How to Give Your Architectural Project a Reality Boost
In a world where autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence (AI,) Internet of Things (IoT,) virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are becoming commonplace terms across the globe, the average client in the AEC space will surely begin to except more realistic presentations and experiences during the design process.
This post will discuss ways to give your project a reality boost using Enscape. Many people are already taking advantage of these ideas, albeit separately perhaps. Consider combining several of these features to create a more lively and immersive experience not soon to be forgotten.
We will look at accurate daylighting, project surroundings, entourage, proxies, bump maps and even sound… all culminating in a memorable presentation experience.
Accuracy in Daylighting Your Scene
With the emphasis on high performance or sustainable design these days, the role daylight plays in the built environment cannot be overstated. We can certainly gain some insight during the early design process by using Enscape. Therefore, it behooves us to take the time and select our Location on earth and specify True North.
Accurate daylight for exterior
Accurate daylight for interior
Wrapped in Reality - Use a Skybox
There is nothing worse than seeing a simple, flat, horizon line in a rendering. This has been a typical occurrence in many computer-generated architectural renderings for years. It manifests itself in both interior and exterior renderings. This can even be seen on reflective surfaces, such as glass or marble. Thus, adding a background manually in Photoshop will fix one problem, but the reflections will still be broken, as it were.
Try using horizon presets, as shown below. Of course, your client will notice the background is not the property they may have just paid a lot of money for, but it will certainly feel livelier. Taking a 360° panorama from the construction site itself will give the customer a total boost in reality.
Scene with skybox selected
Uses photograph of adjacent existing buildings
However, you might want to consider using a custom skybox downloaded from OpenFootage.Net, and adding it using the Enscape function “Skybox as a background”. OpenFootage has several low-resolution options like this one, which are free, as well as high-resolution downloads for a fee. Why is this better than adding a similar image later in Photoshop? Two reasons: First of all, as the design continues to evolve, the image will always be there. Secondly the same background will be visible from multiple rooms, and at different angles.
Use Advanced Textures!
Whether you are using Revit 2019’s new advanced materials, or the similar results one can achieve with Enscape’s material editor, it is always a good idea to develop and use high quality textures. The results can be super dramatic in the final rendering. The two examples shown below highlight the rich and lively effect high quality textures can have.
Example wood textures
If you have Autodesk Revit installed, you can access a wealth of textures installed on your computer’s local drive. There are many more options here than formal materials within the software. It is also helpful to know that there are three quality levels; low, medium and high. Be sure to use the high-quality textures located in this folder: C:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\Autodesk Shared\Materials\Textures\3\Mats. Also in this folder you will find files to support the new advanced materials, such as ‘norm,’ ‘refl,’ ‘rough.’
Mind the Bump
When developing materials, remember to apply bump maps when appropriate. Doing so has such an incredible impact on the quality of the material and overall image. For example, look at the subtle shadow lines added at each brick in the image below. Or, how about the fabric that looks so comfortable on the sofa and ottoman, plus the impressive woodgrain with highlights in the flooring?
Bump map used for masonry (Revit)
Bump map used for wood and textiles (SketchUp)
I think designers often think their static renderings will not resemble certain materials closely enough, so they do not apply a bump map. But times are changing! With real-time rendering, we can end up all over the model while presenting on-screen or in VR. Plus, there is not really any loss in performance or time increase like there is with traditional rendering tools.
The importance of using bump maps cannot be over emphasized. It really is the difference between someone thinking “I understand that to be brick” in an okay rendering, to “wow, is this a photograph” in a properly developed model.
Architecture Is for People - Add People
It should be no surprise that architecture looks better with people and clutter in it – that is what buildings are for, right? The two images below speak for themselves: acceptable versus reality boosted!
With people and clutter (lively)
and, without (plain)
Using RPC content can transform an image from great to amazing. There are some libraries with free and paid content that help you to add people to your architectural project. With some effort you can achieve even more of a reality boost by using custom RPC content.
