The importance of CGI and Visualisation
Updated: Aug 4
CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) and visualisations are invaluable for bringing your project to life, whether big or small. In the last decade 3D rendering has been going through a rapid evolution. This is thanks to the advancing technology and ever-increasing demand for high-quality images across the design industry.
There are a number of reasons why visualisations are so important to the design process:
They can assist planning applications by showing your planners and consultants exactly what your project will look like externally, or on the ‘street scene’, using a combination of existing site photography and CGI.
Visuals can help sell your vision to potential customers. Where elevations and mood boards can’t always convey design vision exactly, an impactful visualisation can really make the difference, allowing them to connect with your new project and see ‘inside’ the space. Likewise, if you’re struggling to see how your own space might look, visuals will assist you in the same way.
Marketing material can be generated through the production of visualisations and they can be used to complete the marketing material long before the project even starts on site. This includes brochures, hoardings, website marketing and presentations to board members and can help drive your proposal forward in anticipation of project completion.
Visuals can be amended endlessly (providing budget allows!) with certain tweaks to elements such as lighting arrangements. The model provides a fail-safe way of ensuring the exact ambiance you require so that in real-life it is exactly how you expected the space to look and feel. Changing the surrounding scenery can show how your project may change over time and portray a whole host of colours and finishes to enable you to make a more informed decision.
There are a number of modelling and rendering software products available on the market and they all have their pros and cons. Full time modelling experts and professionals would use a different rendering product to those who are 2D artists looking to upskill. Prices vary from several thousands of pounds to those free to use. Here’s a small selection that we come into contact with in our industry:
Autodesk 3D Studio Max
3DS Max is Autodesk’s PC-only 3D graphics program which can be used for modelling, architectural visualisation and TV and Film Production. The program offers a professional toolset and unsurprisingly, comes with a professional price tag, however, students can get the software for free and a trial version is also available for 30 days for non-students. 3DS Max uses both direct manipulation and procedural modelling techniques, along with a huge library of different modifiers which can make the process easier for beginners or intermediate modellers who wish to produce photo-realistic visuals.
Sketchup is a simple program which allows the bringing to life of so many different aspects of design. Add-on tools can be customised to solve any 3D modelling issue as there are hundreds of extensions which allow the user to hone their skills and perfect niches. A notable feature is the ability to insert 3D objects on Google Earth and the 3D Warehouse where pre-made items can be inserted into the model. This program is ideal for producing 3D models quickly.
V-ray is not only popular in architecture, but also in film and entertainment. There is an exhaustive list of features for visualising anything from large skyscrapers to small rooms. It is highly regarded for producing the most consistent artwork and it can be used in conjunction with other programs including 3D Max and SketchUp. However, V-Ray doesn’t come cheap and the userface may seem a bit intimidating for beginners.
This free-to-use rendering software has transitioned from being a niche artist favourite to a popular commercial tool for modelling and texturing, to animation, rendering and compositing. It also happens to have a large active user base so you can expect a lot of support whenever you have a burning question.
There is a lot of preparation that goes into creating a visualisation. Floor plans are created from our on-site surveys and material samples are ordered to prepare physical mood boards and furniture specifications.
Modelling software is used to create the scene. At Fisch Design, we use Sketchup to build up the space, and render this model with V-Ray to produce the actual visualisation. All the walls, furniture, fixtures and details are built by a modeller right down to the tiniest detail. Colour and textures are added to the surfaces in order to bring the space to life.
Viewpoints are chosen to showcase the best visuals or to create an animated run-through of the scheme.
Lighting is added in line with the scheme and light location, intensity and colour can be altered to create mood and highlight detail. Sunlight is directed based on the orientation of the project and shadows are cast into the space. The sunlight can be manipulated within the model in order to provide several different scenes at different times of day and in different seasons.
Physical room set building can be time consuming, but over time a library of details, textures and pieces can be built up to speed up the process, especially for roll-outs, where often joinery or loose furniture items are the same/similar.
Rendering programs will complete the photo-realistic look of your scene. Here the light, colour and texture will be manipulated to a fine degree to animate your visual to its best. Materials will be accurately scanned and fabric textures replicated. Rendering of each shot can take several hours or several days based on the level of detail included in your visual. Reflective surfaces such as glass, metal and mirror often lengthen the process.
Despite these time constraints, the end result can add that extra dimension to make sure your project has that ‘wow’ factor upon competition. Visuals inspire Clients and customers alike and they can often be the ‘make or break’ way of selling your scheme to your prospective clients.