Business and industry-related information.

3D Renderings and Artwork by LunarStudio

The LunarStudio website was recently updated. There were over 70 images added to my portfolio, most going back to last October. This doesn’t include our full body of work, but mostly pieces that I felt should be represented in our gallery. Some of our other renderings and designs were left out because most of these projects were early-phase (still in-progress) and not considered final. I deliberated between posting them as interim or massing types of illustrations, but in the end figured that they might detract from the final finished quality we generally represent. With a few others images, we finally received permission to post some of these after waiting a few years. Some of our best work is kept under non-disclosure agreements.

Here is a list of pages that contain most of our illustration additions:


I’d like to thank all of our clients and supporters for their patronage in this tough economic climate. We truly appreciate everyone who has supported us over the years. It is my hope that the new images and updated back-end to the LunarStudio website will increase traffic for everyone involved as a way of giving back to the community. I spent the last two weeks and a lot of sleepless nights optimizing the pages and redoing large sections of the code to bring it up to more recent standards. This in turn should result in even greater traffic from various search engine results, and will hopefully turn into more work for all of us in the long run.

LunarStudio is often ranked in the Top 5 (often #1) for the field of Architectural Renderings out of almost one million results in Google. It also places in the Top 10 for hundreds of common design-related search terms as well as being listed high in Google Images. Ranking high on the search engines is an art form and a business onto itself. There’s thousands of Search Engine Experts and consultants constantly vying for the top spot in any one particular field. If you’re not listed in the top of a search, you will probably not get noticed. As a result of our high rankings, people recognize our work on the web, and I hope that this helps us all in return.

When it comes to appearances, I tried to keep the same look and feel of the design. However, there are some people who might be interested in some of the underlying code which has changed. It might prove useful if you’re interested in website marketing.

Below is a change log concerning LunarStudio’s revisions:

  1. Website pages converted to HTML5. While not completely validated as the Internet standards are still under development, this should lead to faster load times, easier search engine spidering, and thus higher ranking in other areas. Other websites are getting left behind at the moment, and it will be years before many of them are updated. I speculate that this will lead to a more dominant search engine position.
  2. The navigation has been completely redone with proper CSS (Cascading Style Sheets.) It has moved to the top of every webpage versus getting lost in the bottom of the code. Search engines should have a much easier time figuring out the structure of LunarStudio. Many years ago, I used tables to develop the website while CSS was still becoming popular. HTML tables are falling out favor now, and CSS has been replacing some of out more traditional methods of page layout.
  3. HTML5 allows for some new elements such as Nav, Header, Article, and Footer which were implemented. This helps the search engines determine the important sections of a website, as well as potentially leading to additional Google’s Sitelinks (For which LunarStudio already has.) It should also help with the rankings and visibility.
  4. Some of the redundant code was stripped out in favor of CSS. This speeds up the website and also caches information.
  5. Additional code was removed because they have become obsolete/deprecated. Again, this brings it up to standards and decreases load time which provides for a better user experience and load times.
  6. Over 70 watermarked images and over 140 thumbnails were created and added.
  7. Eight 3D animations were partially recreated for Squarewave and Massachusetts General Hospital Laboratories. These were added to the animation section.
  8. Page titles were modified.
  9. Page descriptions were modified.
  10. Tags were changed to read more smoothly and less like spam.
  11. Image descriptions were modified and updated.
  12. Corrections were made to the previous descriptions which might have resulted in page bleed (lower ranking for certain terms.)
  13. Proper punctuation introduced in some page elements.
  14. Copyrights updated.
  15. Client listing updated.
  16. Introduction of Google + buttons at the bottom of every page. This probably will result in higher rankings and a more established prominence.
  17. The new Google Authorship (now replaced with Rich Snippets) system introduced which will help delineate search results even further and lead to higher click-through rates. I hope this is working as the instructions were very confusing. First it requires approval, but then secondly it takes time. Google also doesn’t generally communicate directly with webmasters so this is a waiting game.
  18. The LunarLog website (this site) was completely redesigned to coincide with some of these changes. You can read about some of these changes here.

