Tag Archives: Architectural Rendering

Another inspiration (#7)

INSPIRING RENDERINGS BY MUHAMMED TAHER

Here’s another entry from my “Inspirations” file.  Every so often, I see examples of amazing 3D renderings that I want to share because I find them so inspirational for my own rendering work.

I first saw today’s inspirational renderings on CGArchitect.com (an inspiring site in itself). What can I say about this rendering by Muhammad Taher, a freelance architect and architectural visualization artist in Alexandria, Egypt, except that it’s stunning and a true inspiration? There are so many things in this image to study and learn from — models, lighting, texturing, staging of the scene, camera settings and placement, and more.  For me, the only element in this rendering that doesn’t work quite as well as the rest is the bouquet of flowers.  Roses? A middle Eastern flower I’m unfamiliar with?  I’m not sure. But it definitely doesn’t spoil the overall effect.

"Master Bedroom" _renderings by Muhammad Taher

Inspirational “Master Bedroom” rendering by Muhammad Taher

Muhammed also does excellent exterior renderings, but I’m particularly partial to his interiors.  Here is another one of my favorites (but truthfully, there are so many, and all so excellent, that it’s hard to choose favorites):

"Moroccan Majlis"_renderings by Muhammad Taher

Inspirational “Moroccan Majlis” rendering by Muhammad Taher

This image of a luxurious sitting room in Doha, Qatar (see the whole series of renderings here), is full of wonderful details and impressive architecture.  Those windows must be 20 feet tall! Muhammed’s work is modeled in 3DS Max and rendered with VRay.

You can see more of Muhammed’s inspiring artistry on his website.  He also has a Facebook page showcasing his recent work.

Sometimes when I see work like this I get discouraged, doubting that I could ever achieve this level of technical and artistic expertise.  But then I remember that it’s always good to have something to aspire to. So I’ll continue to share things that motivate me to keep improving.


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Rehabbing an old house – virtually!

HELPING A NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION BY REHABBING AN OLD HOUSE IN 3D

CastleView 3D recently completed a very interesting project.  A remodeler in Illinois contacted me on behalf of his client, a non-profit organization.  The organization was interested in rehabbing an old, run-down house.  They wanted 3D renderings showing the house as it might look AFTER the rehab was finished, to share with their stakeholders and members.

All I was given to work from was two not-especially-clear photos of the current property, which they had affectionately dubbed “Big Blue” — no floor plan, dimensions, or roof plan.  My task was to try to recreate Big Blue as accurately as possible from these two photos, adding foundation landscaping, raised garden beds in the side yard, and some kids on bikes playing outside.  In other words, I needed to make a derelict house look safe and inviting.

Photograph of Big Blue house from front

Photograph of Big Blue from front

Photograph of Big Blue house from side

Photograph of Big Blue from side

It’s obvious from these photos that the house has “good bones” and was once a grand home, but is in desperate need of both cosmetic and structural rehab work.

Here’s the virtual transformation (click image to see full-size):

3D Rendering of Big Blue house from front

3D Rendering of Big Blue from front

3D Rendering of Big Blue house from side

3D Rendering of Big Blue from side

I found out a bit more about the non-profit organization and their plans for Big Blue after the virtual rehab project was complete:

  • The organization is called Beacon Place, and is based in Waukegan, Illinois.  Beacon Place was started by a group of volunteers who had worked in that part of Waukegan for years running a food pantry, among other programs. Last October they decided to move some programs that were piloted at the pantry into a new and larger facility.
  • Once rehabbed, the house will be used by people from the surrounding community, in particular — but not limited to — the children.  There will be a technology room for use by children after school and for their parents; once a child spends enough time learning about the computer, they will be given one to take home (how cool is that?).  Volunteers will help them sign up with Comcast for the $10/month fee that they qualify for due to their income status.  
    There will be a teaching kitchen, gardens for the children, and a summer lunch and backpack program. They plan to listen to the community and provide them with space for ideas they bring to the table.
  • The location of Big Blue is perfect for what the group wants to do. The east side of the house is open space  owned by the park district.  Beyond this open space is a park and beyond that is Lake Michigan.
  • The organization will be relying extensively on volunteers and community members to rehab Big Blue.  It is currently uninhabitable since there is no electricity or water (the pipes have all been stolen).  Please contact them if you live in the area and can help out with this worthwhile project, or would like to support it with a donation.
  • Visit Beacon Place’s website for more information about their programs.

