let’s play “Render Or Real”

The boundaries between photographs and digital renderings are blurred. See if you can guess which of these images are rendering or reality!

1. Innie & Outie House

Innie & Outie House

Innie & Outie are two different types of courtyard houses. Three of each type, totaling six houses, are sited close to Dianshan Lake—a large freshwater lake in Qingpu, Shanghai, China.

2. HendeeBorg House

HendeeBorg House

The HendeeBorg House in Sonoma, CA is a symmetrical saw-tooth roof house for two artists – a sculptor and a media artist – that includes a pair of large artist studios, a gallery space, and a sequence of domestic spaces.

3. House Hafner

House Hafner

The House Hafner is located in the countryside next to a forest in Southern Germany. This secluded home is surrounded by stunning views of the forested landscape.

4. Engel Residence

Engel Residence

This house in Scottsdale, AZ doubles as the Engel’s office and design studio, and includes a gallery and art studio that wraps around a large existing mesquite tree.

5. Allandale House

Allandale House

The Allandale House is an A-frame home that utilizes the acutely angled corners meeting the floor as opportunities for built-in storage and thickened walls.

6. The Umubano Primary School

The Umubano Primary School

This school, designed by MASS Design Group, has unique settings for learning with a mix of interior rooms, exterior teaching areas, and terraced play spaces for children.

7. Tind by Claesson Koivisto Rune

Tind by Claesson Koivisto Rune

Tind house was created by designer Claesson Koivisto Rune. Each house features a roof with a gentle incline to match the housing vernacular in Sweden. The peak of the roof is flat, which the designers compare to the profiles of the Scandinavian Mountains.

8. Butaro Hospital

Butaro Hospital

This hospital, designed by MASS Design Group and located in the rural Burera district of Rwanda, has an innovative design that maximizes airflow to prevent the spread of airborne diseases.

9. House in Suffolk

House in Suffolk

Designed by Strom Architects, this private house in Suffolk, UK is a country home that is set among the ruins of an old home that burned down eight years ago. The building is entered via a bridge that spans through the ruins.

Learn more about the architectural visualization artist who created the renderings: Peter Guthrie.

Learn more about Autodesk’s capabilities for Architecture, Engineering and Construction.

1) Rendering
2) Rendering
3) Rendering
4) Real
5) Rendering
6) Real
7) Rendering
8) Real
9) Rendering

3D Scene Assets

The intent of rendering within Revit has always been for design validation as opposed to those emotional marketing type of images.  That being said Revit does have the ability to produce some pretty impressive visualization images.  Design validation images while they can be of an impressive quality tend to be lacking a sense of being “lived in”, the problem is that all of the little extras like dinner plates, fruit bowls, pictures, magazines… all increase the computing power required to process the scene and this is where Revit has a problem.  It is after all a little much to expect that your BIM solution complete with it’s data rich building components also be able to add in all those extra high poly models without slowing down the software.  So for a design intent visualization image these little extras are better left out and as a result the images tend to have a sterile feel.

This is where 3D Max comes in.  Revit exports to the FBX format which is intended to be imported into Max and will maintain all the material settings from Revit so all that is required is the addition of all the little extras.  (Unconfirmed rumours are that Max 2013 will open .RVT files directly.)

So your looking for scene assets to enhance your visualizations, of course we all want them for free, free is the right price!  I’ll list a number of sites I’ve used in the past to gather those little extras.

Just a word of warning the old saying “you get what you pay for” is still true in the world of BIM.  Also be sure you know where you can use your newly acquired assets, most publishers will have something like the following:

1. This 3D model is provided “as is”, entirely at your own risk.
2. We don’t accept any claims regarding quality of this model or any standards conformity.
3. This model may be used in any commercial way only if it is a part of artwork or project. 4. Single reselling or redistribution of this model is prohibited.
5. This model may (or may not – really watch out for this one) be freely modified or elaborated.

The basic ways of use are 3D Visualisation, Interior Design, Architectural Visualisation, Landscape Design, 3D Animation and 3D Art.

TurboSquid TurboSquid Free Assets DLegend
3D Extras Archive 3D 3D Model Free
3DM3 Exchange 3D Wirecase
Mr.Furniture Top 3D Models Archibase
ShareCG 3D Allusions 3D Auto Club

These last few links are some extra’s you might be interested in as well:

3D Total (Free texture resource)

The Blueprints

Onno van Braam

Rendering Backgrounds

Structural renders are getting used more often and the mental ray engine leaves a grey line at the horizon, here’s a little trick to bypass the grey horizon line in renders, it’s not great but it’s quick:

  1. Render an image and save to .tif or .png – This will create an alpha channel transparency with no sky, and no horizon.
  2. Change the the target of the camera to be 100m or so in the air so that nothing but sky is seen, re-render and save the sky image as a .jpg – This renders really fast as there’s no geometry
  3. In photoshop (or image software of your choice) add the sky in behind the image.

4x6, FRONT VIEW .png image (with alpha channel)

sky .jpg image

4x6,-FRONT-VIEW composite (.jpg was rotated 180deg.)

The final image looks better once more scene assets are added and you don’t need to place an expensive (in render time) tree line along the back of the image.

Render Compositing

Just a quick note on rendering times VS settings.  I set the following two renders exactly the same with the exception that one is a day shot therefore artificial lights are turned off and the other is an evening shot so artificial are turned on.  The day shot rendered at 1:16:32 while the night at 2:42:42.

ScreenShot001 ScreenShot001, result

ScreenShot002 ScreenShot002, result

Obviously, make sure to have all artificial lights turned off if they’re not needed.  The images that revit creates are HDRI (high dynamic range imaging) so be sure to play with the exposure settings to get the right feel for your final renders.


When the background is set to a colour, say cyan rather than a sky then exported to .jpg with the intention of blue screen editing in photoshop you get this:

jpg results

But a better option is to export to .tif or .png which support alpha channels, the resulting image is much better suited for compositing:

png results

Custom Glazing

On a current project I need to render a few images to give the client some glazing options.  I contacted a supplier and they were just in the early stages of creating revit families of their glass colours.  (Nice to see new families being created by suppliers!)  They were having a problem getting the colour to come through on their renders.  I started working with them to create custom glazing and I made an error in assumption at the start: I thought to use the generic material as my base point as it should give me access to all the material settings however there proved to be too much control and I found it difficult to get a handle on what all the variables controlled.  I would suggest only going this route if you have a fairly good level of experience with 3D graphics and render options.

The faster way to go, and this is the trick, is to pick a render material that is close to the material you want to create.  From the supplier I got an RGB colour value of 139/152/136, a reflectivity of 30% & a transparency of 53%.  As you can see the base material starting point is very important.

Curtain Wall Glazing

dark green ref ScreenShot001, 2 panes

light blue rippled light blue rippled-result

mirror-set mirror

Etched Glass Settings

etched settings etched settings (1) Untitled-1

I didn’t spend any time on the orientation or tiling of the flower image and as a result it was rotated 90deg. & tiled a few times both horizontally & vertically.

A quick note on the differences between transparency & translucency.  A transparent physical material shows objects behind it as unobscured and doesn’t reflect light off its surface. Clear glass is a nearly transparent material. Although glass allows most light to pass through unobscured, in reality it also reflects some light. A perfectly transparent material is completely invisible.

A translucent physical material shows objects behind it, but those objects are obscured by the translucent material. In addition, a translucent material reflects some of the light that hits it, making the material visible. Physical examples of translucent materials include sheer cloth, thin plastic, and smoked glass.

Transparent and translucent are often used synonymously. Materials that are neither transparent nor translucent are opaque.