Tag Archives: Chief Architect

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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My virtual water cooler — Chieftalk, the Chief Architect user forum

Posted by Kathleen Moore, CastleView 3D:
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In praise of Chieftalk

When you run a solo shop and spend most of your day working alone in a home office, the work may be stimulating but the workday can get a bit lonely.  Although my husband will talk my ear off about pickleball and baseball, he has absolutely no interest in discussing the uses and relative merits of slabs vs. soffits vs. polylines.  In fact, I’d be stunned if I found out that he even knew what those terms meant (in relation to 3D modeling, anyhow)!

But luckily, when I was just starting out in this business some years ago, I found a wonderful resource provided by the Chief Architect company for users of its software:  the ChiefTalk users forum.  There is also a similar resource for users of CA’s consumer-level “Home Designer” products, called HomeTalk.  I actually started out on HomeTalk when I was still using Home Designer Pro, and “graduated” to ChiefTalk a few months later when I upgraded to the professional level software.

I’ve visited a lot of user forums over the years, and I’ve never found any that are both useful and friendly to the degree that ChiefTalk and HomeTalk are.  I learned quickly that some core users are apparently ALWAYS online, willing to answer questions about how to use the software or to help solve problems (which are almost always attributable to user error, of course). These folks rarely get impatient, no matter how many times a question may have been asked before.  Although they might respond with “Have you tried searching the archives?” or “What version of the software are you using?” or “We can help you better if you attach an image or plan,” once a new user understands the forum etiquette and protocol, they are always generous with their time and expertise.

what the heck happened? image - my first question on the Chieftalk forum

Image from one of my first “What the heck happened here?” posts on Chieftalk

As my skill level grew, I stopped asking so many questions and found I was able to start giving back by providing occasional answers and advice in my area of expertise, rendering and raytracing.  By then, the ChiefTalk regulars felt like friends — people I looked forward to interacting with on a regular basis.  We joke around and get silly sometimes, occasionally have heated arguments and discussions, but ultimately get along just fine most of the time.  There is actually a separate sub-forum called “Chatroom” on ChiefTalk (and another one called “Way Off Topic,” accessible via secret password only) for discussions outside the typical software Q&A realm.  We’ve shared important life events like weddings and new babies with each other through pictures.  Some of us have ventured off in different directions, learning together and sharing our successes and failures in constructive ways.

So Lew, Allen, David, Louis, Kay, Bryce, Wendy, Pat, Jintu, Jonathan, Chris, Scott, Pam, and all the rest — even though I’ve never actually met any of you IRL, after all these years you definitely feel like my friends and colleagues.  I’m indebted to each one of you for generously sharing not only your knowledge and expertise, but other important parts of who you are.

I encourage everyone to check out ChiefTalk, if you’re a Chief Architect user — or whatever user forum seems most appropriate for your interests — and work hard to create your own group of  “virtual water cooler” buddies.


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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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What’s new in Chief Architect X4

Posted by , CastleView 3D:

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Chief Architect SoftwareMy favorite 3D architectural modeling software, Chief Architect, will soon release a new version of the program, version X4.

Watch this video to get a summary of new features expected in X4:

http://www.chiefarchitect.com/scripts/flash/whats-new-x4.html

No release date has been announced yet, but rumor has it that it will be sometime this summer.

UPDATE:  Chief X4 was released in July 2011.


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What’s the difference between a 3D render and a raytrace?

Posted by , CastleView 3D:

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When I’m discussing a project with a new client, I often get asked what the difference is between a “render” (or “rendering”) and a “raytrace.”  Sometimes I use all three terms interchangeably, which I’m sure can be confusing.  But are they actually different?  If so, how?

Answers to these questions could (and do) fill entire books and webpages, but I’ll attempt a very simple explanation here (which will still be way too technical for a lot of folks!).

Computer rendering* is a general term for producing an image from a model constructed with 3D modeling software.  3D modeling involves creating a mathematical representation of a three-dimensional object.   Once the model, or mesh, is created, it is possible to take a “camera view” of the object from any angle (hence the term 3D).  The information from the 3D model is transferred to a rendering program to be processed and output as a digital image file, typically using a simple rasterization or scanline rendering method.  Current processors can produce this type of rendering quickly and efficiently, pretty much in real time, and it is what is used in most computer gaming.

