The Process of Creating 3D Architectural Renderings

3D renderings come as second nature to us, so we often take our knowledge for granted. But to our clients the only part understood is the briefing, the alterations and the final quality. That's fine by us, or we would be be out of a job!

So clients can understand the basic process, and therefore how they can help or where hold-ups exist, we have created this rough guide. Keep in mind, these notes are only for the actual 3D architectural rendering and animation process and not any DVD production, web design, etc.

To simplify these notes we have broken the process into sections. Choose any starting point, but the beginning is best:

Step 1 - Quoting & submissions
Step 2 - The brief
Step 3 - Architectural 3D structural model
Step 4 - 3D scene & proofs
Step 5 - Animating
Step 6 - Final delivery, media authoring
Step 7 - Follow up

Please note that these processes are a guide and sometimes change to suit your own workflow, deadlines or information available from the architect or designers.

Step 1 - Quoting the job

We have simplified the production quoting process over the years. What used to be a day or more of writing a submission is now just a few minutes to fill in a form. Then you can email or phone us to get a quote on paper.

To prepare your submission we need the following:

Basic plans or design sketches
We need to work out the extent of scenes that we create. Seeing as we provide so much more value because we price by the scene we need to know what type of scene to create. We understand you have an idea of what the project is about, but right now we have absolutely no idea. basic sketches is all we need. You could send us CAD files, PDF files or just take a picture of it with your iPhone.
Your general marketing strategy 
To determine what you need from us we need to determine what you need our work for. If it's just for a magazine or newspaper advertisement then the needs are far less than if you need a 3D animated video presentation.
Approximate time frames
We move fast, but we cant do the impossible. We may need to tailor your presentation to suit the available time, or stage the work over time to allow for the release of different types of media. Some companies will tell you anything to secure your work - but not us. We would rather be up-front about time frames than let you down later.

Once we know what we have to achieve we will then quote the job. Our prices are kept uniform and we will provide you with a detailed breakdown of what we are charging for each component of work. You can then analyze the proposal, add and subtract if you need, compare prices and when you are ready just sign the included order form and email it to us.

We will gladly supply you with multiple submissions so you can compare what level of service you need.

As a general rule our prices are reasonably competitive for single 3D renderings and extremely competitive for multiple image jobs or anything beyond just one image. Considering that you would normally need a few images to complete the presentation we are often the best priced.

Step 2 - the brief

We require a certain amount of architectural, design and construction information to get started. The level of detail required is variable, with only your desire for accuracy being the deciding factor. We can start with basic architectural information and use "artistic license" to fill in the gaps but you must be prepared to live with (and pay for) alterations.

To start work we need the following:

Architectural plans
The plans are used to create the 3D structure. The more detail you have the more accurate the model will be. If our scene includes a kitchen then we will need kitchen plans. If it has special doors then we will need details of them. Think of what a builder would need and then send us the details.

If you don't have access to complete plans then we can prepare our models from what you have and add a bit of "creative license", but you must be prepared to pay for changes if you want to use the process to resolve your designs.

Design finishes and colors
We require all interior and exterior finishes and colors. Remember, we create a scene as though it was real, so we need to create all surfaces to perfection. The brief can be from photographs and or samples. You can also quote details from paint manufacturers for us to replicate colors and textures.
Interior furniture design and choices
This used to be difficult, and for most companies it still is. Some time ago we invested time and money into creating the most simplistic furniture selection tools available - a simple catalogue. You can choose from a vast range of pre-made examples, hundreds of furniture pieces and then change colors, fabrics and grains to suit yourself.

You can also have your interior decorator supply us with an exact brief and we charge no extra for this. The interior decorator's brief MUST be complete and you will be charged for any alteration or addition to the brief beyond the initial issue. For example, after we set up the scene if you or your decorator/designer wants to add more or different furniture we will charge by the hour.

Further notes on briefing for interior designs in 3D are located on this website

Landscaping design
It's rare that a client will have detailed landscaping plans this early throughout the project. That is OK! We have an extensive library of plants and details and can create almost any design style. Usually the architect has designated the "hard landscaping" areas, which is important. We then need to fill the planted areas.

The minimum we need for this is a designation of major trees and species, shrubs, minor trees, undergrowth and details. All you need to get the message across is a picture. You may not know the botanical details of what's in your head, but it's likely you can find or take a picture of what you're after.