Here are some things which I plan on implementing in the future (to-do list):

  1. I’d like to move LunarStudio over to a near full CSS solution.
  2. I want to get rid of the tables and switch over to CSS for that. That’s a massive undertaking for which I have little spare time presently.
  3. It would be great if the thumbnails could also fully go CSS in their highlight states. This would probably shave off around 200 KB in extra downloads per gallery page.

There’s still some things to do. The process of maintaining a website could be a full-time job in of itself, but in order to stay on top, you have to keep a site updated as technology changes. My updates usually come twice a year and at most it usually involves adding a handful of images. I would consider this one a major update. I would really appreciate people’s feedback on the LunarStudio design. If there’s any bugs or issues, I would like to know as everyone’s computers are different and everyone runs different browsers. It’s a lot of work for one person to handle.

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

I spent the last couple of weeks updating my main website Lunarstudio – mostly reprogramming and adding new images. When updating websites, most responsible webmasters and designers will run their site through additional browsers, operating systems, and test people’s reactions to new content. I had a friend look at my site on Sunday to see if she had any feedback. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a full-width bar appear at the bottom of my page on her monitor. My first reaction was “WTF”, followed by concern that somehow I must have uploaded malware to the back-end of my site. The third option which was slightly more worrisome is that some hackers got into my site. So I took a closer look, and the bottom left read “Google Related(don’t install this.)

Now, I would never think Google would have released a toolbar that covered up part of the screen. Not only was it distracting from the design I had worked so hard it, but it wouldn’t just affect me but almost every webmaster and designer on the planet. So my next thought that it had to be some malware she accidentally downloaded over the course of her Internet travels. Upon even closer inspection, I noticed that it was serving up advertisements and contact information from competitors. So someone looking at my site could see another image at the bottom of the screen, then decide to go to that website instead.

I started to look into this. Sure enough, it’s part of a new, 20-day old Google program which is a toolbar extension for Internet Explorer and Chrome. ArsTechnica wrote a concise article on what Google Relate does here. While it might prove useful for some users, for webmasters and those concerned with privacy, this is an absolute nightmare. It represents a major downfall in Net Neutrality if this is allowed to carry on. *Aside* – some might argue that Google is not a telecom, Internet Provider, or government agency and hence doesn’t fall into the argument of threatening Net Neutrality. However, I should remind people that Google has mentioned that it’s testing their Internet Providing services. Also, Android runs on many cellphones as well as telecom providers. They’re basically in bed with one another.

There’s several different and valid concerns, not to mention the legality of this program:

  1. It interferes with a person or company’s intended website design without their permission.
  2. It potentially distracts an end-user.
  3. It slows down a person’s website loading time. The speed issue is probably negligible, but it’s still there without an owner’s permission.
  4. It risks having people leave your website in favor of another. Holding user retention on a landing-page is tough enough, but this just adds fuel to the fire.
  5. Due to people wandering off one’s website, it can jeopardize website owner’s businesses and livelihoods.
  6. Google is directly (or indirectly) profiteering from someone else’s work without their permission.
  7. This is potentially part of their AdWords program, which makes money off of advertisements.
  8. It allows for Google to monitor your browsing habits, even when not using Google search. It’s basically spying on your activities.
  9. It potentially opens up the door for further abuse.
  10. It threatens Google’s competitors (Yahoo!, Bing, and other search engines.) If successful, competitors might also have to roll out similar toolbars or methods.
  11. It could become a permanent part of Google Chrome.

Now, there’s some usefulness to the end-user. It wouldn’t be fair for me to mention the Google Related negatives without the positives:

  1. Provides directions.
  2. Provides alternative solutions for someone looking for a service or help.

I was almost positive Google would provide webmasters with a method to take this off of owner’s websites through the use of META tags, but my searches for that method turned up empty. Instead, I came across other “unapproved” methods of using CSS code to disable the iframe, either by moving the toolbar off-screen, or by hiding the iframe completely. Unfortunately, I tried these methods and it didn’t work. It seems that Google caught on to webmasters changing their CSS code, and in turn updated their own to prevent us from doing so.

