Architectural rendering from the Casa Del Mar project
 
Archiform 3D

3D Architectural Renderings - how to spot the ducks from the drakes

If you're frustrated with all the 3D geek speak, acronyms and sales people pushing 3D renderings down your throat then your going to enjoy this page. The industry has had a few companies enter it that are, as we would consider, sharks.

Archiform 3D prides itself on complete transparency and disclosure. We are real artists, actually doing the work ourselves, and we pride our relationship with all our clients and peers within the industry. And we aren't the only ones! So read through and learn what you need to look for before you order a project.

Architectural 3D Rendering techniques that you should be looking for

Did you ever get a scene that looked flat or lifeless? Did the trees in landscaping follow you around like creepy eyes in a haunted house portrait, or did they spin around like they are on roller skates? Read on and you may learn why.

Real 3D landscaping

Many artists take shortcuts with landscaped scenes. This is because 3D landscaping is complex and often above the means of many normal computer systems. We have a whole page devoted to landscape renderings and how to pick a good one.

Archiform 3D's landscaping is pure 3D, realistic and highly detailed. read the article and get an understanding of what makes a good landscaped scene from a bad one.

Radiosity

We have an entire page devoted to this too. Put simply, the best 3D companies use radiosity or Global illumination to simulate perfect real-world lighting in scenes. Read the Radiosity Rendering pages to get the whole picture. Radiosity can also be used for interior 3D animations too, and the best of the best will incorporate this technique into fly-through video scenes. Make sure that if you are getting animations from artists that sell you radiosity stills that the animations are also radiosity.

Archiform 3D is a world leader in advanced rendering techniques, including the best quality rendered animations.

Flat 2D objects in 3D scenes

This is an interesting point and your view on it should be very conditional. Over the years some 3D artists have used flat 2D pictures composited into a 3D scene using photoshop. The result is quite realistic, in fact sometimes it's almost perfect. If you want one picture only then this can be a good technique, but if you need more than one then you have problems, extra work, limitations and a lot of extra costs. A scene with flat objects cant be animated as there is no true 3D depth.

Archiform 3D makes perfect true 3D objects and uses them in all interior 3D scenes. We avoided using flat objects because they lack flexibility.

Choosing the right 3D rendering company

Portfolio

It makes sense that you should be able to quickly view a large and varied portfolio of work online. Not just the best images from a few projects but a complete spectrum of many projects and everything in them. Most companies only display the images that they want you to see, and the ones that are not quite up to scratch or are of lacklustre projects never see the light of day. Insist on seeing all the images, not just a few. You need to be able to accept the work typical to what you will be getting, not just what their salesman wants to show you.

Archiform 3D's portfolio is extensive, detailed and follows our warts and all policy. It goes back years, so you can watch the evolution of us, our quality and the technology as a whole.

Showreel

All good 3D companies have a high-quality showreel that you can download right now. A good real will show diversity, quality, superb animation and maybe a background of the company. A company with nothing to hide will ensure you can download a wealth of information before you make a choice.

You can download our showreel right now. There are a few versions for you to choose from.

Who is your contact?

Ask if you are going to be able to talk directly to the person working on your 3D artwork. If your job is complex in any way then it's likely you will need some one on one time with the person working on it. If a companies artwork is being done by some low paid guy in a non-english speaking country then you may have some real problems communicating. Most companies that do their work with such a system will tell you that the salesperson is the artist, but don't be fooled. Middle-men are trouble for a project, so avoid them, and the guy that came into your office selling 3D services does that for a living: sell, not create artwork.

Archiform 3D does not employ salespeople. You can talk to the person actually working on your job.

 

3D pricing structures

3D Rendering is a very different process to traditional artwork, and the pricing should be different. But some companies price traditionally, which has some major pitfalls (for you) when working on complete projects. Following are some key areas you should watch.

Pricing by the 3D rendering

Sounds simple at first, right? You pay so much for a picture - how simple! Based on traditional methods this is the right way to charge because each picture has to be painted as would each subsequent one. But 3D is different and the picture is the by product of setting up a scene. Some 3D companies prey on your ignorance to this concept and actually still charge you for EACH picture! You get hooked on what may look like a cheap price for the first one but pay a whole lot more when you need a complete set. It's an old technique to many industries, but that doesn't mean you need to fall for it. If you want to get the upper hand on someone that prices by the rendering then give them a very complex, expansive scene then tell them you will only pay for one image!

