai restaurant. The first time I visited, it felt a little odd to be eating my Pad Thai near the location of the old bank vault. But the space has been beautifully adapted.

Another great local example of recycled architecture is SPoT Coffee, a popular coffee shop located in a classic Art Deco Chevy dealership. I can remember eyeing that location many years ago and thinking it would make a great bar or dance club — guess I was ahead of my time.photo of Spot Coffee in Rochester, NY, another great example of recycled architecture

photo of the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY, now recycled as a museumIn Rochester, NY, where I live, we are blessed with many large, stately 19th- and early 20th-century mansions, remnants of Eastman Kodak‘s heyday, along beautiful East Avenue. Many of these old homes have now been converted into offices for doctors, lawyers, and professional associations, spas, and retreat centers. George Eastman’s home (photo above) is now the International Museum of Photography. Hard to believe that these were all once single-family homes!

Rochester really has some fascinating architecture, and the Monroe County Library has created a website chronicling a number of the adaptive reuse projects in the area which have helped preserve our beautiful and historic structures.

And now we get to the 3D modeling and rendering part of this post….

As a community theater afficionado, one of my favorite recycled architecture examples in the local area is the transformation of a sad, decidedly non-historic little building into a community theater rehearsal and performance space for Blackfriars Theatre.  The building most recently housed a used-car dealership, but looks like it might have started life as a gas station.  Here’s what the building originally looked like (image from Google Maps):

photo of a sad-looking building awaiting a new life as a community theater

In the initial stages of the conversion, I did a 3D model of the building and surrounding spaces for a client who was submitting a bid to do the landscaping for the project.  She proposed converting the corner section of the lot into a shared community space with a bench and plantings, and needed some quick graphics to illustrate her ideas. Rendering of a proposed landscape plan for the new Blackfriars Theater

Unfortunately, due to budget constraints, I don’t believe the developers hired her to do their landscaping.  But since I already had the building modeled, I decided to use it to do a little experimenting with lighting effects in a night rendering in Thea:

Photorealistic 3D Rendering of new Blackfriars Theatre at sunset

Since it’s not attractive, historic, or valuable in any way, this little building is exactly the kind of structure that, in the past, would most likely have been torn down to make room for new construction.  So I applaud the fact that these developers had enough creative vision — and a green enough conscience — to give it a new lease on life instead.

I’d love to hear about more examples of adaptive reuse.  What kinds of creative “recycled architecture” projects have you seen or participated in?


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Had enough turkey yet?

Posted by Kathleen Moore, CastleView 3D:

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A 3D modeling project halfway around the world

In honor of American Thanksgiving last Thursday (the one day of the year when an estimated 88% of U.S. households are eating roast turkey, the traditional Thanksgiving meal), today I’m featuring some 3D modeling work I did for a client in Turkey.

This client is a builder, specializing in designing and building elegant villas on the coast of Turkey.  He had floorplans for his new project in Bodrum, and had already commissioned a few exterior renders.  But he needed some virtual interior decorating to show off the interiors.  He hired CastleView 3D to do the interior modeling only, since he preferred to do his own renders.

But of course, once the interiors were modeled, they looked so beautiful and inviting that I couldn’t resist generating a few renders.  Here are a couple of them.  The views out the windows are photos of the actual views from the house!

3D Modeling and Rendering of Kitchen/Dining Area of Turkish Villa

The image above is a kitchen with bar, dining area, and breakfast nook, decorated in a modern style but with classic Mediterranean touches.  (The wonderful “Sputnik” chandeliers were modeled for me by my friend and virtual colleague, Bryce Engstrom.)

3D Modeling and Rendering of a Tower Bedroom in a Turkish Villa

This image is a tower bedroom overlooking the Mediterranean.  Ne kadar güzel!  (Google Translate tells me that that’s Turkish for “how beautiful!”)  I can just imagine curling up on that round bed in the tower to read and gaze out at the amazing view.

3D Modeling and Rendering of a Tower Bedroom in a Turkish Villa

I also modeled and “decorated” a marble entry hall with inlaid floors, and a cinema room.  You can see my client’s renders of those rooms, plus the exterior renders and his versions of the rooms shown above, here.

Here’s the website’s description of this particular villa:

Mesa Construction has selected a 4 hectares land in a bay where the most luxury villas of Yalikavak are located…  From this land there is a wonderful view of the bay of Yalikavak and nature is really beautiful. Mesa Construction will build a luxury villa inspired by french style “belles demeures”, equipped with all american comfort (central air conditioning, smart home system, jacuzzi, elevator, …) but also full of the turkish charm. A unique combination to fully enjoy Bodrum’s life!

