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Vray for Cinema 4D for Creating Photorealistic 3D Visualisations

By Paul Doherty

'Vray' is a plugin which has been developed for many different 3D software packages. In simple terms Vray is a virtual light simulator combined with a virtual camera and an advanced material creator. These materials can be customised to create any type of surface and react to light in a very realistic way. Vray works in conjunction with the 3D software and replaces its native render engine and material editor allowing extremely high quality renders to be produced.

Vray for Cinema 4D uses 'Tags' which are applied to lights, cameras and geometry within the 3D environment. These Tags are mini managers which give the user a multitude of extra options and settings and tell the 3D package which elements are lights or cameras etc. The camera tag for example allows the virtual camera to act as an SLR camera. The camera Tag includes iso settings, F-stop, shutter speed and vignetting effect etc, etc. Light tags allow the lights to behave more realistically and include 'Physical sun and sky' with a multitude of settings which can create very realistic lighting effects.

The Vray bridge rendering dialogue box can be a bit intimidating to new users compared to other rendering engines on the market which rely on a less customisable setup. It is on the complicated side but once mastered, extremely impressive results can be achieved. The render settings dialogue requires an understanding of complex terminology, and a lot of time to begin to understand how all the settings affect the images produced. An understanding of photography is helpful with the camera settings and an understanding of image editing will speed the learning process.

Vray's main advantage over the many other rendering engines on the market is it's fast render times. It uses global illumination and raytracing to produce spectacular images in a fraction of the time. It also includes the feature of 'network rendering' which allows vray to connect to other computers over a network and utilise their processors to render the image faster. Each processor is allocated a 'bucket' which is a small area of the image which is being processed, 4 processors equals 4 buckets, so connecting to say 5 other quad-core pc's over a network means that the image has 24 buckets processing it at the same time. This obviously means much faster render times, so when the deadlines are looming vray can help you meet them on time.

The Use of 3D Visualisation in Advertising

By Paul Doherty

This is surely the age of technology based information, we are utterly surrounded by it, moreover, we are deeply and inextricably part of it; sharing information on the numerous blogs and the cacophony of social media outlets. Advertising firms are well aware of society's ever-growing need to access immediate information and they tap into it relentlessly.

We are engulfed by advertising every minute of everyday, some get lost in the bland fog of imagery pumped out by the advertising machine, but on occasion there are a few glimmering moments that shine through and succeed in their purpose; grabbing our attention.

In an attempt to stand out from the crowd, advertising agencies are increasingly employing the talents of creative design agencies and firms to help produce much more engaging means to communicate their message and products. One very common approach is the use of 3D Visualisation in advertising. For some, this is a bad case of using technology for technology's sake, instead of taking the message and using the most viable and effective means to communicate it.

When used right, there are some very advantageous reasons for the use of 3D Visualisation in advertising. Logistics is the first that springs to mind. To overcome the burden, cost and planning of a photo-shoot on the far side of the globe, entire 3D scenes can be produced and through the use of compositing and green screen technology, actors or products can, in the right hands, be easily positioned within.
That idea can quite literally be taken much further and used to create 3D Visuals of new and exotic worlds and planets, for example the Carling 'space nightclub' advert, or the O2 'thinking of you campaign'.

The use of 3D Visualisation in advertising does not always have to be about the creation of new or exotic settings; We are seeing an increasing surge of advertising that uses 3D visuals of products, either because the product is has not been released for mass production, or to show animated inner workings in a way that real life never could. This 'hyper real' approach, I personally believe, a much more effective and astute reason for using 3D visuals in an advertising campaign. It is using the technology for a concrete reason, solving a real problem (for example: 'how do I show the moving inner mechanics of a combustion engine using live recording methods?').

Evolve this further and we begin to touch on the creative realm of advertising. Take Honda, Audi or Guinness' advertising. All three employ the skills and creative flair of designers, 3D modellers and animators to create a dynamic mix of 3D visuals and live action, or exclusively 3D visualisation's on their own to produce exciting, fresh approaches to showing their product, or the end-user experience.

