One of the most valuable tools used to convey a project to a client is the use of 3d modeling. You can sit and try to explain something to a client but at the end of the day if they can’t read the plans then they can’t truly understand what’s going on. 3-D models are an excellent way to convey the sense of space through 2-d images…a picture is worth a thousand words.
We have a lot of clients that come in and simply don’t understand 2d drawings even though we think our drawings are pretty clear.
This doesn’t look too complicated does it?
Plans, elevations and sections seem to get lost in translation and it is difficult for us (as architects) to understand how hard it is for our clients to comprehend these drawings. To us it’s like looking into the Matrix and to our clients it’s like looking into the Matrix (except they don’t have one of those awesome Matrix outlets in the back of their heads or the cool sunglasses either).
Since I work at a small residential firm we do things a little differently than most firms. Larger firms have the capacity to send their employees through training and are constantly up on the latest technology…whereas we stick to what we know and are hesitant to make big operational changes. As a result we needed modeling software that would allow for an easy transition and something that was relatively inexpensive.
This is where Google SketchUp comes in. It is easy to learn and essentially anyone in our office can use it to some capacity. Most importantly it’s free (unless you want the pro version that’ll cost you $495). If you’ve never done any 3-D modeling and you’re scared that it is just too over your head then I suggest you download SketchUp. Don’t be afraid…it’s really easy to learn and there are tons of tutorials online.
3-D modeling is no longer an “extra” marketing tool for architecture firms, rather, it’s something that most of our clients expect to see after just a few short meetings.
We have been using SketchUp in our office for several years now but just recently have looked into upgrading our 3-D imaging to try to make our renderings a little more realistic. While a lot of our clients can get the general idea of how a project looks through the sketchy black lines and flat shadows that SketchUp provides there are still some clients that need a little more realism.
There are many rendering plugins for SketchUp – SU Podium, VUE, Piranesi, Shaderlight, etc.- the one that we decided on was V-Ray. It’s not too terribly difficult to operate and it gives us the flexibility to manipulate lighting, make custom materials and export large files for use in our presentation.
It’s amazing how you can change a few materials, throw some reflections in, add variations to the shadows and change the rendering completely with very little effort.
The extent of the realism in your modeling will depend on a variety of things (namely knowledge of the program and time spent on the model) and with a little tweaking you will have an exponentially better result then SketchUp’s direct output. I’ve only been using V-Ray for about a month now and have already seen a tremendous difference in our modeling.
This post was not meant to be a tutorial on rendering nor was it to endorse one rendering engine over another, simply it was aimed to show that YOU HAVE OPTIONS. Up until a few months ago I didn’t realize that we had any options for realistic renderings through SketchUp besides spending a lot of money buying a seat of 3ds Max, Form-Z or Maya.