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HOW TO EVALUATE THE QUALITY OF 3D RENDERED IMAGES



It is imperative that the still image renderings used for architectural projects are executed with the highest quality and accuracy, since architects and real estate developers will be using a series of renderings as tools for presenting future projects. But how can you properly evaluate the quality of a 3D rendered still image?


In this post, we will share some of our wisdom regarding the architectural visualization method of 3D rendered still images. These tips will help to inform you of exactly what to look for when you are reviewing a potential architectural visualization company’s portfolio, so you can be sure that the consultants you hire are capable of producing visual materials that meet the highest of expectations.




1. MATERIALITY



Materiality is the key to indicating the finest details of the proposed architectural project, and making the still image believable. Such materials should be lifelike, representing accurate texture, scale, coloration, shading, and reflectivity.


In 3D rendering, there are many settings that can be adjusted which pertain to the mapping of materiality onto a digitally modeled object. “Bump”, for example, is the simulation of displacements on the surface of a material that make it look authentic to what it is representing. Similarly, “Glossiness” and “Reflectivity” settings contribute to the architectural material’s appearance through their modification of how the material responds to light (by either refracting, reflecting or absorbing it).


Consider the examples of glass and brick: we know from experience in the physical world that glass is smooth, glossy, transparent, light to pass through it, while brick has rough, inconsistent texture and is opaque. If any of these qualities for each material differ from what you know to be true in a rendered image, then you know that the materiality was not achieved with great accuracy. Consequently, the 3D rendering’s overall quality would be lessened if any aspects of materiality were not executed thoughtfully.




2. LIGHTING



Selecting the appropriate natural lighting setup based on the time of day will have a significant impact on the final result of the rendered still image’s quality, as there are certain lighting orientations that reveal more about the physical modeled work than others.


The specific natural lighting and its relationship to the time of day can also serve as a benefit or detriment to rendered images for architectural projects. One of the popular times of the day in rendering scenes is sunset or sunrise, because of the naturally dimmer exterior light that flatters the project in question, and illuminates some if its interior.


This type of atmospheric rendering technique is usually referred to as “dust mood”. This scenario is often replicated in professional renderings, since at peak daylight hours of the day, there are often periods of intense shading on our around buildings, and the natural light can appear either too yellow, or too washed-out. The inherent benefits of sunrise and sunset lighting are ideal for architectural rendering, and can be perfected even further by skilled digital artists who can control the environmental lighting settings, and achieve the perfect balance of luminance between the interior and exterior elements in the frame. If this is not done correctly, it will negatively affect the overall quality of the rendered still image.


The lighting of 3D rendered images also has the ability to expose areas that may have been overlooked when the initial design team produced the model for the project. It is always ideal that a balance between interior and exterior lighting is achieved to best suit the project in renderings; this sometimes requires the incorporation of artificial lighting for certain aspects of the project to be distinctive. It is the job of the visualization team to present the project in the most complementary light, and if any errors in modeling work impede them from doing so, the quality of the rendered image will suffer.




3. ENTOURAGES



Likely some of the last additions made to a 3D rendered image for architectural visualization are the human figures, or entourages, that are selected for the 3D rendering. The characters chosen for each rendered image provide essential context to the architectural visualization, and imply how the proposed building will either adapt to or change the existing conditions of the site it is to be developed upon.


The demographics, actions, expressions, and even clothing of the human entourages selected for the rendering can also be quite telling of the quality of the resultant rendered image, especially for those who are personally familiar with the geographic area of the developments proposal. Appropriate cultural and age demographics should unquestionably be represented in the rendering, but so too should aspects like applicable professions, pedestrian activities, and seasonal attire. We discuss importance of selecting human entourages for architectural renderings in depth in our earlier post about the Franklin Square case study: "Architectural Visualization of a Renovation Project".


It is also integral that the entourages in still image renderings look as if they are naturally incorporated in the scene, rather than appearing as if they are cut and paste as an afterthought to the imagery. While the entourages do not necessarily have to be directly interacting with the project in question, they should help to provide a sense of atmosphere that is relevant to the project, and the message that it is meant to communicate through the imagery. Lower quality 3D renderings are often noticeable by their entourages that look haphazardly placed, and disregard the opportunity to showcase their interaction with the built environment.




4. SEASON




An important consideration in the atmospheric execution of 3D rendered still images include the season of the year that is taking place in the frame. While the final result of the rendering does not always have to be photorealistic, depending on the purpose that the architectural visualization is intended for, this temporal quality of the image should make sense to the viewer, and help them to understand the overall narrative of the rendered image more clearly.


Each project can benefit differently from being rendered in different seasons. For example, some projects might be best suited for springtime renderings, where the entourages are exhibited with joyful demeanor and and seasonal outfits. In other cases, rendering in reference to the autumn or winter seasons could establish a more dramatic mood for the image, depending on the type of project and its desired effect. High quality rendered images depict a carefully considered seasonal atmosphere to showcase the project with the best possible visual representation, and as a result, provoke specific responses from the viewing audiences.




5. CONTEXT



In the case of 3D rendered images, the environmental context surrounding is equally important as the project itself; if not modeled and rendered correctly, the quality of the final rendered image is diminished. The context in question includes nearby buildings and landmarks, streets, sidewalks, and even any street furniture.


