The world we live in today is always evolving. This is not really an adverse occurrence, particularly if it leads to innovative products and inventions. This is true in architectural rendering as well. Architectural rendering has undergone a lot of developments, particularly since the introduction of digital tools. These significant developments have come with a lot of challenges, especially in the area of architectural rendering software.
This architectural rendering software can play a significant role in the final design of a project. Today, many architectural firms rely on 3D visualization as a design tool in their workflow. These architectural renderings offer virtual images of projects such as retail complexes, mixed-use projects, office campuses, and hi-rise buildings at a level of realism that conventional renderings cannot convey. Current software offers computer-generated visual effects that imitate real-world materials, textures, shading, coloring, and lighting bringing an idea into life. We call this “Visualizing the Possibilities!” at 3DAStudio.
3D programs and BIM/CAD software are typically used to model/create digitally in 3D, a design so that it depicts quantitative information like dimensional size, scale, and proportion. Most of these programs have their own built-in rendering feature or plugins to use a third-party render engines, which are programs specializing in rendering images. Some of these programs are listed below, there are many more than listed and many of these were originally developed by other companies and bought out.
Cinema 4D by Maxon – A very robust platform with mature code and file format. Very strong presence in the architectural visualization and television broadcast industries.
3DS Max by Autodesk – Considered the industry standard in architectural visualization and the game industry. This software has built-in rendering and animation and basically does it all, but also is integrated with most third-party render engines as well.
Maya by Autodesk – Considered the industry standard throughout the motion picture industry. This software has built-in rendering and animation and basically does it all, but also is integrated with most third-party render engines as well.
Modo by Foundry – Considered a really good modeling program that many companies use in their workflow and has decent rendering capabilities and third party options.
SketchUp by Tremble – Used in most architectural firms for schematic design and also photo-realistic renderings with third-party rendering engines. This software’s strength is simplicity and non photo-realistic or traditional looking renderings.
AutoCAD by Autodesk – Primarily a 2D drafting program, it can model complex 3D forms and ‘AutoCAD Architecture’ natively models in 3D and has some basic rendering ability.
Revit by Autodesk – BIM software that is fully 3D parametric modeler and building information modeler who has some rendering capabilities and integration with third-party render engines. Mainly used by architectural and engineering firms to prepare construction documents.
MicroStation by Bentley – Parallel to AutoCAD in timeline and features, this CAD Software has been around a long time.
ArchiCAD by GraphiSoft – Starting on the Apple platform this software an early adopter of BIM concepts and a favorite of architects who prefer using Apple computer systems or prefer it over Autodesk products on their PCs.
Blender – Blender is a free and open-source program that has been developed for years now and has quite a cult following. It is very capable and is supported by some third-party software.
Some of the 3D Software programs listed have decent rendering capabilities built-in while others don’t have native photo-realistic rendering capabilities and rely on third-party software specifically created to render images called ‘render engines.
V-Ray by Chaos Group – Probably the most-used render engine for architectural visualization. Great quality and speed and very likely has the largest amount of digital content available for it of any render engine.
Corona by Chaos Group – Recently acquired, this render engine garnered a large following very quickly and is used by many architectural visualization artists and firms.
Maxwell Renderer by Next Limit – One of the first “unbiased” render engines to hit the main stream. Rendering times can be high, but the output is gorgeous in an unbiased photo-realistic way. If you need physically accurate, this is one of the best options.
iRay by Nividia – Younger sibling to the legendary but no longer developed rendering engine ‘mental ray’, used for decades as stand-alone and built into the major 3D software programs. iRay is one of the new generations of GPU based programs that use the power of the newer graphics boards processing unit to render instead of the computer’s main CPU.
finalRender by Cebas Visual Technology – This render engine has been around for a long time and used a lot more than the average CG artist probably knows. The latest iteration is physically accurate and “un-biased” using a new technique of rendering via “Spectral Wavelength Simulation” to create photo-realistic renderings and has recently added a “biased” flavor to the output. This render engine is a hybrid CPU and GPU program meaning it can use your CPU or your GPU (graphics card processor) or both to render images.
Octane Render by OTOY – Another “unbiased” render engine that has received accolades and a large following over the years, many similarities to finalRender, or vice versa; it is a GPU render engine and has some real-time capabilities.
Real-time rendering is an article in itself and considered the future of architectural visualization by many. With the advances of the computer game platform render engines such as ‘CRYENGINE’, ‘Unity’ and ‘Unreal Engine’ or architectural specific programs like Lumion or TwinMotion (Unreal Engine) built specifically for showing off designs in real-time 3D, the future holds some exciting times for the artist and viewer as well.
Russell Thomas is the Founder and Creative Director at 3DAllusions Studio a subsidiary of 3DAllusions LLC which includes sites such as 3DAllusions and MrMaterials which are resources for the CG artist, helping them hone their craft.