We understand that your timelines can be critical and sometimes the information doesn't come in as timely a fashion as you may have hoped. We can live with that and will work through it with you, but you must understand that delays will occur. We have created notes to aid you with this process.

Step 3 - the 3D model

Building in 3D is different to physical building but the visual result is the same. We build a virtual reality wall in seconds, whereas a builder takes days, months or years to make a real one. Our wall is built from 3D polygon faces that exist within a computer data file, the builder's wall is real.

Similar to real life, we cant decorate a scene until we have a shell to work in. The shell is created from the architectural plans. Once we create the shell we generate a series of images for approval and final modification. These pictures are far from being artwork and are purely for checking architectural and structural accuracy.

We use the CAD files from the architect to build from. Sometimes we find slight errors in the plans as we create our model and this helps the architect check accuracy too as we are testing the structure before the builder does.

The extent of the modelling process includes:

  • Placing all walls, doors, windows and fixed (built-in) furniture;
  • Constructing the exterior of the building;
  • Building all hard landscaping, pools, pathways, podiums, retaining walls and ground surfaces;
  • Ensuring that all surfaces are identified but not truly brought to life.

Some of our people are dedicated architectural modelers and they will stay in touch with you and your architect to ensure the accuracy of the virtual reality version of your project. Unlike other companies we have this process split from the actual 3D artwork process. This allows for a faster workflow from specialist skills. Our advanced systems allow for a perfect workflow between the two stages, even if alterations are made.

Step 4 - the 3D scene

Now the virtual reality magic begins. The shell of the model is colored, textured, landscaped and furnished. Creating 3D scene is a complicated process that involves the simulation of real world surfaces and lighting.

The extent of the process includes:

  • Applying surfaces and textures to all architectural construction elements;
  • Inserting detailed furniture and interior design features;
  • Inserting all landscaping, trees and shrubs included;
  • Lighting;
  • Determining the camera angles for still artwork and final renderings.

Each of these steps requires a solid technical background and an artistic touch.

This is the stage where you, from a client's point of view, will see the most happening. Artwork takes shape and you are issued with high quality proof images.

A 3D wireframe view prioer to shading or rendering A wireframe scene is created. This can be likened to a building made from matchsticks. All faces and structural elements are in place but no materials, colors or lighting. The solid architecture of the building is complete.
A shaded view proper to lighting and rendering Then we apply colors and textures to the surfaces, such as floor coverings, fabrics to the sofas, etc. This still doesn't look like artwork but it's taking shape. We can still move objects around and make any alteration needed during this process.
A final 3D rendered view The scene is then lit and rendered. This process takes a lot of computer time but the results are lifelike.

Step 5 - animating the scene

Photo-Perfect™ images (renderings) can also make incredible life-like animated motion footage. Animating the scene can be likened to going through a real life scene with a video camera. The process is almost identical. You would often refer to these animations as fly-by, fly-through or walk-through animations.

We create a fly-through camera path that shows the scene at it's best, determining when the camera should pause, slow down or look around. Once the animation path is set up we need to process the animation frame by frame, which takes time. Because we only render as Photo-Perfect we require many computers to process the final result. It can take days to render, or sometimes over a week!

It's important, for timing reasons, that you ensure your proofs and still images are perfect before we begin the process of processing out an animation.

You will notice there are a few different ways to animate a 3D scene. We like to "meander", taking a natural approach to how a buyer would visualize a new development if they were there and could achieve the 3D camera angles we are capable of. We pause, move, look around and take our time. We also ensure that each 3D view is attractive, emotive and inspiring.

Step 6 - final delivery, media authoring by Archiform 3D

If we are only preparing still images, or what is commonly referred to as just "3D renderings", then you will receive high resolution images that you may pass to your advertising agency or any marketing consultant you use to complete the campaign. Each image can be emailed to you or anyone else. If your graphic designer has special needs or rendering size requirements then they are free to call us to arrange them.

If we are preparing 3D animations, or "fly-though" videos, then you have some choices as to how they are delivered, all of which require some degree of "authoring". The original submission would have listed what type of authoring we are doing for you, or you may have another company set to do this.

 

Step 7 - follow up

In order to always improve we need to monitor how our work performs in the field. We research the newspapers and other media that you use. We may visit your sales suit to see how the work is presented. We also call our clients afterwards to see if there was anything we could have done to make the presentation even better.

Our follow up service is honest and thoughtful. We have a genuine interest to ensure we served you well and that we stay ahead in service and technique.

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