Of course, most of what I have mentioned above is based on screen-based examples. The use of 3D visualisation in advertising is also prevalent in print campaigns. To me this is a less intrusive approach, and as with the screen based examples, does not have to simply serve the purpose of displaying a product. Print based advertising seems to allow 3D visuals to merge and sit in more natural harmony, rendered 3D objects and shapes can be used as graphical elements, or allow typography to take on a braver and bolder (no pun intended) persona.

The use of 3D Visualisation in advertising is here to stay, and with new emerging technologies like Augmented Reality and WebGL the use of 3D visuals is going to increase. We will see some inspiring and breathtaking developments but brace yourselves, because before that, it is inevitable that there will be a blinding swarm of pointless, vapid and banal manifestations as some companies clamber over each other like an army of crabs trying to stick their claws in and use the technology just because it is there.

Things the Advanced Sketchup User Should Know When Creating Models for 3d Visualisation

By Paul Doherty

Google Sketch-up is a great modelling tool, complex models can be produced in record time frames, although a drawback would be that it's inbuilt rendering engine is very limited. It has no global illumination or ambient occlusion options, the only lighting option is either sun on or sun off.

Because of its limitations the best way to integrate Sketch-up into a 3D visualisation work flow is to use it solely as a modelling tool, then export the model to a separate 3D package for lighting and rendering. But in using this work flow you will come up against various issues.

If you are modelling to export to an external 3D package you need to be aware of exactly how the model is constructed in sketch-up before the export stage. When modelling always try to avoid creating 'n-gons' (n-gons are polygons with more than 4 sides) - these cause issues when at the render stage and can make the surface react abnormally to light. Always try to work in 'quads' (4 sided polygons) or triangulate the mesh.

The best work flow for the material application stage is to apply the materials in an external package but in order to do this you need to firstly denote which materials go where in sketch-up first before the model is exported. The way this is done is by giving every surface which is to be of a certain texture a specific colour, for example all the glass need to be the same colour, all the brick needs to be the same colour etc. You need to also make all the geometry to do with each material that particular colour - not just the front polygon. Make sure to name the colours as e.g. glass. Then when exporting the model you choose 'export by material'. When the model is imported into the external rendering package the geometry is then grouped by material and groups are named - brick, glass etc. so material application becomes a breeze.

The geometry needs to be checked for the orientation of 'normals' before export as well. 'Normals' refer to which direction the polygons are facing - 'in' or 'out'. A speedy way to do this is to set-up a 'reverse faces' short-cut in sketch-up switch to 'monochrome mode' and flip any faces which appear blue. This means that the normals will appear correctly in the external package and there will be no texture problems.

Glass can often cause issues when using this work flow, the best way to avoid this is to always give the glass thickness - usually 5 to 10mm. Be sure to check that all the polygon normals on all 6 sides of each pane face out (not just the external polygons) Happy modelling!

5 Photoshop Effects to Add to Your 3D Visualisation Images

By Paul Doherty

Naturally there are an infinite range of effects and post-processing techniques you can apply to your 3D visualisation images and every artist/designer has their own methods of creating these.

This list has been limited to 5 and selected to give a range of effects that I personally use more frequently and that are reasonably compatible with each other.

The most important thing to remember when applying any post-processing effect in Photoshop is to create 'non-destructive' effects. Non-destructive editing means you are altering and adding visual effects to an image without changing the original image data, meaning you can always return to it. There are two main ways to achieve this in; Duplicating a layer 'control + J' or using adjustment layers. Personally I prefer making a duplicate of my original layer but it's up to you to find a way that works best for you, and there really is no right or wrong here.