Archiform 3D charges by the scene, not the still. We offer your additional still images for free.

Pricing by the minute

This method of pricing almost seems fair, until you learn about it. Each second or minute of animated 3D video footage does not require any human work at all. It is an unattended process! The time to create the animated footage is spent by computers, so while a 3D artists has to pay for the computers the cost is negligible compared to real work by real people. It is easy for an artist to spend a week to do the work and then have the scene render unattended for another 3 weeks. Better still (for the artist), clients always want extra footage!

Archiform 3D charges by the scene, not the minute.

Extra fees for 3D stills or high-resolution renderings

Oh, if only we did this - we would be rich! This is the sneakiest catch of them all. Many companies will charge you to produce a still image from the animation path of a presentation. It's like the previously mentioned "Price by 3D rendering" above. But the human work involved in doing this normally doesn't exceed 10 minutes. It's like a money tree that gets shaken every time you (the client) asks for still images. Some companies also charge extra for higher-resolution images. This takes an artist about 5 minutes.

Like we said, we charge by the scene, not the rendering, still or resolution.

Extra fees for producing your work on-time

The most exploited lurk in the industry. They offer a cheap price up front but enforce a higher rate if you want the job quicker. It is a fact that almost every job is in a hurry so you are almost forced every time to pay extra. And then you may not get all the information to the artist on time so if you still want your job to meet the deadline you will have to pay extra. Surcharges or higher rates for faster service are just a sneaky way to ensure you pay more than what the advertised price is.

Other issues

Proof

Architectural 3D services, like any other service, should be researched. Don't just ask the questions, demand the proof. Fortunately most 3D companies and artists are honest hardworking people that will be glad to back up what they say and show.

The ways of a Shark

There are some companies that more or less just send their work offshore with little or no real talent on hand for you to communicate with. Once they have sold you on a few good images you are at their mercy, or worse, you are at the mercy of some person that you may never even talk to. These companies or middlemen may be fine if you only need low quality work and/or a cheap price, but they are never any good for a large project or a long term relationship.

Simple proof of whether you are dealing with a middleman is whether that person can actually, physically produce the work he or she shows you.

Large companies or small?

The size of the company has no relevance to final quality, in fact it is often the smallest companies that produce the most outstanding work. What you need to be most sure of is if they have the resources to do your project. Large sometimes means lower quality and less stringent control. Small sometimes means a more personal touch and eye for detail but fewer time slots to take on new projects. An honest small company should tell you if they are too busy to complete your project when you need it.

And in support of the small company, you will find that the staff and management really glad to have you as a client.

Render farms and hardware resources

Render farms, something Archiform 3D was of the very first to implement, are an array of computers that process out 3D artwork. The more processing power a company has the quicker it can produce the final renderings. If you want to asses a render farm you need to look at 2 things:

  1. Age of systems. A render farm might be large, but if it is a second hand system that was running 2 years ago then it's likely to be considered junk today! In fact we have learnt that it is not even viable to feed electricity into anything over 2 years old. Advances in technology are so great that systems are often rebuilt or replaced within a year. At Archiform 3D we use state of the art 64bit systems that are constantly upgraded, improved and made faster.
  2. Number of CPUs per artist. It's pointless having a large render farm if you say you have even more artists. That means each artist doesn't even have exclusive access to just one machine. At Archiform 3D we try to keep our average at about 150 state of the art CPUs per 3D artist, a figure that is to our knowledge unmatched. If an artist cant have exclusive access to at least 10 CPUs on average then there will be serious slow-downs in production.

Our Conclusion

This industry is moving fast and it's made from specialized, dedicated people that get more of a kick from producing great artwork and making clients happy than almost anything else. But it's growth also attracts the wrong type of people and the typically bad business practices. Fortunately there are far more good companies than sharks, and by making a few simple examinations you will pick the good ones.

Do you have any comments or suggestions about this article? Are you a 3d artist that would like to add his or her 2 cents? If so then please drop us a line.

Updated November 2005




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