Stan Zaslavsky

5 Elements to Custom 3D Visualisations

Quite often, we are approached to produce visualisations for custom projects that are unlike typical residential or commercial developments that we regularly work on. From showcasing how different lights may illuminate a room or an extremely urgent visualisation of a conceptual product that needs to be presented in various architectural environments for potential investors – we’ve worked on a range of custom visual projects that demand speed, efficiency and accuracy.

These detailed elements often start to take precedence over photo-realism, which is still important, of course – it’s just that the focus is different than what’s required for typical residential marketing architectural visualisations. Strict time constraints also influence how much time is spent on polishing up these small elements, rather than getting the overall storyline and technical aspects of the 3D visual across.

Based on our experience in handling these issues, we have compiled 5 key factors to expedite project delivery and the production of functional 3D images that match the brief as much as possible. The progression of the actual workflow, through to the overall delivery, is somewhat similar to a typical project, however, the time allocation to various stages of the project is radically changed. The strategy and the brief stage is considerably increased to remove ambiguity, whereas the final stages of post-processing don’t require quite as much time.

The image we produced above was used in a Huffington Post article [Urban Rooftop Farm Powered by Rainwater and Composted Food Waste] about a revolutionary new product that’s going to change the future of urban food production. Our visualisation skills and library assets were actively engaged to work with the vision of the inventors to produce five 3D visuals of different environments where their product could be used.

Because the time-frame to completion was extremely tight, the biggest key to producing these images was getting the concepts and brief sketched out in as much detail as possible.

Strategy and Conceptual Brief

We recently worked with Gerard Lighting, one of the largest electrical wholesalers in Australia to develop a set of visuals for an upcoming consumer website. The objective was to use each room within a house and showcase different lighting technologies, as well as allow the users of the website to experiment and try out different types of lights – and then provide lighting solutions that corresponded with the style of lighting that had been selected.

From the inception of the project, we had to take the idea from the client and put it into reality. At the output, we produced more than 80 images of nine spaces, with combinations of three different types of lighting – ambient, accent and task lighting.

The conceptual understanding of the project was critical on both the side of the client and our studio. A lot of mood boards were created to confirm the alignment of expectations and define the extent of the images. In our workflow, we are quite client-centric and there are always important, documented milestone steps to allow early adjustments. This really helps, as clients often have a certain idea that might not eventuate when it’s produced in 3D virtual space.

As custom 3D visualisation can really be “blue sky”, allocating the majority of time to establish the strategy and clarify the conceptual brief is absolutely essential to the ultimate success of the project.

Resources and Library Management

Ability to turn around images on very short notice requires extremely active management of library resources. This means that brief and strategy needs to be able to take in mind all the available detail models to expedite accurate site model creation.

The project above had a requirement to deliver 4 visuals of a complex commercial project including aerial images within 1 week. This was our client’s feedback at the completion of the project:

We are very happy with the process and the result.  Admire your work and would definitely use and recommend again. I hope you all feel very proud of what you’ve been able to achieve in such a short period of time.” Claire Murray, Dandolo Partners.

Concept sketches and any other supporting information to be created into 3D takes quite a lot of time, so having ready-made 3D buildings, landscape, people and other 3D models that can plug into the overall model, certainly provides the shortcut especially if the delivery time-frame is limited.

Some of the websites that can be accessed for ready-made detailed 3D models are listed below:

Flexibility in Approach

Projects that start out in “blue sky” conceptual mode often need a rapid change in direction if the visuals don’t come through as expected. Specific attention to the details in the brief is really important, as the overall mood of the image can be altered by the smallest of details – so on both the client’s and 3D studio’s side, these have to be ironed out as much as possible in the strategy session.

However, the expectation to be flexible with direction still plays true and should be considered above everything. Often, there are other stakeholders within the client’s side who may come in with late ideas and this may affect 3D visuals in a significant way.

Speed and Efficiency vs Photo-realism

Custom visualisations have several key priorities, however exact photo-realism isn’t necessarily one of those. The truth is that achieving photo-realism takes a lot of time, which custom visualisations often don’t have the luxury of accessing.

This forces us to, instead, focus on key areas and make concessions to other elements that would be absolutely resolved in marketing images – for example, the quality of people’s faces and photo-realism of clothing textures.

So, identifying these areas becomes vitally important to the overall result of the project. Ideally, this should be achieved at the strategy stage, but often, until the visuals are in colour, it’s really difficult for the clients to judge effectively. As a consequence, getting a preliminary 3D render out as fast as possible, even if not all details are resolved – is key.

Technical Accuracy and Model Inputs

Custom 3D visualisations often involve inputs from engineering packages, such as Solidworks or Inventor, which are still 3D CAD packages – and it’s only that their modelling details are quite different to 3D Studio Max, which is used for architectural visualisation.

The models in Solidworks and the like are extremely “high poly”, as the features of products are quite often detailed, such as chamfered edges and component assemblies consisting of internal parts and how they go together. These elements are mostly irrelevant to the overall visualisation, but, if imported straight in, it complicates the process immeasurably. Often the products need to be simplified in 3D Studio Max first, using the outside dimensions and then visualised afterwards.

As a client, this needs to be also kept in mind, as it may affect time-frames and expectations – depending on the complexity of your products for custom visualisations.

Unbounded Imagination Flourishes from Solid Fundamentals

As unlikely that the combination of these words sounds, “blue sky” custom visualisation projects really do benefit from some core fundamentals. Putting together a comprehensive brief and strategy saves a lot of time and being flexible throughout the process allows for small detours, if absolutely necessary, to achieve the ultimate aim.

Creating effective custom 3D visuals that produce results requires the visualisation studio to modify their delivery methodology and if that is true of your situation, then keeping the above fundamentals in mind should help.

To your development success,


Stan Zaslavsky

LREA, BEng (Mech with Honours) / BTech (Industrial Design), VPELA

Continue reading next