Information concerning the field of architectural renderings and architectural illustrations.

3D rendering, design, media, and technology news.

This year has been a crazy one for me and this blog had been neglected. Back in January, I ran into breathing difficulties due to allergies and was hospitalized. I also set about relocating the studio back in June to a new location in Hough’s Neck, Massachusetts. Last but not least, I’ve been juggling numerous projects in between all of these life events, and simply haven’t had too much spare time nor desire to keep things updated.

Anyways, it all turned out for the best. I’m feeling a lot better and I now have a wonderful place to live and work. Plus, I have a great group of neighbors – I couldn’t be luckier when it came to making new friends.

All that aside, I finally got around to updating this blog to the lastest WordPress and decided that it was a good time to start writing some posts. I noticed that the ranking for my LunarStudio website did take a ranking hit in certain search categories over the course of this past year (“Architectural Rendering” for example took my website from the top 10 Google spot and nearly dropped of the page of SERPs.) Part of me speculated that it was due to Google’s new search engine algorithms which are constantly evolving. I also speculated that it was in part due to my blogs falling behind in both posts and updates. Since they are outdated, it would make sense for them to lower the ranking for the links headed back out to other sites.

Google is tricky in that the company doesn’t release too much information as to what increases a site’s search engine rankings when it comes to keywords. If they did publicly release all of their tools, people would be able to “game” the system more than they currently are. The whole goal of Google is to return relevant searches full of useful information and to avoid simply posting results to the highest bidder (that’s what Google Adwords is meant for.) So anything I post regarding this is ultimately speculative, but one that I feel makes complete sense.

So a few days ago, I updated my blogs and almost immediately noticed that I was getting feedback on articles that I wrote a while ago.  Also, a few of my other blogs brought in sales where it had been stagnant for most of this year. It appears that Google actually looks at the WordPress version that one is using. Where it’s pulling that information from, I don’t know. It might simply be that Google is seeing an updated Sitemap as that stores time-stamps  WordPress can also automatically ping Google upon updates if you’re using the Google XML Sitemaps plugin. If you’re using the latest WP, it probably signals that you are serious about security (Google doesn’t want to link to sites that are malicious), code readability, updates, and that you’re content is fresh.

In  summary, what I’m suggesting to readers and blog owners is that it’s probably in their best interest to keep their blogs updated if SEO (search engine optimization) and your reader-base is a concern to you. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to pen new articles every time, but at least take a few moments to keep your systems updated. I’m definitely experiencing a traffic increase on all of my sites even prior to writing these past two articles. Hopefully this article serves as a helpful reminder.

3D rendering, design, media, and technology news.

A week ago, my company LunarStudio was contacted on a late Friday evening by a Los Angeles-based property firm. This company wanted to have realistic renderings created from multiple sketches. The owner informed me that she had “gone through three different people before finding a sketch artist that [they] could work with.” She complained about “missing deadlines” due to the artist’s “inability” to interpret what she wanted to see drawn out. After months of trials, they had finally nailed down their sketches then they proceeded to try to find a photorealistic rendering company or artist that could develop a 3D rendering based upon those sketches. The owner went through an additional person (person #4), stating that the renderings looked nothing like her originals.

Now, she presented the renderings to me and we spent over an hour on the phone. I’d be first to admit that there were a decent amount of differences from the sketch and things that could have been done better. But keep in mind, they did not have plans and elevations which tends to make the process much easier because there’s a lot less guessing when it comes to dimensions. Having those construction drawings can actually cut a project’s development time half. Secondly, she did not mention how much she offered to pay this artist. The problems with the artwork in her mind were numerous – from colors (the original sketches didn’t have any colors) to people being placed in slightly different locations, etc.

I could easily see this artist pulling out their hairs trying to perform both a bit of magical mind-reading and having to bend 3D software in directions that it’s not intended to be bent in. In a nutshell, this client was extremely demanding.

A week later, I tried contacting her to see what her status was on her project – if they came to any determinations as to who they would use for their renderings. Personally, I don’t really need the extra work although it might have been decent money – it was more for my own scheduling purposes as my schedule can be really hectic at times. She said that she wanted to take an entirely different approach and find someone that could work internally and that it had nothing to do with pricing as everyone was in-line with one another.

I told her at that point that I was no longer trying to sell myself, but actually trying to help her. I said quite honestly, “any artist that is really good is probably not going to work full-time with someone standing over their shoulders. Secondly, if you do find that person, it’s going to cost a lot of money.” I think she realized my point then mentioned “hiring a contractor instead.”  I stated that hiring a contractor was probably more of a realistic expectation but that it wasn’t going to be easy. I could tell that she didn’t like the fact that I was questioning her decisions, although I was merely trying to help solve her problem. She excused herself and our conversation ended.

