Tag Archives: Architectural Rendering

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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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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Another inspiration (#3)

Posted by , CastleView 3D:

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Every once in awhile, I see an example of 3D modeling or rendering that really inspires me.  I ran across one today on the “Architectural Illustration” group on LinkedIn that I wanted to share.  Showcasing 3D architectural work by computer graphics artist Fabien Valour of Switzerland, this short demo reel features lots of cool effects like flowing water, blazing fires in fireplaces, flickering candle flames, a bubbling hot tub — and a unique approach to showing how the final products take shape.

Enjoy!


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Remodel, or move?

Posted by , CastleView 3D:

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I was contacted recently by someone looking for 3D modeling and rendering services.  He and his girlfriend had lived in their home for 13 years, and had done a number of upgrades to it.  But they were at a point where the home’s floorplan configuration wasn’t working for them anymore.  They wanted a larger family room and deck, an expanded first-floor master bedroom, bath, and walk-in closet, and a new main entry.  They were debating between undertaking yet another major remodel/addition project versus selling and moving to a different house.

Proposed remodel floorplan drawn up by architect

Proposed remodel floorplan drawn up by architect

Proposed remodel elevations drawn by architect

Proposed remodel elevations drawn by architect

They had already consulted with an architect about their remodeling options, and he had done some nice drawings for them.  But the clients were having trouble visualizing the changes from what the architect had drawn up (a floorplan and two exterior elevations).  They asked the architect for 3D images, “like the ones we see on HGTV,” but the architect refused, saying he just didn’t do those. So they  did an internet search and found my website.

Working from the architect’s drawings, plus photos of the current house, I was able to model the house in Chief Architect and produce some basic renderings of what the proposed modifications might look like.

Their place is an old farmhouse that has already been remodeled and added on to a number of times in its 100+ years, so there are numerous roof pitches and floor levels to contend with (always something of a modeling challenge).  But I think the final images capture the essence of what the remodeled spaces would look like.  Here are a few examples:

Front view with new entry

Front view with new entry

New entryway looking up

New entryway looking up

New family room looking towards kitchen and entryway

New family room looking towards kitchen and entryway

New bedroom with bath and walk-in closet

New bedroom with bath and walk-in closet

I haven’t yet heard whether this family has decided to go ahead with the remodel, or move to a new home.  But at least with these 3D images in hand, they have more information to use while considering their decision.

One final note:  The images I provided for this client are not high-end, photorealistic raytraces.  These are just simple 3d renders to show the basic layout of the plans — sufficient for this stage of their decision-making.  Detailed raytraces are more appropriate for the later stages of project planning, when trying to make decisions about final finishes, lighting, and decor.


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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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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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3D renderings are the new blueprints

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All the marketing gurus say that every company needs a “big, audacious idea” as its driving mission and reason for doing what it does every day.  Here’s mine for CastleView 3D:

Make 3D renderings as indispensable as blueprints or construction documents for any construction or remodeling project.

Before the blueprint was invented in the mid-1800s as a way of making copies of construction drawings, every architectural plan had to be painstakingly hand-drawn.  But the new “technology” was quickly adopted as an obvious improvement on the old ways.  Everyone could see the benefit — so why not use it?

My hope is that this same tale will someday be told about 3D CAD modeling and rendering for architectural designs.  The technology exists — why not use it to best advantage?

Yet there still seems to be resistance to the widespread adoption of 3D rendering as a standard procedure in architectural design.  Just today I got a call from a prospective client who was having trouble visualizing his new home from the plans his architect had drawn up.  He asked the architect for 3D images, “like the ones I see on HGTV,” but the architect refused, saying he just didn’t do those.  Luckily this guy was smart enough not to take “no” for an answer — always the mark of a true pioneer!  And his internet search led him to me.

Despite the inevitable holdouts (probably folks who don’t have the time or inclination to learn 3D rendering techniques), I predict that some day soon 3D renderings will become a must for all architects and home designers — not an extra or an add-on, but simply an accepted cost of doing business, like producing blueprints or construction documents.  I believe this will happen because savvy consumers will come to demand and expect it.

Nowadays, why should anyone expect a customer to be satisfied with a flat, 2-dimensional blueprint or plan, when we have the technology and expertise to show them their project in mouthwatering 3D detail?

3D Kitchen Rendering by CastleView3D.com

3D kitchen rendering by CastleView 3D

My big, audacious idea is the driving force behind what I hope to accomplish with this blog and my other marketing communications — educating consumers of building and design services about their options.  I want them to understand that 3D renderings aren’t just some TV magic on home design shows like “Hidden Potential”, but that they’re available to anyone who understands the value in “seeing it before you build it.”

3D Renderings for All!” is my new motto.


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