Raytracing is a specific type of rendering technique.  The name refers to the way the computer creates the final image — by analyzing the light sources in the scene and computing the paths of the rays (photons) produced by those lights.  The result is a very realistic image including reflections and caustics (light refractions through glass), resulting in lighting and shadows that are close to what would be observed in the real world.  Raytracing algorithms simulate light realistically as it bounces between different objects, calculating the exact color of each pixel based on its material properties and the amount of light it is receiving.  In raytracing, many different algorithms can factor into the computation of a pixel’s final shade, including the material’s absorption, reflection, transparency, translucency, and refraction characteristics.

Raytracing actually proceeds opposite to the way light normally travels, because it works backward, only calculating the paths of photons that actually intersect the camera’s view frame.  Although this makes the process more efficient than if it actually traced the path of every photon emitted from every light source in the scene, it does not always yield the most realistic results.  Other methods which combine both eye-based and light-based ray paths, such as photon mapping and bidirectional path tracing, can yield superior results, especially in scenes involving indirect lighting or caustics.

Rendering is generally less time- and computer-resource-intensive than raytracing. However, technology is improving rapidly and real-time raytracing will soon be an accessible reality.

* Of course there are also the time-honored “artist’s rendering” architectural illustration methods such as pen and ink, watercolor, colored pencil, pastels, etc.  Nowadays, the look of many of these traditional techniques can be produced using computer graphics and photo-editing software.  More on this topic another day.

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So, are you still with me?  What does all this technical stuff mean for someone who wants computer images of their new home or remodeling plans?  An example can demonstrate the differences best.  Here is a comparison of a render versus a raytrace of the same room.  The first image is a Chief Architect rendered camera view of a great room and entryway with curving staircase.  The second image is one I posted the other day, a raytraced image of the same space.

Great room and front hallway - 3D Rendering by CastleView3D.com

3D rendering by CastleView 3D

Great Room and Entry - 3D Raytrace Rendering by CastleView3D.com

3D raytrace by CastleView 3D

In the rendering, you can see that there is some differential shading of surfaces depending on their angle and the amount of light they are receiving.  But overall the scene looks fairly flat.  The lighting in the raytraced image is much more realistic — sunlight coming through the windows, reflections on the polished wood floor, and a greater sense of depth and dimension.

You can view another render-vs-raytrace example here.

Renders are fine for the initial stages of a project, when rough approximations of the look and feel of the space are sufficient for planning purposes.  But once the major decisions have been made, final raytraces are what really bring the space to life and promote confidence in the material and design choices.

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So there you have an oversimplified explanation of the differences between rendering and raytracing.  I was enchanted and enthralled the first time I produced a simple rendering with my beginner-level Home Designer software.  But once I learned how to create raytraces with Chief Architect’s POVray, and later on with Kerkythea and Thea Render, it was impossible to feel satisfied with anything less realistic again.

My sincere apologies to anyone who is more expert in this area than I am.  I’m an intelligent, educated person, but thinking about the technical explanations for all this makes my brain hurt.  I’ve done my best to distill a very complicated topic down to a few paragraphs.  However, I realize I’m in way over my head here, and I’d be delighted to hear a more correct or complete explanation of the differences in the Comments.


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“A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words” – or $1,000 in Your Pocket

Posted by , CastleView 3D:

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Today I’m featuring a guest post by fellow Chief Architect user Chris Brown.  Chris is a Design/Build General Contractor with his own company, Stone Castle Homes, in Republic, Missouri (contact Chris at chrisdbrown@att.net).  His post today is directed mainly at builders and home designers who aren’t currently using 3D renderings in their work with clients.


I find that dealing with most builders on the subject of 3D renderings (especially raytracing) is like trying to teach an old dog new tricks. Builders don’t want to do it because they don’t want to pay for it. When I design a custom home for a builder, the builder just doesn’t know how to talk to his client about the benefits of the 3D renderings, and therefore it almost never gets done. But when the builder allows me to talk directly to the clients and show them examples, the clients always want it.

Seeing examples always changes a client’s mind, even if they’re not enthusiastic about the idea to start.  When I show them samples from my previous projects, instantly, it’s “Yeah, we’ll pay for that!”  They appreciate the value immediately of being able to see the finished product before the ground is even dug.

In the olden days, plans were hand-drawn, just line drawings; even when CAD came along, they were still just line drawings for a long time.  This leaves a lot to the imagination.  But nowadays, 3D renderings provide the wow! factor – it gives clients the opportunity to actually SEE what their finished home will look like.  Which do you think a client would rather see?  This…….