The main issue that I see here is one of being picky, bordering on what I would think falls under the medical definition of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Everyone wants something for nothing – they want the impression that they are getting a good deal. There comes a point where obsessing over the smallest details can be counter-productive as it can add weeks or even months to a schedule and drive up costs. These types of clients that are hiring the artists often do not understand our process and how much work is involved in producing a sketch, let alone a 3D rendering. In other situations, a client may be absolutely in the right when it comes to the finer details, but are unwilling to pay a higher premium for quality. At that point, friction develops. I know personally that I’m willing to make just about any change as long as a client is willing to compensate for my time. The problem is that in many people’s minds, they might think something takes a few minutes when in reality it can take a few hours or even days.

I personally don’t think this person is going to obtain a good outcome in a timely fashion. Her main complaint and frustration involved timing and quality. She went through three sketch artists before finding one that she liked. She went through another 3D artist as well. Now, she is several months in the hole. How much do you think that cost her? She’s probably looking close to $15,000 wasted – possibly more. And that’s not factoring in their own time. The owner and their employees have to be spending their own time in meetings, emails, approvals, back-and-forth with their clients, etc. So at the end of the day, she just wasted $30 grand of her own client’s money and is STILL not any further ahead. By the time she is done, her company is going to have run up a $50,000 bill and clock.

And by some chance she does obtain a good outcome, whatever artist that she hires is probably not going to want to work for her in the future unless she learns the meaning of working together. Sometimes I see these types of overly-picky clients coming and no matter how much money they throw at me, I want to run in the other direction because I know they are going to make my life a living hell.

I suppose the moral of the story is that if you wanted it done right and you’re going to be picky in the first place, don’t be cheap. You have to pay for it. There’s really no shortcuts. Secondly, find someone that knows what they are doing – make sure that they have a good portfolio and a decent list of clients. She was much better off spending extra money in the beginning – $5,000-$10,0000, and would have had the illustrations done properly in a few weeks or less compared to several months down the road. Her employees would have been freed-up to work on other projects and generate income that way. Next, don’t expect any artist to be a mind-reader – that only happens over time with freak-accident bands like the Grateful Dead and The Beatles. You have no idea how many times someone says that they hired me because they liked my work or style, then they sit there and try to micromanage every aspect. They almost invariably get cra*p results because the artwork turns into half of what they wanted and half of the expectations I’m trying to meet. The art becomes muddied. You have no idea how many times I’ve wanted to tell someone, “hey you think it’s easy? Do it yourself.” Lastly, if you are going to be cheap or lack funds, at least try to understand the process better so that you’re not driving other people crazy.

3D rendering, design, media, and technology news.

I just got off the phone with one of my clients. With a little laughter in his voice, he remarked, “renderings are ruining work for us. All these television shows are showing cabinets getting dropped into place, and everyone seems to think now that this is just a simple push of the button.”

He’s partially correct. There’s no doubt that costs which would have been normally would have been passed to the architect in the past, have now filtered through to the architectural renderers involved in projects. What was once the realm of the architectural elite (those with the funding), has become more commonplace. The general public sees the flood of new building images, whether it’s on TV, billboards, or on the Internet and have taken our work for granted. Ultimately, this boils down to public awareness and education on the topic. People simply do not often know what is involved in our process and often jump to conclusions that the programs do all the work for us. If this was the case, then most of us would be out of a job.

Secondly, if we do have to place blame, I’d place it partially on technology itself. As computers have become more powerful, the ability to process these images has gotten easier. Highly realistic images are still time-intensive, but nowhere’s as involved as it would have been. One good desktop computer can easily replace a farm of 15 computers from 10 years ago. I recall a time where I’d have to wait almost two days before seeing a final product. Now I can do the same job with one computer in less than a few hours.

Third, I would blame the actual quality of the artists and what is being expected. There’s a lot of bad renderers out there. I don’t mean this as an insult, but their foray into the field is average at best. It’s the difference between looking at a photograph and staring at a cartoon. Photo-realism requires a lot of knowledge combined with computing power to take a rendering to the highest level, whereas a cartoon can be instantaneous. The problem is that a lot of people are satisfied with looking at a cartoon and that sometimes conveys the intended message. It’s basically what people are willing to pay for, and what the clients are content with. Sometimes the clients make the leap in logic themselves, thinking that it’s “just as easy” to produce something more realistic.

Fourth, the barrier of entry has been reduced. Computers and the software have come down drastically in price compared to a few years ago. The 3D software itself is still expensive, but rampant piracy has made the tools available to many hobbyists and start-up companies. A long time ago, the software would have easily run you over $8,000 for a single license. Now, there’s packages available for less than a few hundred dollars. Granted, most of them aren’t that good, but you get the idea.

Fifth, the level of education has increased. Collective Intelligence on the Internet has increased. Once upon a time, I had to buy books and spend weeks figuring out how the software worked on my own. Now, there’s free tutorial available on sites such as YouTube. There’s even better tutorials available for purchase including “out of the box” scene setups which people starting out can study. I still don’t think this is enough to teach someone the finer aspects to our field, but it gets them up and running a lot faster than the way we used to have it.

