3D Rendering: Understanding The Basics
3D rendering is a wonderful technology that managed to embed into our lives in many ways possible. Remember the last game you just played or the latest movie you just watched? Well, they were all made possible with 3D rendering Services.
Art has evolved throughout mankind’s history. We started with primitive cave drawings and artists like Leonardo Da Vinci and Michael Angelo rocked our world with their renaissance paintings that stood the test of time. Today, we can finally create digital art with the technology introduced only over three decades ago. Formal training not necessarily required because as long as you have the time and patience to learn how to harness the power of 3D rendering software, you can create art. Arm this with imagination and you can manipulate images and explore the endless possibilities 3D rendering could offer.
What is 3D Rendering?
3D rendering is a relatively new technology used to create photorealistic images from 3D models for marketing and advertising materials use. Fun fact: all the creative kitchen or bedroom setups you see on IKEA or any furniture catalogues aren’t real at all. They are 3D rendered images that look so convincing, you’ll have a hard time believing that they were computer generated.
Technical drawings have been around centuries and since time immemorial. They have been a critical component for creating the framework of a construction project, product design, and even in manufacturing process flows. Today, nothing’s changed and they are still considered an integral part of 3D rendering. It’s used in building the image structure and the 3D rendering adding finishing touches such as lighting and textures, bringing the image to life.
3D rendering is an important aspect in many industries, with the technology being more prominent in the architectural and movie industries. But regardless of the application, 3D rendering software programs are flexible to meet whatever you need it for.
3D Rendering in Architecture
If you’ve been in the architecture and construction industry, you may remember the good ol’ days when you had to painstakingly build scale models for clients. It used to be the best way to present projects and help customers visualise, but thankfully those days are long gone because today, computers made it possible to build virtual walls and structures in a blink of an eye.
Architectural visualisation is the most effective way of communicating and selling ideas to clients and stakeholders nowadays. It makes it easier for them to visualise the end product and give them the ‘feels’ even before the project’s started. We have progressed so much with 3D modelling and rendering, that it’s made the impossible achievable in terms of home and building designs and structures.
We all know how construction projects can get messy. From strict capital requirements to stakeholders clashing against each other, it’s a stress people would like to avoid as much as possible. From engineers to planners, architects and supplementary non-specialists, they all have a different outtake of the project and own approach on how to achieve the final outcome. But thanks to 3D rendering technology, conflicts and miscommunication can be avoided as much as possible.
The Rendering Process Explained
3D rendering gives the artist the ability to produce realistic images of any construction projects complete with architectural scenes, fixtures, and lighting. With this, clients can better visualise the proposed design and make an informed decision whether to push through with it or not. You don’t even have to build a physical model (which we all know costs time and money), and designs are easily manipulated so any disagreements can be quickly resolved and explored by both the client and the artist.
3D Rendering is an amazing marketing tool to have, but even though it makes life easier for artists and architects, the magic just doesn’t happen overnight. It takes days or weeks before you can transform a technical drawing to a photo realistic image.
Step 1: Technical Brief
Just like any other project, the artist needs instructions of what he needs to do and work on. Remember how we talked about technical drawings being a critical component for any 3D modelling or 3D rendering project? Well, this is where it comes in.
Relaying information verbally doesn’t work in the architectural vision process and it’s always best to provide visual references to guarantee results that are up to your standards. Even a basic sketch will do or a few photos for inspiration, as long as the artist will have something to work with.
Step 2: 3D Modelling
Before you can render and achieve photo-realistic images, you’ll need a 3D model first. Just like in real life, 3D rendering is impossible without a shell or structure that the artist can work on.
This is the process where the architectural plans are converted to geometrical plans, and virtual reality walls, doors, windows, and furniture are built and placed. Once this is complete, the artist can render this ‘skeletal structure’ which is just a black and white image with no textures.
Step 3: 3D Rendering and Texturing
This is where the true magic begins. 3D images are created from the 3D model created in Step 2. This is the step where the interior design feature is born. Detailed furniture are added, and surfaces and textures are applied to the 3D model to achieve a photo-realistic look. Camera angles and lightings are also set up in a way that best presents the rendered image.
There is no set process duration for this step as it’s highly dependent on the complexity of the project and the image quality the client wants to achieve.
Step 4: Post-Production
Shadows, lighting, texture and other effects are edited through videos and graphic processors in this step to achieve the photorealistic look that the client and the artist are after. Photos of trees, cars, and even pedestrians are added to the still 3D rendered shot to give it busy scenery feel.
Step 5: Delivery
The final product is delivered to the customer. The artist’s feeling accomplished and the client’s satisfied with the output. Happy days for everyone!
