Architectural visualization Archive

Architectural Renderings

If you are one of the loyal readers, you most probably already know that I keep this blog as hobby, and whenever I have some spare time, I write a tutorial related to cg, or post some free 3d model.

As you have noticed by reading the “about the author” page, I run a studio that provides architectural renderings, and I have been doing this since 2004.

For about 4 years the design of the website has remained unchanged. Although at the beginning it was ok for what we needed, within time we found out that it was quite difficult to update it, due to the fact that the portfolio section was based on flash. Furthermore, with the browsers evolving so fast, we have noticed that some latest versions weren’t showing the content properly. So it was definitely time for a change.

We have therefore decided to skip all the bells and whistles (flash animations, intro, etc.) and go for a wordpress based platform. We intend to keep it like this for a while and see what kind of feedback we receive, and think about a re-design in a few months if we consider it necessary.

I would appreciate it very much if you could let me know what you think about it (from the navigation point of view, design, color scheme, and the renderings shown in the portfolio section).

Bellow are a few examples of renderings, that are directly linked to the appropiate category of our site.

Photomontage Renderings

Interior Renderings

Exterior Renderings

Best regards,

Alex Mincinopschi

Camera match tutorial

Photomontage renderings, if done right, can be a lot more appealing and realistic than standard architectural renderings.
The reason why this happens is that a real environment with dust, dirt, scratches and imperfections, by definition looks better than a computer generated one.

Furthermore, creating the entire scene in 3d can prove to be very time consuming, and if you are working in the architectural visualization business you know that deadlines are usually very tight and you can not afford to lose more time working on the environment than on the building.

Having said this, let’s start with the tutorial. Usually photomontages are used for exterior renderings, but in order to keep this tutorial as simple as it can be, I have chosen an interior environment.

Taking the photo
The most important thing when taking a photo that you will later use for camera match is to take as many accurate measurements as possible (you will need at least 5 reference points). Take a look at the photo below (click on it to view a higher resolution image)

As you can see, the dimensions are noted on all 3 axis (horizontal, longitudinal and vertical).

The next step is to bring the photo into 3ds max. Click on “views”, “viewport background”, or just click “alt+b” (shortcut for 3ds max 9).
Under background source, chose the image you need and select “match bitmap” under aspect ratio.

Tick “display background” and select “active only” (with the perspective viewport active).
Click the image to view a higher resolution one

Now it’s time to model some basic geometry that we will later match with the photo.
Make sure that under “units setup” in the preferences drop down menu the units are set to the same ones noted when you made the measurements (in this case, centimeters).

You don’t need to model anything fancy… just a set of planes with the same dimensions as some elements in your scene. You need a 90.5×45 cm plane for the table top, a 20×20.2 plane for the vase and another plane placed at a distance of 4.6 centimeters behind the table top for the wall.

At this point it’s time to match the points of our geometry with the ones from the photo.
With the perspective viewport activated go to “create”, “helpers”, “camera match”, “cam point”. With the snap toggle on, start creating cam points at the corners of the table top plane, and at the top corners of the plane for the vase.
Click the image to view a higher resolution one

Go to the “utilities tab” and click “camera match”. You will see the list with all the cam points you have created in the previous step.

Select cam point 01, and click “assign position”. Now click the top left corner of the table top on the background image. By doing this you will tell the software that the cam point 01 needs to be placed at the position you have indicated.
Repeat this step for all the cam points.
Click the image to view a higher resolution one

After having done this, click on “create camera”. If everything has been done correctly, this step will automatically generate a camera that matches the view of the photo.
If you place a 3d model on the 90.5×45 plane in your scene, it will appear to be on the table top when rendered.
Click the image to view a higher resolution one

General camera match advices
As I said at the beginning of the tutorial, camera match can help you create a photorealistic rendering in a shorter amount of time. However, it has a downside too; unlike a standard 3d rendering, you can not change the angle later, so it is better to take several photos of the environment and explain to the client that he needs to decide upon a view and he can not change his mind later.

Taking dimensions for an exterior photomontage can proof to be more difficult than in the example shown in this tutorial. Therefore it is good idea to have objects with standard dimensions in your photos (like lighting posts, traffic signs, etc.)

Bellow are 2 examples of photomontage renderings that I have done using this techniques (click on the images to view high resolution renderings).

4 Tips to Make Your Architectural Renderings Better

Bellow is a small list of things that I consider important when doing architectural visualization (or any other subject, as long as it is supposed to be a photorealistic rendering), and from what I see in the image galeries, a lot of people don’t seem to care about.

1)    Use chamfered edges, especially in close-ups
In real life there’s no such thing as “razor sharp” edges. Take a look at the objects around you and notice that every edge is more or less rounded. Although in the cad files provided by the architects you will never see this, keep it in mind when building the 3d model. Bellow are a few images that illustrate better what I’m trying to say.

(click on an image to view a higher resolution one)

Chamfered edges not only will make your 3d models look more real, but also may “catch” specular highlights which will give more depth to the rendering.

2)    Don’t use 100% black or 100% white colors.
The explanation for this is very simple. To “show” an object’s volume you need to have highlighted areas, shaded areas and mid tones. This is one of the first things that you learn at art school. If a material that is assigned to a 3d model has a 100% black color in the diffuse channel, there will be no visible difference between the mid tones and the shaded areas and it will make your model look flat. Same thing goes for 100% white objects, only this time there will be no significant difference between light areas and mid tones.

3)    Blur parameter from 1 to 0.1
By default, the blur parameter in the bitmap’s “coordinates” rollout is set to 1. This causes the textures to look blurred, especially if they are looked at from an angle. By setting this parameter to 0.1, will make the texture look sharper and therefore more real (it will also increase the rendering times though…)

4)    Always use area shadows.
If you are doing an exterior rendering, you need to control the sharpness of the shadow, depending on the time of the day. In the morning the shadow is very soft, and it gets sharper and sharper until mid-day; after that moment, it softens again until night.
Even at mid-day the shadow is not 100% sharp though so you still need to use area shadow, just adjust the parameter to make it less soft. The photo below has been taken at mid day; take a look at it to see how crisp/soft is the shadow.

Same goes for artificial lighting. Some fixtures cast a subtle shadow, while others (like spotlights) cast a sharper one, but again you should always use area shadows and adjust the parameters accordingly.

Hope these were helpful; feel free to add to the list if you wish.

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.