Interior renderings are unique in two very big ways; the technology used to create them, and the efforts taken to make them beautiful. While being smaller spaces than other architectural scenes they are, in effect, significantly harder to create when you base things on square feet.
First off, the techniques in lighting and the computational power needed to process them are vastly more complex than an exterior scene. Light is reflected off simple surfaces, like walls, ceilings and floors, and then off secondary surfaces like furniture. The calculations alone to account for three bounces of light are extreme.
The first iteration of realistic computer generated lighting environments was radiosity, which was a loosely used term and has now evolved into “global illumination”. Most 3D packages now have some kind of global illumination in their toolkit, its just the quality of such varies, as does the time it takes to process the results.
Implementing realistic interior 3D lighting can be challenging, but not for the reasons that most people assume. The basic calculation of lighting that most software capable of such renderings can do is fairly close to reality, which you may think sounds perfect, right? Well, the expectation of most clients starts at wanting “real” but often evolves into “highly and evenly lit”. The new expectation then leads the renderings away from reality and towards “plastic”, which is of course somewhat conflicting.
Real interior scenes have shadows, dark areas and contrast. It is those elements that create the perception of reality.
The human eyes see things quite differently to what people consider being realistic artwork. They are accustomed to seeing a perfectly lit interior with a blown out exterior and a perfect exterior with a dark interior. It’s because our eyes can change their aperture quickly and our brains are used to it. But put it all together in one picture, the same way a camera would take it, and most clients believe that what they are seeing it not realistic, which is an incorrect assumption.
The balancing act of reality and evenly lit is where the skill comes in and it can take years to find the right balance and techniques that work for you and your clients. You can gauge the price and quality of an interior rendering quickly by how well they find this balance, as a low priced or uninterested person will go straight to “blown out” lighting and forget about depth, contrast or any other subtle feature that makes a scene feel real.
In most cases the product that is ultimately being sold is the condo or building, not the furniture, but it’s the furniture and décor that creates the dream to buy. For most property developers the idea of paying an interior designer to create a scheme for the unit is unpalatable and could serve no practical purpose afterwards as ultimately the buyer is likely to put in what they like once they take procession. The solution is to get a great looking layout and décor design into the renderings that compliment the product without wasting time or money.
We used to go about this the hard way – analyse the client’s needs and tastes and then run through endless alterations, but years of this made us smarter and we brought in our own designer to make the choices for everyone. Today we move quickly to create attractive layouts in much less time. The ability to make a scene look great through interior design and décor is now part of the service, with as much importance as the realism of the 3D.