Modeling in architectural visualization

After having written the last tutorial – How to model a building, I have been asked by a few architectural illustrators why I don’t use Autocad to model buildings, since “it is more accurate and takes less time”.

Basically these are the 2 main arguments that I heard in favor of modeling in autocad, and after the discussion that I had with these people, I figured that this could make a quite interesting article.

I will try to talk about each argument systematically:

1) The precision issue
First of all, regarding the accuracy thing, it would be foolish of me not to admit that autocad is far more accurate than 3d max. This is why autocad (and other similar software) is used to draw plans and elevations that are used in construction and other areas that require precision, while 3ds max is used in areas where the “visual factor” is more important.
I think that we can all agree that if you are working in architectural visualization your main goal is to create outstanding renderings.

However, I’m also aware of the fact that this type of activity has a very technical component, which is to create the 3d models of the buildings, following accurately the cad files provided by the architect. But what you would define as “accuracy” in this case? If you want to take it to “microscopic” level, than 3d max is definitely not the proper software. The truth is that you don’t need this kind of precision when modeling 3d buildings; who would notice if a wall has 7 meters in the cad drawing and the geometry that you’ve modeled is 4 millimeters longer?

2) Speed
Some may argue that modeling 3d buildings in autocad is faster than in 3d max. If you have a solid cad background, like lots of architectural illustrators, it is absolutely normal to work faster in cad than in max. This is not valid for others, so until someone will be able to prove me wrong, I stand by my opinion that this only depends on each person’s background.
Furthermore, if you need close-ups on some details of the geometry, you may want to chamfer some edges, adjust some smoothing groups, etc., in order to avoid ultra sharp angles between faces that tend to give the image a “CG-ish” look.
If you try to do this in autocad, you have a lot less tools, and even if you manage to do it, there is no guarantee that the result will look the same after being imported in 3ds max. Which brings me to the next issue…

Importing 3d geometry from autocad can be really frustrating.

Inverted normals, chaotic smoothing groups and messed topology of the geometry are some of the most common problems that I have encountered when I needed to import cad geometry provided by the clients.

Basically these are the main reasons why I don’t use autocad to model buildings and I prefer to do it directly in max.

I look forward to hearing your comments/arguments if you don’t agree with what I have written, or if you just have something to add.

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5 Comments
  1. dania says:

    we will be glad if you give us tips for modeling in 3d max

  2. Thanks for commenting dania.
    I’m already doing that :) Check the tutorials on the site.

  3. rod says:

    Alex, you rock. Seems hard to stumble upon the most unselfish person like you who willingly share knowledge in the cg community. Your tutorials and free models has helped newbies like myself a lot in 3d max. Again, thanks a lot bro! BTW, any tutorials on correct methods to mapping materials?

  4. Thanks for the positive feedback and suggestions, rod.
    I will try to do a tutorial about mapping soon; before that I will post one about camera matching though, since I’ve already done a part of it.

  5. jackieteh says:

    i agreed with you Mr. Alex.
    i was facing this problem in previous too,
    but now i didn’t face any problem since start making model in 3ds max, furthermore, i can control the size of the model too. =)

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