Ok, now on to the effects:

1. Increased contrast. For me the simplest way to achieve this is using levels ('control + L' or 'command + L' on a Mac). Using the black, grey and white pointers click and drag these around to alter the percentage of the image in each tonal range (black pointer for shadows, grey pointer for mid tones and the white pointer for highlights). A good all round setting that I have found is to pull both the black and white pointers in to the inside edge of the numerical value box below each respective pointer; The numerical value below the black pointer should be around 30 and the numerical number under the white pointer around 223. This is a quick way to add punch to your 3D visualisation images.

2. Colour Balance. Pressing 'Control + B' opens the colour balance dialogue. At the bottom of this dialogue box there are three radio buttons allowing you to select which tonal range to adjust; Shadows, mid-tones or highlights. Simply click on these in turn and use the sliders to increase or decrease the colour values to your liking.

3. Adding a vignette. Navigate to Filter > Distortion > Lens Correction. A new dialogue box appears, quite simply click and drag the Vignette slider until you are happy. Sliding to the right creates a bright vignette, sliding to the left creates a subtle shadow effect around the frame of your image, useful for drawing the viewer into the focal point of your image.

4. Adding Depth of field. This gives additional focus depth to your image, drawing focus to the predominant area of your 3D Visualisation. The most effective means of creating depth of field is to click on your channels palette and click new channel. Make sure you now make your RGB channel visible so you can see what you are doing. By using the gradient fill tool (Right click on the paint bucket tool to toggle it on or off) and add a gradient of your choice, radial or reflective. Now navigate to Filter > Blur > Lens Blur. Use the Source drop down menu and select Alpha 1. If the area of your image you want in focus is blurred out simply click the Invert check box. Now you can adjust the Radius and Blur Focal Distance sliders to achieve the desired result.

5. False H.D.R. This effect adds a false High Dynamic Range look to your 3D visualisation image. Duplicate your image layer and rename it Black and white. Make this layer grey-scale by pressing 'Control + Shift + U'. Now Invert this 'Control + I' and set the blending mode to Overlay. Next navigate to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and increase the amount until there is a slight 'glow' to the edges of your image. Now select your original layer and duplicate it again and rename it 'Linear Light'. Click and drag this to the top of your layer stack, set the blending mode to Linear Light and set the opacity to something between 10-40%, whatever looks good.

As with any creative image production process, the final outcome differs drastically from project to project. Various factors come into play; is the project a personal piece created for fun, a commercial piece with strict brief guidelines, is the final output for print or screen based media, and numerous other deliverables that will determine a specific style treatment or approach to your work. The above effects and techniques allow you to experiment and add a little more impact and post-processing punch to your 3D Visualisation images. Just remember to give things context and reason, and not just to apply an effect for effects sake.


What Is Rendering

''Where do architects and designers get their ideas?'' The answer, of course, is mainly from other architects and designers, so is it mere casuistry to distinguish between tradition and plagiarism?
Stephen Bayley

A building is akin to dogma; it is insolent, like dogma. Whether or no it is permanent, it claims permanence, like a dogma. People ask why we have no typical architecture of the modern world, like impressionism in painting. Surely it is obviously because we have not enough dogmas; we cannot bear to see anything in the sky that is solid and enduring, anything in the sky that does not change like the clouds of the sky.
Gilbert K. Chesterton

A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.
Frank Lloyd Wright

A modern, harmonic and lively architecture is the visible sign of an authentic democracy.
Walter Gropius

A structure becomes architectural, and not sculptural, when its elements no longer have their justification in nature.
Guillaume Apollinaire

Ah, to build, to build! That is the noblest art of all the arts. Painting and sculpture are but images, are merely shadows cast by outward things on stone or canvas, having in themselves no separate existence. Architecture, existing in itself, and not in seeming a something it is not, surpasses them as substance shadow.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

All architects want to live beyond their deaths.
Philip Johnson

All architecture is great architecture after sunset; perhaps architecture is really a nocturnal art, like the art of fireworks.
Gilbert K. Chesterton

All fine architectural values are human vales, else not valuable.
Frank Lloyd Wright


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