Since then, I’ve brought it to the attention of some friends on Facebook, however I think my concern has largely fallen on deaf ears which is understandable. I’ve also written on the Google Forum where you can see there my concern is #6. Some might call it an overreaction, but I think I’m fully justified here. The people reporting this problem is so low at the moment because Google Related is just starting to get attention. This is part of the reason why I’m writing about it on my blog – it’s to bring attention to this.

My main issue is that Google is intruding upon my work and business without permission. The nail in the coffin is that they are also potentially profiteering without my permission too. I think it’s just a matter of time before Google is:

  1. Sued by competitors.
  2. Department of Justice goes after them and tries to break up the monopoly.
  3. Public outrage from the webmasters community gets out of control.
  4. Or they disable it before it gets to any of the points listed above.

I hope I am overly concerned, and that Google disables their new program almost as soon as it has started. However, it blows my mind how this idea got past scores of lawyers, executives, management, and employees at a billion dollar company in the first place. If you agree with my concerns, please promote this article and also express your concern on the Google Related Forum. If you disagree, I’m still interested in hearing your views.

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

Earlier this morning, I was reading a reply to one of my articles about our industry. The commenter went a little off-topic, and brought up some frustrations that most of us have experienced with clients at one point or another. Sadly, I think we could all relate to him. Some times you just need to get these frustrations with clients off of one’s chest – especially when we put this much time, energy, and passion into our work. Any battle-hardened industry vets share very similar horror stories.

Over the years I’ve been called names, I’ve been stiffed a few times, I’ve been repeatedly talked down to, bossed around, lead around, copied without permission, and clearly taken advantage of. I’m not even an employee. Some people treated me like I was working at a fast-food establishment and expected 5-star service (which ironically, I’ve always tried to provide.) At times, I’ve even tried to offer discounts to make them happy with little to no success. However, when I tend to look back at some of these negative experiences, I can generally just laugh it off. I find the way people comical – bordering on idiocy and stupidity (I’m actually wondering right now if these two terms are mutually exclusive.) It’s like a real-life episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, with Larry David at the center of my subconscious.

I think if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my limited time on this planet, it’s that no two people are even remotely alike. Everyone has their quirks and hangups which drive them. Everyone has different management styles and like to inflict varying degrees of pain upon their subjects.

I think if you have to categorize people’s levels of annoyabilty (had to add that one to my spell-checker), they would fall into one of two containers:

  1. Reasonable. Easy to work with. Trusts that you’re going to be responsible. Can usually judge by looking at your body of work that you’re not incompetent.
  2. Unreasonable.  Royal pain in the ass. Must have looked at your work somehow in order to find and choose you, but somehow treats you like you’re mentally-challenged, which in turn must make them severely incompetent. It’s the worst kind.

It’s not enough that I can just stop right here. I’m going to share a story with you. This one is my all-time, all-amazing classic client-story so far:

Years ago, I landed this high-paying project. Without going into too much details, it was more money than most people make in a couple of years. So a small group of us are doing a tremendous job for this big architecture firm and their big client which is a household name. We have animations and tons of stills. We made changes galore for them – bent over backwards. We’re working 18 hour days, 7 days a week for several months straight.

So one day, I get this phone call from one of their designers who seems really upset. The President of the company yelled at her and ended up calling me grossly overpaid (to which I was accidentally sent the email by the lead Principal later on.) So, I’m trying to get to the bottom of what’s wrong, and she tells me that everyone in the office is complaining that my colors are drastically off and that they’re very dissatisfied with our work. Now, I’m going into panic trouble-shooting mode. I’m trying to figure out their operating systems, color profiles, monitors, image viewers, etc. I’m trying to explain that my monitors are independently calibrated by a special system, blah, blah, blah. I’m spending days trying to solve this problem before their big presentation.

I find out a couple of weeks later that she was printing our work through an old, non photo quality printer sitting on her desk onto regular 8.5X11″ sheets of paper, then photocopying them and handing them out to her whole office. I discovered this one day because I stopped be their firm, and saw my images hanging up on a wall near their section’s entrance and had to ask her about it.

I never said anything. They just haven’t called me back since then.

So, I’m interested in hearing some of your stories. If you’re reading this and you’ve got some, please humor us.

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

As of today, Lunarlog has been redesigned and I think it’s a minimalist design that I’m finally comfortable with – one that won’t be changing in the foreseeable future. It’s meant to coincide with my new coding and rendering/illustration additions to my main website, LunarStudio. Below, I’ll discuss some of my previous issues that are now resolved, as well as talking about some of the newer and more interesting features.

There were a few problems with my previous site that I needed to address:

  1. WordPress updates. It seemed as if there was a new WP update every month, and every other time they released a new security fix, some of the code or design would break. As a result, I would be forced to go hunt down the problem and try to correct it. Anyone that runs a WP site knows what I’m talking about. Proper maintenance can be a full-time job in of itself. By trying to keep it simple, it’s hopefully one less thing to worry about.
  2. The old design was ugly. It started off on a good note, but my changing things around introduced more of a design mess over time. Add to that other real-life obligations, and I was finding less time to make corrections. If the design is simple, one can focus more on the topics at-hand than trying to be flashy. I spent more time avoiding looking at the previous site, because each time I visited it, I saw things that needed to be changed. Hopefully this will lead to more time spent writing now.
  3. I think a website’s design needs to reflect a person’s skills to a degree. If you’re going to call yourself a designer, then I think that it’s only right that the design of other things you create needs to reflect your attention to detail. No one in their right mind is going to hire a messy painter and I think this was the case with the previous design. While I wasn’t “messy” per se, it looked terrible to me. Some people might lack the programming skills and that is a valid excuse, but at that point they should spend the time seek out a design template, a website that creates websites (Wix is one service that comes to mind), or find someone that knows what they are doing.
  4. Simplicity in design for usability. A clean design appeals to people’s senses better. It makes things easier to read, and also tends to load faster. People need to find content without adding strain.

Here are some of the underlying changes:

  1. Various plugins were removed. They either caused issues over time, or became unnecessary. For example, the rel=”nofollow” attribute (originally introduced by Google) is no longer taken into account. Not only does removing some of these extensions/plugins improve speed and performance, but it can also lead to higher search engine rankings now that Google factors website loading speed into their algorithms.
  2. Updated to some HTML5 standards. While HTML5 is still undergoing some changes, the markup is meant to bring the various methods together, and to make the code easier to read and navigate for both the search engines and the coders/programmers. I strongly speculate that this results in higher search engine ranking. I highly doubt that this website validates (I don’t want to check lol), but that’s pretty much going to be the case with any new language or markup.
  3. A plugin for Google +, Twitter Followers, and Facebook Likes was introduced so people can denote topics and articles of interest to Social Networking sites. The search engines are now factoring these items of popularity as an additional method of measuring interest, usefulness, and relevancy.
  4. New fonts are now available for the web versus the traditional eight or 10 (I forget.) It’s every web designer’s wildest dream. Here’s a list of over 247 font families from Google! I’m using two of them here.
  5. A relatively new and cutting-edge feature was implemented just last month by Google called Google Authorship. You can insert HTML5 Rich Snippets (rel=”author”) into your websites, both dynamic (such as blogs) and static (such as my other website LunarStudio) that connects your websites to your Social Networking profile – in particular Google Plus and LunarStudio. That in of itself isn’t a new concept, but what’s really cool about this new feature is that you’ll start to notice people’s profile pictures right next to search engine results over the next few months. So, let’s say someone searches for “Architectural Renderings” in Google and I’m in the Top 10 (the last I checked, LunarStudio was #1 out of close to a million results *wink*), my profile picture helps make my website become even more noticeable. This in turn should lead to increased business. The only problem is that these attributes are so new, that there are no extensions/plugins to enable this so it has to be entered by hand. To add to the mess, people are giving conflicting methods as to how-to implement it. On top of that, Google hasn’t simplified the process (although they’re trying) and keeps changing things. It’s a guessing game as to when the results should take effect. People who arrive early to the game might reap the benefits of higher search engine visibility, although it shouldn’t factor into higher SERPs at the present time. I’m personally excited about this because it’s so new, that’s there’s only a small handful of people writing about this technique presently. It’s fun to figure out new things.

If anyone is interested in some of these methods, please let me know. I’m going to be busy over the next few weeks, but I’ll try to respond to the best of my ability.

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.