Sixth, I have to say that outsourcing has been a major issue. I get large companies calling me up all the time saying that they had their work done in another country. Quite often, they eventually learn a lesson and get frustrated with the lack of communication, but for every one of them, there’s another smaller company trying it out and sending their money overseas. Many of these foreign companies are not running legitimately purchased versions of the software which impacts software development in the US. Due to this, their lower costs of living, and often substandard work practices/ethics (long hours, etc.), they can afford to threaten US prices. It’s hard for me to justify one week’s worth of work when they are charging the equivalent of a few hours. I can only hope that other companies in the US recognize these ethics as well as the quality of our own work. Outsourcing has put a real toll on many of us, and have forced plenty of my colleagues out of a job.

Last but not least, I would say that our society has a new level of unrealistic expectations. As I first mentioned, renderings have become more commonplace. Recently, I had received a phone call from a car mechanic that wanted to open up a small garage in a preexisting space. The property required some work – some new doors and a paint job. He went before the town to see if he could move forward, when the committee suggested that he would get some renderings done. So he called me up in a panic, and I explained to him that it might take a few days and I told him the costs. When he heard that, you could hear him almost stop breathing. There’s no way I could really lower my price for him (I did offer him a discount because I felt terrible), but I thought the town was being unrealistic in their requests to begin with. 10 years ago, this would have been unheard of. Now people have come to expect it. I should also note that this isn’t the first time I’ve heard a similar story from people.

So was my client partially correct in placing the blame on my field of work? Yes and no. It’s only one component of a much broader picture. In order for us to truly understand what is happening, we have to take some time to learn about a topic without jumping to conclusions. And just fyi, I got into this field for the sake of art. Money was only secondary. If you take away the financial aspects, then it’s going to be a lot more difficult for me to spend the time working on a masterpiece.

3D rendering, design, media, and technology news.

When it comes to blogging on a regular basis, I’m inconsistent. Being inconsistent is probably one of the worst ways to attract a regular audience on the Internet. To be frank, having a regular readership has never been my goal with this website, nor was it meant to make any money (hence no advertisements.) It’s meant more as a one-off type of site in which I might come across some ideas that might prove useful or interesting to others. Trying to be useful to others also serves some level of promotion for my field of work.

That being said, I’ve had an extremely busy winter concerning my architectural renderings and illustrations and haven’t gotten around to writing here much. Every winter for the past eight plus years, for some odd reason has been usually busy. The pattern usually lasts until the spring, calms down, then picks up again late summer only to be followed be another slow spell. I don’t know what it is about this line of work which creates this cycle. I’ve often wondered if it is related to other companies quarterly budgets, or follows a seasonal building and construction pattern. I’ve asked both developers and architects to see if they have had any insight, and so far the response has been blank.

Many years ago, I worked at a start-up company in which the owner had a track record of being a good businessman. He told me to always answer the question of “how are things going with your business” with “great” although his new business venture was struggling. His patent answer never really sat well with me – it always struck me as a bit dishonest, although I can see where he is coming from and what he’s getting at. Are things always perfect? Honestly and objectively no, but I suppose it depends on whether or not you view your glass as half empty or half full. The honest answer is that the economy kicked the crap out of people in my line of work for the past few years. I think it’s definitely improving after the collapse – this year has already shaped up to be one of the busiest years in recent history.

3D rendering, design, media, and technology news.

LunarStudio was recently approached by a construction company in the Boston area to see if we could develop 3D scenes for their immersive virtual reality system. I would like to announce that we are able to develop 3D scenes for this platform. The construction company is using software and hardware from a company called World Viz. Their software system is called Vizard. They also make a virtual reality headsets and motion tracking systems. World Viz is a pioneer and leader in this field of systems.

Here is an example from World Viz of their Virtual Reality systems:

For those that are unfamiliar with immersive virtual reality systems, they are often comprised of headsets that you can wear and look around as if you were in an actual 360-degree space. With their motion tracking system, you have the added flexibility of actually walking around with the headset in an imaginary setting. Another option is a CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment) system in which the walls surrounding you are display monitors or involve projections to make it seem like you are standing in a 3D setting.

Here is an example of a CAVE system that was developed by iCube:

These systems are often being used for research and development in the following fields:

  • Architecture
  • Automotive
  • Defense
  • Engineering
  • Neuroscience
  • Science
  • Training

In researching World Viz’s system, I spent about a day familiarizing myself with their technology and training resources. I also spent a significant amount of time on the phone and via email with their support personnel. They explained that a system can cost roughly $40,000 US. depending on which features you would choose to add. The majority of their proceeds comes from university laboratories which mostly concern themselves with neurosciences and brain imaging. Another big field for them is that of defense and military training. LunarStudio would be looking to help advance the field of virtual reality concerning architecture with their systems by helping create these 3D environments and models. We also specialize in 360-degree panoramic photographs at our sister website, HDRSource.

For more information regarding LunarStudio’s virtual reality solutions and services, please visit our website at: