Information concerning the field of architectural renderings and architectural illustrations.

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

I’d like to announce that I’ve made some major updates to the LunarStudio Architectural Renderings website recently. While the overall layout of LunarStudio has remained the same, there are a lot of new images as well other things which changed  “underneath the hood.” Most importantly, I finally found the time to add close to 50 new images to the website and have applied some minor color tweaks and adjustments to most of the existing architectural renderings that were previously there. This whole process took several days to complete.

For existing clients, this should come as fantastic news. I don’t think most of them realize what this means. I often joke that I should create their renderings for free, and charge to post their images to my website. Due to the high amount of traffic that flows through the LunarStudio website, this is free advertising and also helps boost their own website rankings as well. In hiring LunarStudio, you’re essentially more than quadrupling your visibility to the rest of the world. I often laugh when clients haggle over several hundred dollars because that same expenditure may come back to them a hundred times over.

Updating LunarStudio has always been tricky. Since LunarStudio ranks highly for a couple of thousand search terms in all three major search engines, changing the slightest word or even adding content can push search rankings up and down drastically that could result in lost revenue. Something which seems fairly straight-forward such as adding a single image needs to be carefully examined prior to being uploaded, then the accompanying text needs to be massaged in order to “try” to achieve optimal results. Multiply this by several hundred images, and you have a big potential mess on your hands – especially if you screw up a single character. For this reason, I’ve forced myself to keep the overall design and layout of LunarStudio the same over the years. I’ve avoided adding additional text. As much as I am tempted to redesign the look and feel for something “fresher”, I often have to remind myself that I’m playing with dynamite. Besides, as much as LunarStudio has been imitated over the years (one of the first non-Flash websites to be perfectly centered on-screen), I still think it holds a lot of character.

For an example of the current sites out on the Internet copying LunarStudio, check out the following link: www.copyscape.com. Keep in mind, this changes every month (sometimes more) but there’s always someone out there…

I often think people take the “search engine” itself for granted. It’s often viewed as a seamless and organic process: type in what you’re looking for and out pops the results. However, I’ve read studies on search engine usage and the average person doesn’t look past the first 10 items that turn up on an average search. That means if you don’t place within the top 10 of any search engine result, there’s a good chance that your website will not be seen or even noticed. From a marketing perspective, that’s an absolute disaster. If you create a website, you should have every interest in wanting it to achieve high-rankings as that can help others as well as bring in additional revenue. If you don’t, then you will be stuck with the traditional method of “word-of-mouth” and having to resort to other campaigns to drive interest to your work.

There are a number of things which happen “behind the curtains” of search engine results. The engines vary slightly as the major companies have various patents and copyrights on their code and complex mathematical formulas. On top of the code differences, a company such as Google has been known to modify their search engine algorithm close to a thousand times in a single year! Each time they make these changes, your website can jump up and down the ranks. They often keep these methods secret because they don’t want people intentionally spamming their search results and providing irrelevant information. For the sake of this article, I will not go into the topic of search engines and optimization simply because I could probably write a whole book on the topic. It can be a fun game to play, but you have to have time as well as patience.

For those interested, here is a list of items that were changed as of 10/25/10:

  1. All thumbnails (several hundred) were manually changed from biege to full color.
  2. Thumbnail hovers were all brightened with an overlay of white set to 50% opacity. I could have used a JavaScript, but again this would probably have an impact on rankings.
  3. Canonical rules enforced versus head tags. Some pages were splitting rank by having trailing slashes and non-trailing slashes after their URLs. Depending on what happens over the course of the next week, I may keep this.
  4. Close to 50 new images and 100 thumbnails were added to various categories. This is most of my work over the course of the year, however there are still a number of items which cannot be posted per contractual obligations, quality (sometimes I’m given limited time and resources), and others which are still in progress.
  5. The majority of images were slightly readjusted concerning color balance, exposure, and saturation.
  6. Keywords and titles added to all of the new image sections.
  7. Copyrights were updated.
  8. Updated manual sitemap.
  9. Updated Google and Yahoo! sitemaps.

