Tag Archives: renderings

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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Wishing you a three-dimensional holiday season

Posted by Kathleen Moore, CastleView 3D:
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Season’s Greetings, Everyone…

CastleView 3D wishes you a very 3D holiday season:
  • Delightful
  • Delicious
  • Deeply meaningful

It's Snowing!  Holiday Greetings gif image from CastleView 3D

(Click here to make it snow!  But it’s a big image–give it time to load completely)*
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As the year comes to an end, I get reflective about everything that has happened over the year.  This has definitely been an eventful year for me personally as well as for CastleView 3D — and the success of this blog is one of the highlights.  I’d like to offer my sincere thanks to you for reading Life Should Be 3D this year, and wish you a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year!

Let me know if there are any 3D-related topics you’d like to see covered here. I’m always looking for information on new software, tips on modeling or rendering techniques, and inspirational rendered images. And while you’re at it, how about making a New Year’s resolution to write  a guest post for this blog?  Just contact me with your ideas — I’m always on the lookout for interesting new ideas, projects, products, and points of view to share.

I hope your holidays are rich in everything that’s most meaningful to you.  See you in 2012!

Kathleen


*The snowfall is created using a fun little freeware app called Sqirlz Water Reflections.  Sqirlz is a quick way to add basic rain, snow, reflection, and/or ripple animations to any still image, and can save the results in AVI, GIF, or Flash format.  You can see another example I created using Sqirlz here.

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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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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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Another inspiration (#2)

Posted by , CastleView 3D:

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I wanted to share a 3d rendering I’ve had in my inspiration file for awhile.  I don’t know who did this, and the only identification I saved with the image is that it’s from a site called Renderings.com.

I love the attention to detail in this image.  The lighting is excellent, and the lens flare effect (I think that’s what it’s called) is very effective.  The modelling is virtually flawless.  The fabrics on the sofa look very realistic to me, as does the stone floor.

In fact, if I didn’t tell you this was a rendering, you probably would have thought it was a photo.  And that’s the holy grail for people like me who love photorealistic renderings.  When someone tells me one of my images “looks just like a photograph,” I consider that the highest compliment!

I went back to the Renderings.com site to see if I could find out who created this rendering, but the site has changed quite a bit and I wasn’t able to find this particular image.  The company specializes in renderings for high-end real estate marketing.  There are many other great 3D images on their site of large apartment complexes, condos, and resorts, including some impressive animations.  Check this one out:


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Reasons for NOT using 3D images for your building or remodeling project

Posted by , CastleView 3D:

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What are some reasons for NOT using 3D images for your project? 

There aren’t any. 

You might think cost could be a reason.  If so, then either:

  1. You haven’t fully understood the value of 3Ds, and/or
  2. You haven’t found the right professional to create them for you.

For help with #1, read How to estimate the value of 3D visualization, A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, Deep thoughts on 3D Biz, or 3D Rendering with Chief Architect.  These posts from seasoned 3D designers and artists should make the cost to value ratio abundantly clear.

For help with #2, contact me at CastleView 3D, and if I’m not the right person for your project, I can refer you to one of the other professionals I know.

Other “reasons”:

  • Time:  See #1 above.
  • Scope:  See #1 and 2 above.
  • “I wouldn’t know who to ask or how to get started”:  See my answer to #2 above.
  • “My architect/builder/designer doesn’t do 3Ds”:  See my answer to #2 above.  There are many 3D design and rendering specialists who can work hand-in-hand with your current architect or builder, or we can work directly with you on images that you can use to improve communication with your builder.
  • “I’m not exactly sure what I want yet”:  See #2 above.  Some 3D professionals specialize in creating concept images to help you choose the features and design elements that are most important to you.

So you can see that there really are no valid reasons not to utilize 3D renderings and raytraces for your building, remodeling, or decorating project, unless you’re the type of person who enjoys big — and possibly unpleasant — surprises.

3D images are a valuable asset for improving communication, ultimately saving you time, money, AND sleepless nights!

3D Kitchen Rendering by CastleView3D.com

Kitchen Remodel -- Design by Louie Carter of Grayson Homes; 3D rendering by CastleView 3D


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Deep thoughts on 3D Biz from Kay

Posted by , CastleView 3D:

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Today I’m featuring a guest post from friend and  colleague Kay Nordby, Owner of 3DPlanView.  As you’ll see below, she has been working in the 3D design field for quite awhile and has a valuable perspective on the business.  Kay is a very smart, talented, kind, and funny lady  — and I’m proud to say that she was my teacher and mentor when I first started learning Chief Architect. 


Kay says:

There are some typical search phrases that visitors use to find my business, www.3dplanview.com:  “I want to see 3D pictures of my floorplan,”  “floorplans with 3D pictures,” and “3d floorplan.”  Some of these people already have blueprints, while others are looking to purchase a set of blueprints after looking at 3D pictures.  These folks want to see 3D pictures BEFORE they begin to build.

I have been doing 3Ds for decades, and I have not talked to a single person who says, “No, I would rather NOT have 3D pictures of my home. I want the house to be a BIG surprise when it is done.”  The problem comes when the cost is factored in. Folks are not required to have 3D images to build a home, like they are required to have a blueprint and permits.  When it is time to cut dollars from the budget, 3Ds begin to seem like too much of a luxury.

So who is willing to pay?

Clients who are resistant in the beginning to pay for 3Ds quickly understand their value as soon as they see an area of their own floorplan.   I have landed jobs because I provided a “tease” drawing.  Give folks a taste for 3Ds and they most often want more.  Those who have built a home before and know the cost of a change order are willing to pay.  Those who are familiar with 3D software are also willing to pay, as they understand just how much time and effort it takes to generate a 3D rendering.  Builders who are seeking an edge over their competition are willing to pay, and developers who are building multi-unit projects are often willing to pay for a fully decorated “model home” that they use to “pre-sell” and market each available floorplan.

3D Kitchen Rendering by 3DPlanView.com

3D Kitchen Rendering by 3DPlanView.com

Still, my most grateful clients are the individuals building their dream home.  Often they have been working with an architect, and they are disturbed when they find that 3D renderings will not be given to them with their blueprint.  When their architect flatly declines to deliver 3Ds, these folks set out to get help.  Often they come to me, frustrated.  The architect is telling them to trust his vision.  They are not clear on what the architect has shown them.  Or they have their own ideas, but their spouse cannot grasp it.  Nobody “sees” what the others are thinking.

Then they get their 3Ds. More often than not, the clients do love the home their architect has drawn.  They get on board with his vision. And some clients have even joked with me that the pictures have prevented divorce.  One gal took it a step further and said the 3Ds prevented murder!  CLEARLY she was more than a little frustrated with her hubby.

3Ds provide understanding.  Understanding leads to peace of mind, ease of compromise, and a house design to love.

Most builders welcome a buyer who comes with a set of 3Ds in hand.  They know these are clients who have thought through their wish list in great detail.  They have pondered all the options and are happy with their decision.  The builder has a full color picture of what their client wants. There is no fuzzy area because client and builder have a standard to work toward and a common vision.  3Ds eliminate change orders so a project is delivered on time and on budget.  One builder put it this way:  “Communication is the key to building client trust and a home the client loves… and there is no better way to communicate than a picture.”


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