Ending the Confusion: 3D Modelling vs 3D Rendering
It’s easy to see why some people often mix-up 3D modelling and 3D rendering, which is especially true for non-technical people. Just remember that the two are different stages in the 3D visualisation process and it will be easier to tell them apart. While 3D modelling is the process of creating the wireframe or shell of the design, 3D rendering is the subsequent process of converting that 3D model into a high-quality and photo realistic image, video or animation. In short, 3D rendering gives life to any 3D models and shows what they look like in the real world.
To make it easier to remember, we’ve created a simple table on their purposes below:
How to tell them apart?
1. The end results are different
Think of it as creating a box. 3D modelling is the process of making the box itself, while 3D rendering is the art of presenting it in a way to make it look real. Basically, the former is the geometric representation of an object and the shell or wireframe that an artist works on and the latter is adding the effects, background and lighting to complete its look.
2. 3D rendering is impossible without a 3D model
3D models are the skeletal structures for the object being rendered. Without it, creating photo realistic images is impossible. 3D rendering follows 3D modelling when creating CGIs and it’s the step in the visualisation process where the scene and the model are set up in 3D space. Lighting and textures are customised and cameras are set up to present the model the way the artist wants to. More often than not, the results are indistinguishable from photos and it’s hard to tell the 3D model from real ones apart.
3. Different tools are used
The software and the techniques used to create 3D models and render images are also different. 3D models are delivered as CAD files, while 3D renders use more specific and specialised programs to do.
4. 3D models can be reused
As mentioned before, 3D models are the shell for any 3D rendering project. They can be used to render different settings, lightings and backgrounds. It’s also the perfect tool to have when rendering lifestyle images, which can be very handy if you’re designing and releasing catalogues regularly. Designers love it because it allows them to explore a variety of designs and colour options, with just one default 3D model.
5. Different applications
3D models are used in different applications, besides architectural visualisation. A perfect example would be CNC machines, which use 3D models to create computer-generated metal designs. 3D renderings on the other hand, are mostly used for marketing materials and presentation, and creating visual effects for animations, games and films.
3D Modelling Software
Creating designs with a reliable 3D modelling software makes a huge difference in a graphic designer’s life. It allows them to create illustrations and mockups, expand their portfolio, and make it compelling to their clients.
There are just so many 3D modelling software to choose from out there, it can be overwhelming especially if you’re just starting to learn. As long as you know what you want to get out of it, it will be easier to narrow down your list and choose the most suitable one for your needs.
Below are three of the most popular 3D modelling software:
1. 3DS Max
3DS Max is your all around software because you can create 3D models with it, and do animation and rendering after, making it the perfect tool for design visualisation and game programming.
This software is one of Autodesk’s products and is part of their engineering, construction, and architecture collection. It’s one of the most useful software when it comes to designing buildings, and planning infrastructure and construction. It’s also popular with professionals in the film industries, game designer and visual effects artists, because it’s easy to use and the features are just amazing.
Sketchup (formerly known as Google Sketchup) is one of the popular choices when it comes to different drawing applications such as interior design, engineering, video game, film, and architecture.
It’s easy to use and palettes are customisable, which many graphic designers love. It also has built-in features like texturing, lighting effects, animations, and layer managers. There’s also a free version via Freeware and is great if you’re still getting the hang of 3D modelling.
Popular 3D Rendering Software for Architecture
3D rendering aficionados know V-Ray by heart. It’s one of the best software available and many artists prefer this over other 3D rendering software because of its high processing speed and the excellent rendering quality it produces.
V-ray is accessible for both newbies and pros alike but to harness its utmost potential, it will take a lot of your time and patience. Nevertheless, it is the go-to software for rendering artists because its comprehensive feature sets allows them to achieve excellent rendering quality with V-Ray.
2. Corona Render
No, it’s not the brand of beer you’re thinking of. It’s one of the most popular 3D rendering software out in the market today because of its easy to use and less cluttered interface. It’s slower than V-Ray in terms of processing speed as it’s only CPU-based, but admittedly still better than the other rendering software available.
This software allows you to create amazing photorealistic renders, and create materials that bend to your artistic vision.
3. Maxwell Render
Maxwell is another popular choice for many architectural rendering artists as the software allows them to work on their visualisation project more flexibly. Workflow is made easier and there are many ready-to-add light settings so you can focus more on your creativity.
Since Maxwell runs on CPU, it’s a bit slower compared to other rendering software. However, it’s looking into expanding and adding GPU capability, making rendering seamless and more powerful.
3D Rendering in Animation
As a kid, I’ve always wondered if there was another person behind the TV making cartoons move. I was even more amazed when I saw Toy Story in the cinema. I’ve long since learned, although heartbreakingly, that nobody can fit in that small space and there’s no magic involved in animation.
