Architectural Visualisation – From Drawing to 3D to Printed Page
There is perhaps the misconception that architectural visualisation is something of a dark art when in fact it is not; as a result this article intends to inform of the ways and means that the discipline brings two-dimensional drawings to life.
The process of creating a finished 3D rendering is much the same as its reason for being in that it is a communication-driven dialogue between all parties who have an interest in the final product. Sometimes it is left in the hands of a single body and at others it is a cross-discipline exercise.
The very first plank with which to create a successful rendered image is a drawing. More often that not these take the form of digital files from applications such as AutoCAD or MicroStation and contain a vast amount of technical data which is of little relevance to the visualiser; the first task therefore is to remove the information that will have no influence on the final model(s), thus making the drawing a simplified version of its original self.
Before we move on to the next stages it should be clarified that whilst digital files are commonplace in this day and age, it is by no means a statutory requirement; indeed, a visualiser should be able to work from hand-drawn plans using a scale ruler or even sketches supplied by the client, the latter being where important aspects of dialogue takes place as it is through this conversation and interrogation that specific and important details are revealed.
Returning to the assumed path of supplied Rendering house digital file and its simplification, the next step is to bring the file into the modelling software. Most commonly this will be 3D Studio Max (also called 3DS Max, Max and Studio Max) but other applications such as Cinema4D and Maya proliferate.
Tangential to this, it should be noted that clients are also supplying visualisers with digital models to supplement or replacement a drawing. Products such as Google SketchUp have simplified this process and it is now the option of choice for a number of practices and studios. Perhaps the only drawback of this is an ‘unclean’ model whereby what appears acceptable to the naked eye is in fact a mass of broken and co-planar (two separate planes of geometry sharing the same three-dimensional space) faces which require tidying up or, in a worst case scenario, complete remodelling which sadly obviates the usefulness of their original submission.
Returning to bringing the file into the modelling software, if the visualiser is using 3DS Max then the file will often be imported and then placed in its own layer which is frozen so as to protect it from inadvertent modification or editing. Thereafter the visualiser will begin to create all the elements required to complete the shot, perhaps by tracing the drawing and extruding to the desired thickness or by starting with a flat plane and manipulating it to suit – modelling techniques are myriad it has to be said.