Oftentimes in 3D renderings, real photos can be used to supplement modeled versions of these elements, so long as they are incorporated in accordance with the featured project and remainder of the scene’s modeled attributes. Photography can also be used for the backgrounds of renderings; while composite images do not necessarily equate to higher quality, it is optimal in some situations to incorporate both modeled and photographed elements for increased contextual accuracy.




6. MODELING ACCURACY




The quality of a project’s digital modeling goes hand in hand with the quality of the resultant rendered image that represents the project. The model work of each individual component of a project must be incredibly refined, including the smallest components like furniture, and the placement and orientation of each item must also be carried out with precision. This is so that when it comes time to render it into a series of still images, flaws in the model will not be revealed by certain angles or lighting that will reduce the overall quality.


Another aspect to take into consideration regarding the modeled project is the proportions of all of the elements that constitute It. This includes the proportions of the building, including the door and window heights, space between floors, rise of steps, and any signage. Additionally, the proportions of surrounding context, like people, cars, trees, sidewalks, and any neighboring buildings that may also be in the frame must also be considered.


It is always crucial for the initial architectural project model to have been built with proportionality in mind, so that the scales of each element in the frame are appropriate for the perspective at which the scene is being captured, and so the image makes sense visually to the viewer. Achieving the correct proportionality in architectural renderings is meticulous work, and sometimes takes some further tweaking of the visualization company to accomplish the project’s proportions with greater accuracy for the rendered images.




7. CAMERA ANGLE



Setting up the camera angle is an important step in the rendering process for determining what is desired to be shown in the frame. Camera angles help to facilitate specific perspectives for the building to be viewed from, whether it is an exterior shot revealing the entire structure, or an interior frame meant to reveal precise visual information. Arranging the camera angles in accordance to the vertical lines that delineate the structural components of the moment being captured is another important part of the process for architectural rendering. This includes all vertical lines of the silhouette of the building in focus, on its facade, or in other constructed features in the image.


There are settings across multiple rendering platforms that can help to alleviate such issues that are more difficult to revise manually, like the camera correction modifier in 3DS Max. Such tools help to ensure that the the lines of the rendered project are not distorted. Although, it is important to note that in some cases distortion is natural; therefore this tool must be used carefully to achieve the appropriate result. Camera angles that have been set up properly will ensure that all components in the frame align, and that the the resultant image will make sense visually to the viewer.




8. DEPTH OF FIELD


In determining the best framing for the project in the 3D rendered image, the depth of field requires some finessing so that only the appropriate amount of visual information is shown in the frame. When working with objects in the digital space, adjustment of the depth of field is necessary for ensuring that the viewer’s gaze will not detract from the project’s point of focus. For example, the field should spotlight the architectural project of course, but determining the degree of other elements visible in the frame will require some trial and error from the visualization artist, in order to find the right amount of visual information to be included in the 3D rendered image.


It requires a delicate balance of determining whether the camera is neither too close to the point of focus, nor too far from it, to establish the best depth of field for a rendered image. This step in the rendering process will likely take some trial and error on the visualization artist's part, so that the depth of field places focus on objects in the scene to help it best communicate the visual narrative to viewers. For a 3D rendered image to be successful, a depth of field must be achieved that best suits the project in question.




9. CAMERA LENS




Much like it would in real photography, the camera lenses chosen in the rendering software can be quite impactful to a project's final rendered still images. There are a variety of options available for the lenses, each with their own traits that impact how a scene is captured for a rendering.


The selection of camera lenses for 3D rendered still images is a particular science, as some lenses can create frames that may be either too narrow or expansive, depending on the scene of the project that is meant to be rendered. This can inhibit the opportunity for the renderings to represent the project in the best way possible. so it is important for the visualization artist to choose camera lenses wisely.




10. VEGETATION



Much like the other contextual information visible in the rendering’s frame, the natural vegetation of the project’s site can be indicative of how much time was spent by the digital artist on contextual research and detail of execution. It is important to either represent the species of plants and trees that are native to the site in question, or the ones that are intended to be planted there as part of the development scheme within the rendered image.


If proper vegetation and foliage are omitted from the rendering, it becomes clear that the architectural visualization was not produced in consideration of the all-encompassing elements of the site. While the focus of the image should be the architectural project, the highest-quality rendered images take into account all aspects of the surrounding context, including plant life, to create a well-rounded image that represents the proposed environment.


As a client, you deserve the best possible outcome for the 3D rendered still image you commission, which means that substantial attention must be paid by the architectural visualization team to each of the aspects outlined in this post. If you are able to notice the intricacies of a high-quality 3D rendered still image, you can provide your own insurance that the final outcome of the project will meet your expectations.


The visualization team at GRender Studio strives to produce rendered images delicately and thoughtfully, with the goal of producing the best possible imagery to represent each architectural project. Our visualization artists adhere to the principles listed in this post in order to do so. If you have a project that requires high quality 3D rendered imagery, please visit our CONTACT page to get in touch with us, and a GRender Studio team member will be happy to discuss how to to proceed with your project.


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