3D animation is the process of creating moving illustrations in a 3D environment. By manipulating 3D models, picture sequences are created to give the illusion of the character or object moving. It’s tricking the eyes to believe that movement is taking place even though in reality, it’s just a number of consecutive images passing through very quickly.
Creating 3D animations is not as easy as it looks. It’s a painstaking process and even with big animation companies like Pixar, it still takes time to achieve the results we see on the screen. Today’s technology even made it more amazing with more realistic-looking animations and with so much details, you won’t even believe that it’s not the real thing!
3D Animation Rendering Process Explained
To give you an idea of the amount of work involved in creating 3D animations, below are the steps involved in the process:
Just like 3D rendering in architecture, animation requires a conceptualisation of the objects and characters, and a storyline that they’ll work on. These ideas are transformed into visual form through a storyboard. This is where illustrations are placed in sequence to tell what the story is about and how the artists will tie together visual effects and image transitions, and how the musical soundtrack and voice overs will affect the mood of the story overall and how it will impact the audience.
2. 3D Modelling
After finalising the storyboard and getting the client’s approval, 3D modelling commences. This is the stage where the props, characters, and story environment are developed from a blob that the artist moulds into a shape and further refines to achieve the object they want.
Basically put, texturing is the process of ‘dressing up’ your 3D models. This is where the colours, textures and designs are added to the object. It can be a pre-set colour or texture from the software you’re using, but there are also artists who use photographs to capture the texture they want to achieve. They turn this into repeatable patterns and brushed onto the object, and then refined to make it look seamless and detailed.
4. Rigging and Skinning
Bringing the character into life is made possible in the rigging and skinning stage of 3D animation. This is where a controllable skeleton is set up or ‘rigged’ to show movement of the character. Skinning is where the 3D model or skin is attached to the skeleton, so that the movements can be manipulated by the rig controls.
This is the fun part. This is the process where you take the 3D object and make it move. There are many ways to do this, one of which is the keyframe animation where the object is manipulated from frame to frame, just like the good ol’ cartooning days. Newest technology requires objects placed on splines and making them follow a curve path, or a more complicated process of getting motion capture data and then applying it to your character rig to make it move.
6. Cameras and lighting
Lighting can make or break your 3D animation project. Use the correct lighting and you can make your animation look more alive convincing. Otherwise, it will make your objects appear flat and can sometimes even wash out the scene, giving it a dull appearance.
The camera, on the other hand, poses no physical limitations so you can create any scene the way you want them to. You can create different perspectives that are impossible, and zoom and pan to capture even the smallest and microscopic objects, which you can’t do in real life.
Rendering and adding visual effects are the last processes in 3D animation. Most newbies overlook this process as they focus more on creating their 3D models and making them move. In reality, this is the most important step as camera placement, textures and lighting, will affect the overall look of your project.
Software Used in 3D animation
The software choices for 3D animation can be overwhelming especially if you haven’t found your forte yet. If you’ve just started exploring and want to focus and master just one for now, below are the Top 3 most used rendering software in the industry:
1. Cinema 4D
Cinema 4D is one of the easiest to use software and the tools are intuitive for faster character animation. One good example is using your mouse movement and recording it as position data for your character. Repetitive movements are also easier to animate as you can create cyclical movements with its parametric tool.
One of its best features as well is its real-time viewport, allowing you to see the changes immediately after tweaking your texture and lighting settings. You can also export preview renders and submit them to your clients for pre-approval.
Almost all 3D animators know and love Maya because of its ease of use and customisable UI. This software is well-known in the industry and used in blockbuster films like Transformers and Harry Potter. Unlike other software, Maya allows complex setup changes with just a few keystroke. Artists can also easily combine their 3D rendered elements with film sequence motion data, with the software’s CG compositing program.
3. Motion Builder
Motion Builder is Autodesk’s professional 3D animation software and is popular amongst animators and game developers. It combines motion capture, keyframe animation, and virtual production, making it your one-stop shop for your animation needs.
With Motionbuilder, you can cut and stitch movements and create a smooth flowing transition between files. And what makes it more handy is the process is non-destructive, so you can use the original file over and over again.
Where does 3D Rendering go from here?
We’ve progressed so much the past few years and we see 3D rendering evolving and transforming Virtual Reality that we know of today. Remember the days when VR was only seen in sci-fi movies? Well, with today’s technology, it’s been integrated with gaming and architecture, and we see it progressing into something bigger.
Designers and architects make the most out of VR technology by using it to create 3D representations of their projects and immerse their clients into an almost realistic experience. While interactive 3D presentations are great, putting on a device and allowing your sense to experience realistic sounds and imagery is the true game-changer.
Architectural and 3D rendering in Sydney, animation and VR trajectories are constantly changing and there’s no saying what’s there to come in the next decade or so. For now, let’s enjoy the endless possibilities offered by this technology and cross the bridge when we get there.