The skies the limit

There has been lots of talk around the new Mental Ray rendering engine in Revit. I’ve seen renderings produced by architectural firms for projects designed to wow the clients and authorities. The lighting and material rendering is very impressive. It should be…it HAS to be if your going to win over multimillion dollar projects. I’ve tried my hand at photo-realistic rendering on a few projects and have come to this conclusion. It’s for the birds!

I’m the first person to admit I’d rather be doing working drawings and problem solving the construction details of a building than working on presentation drawings. I don’t even like doing interior design drawings very much. That’s just my bent. The few projects I have worked on presentation drawings, I became so bored of tweaking colours and shades that I just won’t do it anymore if someone asks if I can. The problem isn’t Revit, it’s the inconsistency of colour between what the monitor shows and what actually comes out on the printer. And don’t even get me started on what happens to colour under different light sources (IE. incandescent versus florescent). It’s enough to drive me colour blind. Add on top of all that the long rendering times (sometimes measured in days) for each view and I just check out.

There is another way to do renderings in Revit. Most of our projects don’t require a photo-realistic drawings, just a coloured elevation and some 3D views will do just fine. The elevations below are all created in Revit with the exception of the black and white one which had some simple Photoshop touchups. You can click on the image to see a larger picture.

This picture was created using the “Realistic shading mode” in Revit. Revit will actually apply the rendering material to the geometry in real-time. Not as nice as the photo-realistic rendering but the shadows and materials only take a few moments to regenerate. Photoshop was not used at all except to add the company logo. This shading mode still needs some work from Autodesk, there isn’t any distinction between planes facing the same direction (IE. two parallel walls) so the materials blend together too much and make the two planes look like one.

The picture was created using the “Shaded with edges mode” in Revit. Here surface patterns and colours are used instead of the rendering materials used in the picture above. Simple and fast. I have used similar renderings to get approvals from municipalities. No Photoshop here except for the logo.

The picture above was created using the “Hidden line mode” in Revit afterwords the background was desaturated and faded in Photoshop to help the house stand out more, all of which took me about 5-10 minutes tops.

The background scenery in all 3 images was just a raster image imported into the elevation and set to the background, that way all the model and detail components cover the image. It’s not even a high resolution raster image. Just a scenic shot I had taken at a job site one day.  Obviously my choice in colours could be much better. I just used some standard materials that came with Revit, usually the first one that caught my eye. The 3 images above took my maybe 1 hour to prepare for this post and that included some prep work to the Revit model. Also if you want to avoid some frustration don’t turn on the shadows until the last step. Shadows are rendered real-time so they will slow your computer down immensely.

One final tip, good renderings whether photo-realistic or not follow the same rules as another hobby of mine. Photography. By learning what makes a good photo, you can use those same techniques to create good renderings. I found a couple excellent (and free) podcasts that teach photography. Tips from the Top Floor and The Mindful Eye are both excellent resources to check up on.

See you next week.

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Revit and Building Information Modeling