Are you looking for a career in Architectural Visualisation?
We get enquiries almost daily from people wondering how to get a job at ScreenAge. Sometimes they have awesome portfolios, showreels, experience and qualifications (in which case we ask them in for an interview) but more often than not their applications could use a little work. The good news is that it isn’t really that hard – if you are passionate about 3d visualisation or animation or CGI then there is a good chance you are already half way there!
The Basics of Architectural Visualisation
Below you will find some basic setup info about the software that we (and the vast majority of the 3d visualisation industry) use. And also a bunch of links to great websites where you will find a heap of tutorials and resources. I’ve also given you a quick rundown on our workflow and the steps we take to create our imagery as well as some other important stuff you should know.
The software and plugins we use
At ScreenAge we primarily use 3ds max for modelling and setting up scenes etc and vray as the render engine. At time of writing (Sept 2017) we are using 3ds max 2016 and vray 3.6 (primarily RT gpu). Inside of max we use the following plugins: Forest Pack Pro, GrowFX, Floor Generator and Atiles. For post production we generally use photoshop and after effects. In photoshop we use Arion FX and Camera Raw. We occasionally use marvelous designer, zbrush, Crazy Bump, Panotour Pro and a few others depending on the project.
We also use Connecter App for our 3d library and Deadline for render farm management.
We use linear workflow. For more information read this linear workflow explanation by Neil Blevins. And for a quick setup tutorial for 3ds max and vray here is a quick and easy tutorial by the same guy.
Now to get started!
Once you have all the software and plugins setup your going to need to learn how to use them. Luckily, max, vray and photoshop are the industry standards for architectural visualisation and there are a heap of free and paid tutorials online for them. You should start with learning how to 3d model properly.
The fundamental element of all architectural visualisation is the geometry in your scene. It needs to be accurate and the polygons need to be clean.
Watch this mastering hard surface modelling video by grant warwick. It will give you a great background to 3d model pretty much anything you want.
And here are some links to some sites where you can buy some 3d model packs:
We also often use the google 3d warehouse to get basic sketchup models which can then be re-modelled for better detail. And you can also try searching google images for ‘3d model chair’ or ‘3d model sofa’ etc etc and you will often find some good free 3d models you can download. Basically just search and ye shall find.
Textures / Shaders
Next up you’ll want to be adding some textures/shaders to the 3d models in your scene. I’m not going to run you through how to do that as there are thousands of good tutorials online for that.
We have built up a huge library of textures over the years and the best resource for these is either a good old google image search (ie ‘wood floor texture’) or one of the many texture websites around such as textures.com. Recently we have been getting into scanned materials: Quixel Megascans, RDT, and Chaos Group VR Scans. We have also been playing around with Dabarti capture for getting highly detailed normal maps.
For lighting the scenes we use a variety of different methods depending on the desired result. Lighting is very important so you’re going to want to have a really good understanding of how it works and how it affects your images. There is an abundance of ‘vray lighting tutorials’ on the web… just google it. There are also a heap of tutorials in the sites I have listed at the bottom of this page too.
As I mentioned earlier, we use vray for rendering. For most scenes we us RT (gpu) but for large scenes we often have to use Vray Adv. Your going to want to be very very familiar with most of the parameters in the vray render settings. Again… google ‘ vray render settings tutorial’. There is a heap of good info online. We typically render our final production images at 5k (5000px wide) and save them as .exr images which we then import into photoshop for post production. Which leads me to my next topic..
For still images we generally use photoshop and for animation we use after effects. In photoshop we use a couple of plugins called Arion FX and Camera Raw for some subtle effects when required. But generally we like to get as best a result possible directly out of vray and leave the post work to subtle colour grading and basic adjustments (contrast, curves etc). For things like depth of field and lens flare effects its also good to use a plugin – try frischluft and optical flares. But nowdays you can get some pretty decent results for both dof and lens flare straight out of vray.
There are a million things you can do to achieve just about anything in post production so it really does depend on what you are trying to achieve with your image.
Here is a very quick/basic run-down of how we approach a simple architectural visualisation project:
Step 1. Reference Images and planning. For most projects we like to start by gathering some reference images of the type of style, look and feel we are going for in the image. We often scan design websites like archdaily for some inspiration. And then we plan out how we are going to approach the project to get the result we are looking for.
Step 2. Modelling. Model the structures of the scene (building, landscape etc)
Step 3. Add basic lighting, cameras and textures. Setup your lighting (daytime, night, twilight, interior etc etc) and get some rough textures on your model. You’ll need to tweak both textures and lighting later so don’t spend too much time on it now… just get it looking ok. Add your camera and work on a rough composition (you should do a few tutorials on image composition and try and learn how the great photographers compose their images).
Step 4. Add detail. Start adding in the props such as furniture, plants, artwork, cars etc etc
Step 5. Tweak everything. Once you have all the objects and the rough outline of your image its time to start tweaking everything (composition, lighting, textures, styling).
Step 6. Render out the hi resolution image. Once your happy with your scene and test renders you can go ahead and render out the final image as a 5k 32bit exr.
Step 7. Post production. Import the exr into photoshop and adjust until you get the desired look. Done. Then sit back and admire your work.
Passion and Discipline.
If you really love what you do you’ll actually enjoy spending hours watching tutorials and working on your images. At ScreenAge we look for people who are really passionate about 3d visualisation and CGI and love what they do. And the more time you spend at it the better you will get. It takes years of practice to be able to produce really high quality imagery so don’t get too bummed if your images don’t look amazing straight away.
Here are a bunch of links to some cool sites that have a wealth on information on architectural visualisation:
There are so many tutorials, making of’s, tips and workflows on these sites that you should be able to find pretty much everything you need to know about architectural visualisation there.
I encourage anyone who is really keen and passionate about archviz to get involved with these sites… read as much as you can and learn from all the great people who have got some amazing wisdom to share. And start practicing! Create some personal projects. Find a real life archviz photo that you really love and try to replicate it.
If you think you have a really great portfolio we’d love to see it. Send it through to firstname.lastname@example.org