Tag Archives: Architectural Rendering

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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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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