As of this posting, I believe this villa is still for sale, so hurry up and make an offer if it appeals to you!  You’d better believe I’d buy it myself if I could.

This was a great 3D modeling project to work on, even more amazing because it involved collaborating with someone literally on the other side of the globe.  It’s my fantasy that someday I’ll get to visit Turkey and see some of these beautiful villas in person.


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Some advice on outsourcing architectural renderings

By Kathleen Moore, CastleView 3D | Like CastleView 3D on Facebook
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“Just say NO to architectural rendering sweatshops!”

Architects, developers, and builders need high-quality photorealistic renderings to help illustrate and sell their projects and ideas.  Some have the expertise to do this work themselves, or have staff members in-house who handle it, but most choose to outsource their renderings, at least occasionally, for a variety of reasons.  We live in a global world and outsourcing is becoming increasingly popular in all fields, including the world of architectural rendering.

But how do you decide when it’s time to outsource?  And who should you hire to do the work?

photo - Is this an "architectural rendering sweatshop"?I’ve been interested in recent discussions on the architectural illustration lists I subscribe to about outsourcing 3D architectural renderings.  I was surprised by the consistent levels of anger and frustration in the comments from these professionals about the so-called “rendering sweatshops,” particularly those in China, India, and Korea.  Below are a few comments I collected as examples of the prevailing sentiments:*

“CAD and the internet have made it possible to draft anywhere in the world with all the communication and transferring of plans done by email. The overseas rendering sweatshops are more trouble than they are worth to me. To do anything more complex than a simple box is beyond their capability from what I and quite a few others have seen from first hand experience. As a result of focusing only on the bottom line instead of the value they receive for the money, the company that I used to work for is in a world of hurt now, and they have no one capable of getting them out of it.”

“I called a couple of these last year that showed some pretty impressive work on their $195 per illustration advertisements. I even thought about farming out some work to them if they could do that kind of work at that price. Turns out the images they show on those pages are really $2500+ when they are done. When I asked what they could do for $195 it was as expected. Total crap.”

“I have used Indian based drafting services and even though the cost was much cheaper I was not happy with the service or the finished product and I wouldn’t try it again.”

“The advent of the 3D sweatshops in China, India, and Korea are wreaking havoc on the US market.  They are probably the worst offenders for depleting jobs.”

“The strange (and most predictable) thing about outsourcing to Korea and 3D sweatshops is that they do the bare minimum and get away with it. At first, something looks very good, but the longer you look, the more you realize it’s made by an uncoordinated flock of Koreans profiting on our laziness.  I see too much of it in the arch visualization business.”

“I had a couple conversations over the past year or so with potential clients who have used the sweatshop outfits. They said the initial contact about the job was a great experience but then it all went to mud from there. They couldn’t get call backs, there was a language barrier, they couldn’t get the landscape switched from desert geography to tropical like it was supposed to be according to the landscape plan. They said it was just a miserable experience from the second call on. I was encouraged after hearing that different people from different markets were having the same problems. You get what you pay for, including personalized service.”

It’s true that these comments are from professionals who perhaps feel the pinch of a slow economy and want to place blame somewhere for their lighter workload.  But I have also heard similar stories first-hand from several of my own clients about their experiences of getting burned when outsourcing.

Many of these architectural rendering companies (I’m really not comfortable labeling them “sweatshops”) look professional, have attractive web portfolios, and quote amazingly low prices.  But sometimes the perception of “cheap” prices overseas may be inaccurate.  The diminishing value of the US dollar and a gradual move toward a more comparable cost of living are contributing to an equalization in pricing over the last 3-4 years or so.

One of my builder clients told me about his previous difficulties with outsourcing:

“My architect creates plans using Autodesk CAD and he is very good at it, but he does not do any 3D views. So we used to outsource to a Singapore company that was using 3Ds Max. The problem is that their timeframe is always way too long for us and they are really expensive.  For this new villa, we have used their service again for external views and I am not really satisfied by what they have done.  Each change takes them forever. When I want a simple thing to be changed and when it is only done after 4 requests, then I am dissatisfied.”

And my virtual colleague Patricia Abood recently shared this story:

I ran into a guy on a plane who is an architect, working in Sketchup. We talked about renderings and he sheepishly said his firm sends their renderings to China because the cost is so cheap. I asked him “how cheap?” He showed me a simple building he designed in Sketchup that he sent over to China. China put in the landscape and did the rendering. He said this “only” cost him $600. I said, “I’m moving to CHINA!”

The architect said the only downfall of using China is that communication can sometimes be cumbersome, but once they get the idea across, they can put together a render pretty quick. I asked how long is the communication and he said sometimes it takes a couple of weeks to get exactly what he wants:  “Tree here?” “No…. tree there.”

