The Art of Rendering: From Architecture to Product Visualization and Back

Could CGI and architectural visualization techniques spell the end for product photo shoots?

Lidija Grozdanic Lidija Grozdanic

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The great thing about architectural visualization is that it allows artists to constantly expand their skillsets. Working on both micro and macro levels- from details such as door knobs to masterplans and aerials, 3d artists are primed to tackle a variety of creative challenges. This makes the transition from architectural visualization to product visualization only natural, especially since the creation of interior images in particular includes dealing with various architectural products.

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It is important for rendering artists to realize that the AEC industry offers a large pool of career opportunities that go beyond creating images of architectural objects. Manufacturers are increasingly using computer generated imagery to market products in a way that saves expenses on prototyping and commissioning photo shoots. CGI provides them with the opportunity to test designs and iterations in a cost- and time-efficient way. One significant advantage of creating product images compared to architecture for 3d artists, is the fact that project turnover in the case of the former is quicker, which can offer a steadier source of income for studios and freelancers alike.

Fisher & Paykel Global Digital Brand Experience by Buildmedia

Architectural visualization, like other creative fields, has its internal logic; guidelines regarding composition, lighting and overall mood. As an immanently commercial endeavor, architectural visualization exists in the liminal space where artistic merit and marketability are constantly being balanced. It operates under a sort of dichotomy of looking at architecture as a product, as well as considering the purely aesthetic qualities of an image.

When it comes to product visualization, this balance shifts in favor of the utilitarian. The way artists present a product within a space drastically differs from the way an archviz artist looks at an image. Anyone looking to make the transition from archviz to product visualization will be required to readjust their eye. In terms of composition, the product needs to be front and center. Because product manufacturers use marketing images across different platforms, and most often add copy to the image, the way artists make compositional choices becomes a balancing act that goes beyond the attempts to create a harmonious visual.

When it comes to lighting, using one or a couple of light sources just won’t do. In order to create a most flattering representation of the product, artists need to make sure to create highlights, rich reflections, while staying true to the way the materials behave in the physical world. This means that, although a particular setup lights the scene beautifully, additional light sources are required to further enhance the look of the product itself.

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It may seem logical to think that smaller scale projects are simpler to work on, but this is far from true- in product visualization, every small detail counts, each highlight, the accuracy of texture grating, the tiniest inconsistency in geometry can make or break an image. The level of technical scrutiny is higher, especially in studio renders, which makes it more difficult for artists to mask any mistakes. Considering the fact that each product most often has multiple versions and iterations, the way a scene is structured needs to be impeccable in order to produce consistent results.

As mentioned earlier, project turnover and workflow dynamics are quite different when it comes to product visualization. Visualizing a single product most often is about creating a great range of deliverables, both print and web designs (studio images with different camera angles, ambient images, explainer animations and marketing videos, to name a few), and thus collaborating with clients becomes a much more intense and often longer process. One of the first stages in collaborating relates to pinpointing the exact look of a product, especially its materialization.

Because many firms working in the field of industrial design often use dedicated 3d software such as, for example, Solidworks, 3d artists need to create a seamless way of migrating models to their in-house preferred software. The back-and-forth between visualization studio and client is more intense which requires an efficient and precise production pipeline- otherwise it can lead to chaos, burnt out 3d artists and frustrated management.

ASKO wok burner teaser by Frajni Creative Studio

Through visualizing products, 3d artists can expect to acquire various VFX skills and learn, for instance, particle simulations, compositing, editing, camera tracking, color grading, etc. There is a variety of software and render engines the capabilities of which match different types of visualization. 3Ds Max is an industry standard (along with CINEMA 4D), and I’ve found FStorm to be the best and most cost effective render engine out there for studio and ambient images, as well as animation. It has a beautifully simplified UI, and paired with a powerful RTX GPU, it is fast at producing cinematic, flicker- and artifact-free results. When it comes to interactive content, UNREAL takes the cake. Manufacturers are recognizing VR and AR as powerful tools in attempts to reach customers and make quick design decisions.

Working in any niche within the visualization industry implies a level of routine – after a few hundred interior images, it’s difficult not to feel a bit bored. While this satiation with the work is a natural part of doing anything really, there are ways artists can keep it fresh. It is why, at least for myself personally, diversifying has always been key to overall job satisfaction. Combining architectural and product visualization can give artists the opportunity to switch things up and constantly reinvigorate their creative passion by taking time off certain types of projects by working on something different.

The winners of Architizer’s 3rd Annual One Rendering Challenge have been revealed! Interested in next year's program? Subscribe to our newsletter for updates.
© CLOU architects

UniFuns Tianfu Chengdu // CLOU architects

Chengdu, China

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