Tag Archives: Visualization

A 3d rendering haiku

Posted by , CastleView 3D:

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Just a brief poetic postscript to my “clairvoyance” post the other day:  🙂

stacking electrons

pretty pixel pictures bloom

the future appears

3D rendering of garden pool with floating waterlilies by CastleView3d.com

3D rendering by CastleView 3D


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

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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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The ’80s called — they want their bathroom back!

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I recently got a call from a friend.  He and his wife are planning to put their house on the market soon, and are sprucing it up to get it ready to sell.  It’s a beautiful, unique builder’s home, situated high on a hill with an incredible view.  But the home was built in the 1980s, and some features have never been updated.

Their concern right now is the master bath.  It’s a lovely space with skylights, lots of mirrors, and a garden tub.  It has “good bones.”  But the cabinets and countertop are mauve-colored laminate.

In case you don’t know what “mauve” is (and trust me, you are not the only one), consider this definition from Wikipedia:  “Mauve (rhymes with “stove”) is a pale lavender-lilac color, one of many in the range of purples.  Mauve is more grey and more blue than a pale tint of magenta would be… Sometimes mauve can be considered a dirty pink or a shade of purple.  Mauve can also be described as pale violet.”

Well thanks, Wikipedia — that really clears things up.

1980s Mauve Laminate BathroomI think “grayish pink” actually comes closest in this case.  Mauve was a very popular color for decorating in the 1980s, particularly in business offices and dentist’s waiting rooms, and especially when combined with gray or teal.  (Did I mention that this bathroom has a gray tub and sinks?)  When my friends first bought the house, the same charming mauve laminate was also on all the kitchen cabinets and the dining room built-ins!  Mauve overload!  Luckily all of that was replaced early on.

My friends want to bring their bathroom into this millenium, but without spending a lot of money on it — just enough to make the bath a selling feature rather than a liability.  So they asked for my assistance in envisioning what a coat of paint over the laminate, a new solid surface countertop with vessel sinks, and new carpeting could do for the space.  CastleView 3D to the rescue!

After measuring the space and taking photos, I created a 3D model of their bath using Chief Architect.  I added the vessel sinks and Corian countertop they wanted, “painted” the mauve laminate cabinets a neutral shade of ivory, and put in a new carpet.  The raytraced images below show how much these small changes will improve and enhance their bath.  Goodbye, mauve!

3D Rendering of Bathroom Remodel by CastleView 3D

3D Rendering of Bathroom Remodel by CastleView 3D

3D Bathroom Rendering by CastleView3D.com

3D Rendering of Bathroom Remodel by CastleView 3D


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Real, or 3D?

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I’m not 100% certain, but I believe this fascinating yacht design, from South Korean designer Hyun-Seok Kim, is all 3d modeling and rendering, not photographs.

Click the photo to see a series of wonderful images of the interior and exterior, published in the web magazine Yanko Design.  What do you think?

I’m not typically a yacht sort of person, but I think I could be comfortable spending an extended stay on this one.


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Google SketchUp: An easy way to get your 3D feet wet

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I was delighted to learn today that one of my favorite bloggers, Annie Elliott of bossy color blog, is working on a handbook for interior designers about Google’s SketchUp 3D modeling application. The book is being co-authored with Bonnie Roskes of 3D Vinci, and will be published by Pearson, a well-known higher ed publishing company, at the end of this year.

Annie is an interior designer in Washington, DC.  As you might expect, given the name of her firm — bossy color — Annie “never passes up an opportunity to nudge her clients toward unexpected color palettes.” She writes a popular, entertaining, and informative blog about interior design and the importance of overcoming your fear of color, which I always look forward to reading.

Bonnie is a structural engineer who started writing and publishing professional-level books and tutorials on SketchUp and other 3D applications almost 10 years ago. She has continued producing professional books, including her intermediate-advanced level Google Sketchup Cookbook.  But when her own children got interested in 3D modeling, she realized that it can also be an engaging tool for kids, and added many instructional projects for children of various ages.  Now 3D Vinci’s [love the name!] special niche is 3D design in education and for kids.  Their mission is “To help everyone think and create in 3D.”  (Obviously a company that totally gets that “Life Should Be 3D“!)

I look forward to reading their new book when it comes out, and seeing the tips and advice they offer on how to use SketchUp for 3D visualization of room designs.  As I mentioned in my last post the other day about my recent trip to the local home show, I was amazed that more of the interior designers weren’t using 3D tools in their design work.

By the way, just in case you’ve never heard of SketchUp, it’s a 3D modeling tool that was introduced in 1999 and acquired by Google in 2006.  SketchUp is fairly intuitive and easy to learn how to use.  You can build models from scratch, or download what you need from the Google 3D Warehouse, where people from all over the world have shared what they’ve made. You can even place your models in Google Earth.

Anyone can create 3D models with SketchUp.  You can see a long list of SketchUp’s impressive capabilities and features here.  And you can download the basic version of SketchUp for free here.  Yes, that’s right — FREE.  So now there is absolutely no reason not to try your hand at 3D modeling.  You just might get hooked!

A simple house modeled in SketchUp, from Google Warehouse

A simple house modeled in SketchUp, from Google Warehouse

 


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A distinctly two-dimensional Home Show

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2011 Home & Garden Show

I spent some time today wandering around our local Home & Garden Show at the Convention Center. This annual show, sponsored by the Home Builders’ Association, is a very popular event. More than 170 vendors, decorating and home improvement seminars, culinary demonstrations, wine tastings, and beautiful spring garden displays — complete with water features — are some of the highlights.

3D Rendering for Master Bath Remodel by CastleView3d.com

3D Bathroom Remodel Rendering by CastleView 3D

Chatting with one of the local remodelers I know (I did 3D renderings for a bathroom remodel he worked on), it seemed that business was good — he said his company is already booked up with work until August.  So things seem to be picking up again in the home building and remodeling industry.

But I was surprised at how few of the exhibitors seem to be using the power of 3D visualization to connect with their potential clients and customers. Only three or four that I saw were offering that as a service or using 3D renderings in their advertising or displays. One man that I spoke with, a pool and spa builder/installer, had a lovely 3D fly-around running on a large monitor in his booth. It showed a house with a beautiful in-ground pool plus a large hot tub on a deck. He could switch back and forth between a daytime view and a nighttime view that included great lighting effects in the pool and near the house. It was quite a visual treat and drew a lot of traffic to his booth. He said he had modeled it himself using a special software for pool designers.

It seems a shame, considering all the money people might be shelling out for building and remodeling projects, that home show exhibitors aren’t taking the opportunity to a) entice them with the possibility of what their project could be, and b) alleviate some of their anxiety about the unknown, which might make them more willing to shell out that money in the first place.  An excellent selling and marketing tool is being under-utilized.

Next year I plan to be an exhibitor myself, so I’ll be able to talk with people directly and get them excited about the benefits of “seeing it before you build it” with 3D visualization!


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