This is on my “to-do” list:

  1. I may implement MaxCDN (Content Delivery Network) to help boost search engine rankings and also speed up the delivery of images to the viewer.
  2. As a result of adding a CDN, that may impact the sitemaps mentioned above.
  3. As a result of adding a CDN, that may also create a bigger mess by turning up Page 404s – file not found errors which would all have to be manually redirected. When you’re talking several thousands of links, this can be a very tedious process.*
  4. Add additional images.

All of this being said, please let me know if you have any comments or questions regarding the updated website. In particular, I’m interested in comments regarding quality, speed, and usability. I’d really appreciate your feedback.

For more information, please visit: www.lunarstudio.com

*If anyone has any tips regarding implementing the CDN and avoiding the 404’s and redirects, please let me know!

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

Recently, I had to a build a new file server for my home office and noticed slow file transfer speeds across the network. I’m running a gigabit switch with most of the latest gear. In my case, the main factor in file transfer slow downs are actually a result of hard drive speeds and not the network itself. I’m going to briefly outline a few tips (speed hacks) that you can use to help speed both your network as well as your individual computers. Keep in mind that you don’t have to even have a network in order to gain some of the speed benefits of this article. But first, let me explain my background so that you understand where I’m coming from.

The field of 3D artwork requires extensive libraries full of textures, models, and backups. For higher-end 3D renderings, artists often employ distributed rendering which uses multiple computers to process a single file or a sequence of animations in order to reduce long hours of processing time. Due to this high-usage of file storage resources and transferring, I’ve gotten to know my network and servers fairly well over the years. By no means am I a Network Engineer (and I don’t plan on being your tech support), but I can hack most things together in order to get them to play nicely with one another. That being said, here are a few tips:

  1. Hard drive compression. Slow file transfers? That might be because everything is getting compressed on the fly. Sure, you save some space but turning it off should make things go faster. Right click properties for your HDs and turn it off.
  2. This seems to be limited to some older SATA hard drives – in particular Western Digitals and Seagates. By default they install with a jumper on the pins limiting the drives to older 150 MB/sec versus 300 MB/sec. Sadly enough, I found this both on my server as well as one drive on my main computer…
  3. Jumbo Frames. You can enable this on most newer network adapters by going into its properties. Just a note of warning that I’ve had some mixed DR results by having enabled this on some adapters when other computers didn’t have that feature. You can turn it on, transfer, and see if it makes any difference.
  4. HD indexing. If you don’t search much, you may notice a gain turning it off. And if you do search a lot, there’s other software for searches which are more efficient:
    Addictive Tips.
  5. *Still testing* Possibly disabling Write Caching (I only recommend this if you have a Backup UPS.) I still have to test this one out. Supposedly if you turn it back on after running a Windows Experience Index test (windows 7), the newer score remains…:Seven Forums.
  6. *Still testing* Disable Command Queuing on nForce-based motherboard controllers: Seven Forumns.
  7. If you’re experience “too many files are in use” errors while copying files over from a Windows 7 install to a server, it’s because your server is using SMB 1 and has problems with Windows SMB 2. Some people recommend turning off SMB 2. Personally, I would just update the server since SMB 2 is better. I experienced this issue transferring files over to my NASLite server and have written them about this issue. https://www.petri.co.il/how-to-disabl…erver-2008.htm
  8. Use ReadyBoost / SuperFetch (unless you had SSDs): https://www.groovypost.com/howto/micr…ng-readyboost/
    Article from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ReadyBoost

Last but not least, you should remember some of the more common speed tips such as keeping your hard drives defragmented, deleting temporary files, and running the occasional registry cleaner such as CCleaner (free.)

If you’ve read this article and followed some of my tips, please let me know how your experience goes.

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

I receive resumes on a daily basis. Having looked at every single one for the past few years (even for just a brief moment), there are things I know now as to what “not to do” when approaching a prospective employer. I also receive inquiries and phone calls asking for advice as to breaking into a graphic-related field. While there isn’t a patent answer, there are some things a person searching for design jobs and work can do to help increase their chances of obtaining a job in a design-related field.