This is the kind of project that is a pleasure to complete.  In some ways, it reminded me of the “roof with a view” project I did a couple of years back, where I added a virtual second story and deck to help sell a home with a fantastic view of San Francisco Bay — but, inconveniently, you had to stand on the roof to see it.  Both projects involved recreating existing buildings from photos rather than from blueprints or plans.  And both involved showing the potential of a house beyond its current state or condition.

I love what I do, and I never get tired of saying how passionate I am about the power of 3D modeling and rendering to help people visualize the future and watch their dreams take shape!


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One home plan, two styles

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

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graphic demonstration of a home plan’s flexibility

CastleView 3D recently completed a fun and interesting project.  I was contacted by Alex Schenkar of Schenkar Construction, a design/build firm in the Seattle area.  Alex was preparing for an upcoming home show and wanted some renderings to show off his new home plan. He sent me the plans for a lovely mid-size home designed in a traditional Craftsman style.  His goal was to show people how his firm could customize the basic plan to suit their style preferences.

Alex requested an exterior rendering of the Craftsman style home, but he also asked me to change up the roof lines and finish materials to create another version of the exterior that was more modern or contemporary in style.  He emailed a couple of photos as examples of the style he was looking for, and specified that he wanted the roof to be either flat or no greater than 1/12 or 2/12 pitch (versus the 8/12 pitch on the original plan).  Other than that, he invited me to use my own judgment and creativity.

Below is a comparison of the two very different looks created from Alex’s home plan.

Two 3D renderings of a house, one Craftsman and one Modern, modeled from the same home plan

Two different looks from the same home plan
(click image to see full-size details)

When Alex saw these exterior renderings, he told me that I had “hit it out of the park” and decided he also wanted to showcase two versions of the kitchen and master bathroom in this house.  So, following some basic specifications from Alex about materials to be used, I created Craftsman versions of the kitchen and bath using warm colors and traditional Craftsman details, while making the Contemporary versions cool and sleek, with European-style cabinets and a minimalist color scheme.

3D renderings of two different interior styles applied to the same kitchen and bath layout

Two different interior styles applied to the same kitchen and bath layout
(click image to see details)

I really commend this builder’s creative idea about how to highlight his firm’s flexibility and ability to customize their work to suit a homeowner’s tastes and preferences.  I hope these renderings help draw a lot of traffic to their booth at the home show!

Which of these two styles, Craftsman vs. Contemporary, do you find more appealing?


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Living vicariously

By Kathleen MooreCastleView 3D | Like CastleView 3D on Facebook
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one fringe benefit of a career in 3D rendering

Lately, the short winter days have me missing the long twilight hours of summer. So I put together this 3D rendering of a patio and reflecting pool at dusk to remind myself how great it feels to sit out on the deck with friends on a summer evening, drinking wine, talking, and laughing as the light slowly disappears from the sky.

CastleView 3D rendering of a waterlily pond at dusk

[click to view full-size image]

And it started me thinking about one of the reasons that my work in architectural modeling and rendering is so rewarding:  I get to live vicariously.  When I create a 3D model of your new home or remodeled space, I get to know it very intimately.  I live in it during the time I spend creating it.  I explore all its nooks and crannies.  In some ways, I may know your home better than you ever will.  So many details about a home that the homeowner never thinks about, I have to think about in order to make it look convincingly realistic.

And when I’m working, I also get the vicarious thrill of watching someone’s dreams take shape.  It’s really very exciting when something that previously only existed inside a client’s mind — or perhaps as a 2D blueprint, if they’ve gotten that far — suddenly comes to life in full color on the screen, looking almost as real as a photograph.  It’s magical.

