3D rendering and visualization artists are always looking for the next big leap in technology to take their work to the next level. Typically, these jumps are incremental, represented by modest upgrades to computing power that might make their machines work a little faster and their textures pop a little better.
However, we are in the midst of a revolution in not only how we work as 3D rendering artists, but how information is communicated, consumed, and digested.
I’m talking, of course, about real-time-rendering. The concept is nothing new, as video games have been using the technology since...well...video games were a thing. However, technology has finally moved far enough along to give the power of immersive experience into the hands of commercial rendering applications, and businesses everywhere are taking notice.
We’re going to take a look at what real time rendering is, and why it has the potential to usher in a much bigger leap than usual in terms of rendering and design communication.
To be perfectly frank, it’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s computing power working to display a computer generated image as a fluid animation without any noticeable lag to the human eye. Think back to a video game. You move, pan the camera, and the image moves and pans instantaneously. You might not think about it, but there is an immense amount of digital engineering, coding, and processing power making that all work in a seamless virtual experience.
Now, imagine giving that kind of power and flexibility to architecture firms, digital marketers, and even the average freelance rendering artist. It has implications on workflow, design process, and the ability to showcase canned virtual tours of work that has yet to be physically conceived.
There’s a reason video games look better as processing power gets faster. Game makers are limited by how many pixels, polygons, and behind-the-scenes systems and physics models any given processing set-up can produce. This is because all of it must be rendered in real time, depending on player action and circumstance.
Rendering engines have only recently had the kind of processing power necessary to bring real time rendering into the palm of an artist’s hand.
Typically, renderers work in very basic, sometimes wireframe, versions of the finished, rendered scene. This applies much guess-work to the process, and can make waiting around for the computer to render a regular aspect of your day.
If utilizing real time rendering, you can be working on a project - panning around, applying lighting and materials - while the rendered scene is in perfect, plain view for you to manipulate. No waiting around. No more frustrating results. No more zooming through deadlines because your machine ran too hot and you lost all your work.
Real time rendering gives artists the freedom to work within the rendering, so when they finally start exporting images and animations, they already know how lighting is going to react, how materials are going to interact, and how perspective and experience will shift.
For architecture and design firms, the primary purpose of visualization work is to communicate the fundamental force behind their designs. This is not always easy, as much of the time you’re trying to spoon feed this information to people who might have a lot of money, but little to no experience with design. Simply saying ‘trust me’ is never enough, and will likely have you pulled off a job faster than you can say ‘Corbusier.’
So, renderings and diagrams and floor plans are a must. But, what else can be done to bring those suits away from their apprehensions and towards that ever-elusive badge of trust? How about an interactive virtual experience that allows them to move around freely within the building they just paid over seven figures to construct?
Exactly. Real time rendering gives architecture firms the ability to not only design buildings, but design experiences that will showcase the best, most important aspects of their work. Clients will be blown away by little more than the presentation of it all, and can marvel at your work as a designer without having to take your word for it or guess how it’s all going to turn out.
Of course, executing an architectural design is the much more difficult aspect of the process, but having your clients’ trust will go a lot way to letting you do your job, resulting in a finished work that reflects the initial idea.
We are already seeing a handful of rendering programs implement real time rendering into their base interface. Programs like Keyshot are making waves for their use of computer technology, and we can certainly expect to see others follow suit in the near future.
The possibilities for real time rendering applications are vast, giving everyone in the rendering industry something to get excited about. As computers get faster, so will this technology become better, making for more streamlined workflow, impressive visualizations, and a continued bond of trust between designers and clients.