Earlier today, I received an email from a student asking how one could “break into” the field of architectural renderings.

Here’s a copy of the letter this student had written with some edits to personal information:

My name is Kris.

I am interested in graphic design but my main interest  lies within Architectural modeling, walkthrough animations and photo realistic Rendering.

I currently live in Australia  and I’m a 19 year old student, doing Certificate III Media as well as year 13 at College studying Art Production and Graphic Design.

The main reason for me wasting your time is do you have any tips to get into the industry and what programs do you use etc.

I’ve been using 3D Studio Max for about 4 years my latest project was my major last year for graphic design.

Here is my reply:

Kris, thank you for writing LunarStudio.

I receive several resumes every day for the past few years, most of which (unfortunately) are of a substandard quality. I have to say that the biggest mistake I see is a lack of portfolio. Sites such as Flickr and DeviantArt work, but there are plenty of other free websites which are available to people who don’t have too much HTML or blog setup experience. I feel that when it comes to graphic design in general, every aspect should be “packaged” neatly, just like showing up to a job interview well-dressed and kempt. This field is all about presentation. That’s just a personal preference on my part, however most of the really good designers I know are even pickier than I am.

If someone wants a career in the field of architectural renderings (or any other design-related field), you need to have a good, relevant portfolio. One cannot expect to obtain work with just a few images – there needs to be diversity. For renderings, that might include interiors and exteriors as well as a broad spectrum of lighting conditions. I do not recommend using pre-made scenes downloaded off of the web or through tutorials. These are often easily spotted by industry veterans. However, there are plenty of plans and photographs you can work off of from simply browsing the Internet.

No matter what, there is no easy shortcut in this field. If there was, everyone would be doing this line of work. It involves hard work and one needs to put the time into this whole process.

As for actual resumes, to be honest – most of the time I skip right through the writing. The first thing I always do when someone applies to LunarStudio is to look at their portfolios and images. If something catches my eye (usually I look for photorealism followed by style), then I’ll review the rest of their work and resume. If an image or two looks bad, I won’t even bother looking at the rest of their work as I get flooded by inquiries daily and simply do not have the time to review every single application.

As for what defines a “good” image from a “bad” one, there are numerous indicators. I’ve had people apply and send images that contained door handles as big as watermelons. I’ve seen images where the people they inserted touch the ceiling or simply look copy and pasted. There’s plenty of images in which people do not use Global Illumination (aka Scanline) in which their work appears “cartoony.” There’s even situations in which their subjects are simply boring (just a box with windows.)

Occasionally, I do receive a portfolio in which a person’s body of work is not necessarily photorealistic, but I can see their design intent and the work they put into all of their details – clean lines, etc. This is often enough to warrant serious consideration. However, I’m not looking to always train someone in my methods as I often have much better stuff to do with my spare-time. There’s plenty of resources on the Internet in which a person can learn the various aspects of rendering before approaching a company.

When approaching a company, show that you really want to work with a particular company. And person could send out a hundred copy and pasted inquiries and cover letters, but those are easily spotted from a mile away. Explain why you would want to work for someone. Show some passion. Show your dedication. Also explain how you can contribute and how you want to help grow another person’s company (I know that’s a bit of a stretch but that’s what someone wants to hear.) If you don’t show initiative in those areas, then I wouldn’t expect any business owner to want to hire you. My main concern in taking someone on is having to train them, and a couple of years later they take my methods and move off to “greener pastures.” In today’s day and age, people tend to float around with work as there’s little job security in general – as a business owner, you really want to know that someone is willing to stick around otherwise it could be a big loss.

As for software, if you’re using 3D Studio Max, than you are using an industry rendering standard. Couple that with Vray and Photoshop, then you should be good to go. If you happen to know Mental Ray and Sketchup, then those pieces of software are an additional bonus. As for learning them, there’s plenty of resources scattered throughout the web. Take a few months to go through some tutorials, then start creating your own scenes for your portfolio.

I realize that this reply was rather long, but I hope that might have helped answer some of your questions.