I may be blessed with a particularly vivid imagination, but when I’m adding new granite countertops to a 3D rendering of someone’s kitchen remodel, for example, I can almost feel the glassy smoothness and rounded edges as the image develops on the screen.  I find myself trying to picture the lives that will unfold in that space.

Same with the rendering of the summer evening on the patio above:  I can imagine myself sitting on the warm flagstones, dangling my bare feet in the cool water, smelling the slight tang of chlorine and citronella in the air, feeling the breeze lifting my hair, and hearing the cries of the birds as they head for their nighttime roosts in the surrounding trees.  Perhaps creating something in such fine visual detail necessarily engages the other senses as well?

Because of this vicarious existence, I know that when I finally walk through the doors of the Clubhouse at The Reserve (the rendering project I posted about the other day) and see it for the first time, I’ll have an eerie sense of recognition and deja vu.

Because I’ve already spent many, many hours there.


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Interior renderings of a private clubhouse – Part II

BKathleen MooreCastleView 3D | Like CastleView 3D on Facebook
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The Reserve on the Erie Canal, Brighton, NY

This is the second in a series of two posts sharing the interior renderings done by CastleView 3D of the Clubhouse at The Reserve, a new residential community being built by Anthony J. Costello & Son near the Erie Canal in Brighton, New York. You can read Part I here.

Part I showed renderings of the spaces on the main floor of the Clubhouse, and today’s post will share the spaces on the ground floor as well as some views of the balcony and pool area.


Interior renderings – ground Floor

After descending the spiral staircase from the main foyer down to the lower level, off to your left will be a lounge area with pool table.  At the end of the hall is the Wine Cellar.  Each Reserve resident will have a private wine locker, and the space can be used for wine tasting events or private parties.

[click each image to see full-size interior rendering]

CastleView 3D interior rendering of the private Wine Cellar in The Reserve Clubhouse

Next door to the Wine Cellar is a 30-seat Movie Theater, which can be used by residents for watching movies, sporting events, or other televised shows.

CastleView 3D interior rendering of the Movie Theater in The Reserve Clubhouse

Movie Theater, The Reserve Clubhouse, Brighton, NY

At the opposite end of the ground floor hallway are the Fitness Center and its related amenities.  The equipment room and connected Yoga/Pilates Studio are supported by a fully-staffed fitness team for instruction and personal training.

CastleView 3D interior rendering of the Fitness Center equipment room in The Reserve Clubhouse

Fitness Center equipment room, The Reserve Clubhouse, Brighton, NY

CastleView 3D interior rendering of the Yoga/Pilates Studio in The Reserve Clubhouse

Yoga/Pilates Studio, The Reserve Clubhouse, Brighton, NY

Across the hall from the Fitness Studio is the Spa, containing a hot tub, sauna, steam bath, and massage studio.  The Men’s and Women’s Locker Rooms are located adjacent to the Spa.

CastleView 3D interior rendering of the Spa  in The Reserve Clubhouse

Spa, The Reserve Clubhouse, Brighton, NY

CastleView 3D interior rendering of the Men's Locker Room  in The Reserve Clubhouse

Men’s Locker Room, The Reserve Clubhouse, Brighton, NY

CastleView 3D interior rendering of the Women's Locker Room  in The Reserve Clubhouse

Women’s Locker Room, The Reserve Clubhouse, Brighton, NY

The Fitness and Spa areas have large windows looking out onto the Pool and Outdoor Recreation Areas.  CastleView 3D did a series of renderings of these spaces; however, due to some later design changes, the client ended up not using these images for their marketing.  However, I’m sharing them here (even though they’re not really “interior renderings”) to give a more complete picture of the great outdoor spaces, including a pool, hot tub, waterfall, outdoor kitchen with pizza oven, gas firepits, and multiple seating areas, including the Grand Balcony overlooking the pool and the Erie Canal from the main floor of the Clubhouse.