Custom home floorplan

Floor plan for custom home

Or this………….

3D Rendering of Main Living Area by CastleView3D.com

3D Raytrace of Main Living Area by CastleView 3D

A builder today can make an extra $1,000-5,000 per house by using good 3D renderings.  Renderings allow you to put in all the extras, like crown molding and granite countertops, right from the start, and let the client see how they will look.  Once they’ve seen the top-of-the-line version, then their budget can dictate what to take out, rather than trying to do it the other way around.

It’s taking time, but I finally have some builders coming around on this 3D rendering stuff.  There are some key ways to talk to builders.  You just have to keep at them, and keep explaining the benefits:

  • No change orders
  • Better relationship with client
  • Better communication with client
  • Quicker build
  • More money

Builders can also use the 3D renderings for advertising – a sign on the lawn, brochures, website, etc.

For Chief Architect users, if you don’t learn how to make nice raytraces, you are leaving money on the table. You’ve already done the work, made the 3D model, so why not make a little more money while providing a great service to your clients?

Clients can even seek out a 3D designer first, before they meet with a builder, who can help them work out their ideas.  Then they can bring the finished pictures to their builder.  This is beneficial to both parties, because builders often don’t ask all the questions they should when trying to determine a bid, about the thousands of details that go into a project.  Renderings give them something more definite to work from.

In addition, with the economy the way it is, clients need to be even more sure they’re getting what they want, and 3D renderings are the most cost-effective way to insure that.  “Seeing is believing,” and being able to see what their finished home will look like will inspire confidence.

When a project is completed, I sometimes ask the client about their 3D images: “Was that worth the money?”  And I’m sure you can guess what their answer is.


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Learning 3D modeling by copying the “old masters”

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

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When I was first learning to do 3D modeling and rendering back in 2007, I decided to try an exercise that many art students are given in their studies:  learning by copying the old masters.  With sketchbooks and pencils in hand, students visit the world’s great art museums to learn about an artist’s technique by trying to duplicate it themselves.

For my learning exercise, I decided that my “old masters” would be architectural and interior designers whose work I admired.  So I gathered a collection of photos from the web, many from Architectural Digest (which is, in my opinion, the best place to see consistently fine examples of both interior and exterior design).  I set myself the task of trying to learn something about their design techniques, as well as mastering my own modeling and rendering software tools, by trying to reproduce the photos as 3D renderings. I feel this approach really taught me a lot, and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to improve their 3D skills.

Now that I’ve been at this for almost 4 years, I still occasionally do this exercise, simply because it provides an excellent insight into a designer’s mind to try to understand why they did things the way they did in the building or room I’m studying.

Room designed by Suzanne Lovell

Room designed by interior designer Suzanne Lovell (photo from an article in Sept. 2007 Architectural Digest)

Recently, instead of tackling a new challenge, I decided to revisit one of my old favorite inspirations, a lovely room created by awesomely talented interior designer Suzanne Lovell in her own townhouse in Chicago.  Her home was written up in a 2007 article in AD (which unfortunately is no longer available online).

I liked my original rendering so much that I had been using it for years in my portfolio on the CastleView 3D website, despite the fact that it was a very early example and wasn’t actually produced for a real client.  But because the rendering software I use now (Kerkythea) is much more sophisticated than what I was using in 2007, I wanted to see how much the image could be improved simply by using the new tool.

I didn’t change my original model except to import it into Chief Architect X3 (to enable VRML export), but instead spent time tweaking the lighting and textures in the imported file within Kerkythea.  Below is a comparison of my original image with the most recent one (you’ll need to click to enlarge the images for a decent comparison).  You can see that in the 2007 version, the render engine wasn’t able to produce reflections, or even shadows!

2011 3D Rendering by CastleView3D.com of room designed by Suzanne Lovell

My recent update (April 2011), using the same model but re-rendered in Kerkythea

2007 3D Rendering by CastleView3D.com of room designed by Suzanne Lovell

My original 2007 rendering, modeled and rendered in Home Designer Pro

Of course I’m much happier with the more recent version, although as I look at the final product there are still things I would like to change in my addictive quest for photorealistic perfection.

Perhaps I’ll work on improving some of my original modeling, and post an update later. But in the meantime, this new image is definitely replacing the old one on my website!


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