Reality Does Not Mean Being Perfect
When thinking about reality, we understand nothing is perfect. So, it can be a benefit to your composition to rotate a chair, add a can of soda, place a magazine or a pack of 3M Post-It notes (by the way, did you know that 3M stands for Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing?). But don’t just place them in their original orthogonal state; that is mainly for walls. Once you place your entourage or plantings, rotate them slightly in random increments. And, for plantings, also change the scale slightly for each instance.
A naturally folded napkin and a can of soda
Desk clutter randomly rotated
Proxies Are Your Best Help For Large Projects
To help with performance in your model, use proxies. These complex elements appear as simplified objects e.g. in SketchUp and then are replaced with much more complex geometry and materials in Enscape. In the two images below, the SketchUp model has another entire SketchUp model placed as a proxy. When Enscape is opened, the referenced SketchUp model is used. The bookcase with clutter, by itself, is a 16MB file with 106k edges, 43k faces and 52 materials. As you can imagine, the simple wireframe box will make your main SketchUp model perform a LOT better.
SketchUp model with proxy placed
Enscape with detailed model used for proxy
Find the Perfect Perspective
Finding the perfect perspective is somewhat of an art. Many architectural illustrators I have worked with over the years have a few simple rules which I have found very helpful in composing images digitally. First, compose the view from a human vantage point. Second, avoid aligning or overlapping geometry which creates the potential for confusion. Next, frame an exterior view with adjacent vegetation if possible, such as a tree branch in the foreground. Finally, avoid foreshortening a plane, like an adjacent wall, too much as this can misrepresent the proportions of a space – simple shift the vantage point to the left of or right to see a little more.
If nothing else, just taking a moment to step back and reflect on the composition of the view can reveal issues which can be easily addressed by nudging entourage or adjusting the camera position. And with all of this in mind, one of the things I love most about Enscape is its ability to make subtle adjustments in real-time, so you can quickly find that perfect perspective.
Fine-Tune Your Perspective
With a well-developed model, it is now possible to add one more layer of refinement: depth of view and field of view. These two features create results that mimic a physical camera, which can leave many wondering if the image is real or CGI. The field of view defines how much of a scene is visible in the given view. A wider field of view helps to make up for a lack of peripheral vision in a flat image, but the wider you go the more distorted the image gets; think fish-eye distortion. The depth of view, in super simple terms, is what causes the background and/or foreground to be blurry. Seeing as it is not practical to represent all clutter or blemishes in a real-world setting, using depth of view to slightly blur targeted portions of your scene can really help with the overall sense of realism exuded by an image.
Bonus: Add Sound to Virtual Reality
Perhaps the most underutilized feature in virtual reality is the ability to add sound. This is yet another way in which we can bring a real-time visualization to life. Use one of the Sound Source commands, depending on how you want the “Speaker” to be hosted in Revit.
You will be prompted to select an MP3 file. Enscape brings you to a folder with a few samples; C:\Program Files\Enscape\ExampleSounds. Of course, there are unlimited options accessible via a web search. You can even make your own if needed. Like custom textures, be sure to place sound source files (MP3s) in a shared location so everyone on the project has access to them!
Once you click to place your sound source, you will have a symbol visible within Revit as shown here. In addition to the file location listed in Properties, notice there are also parameters to control the volume and distance (radius) the sound can be heard from within Enscape. Keep in mind, Revit elements such as walls and doors do not block or reduce sound, so set the values accordingly.
Sound source visible in Enscape
Do not be satisfied with average results. Take advantage of these nine steps to create more realistic renders. With these in hand, you will create excitement in even the most mild-mannered project stakeholder!
Use these techniques on your next project to impress everyone involved, including your competition! Consider it a compliment when someone asks “What software are you using?”
In the high-tech world we live in, architects and designers should not miss out on opportunities to develop better work, faster. Enscape presents such an opportunity, which is evident by the large number of people in our industry who are talking about this cutting-edge real-time visualization software. If you have not tried it yet, you owe it to yourself to download the trial and open a few of your models in Revit, SketchUp, Rhino or ArchiCAD to see them come to life right before your eyes.