CastleView 3D rendering of the view of the pool area from the Grand Balcony of The Reserve Clubhouse

View of the pool area from the Grand Balcony of The Reserve Clubhouse

CastleView 3D rendering of the view of the pool area from the East Walkway at The Reserve Clubhouse

View of the pool area from the East Walkway at The Reserve Clubhouse

CastleView 3D rendering of the pool area looking toward the Grand Balcony at The Reserve Clubhouse

View toward the Grand Balcony at The Reserve Clubhouse

CastleView 3D rendering of the view of the pool at The Reserve Clubhouse

Pool close-up, The Reserve Clubhouse

For a great overview of the entire development (including some of these interior Clubhouse views), watch this wonderful flyover animation created by Gary Jacobs.

The Reserve on the Erie Canal is an ambitious project that has been in the planning and approval stages for 7 years, so it is exciting to see it finally underway.  All the planning has really paid off in terms of attention to every detail.  I was honored to work with this very talented team of architects and designers.

Technical notes on this project:  The Clubhouse interiors were modeled by CastleView 3D in Chief Architect X5 from the architect’s plans.  The exterior models were created by the landscape architect in Sketchup.  All exterior and interior renderings were completed using Thea Render.

 


Does The Reserve sound like a place you’d like to live?  They’re now accepting lot and loft reservations! Call (585) 272-6500 for more information.


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Interior renderings of a private clubhouse – Part I

By Kathleen MooreCastleView 3D | Like CastleView 3D on Facebook
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The Reserve on the Erie Canal, Brighton, NY

The Reserve is a new 327-home residential community being built by Anthony J. Costello & Son alongside the historic Erie Canal, just south of where I live in Brighton, New York. The development will include loft condominiums, townhomes, patio homes, traditional brownstones, and custom-built estate homes.  It will also feature a private Clubhouse, built directly beside the canal, which will be available to all residents and will serve as the social hub of the community.  CastleView 3D was engaged to create photorealistic interior renderings of a variety of spaces in the Clubhouse.

In our meetings, Mr. Costello was very clear that the renderings of the Clubhouse spaces should be absolutely authentic in order to show potential residents exactly what they could expect, so I worked closely with the development’s interior designer and with Costello management to ensure that all furnishings, finishes, and decor were depicted exactly as specified in the plans.

This was one of the biggest, most challenging, and most rewarding projects I worked on in 2012, and I’d like to share some of the renderings I did for it. Because there are quite a few images, I’m going to break this into two separate posts.  Today ‘s post will show the spaces on the main floor of the Clubhouse, and tomorrow we’ll go down to the ground floor and pool area.


Interior renderings – Main Floor

The main entrance to the Clubhouse opens from a porte cochere on Reserve View Blvd onto a Grand Entry Foyer.  At the other end of the hallway is a balcony (not shown in this rendering) which overlooks the pool and the historic Erie Canal.

[click each image to see full-size interior rendering]
CastleView 3D interior rendering of the Grand Entry Foyer, The Reserve, Brighton, NY

Grand Entry Foyer, The Reserve, Brighton, NY

On the right is a comfortable seating area, and on the left is the Concierge Desk.  The Board Room can be glimpsed down the small hall next to the Concierge Desk.

CastleView 3D interior rendering of the Concierge Desk  in The Reserve Clubhouse

Concierge Desk, The Reserve Clubhouse

CastleView 3D interior rendering of the Board Room in The Reserve Clubhouse

Board Room, The Reserve Clubhouse

Further down the entry hall on the left is the Harvard Room, a comfortable lounge with overstuffed chairs, game tables, and a library, and across the hall, the Dining Room, which seats 80 with overflow seating for an additional 40 people.  Both of these rooms also open onto the balcony.

CastleView 3D interior rendering of the Harvard Room in The Reserve Clubhouse

Harvard Room, The Reserve Clubhouse

CastleView 3D interior rendering of the Dining Room in The Reserve Clubhouse

Dining Room, The Reserve Clubhouse

Finally, adjacent to the Dining Room is the Gourmet Kitchen, which will be used for catering as well as for gourmet cooking classes.

CastleView 3D interior rendering of the Gourmet Kitchen in The Reserve Clubhouse

Gourmet Kitchen, The Reserve Clubhouse

The main floor will also house the sales and administrative offices for the development.

A grand staircase with a water feature descends from the center of the foyer down to the lower level.  I’ll share renderings of those spaces in my next post.


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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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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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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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