So how do you decide when to outsource your architectural renderings? 

Sometimes people are uncomfortable spending money on something they think they should do themselves.  But a good rule of thumb is that if someone can do it in half the time that you can… or twice as good… then it’s time to hand it off.  Most people’s time is simply too valuable.  Less frustration, quicker turnaround, and higher quality results are all worth spending money on.

Below are a few tips to help decide when outsourcing can work for you:

  • If the project requires something you don’t do well or which is not part of your core skill set, and it would take valuable time to become proficient at it.
  • If you need to deliver projects to clients quickly and at a quality level equivalent to or better than your competitors – or risk losing the clients.
  • If you have too many projects in the pipeline.
  • If the opportunity cost of spending your own time producing renderings is greater than the cost of outsourcing.

Once the decision to outsource has been made, the difficult step remains of choosing between local quality (which typically involves greater control, fewer communication issues, and fewer cultural differences) versus the often more competitive rates abroad.

To avoid problems, it’s critical to get your research done early and build established and trusted relationships before the need for outsourcing arises. For the most part, those who get burned by outsourcing have not done their homework and get stuck trying to set up a job with a new resource while under time pressure.

Ultimately, you will need to assess your requirements and how you would like your client to perceive your vision. A good architectural rendering professional will be able to understand, work with, and develop the ‘story’ you’re trying to tell. They can intelligently translate your ideas and convey them in a way that will be true to your design intent.

A few points to evaluate when trying to decide who to outsource to:

  • Ratio of price to quality is the primary thing to consider when outsourcing. First look for the quality level that suits your needs, then try to establish a good collaboration.
  • Remember that in most cases, you get what you pay for.
  • A lot of good designers use a lot of different software.  High-end software requires a big financial investment but doesn’t always guarantee superior results; a skilled renderer can produce excellent work no matter what platform they use.
  • Many people feel that it’s best to work locally and build a long-term creative partnership.
  • Be aware that you may encounter a language barrier if outsourcing to a distant country.
  • Working across different time zones can make revisions or follow-up challenging.
  • A reliable firm or freelancer should be willing to update you on the progress of your project whenever you want.
  • When using a new company for outsourcing, make sure to build in time for corrections.

And here’s one final comment from the discussion list:

“After 18 years of doing this, I would recommend choosing someone close to you, wherever you are, someone you can build a relationship with and come to trust their vision and decision process. Otherwise you are going to be baby-sitting the process and waiting for the renderings the morning before your presentation, praying for a good result. Believe me, I’ve been there myself too many times.”

I really like the following very sensible quote from Penelope Trunk’s blog:

“If your project is important, find someone who has done it before, with someone who was great. And hire that person. You could get another bid, but the work would be different, right? And you should hire someone who does good work. And if everyone does the same work, then pricing can’t be that varied.”

In other words, if quick, low-quality renderings are sufficient for your project, then it probably makes sense to go with the cheapest price you can find.  But when quality and attention to detail matter (which they almost always do, even when you think they don’t), you should hire an architectural rendering artist based on the quality of similar work they have done – particularly if you can get a recommendation from someone else they’ve worked for – and then pay them what they’re worth.

Why try to shortchange such an important aspect of a project?

If you have stories or comments about your outsourcing experiences, I’d be very interested in hearing about them — good or bad. 


* The comments used here are unattributed to protect privacy, but these are all actual remarks from renderers and graphic artists on a number of different 3D design and architectural rendering discussion lists.  [Back….]

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Creating with what you know

Posted by Kathleen Moore, CastleView 3D:
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A French country style rendering project

A builder came to me a while back with a new floorplan he had designed.  He wanted to showcase it with beautiful renderings on his website and marketing materials.  His only instruction to me was to “make it look French Country style.”

I’ve been to the French countryside exactly once, in August 2003.  Some friends and I spent a week piloting a houseboat through the locks of the Canal du Nivernais in the Burgundy region of central France.  My memories of this delightful trip include lots of good wine and the best boeuf bourguignonne I’ve ever tasted (so good we went back to the same inn the next night and ordered it again).  They also include canalside views of rolling hills and interesting architecture — lovely churches and chateaux, charming lock-keepers’ cottages.

When I took on the rendering project for this builder, I wasn’t especially familiar with what’s known as “French Country decor,” so naturally these were the images that immediately flashed through my mind.