I have also previously written another article on the topic here which may be worth reading:

***Outdated Link***

Kindest Regards,

Charles

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

I was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal two days ago regarding my attempts with my company LunarStudio to pursue payment from another company that refused to pay a couple of months ago. If you have a moment, please take a look the article as it applies to small companies, contractors, and freelancers:

Article on freelancers looking for payment on the Wall Street Journal.

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

There’s a saying between 3D veterans which says, “there’s no make pretty picture button.” If there was, a lot of us would be out of work and business. Many people tend to have different opinions as to what “art” actually is. Many years ago, my impression of 3D work was very similar to an average person’s general understanding of the 3D field – that is to say, not very understanding at all. As I became more involved in the field, my opinion eventually changed.

I was going through some social networking posts I had made a while back with my architectural rendering company LunarStudio, and noticed some comments. While most of them were pretty flattering, one stood out:

great photorealistic renderings are not creative in my opinion, Im getting kind of sick of seeing them, and less artistic/conceptual perspective

I replied:

Anyone that knows how to do this type of work would disagree with you. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a “simple press of the button” – otherwise everyone would be doing it.

This is actually my work. I modeled and textured all the furniture and hardware by hand. It’s not much different than sculpting. On top of all that, you have to know how to operate the rendering applications.

It’s a mix between art, technology, and science. If you think it is easy, you’re more than welcome to try your hand at it. ;)

Yes – I do get defensive about all the time and effort I put into my work. I think rightfully so. If you just sit back, take the punches, and don’t try to at least make an attempt to put things into their proper perspective, others (including some clients) tend to take your work for granted. I’ve seen it happen time and time again in almost all of my conversations with clients at some point or another. It sometimes gets to the point where they don’t realize the time and skill involved and their expectations are set unrealistically high. This really brings about a much deeper question – “what is art?”

The best thing I could possibly do here is to give some examples. When photography first came around, I’m sure that most people were completely amazed (if not a little frightened.) But over time, cameras become commonplace to the point where now everyone who has a cellphone probably has a camera built-in. Just because we all have cameras on our phones, does that automatically make one a photographer? No. I think most of us agree that good photography requires a level of skill that most of us do not possess – proper light balance, framing, color-usage, contrast, etc. It’s a skill that takes time to develop and not necessarily something that “comes natural.”

Let’s take the example of landscape paintings. I’m certain there were people who first saw them and thought, “that’s not art, that’s just trying to recreate what already exists.” Perhaps you fall into that same camp of opinion, but there is a certain quality which makes a Monet a Monet. Not everyone can be Monet.

I used to have a friend that would bash Photoshop artwork back in the late 90’s. He would tell me that it “didn’t take any skill to use a mouse and the eraser.” Well, fortunately with the modern-age, he eventually changed his opinion. Would you still be of that opinion today? Just about every commercial, movie, magazine, billboard, poster, package, and album cover has been run through some post-processing application such as Photoshop. By saying that you “cannot create art with Photoshop”, it would be tantamount to turning a complete blind-eye to the entire world around you.

So what is the definition of “art” exactly? Here’s Merriam-Webster’s take on the definition:

Art:

1 : skill acquired by experience, study, or observation <the art of making friends>
2 a : a branch of learning: (1) : one of the humanities (2) plural : liberal arts b archaic : learning, scholarship
3 : an occupation requiring knowledge or skill <the art of organ building>
4 a : the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects; also : works so produced b (1) : fine arts (2) : one of the fine arts (3) : a graphic art
5 a archaic : a skillful plan b : the quality or state of being artful
6 : decorative or illustrative elements in printed matter

The key point to the definition is that art involves “requiring knowledge or skill.” To an average observer who doesn’t think something is “art”, they may not realize the amount of work or understanding involved to get to a certain point. As I mentioned earlier, a lot of people automatically assume that my work (as well as that of others) is a “push of the button.” When I first started in my field, I had found this to be an insult but over time my own view had changed to become one of tolerance and education.  It actually has less to do with their subjective opinion as to what art actually is, but more to do with a lack of understanding of what goes into the process itself.