I consulted various design websites, books, and other resources to educate myself more about the style.  In case you’re interested, here’s the list of design elements I put together to define French Country style:

  • Used to be called French Provençale or French Provincial.
  • Rustic, old-world, welcoming; warm and casual; lavender fields and bright sunshine; casual and relaxed with light and airy spaces.
  • Colors:  Sunny yellow, golds, terracotta red, French blue, lavender, bright and dark greens.  Color palette mixed and matched on fabrics, accents, and walls, with accents of black and gray.
  • Fabrics:  Colorful Provençal prints combining primary colors with greens, lavenders, and bright orange. Toile with white, cream, or yellow ground and large motifs in a single contrasting color, such as black, blue, red, or green.
  • Motifs:  roosters, olives, sunflowers, grapes, lavender, beetles [beetles? really?]
  • Rough stained or painted plaster walls, hefty beamed ceilings and walls, delicate carved wood details.
  • Rustic flooring of stone, clay, or brick, covered with wool or cotton rugs.
  • Gently worn, weathered paint; rough plaster, stone, wood, wrought iron, terracotta, clay, zinc, glass, linen, and natural fibers.
  • Textured walls, informal wood tones, weathered patinas, hand painted furniture.
  • A large dining table, rectangle or round, with a dull waxed or low-sheen finish; chairs are ladderback or have vertical slats, often with rush seating.
  • Rusted metal furniture, lighting fixtures, and furniture
  • Woven or wire baskets, colorful ceramics and tiles, carved wood pieces, Chinoiserie pottery, and natural grasses for accessories
  • Faience, creamware, antique lanterns, decorative birdcages, candlesticks, urns.  Iron candle holders, wire baskets, heavy pottery water pitchers, colorful tablecloths.
  • Wrought iron chandelier
  • Old, dark, or colorful paintings
  • Natural flowers in baskets, an old pitcher or copper pot, or clear glass vases.  Geraniums and lavender are popular.
  • Outdoors: concrete statues, potted boxwood, wrought iron accessories; seamless flow between house and garden.
  • Deeply cut window sills with tall, narrow windows.

My research was helpful, but the images from my trip were probably more influential in determining the final look of the renderings.  It was hot during my week in France (perhaps you remember the record-breaking heatwave they had in 2003?  that’s when we were there), so the exteriors and especially the interior rendering have a sultry, sun-baked feel to them (click to view renderings full-size).

CastleView 3D rendering of French Country style house, exterior front view

CastleView 3D rendering of French Country style house, exterior front view

CastleView 3D rendering of French Country style house, exterior rear view

CastleView 3D rendering of French Country style house, exterior rear view

CastleView 3D rendering of French Country style interior

CastleView 3D rendering of French Country style interior

I’m not sure this was exactly what the builder had in mind when he specified French Country, but he was pleased with the renderings so it must have been close enough.

Every artist has their personal favorites among their own works, and these are some of mine. When I look at these renderings, I recapture the sense of relaxed warmth and the spirit of discovery and adventure I had on my boat trip through the French countryside — and my hope is that some of that comes through to other viewers as well.


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Newly released update to Thea Render

Posted by Kathleen Moore, CastleView 3D:

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Sandro Sorce's 3d recreation of Carapicuiba House, designed by Angelo Bucci & Alvaro Puntoni

Sandro Sorce’s 3D recreation of Carapicuiba House, rendered with Thea

My rendering engine of choice, Thea Render, just issued a new update yesterday, v1.1.  I haven’t had much of an opportunity to try it out yet, but already I can tell that it’s  much faster than the previous version.

Here are just a few of the new features/fixes in this release, as listed on the Thea user forum:

  • Optimized environment resulting in a speed up factor close to x2 and better memory footprint.
  • Addition of Render History functionality. [Allows side-by-side comparison of render versions.]
  • Integrated support for large previews (256×256) for material and texture editors (high resolution).
  • Colimo integration with the unbiased TR1 and TR2 engines. [Colimo sounds very intriguing and I’m definitely planning to check it out.]

Sandro Sorce (a Thea beta tester) had this to say in a review on Ronen Bekerman’s Architectural Visualization blog:

Thea Render is packed with features. Whether you prefer to render using biased or unbiased methods, Thea Render has a lot to offer – the render quality (IMHO) is excellent, and I’m sure there will be a lot more examples of great renders as the user base grows… Thea Render is a very young, yet already very mature product, and I honestly think it’s going to go from strength to strength.

And Ronen Bekerman responded:

I’ve been playing with it on and off, but recent updates really look good. I like the Interactive Render very much… Although very similar to V-Ray RT in how it looks, it is much more capable in that you can navigate it and select elements inside it…

I been exploring the material lab today and I love it very much too – the preview is very fast which is nice and helps in developing materials much more at ease.

I’m happy to hear positive reactions to Thea, which was only introduced a little over a year ago.  For me personally, it took a while to initially warm up to Thea, but the more I use it the better I like it.  I’m sure the new features in this release — including more SPEED — will make it even better.

There’s a great video tutorial here that goes into detail about some of the new features.


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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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“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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