Author Archives: 04 Rachel Filler

Architectural Rendering Engines within Architecture

For our research presentation, our group was prompted to explore the different platforms in which digital renderings can be produced.  Since rendering capabilities span a variety of programs, we chose to focus on the ones that we believed to be most commonly utilized within the architectural and educational field. Maya, Revit, 3DS Max, and Rhino are all rendering platforms which are capable of fabricating photo-realistic renderings, yet each contains a different interface that produces a relatively distinctive output of images when compared with each other. In order to accurately test the variation between each program, we decided to set up a basic template that consisted of a wooden cube and metal sphere, as well as a projected light source from which we could render in each program. We found a multitude of strengths and weaknesses within each program that were useful in determining which platforms were appropriate for the type of renderings one may desire.

First, we explored the features of Revit with the chosen template. Revit is one of the most commonly used software platforms within the architectural field because of its ability to allow the user to build architectural elements three-dimensionally while simultaneously creating two-dimensional elements for drafting purposes. Although the platform is able to produce photo-realistic renderings, some may find it prohibitive to create these renderings without an adequate knowledge of the construction processes within Revit.  We ultimately discovered that Revit was able to produce a decent rendering, but its main drawback was related to the fact that rendering light had to be drawn from an artificial source rather than a floating point due to the construction-based nature of the program.

The next platform we tested was Rhino. Rendering from Rhino is a preferable option for those who decide they want to model complex shapes, since it is able to most accurately depict the nature of these surfaces than other programs. One feature of Rhino that most other programs fail to provide is the ability to edit images in the post-render stage. Typically, rendering requires a fair amount of guessing to try and achieve the most accurate image, which can be inefficient and often times frustrating. Rhino’s post-render effects include adjustments to elements that minimize the time spent altering levels within the render stage. Rhino also contains plug-ins, to help render, like V-Ray, which may be preferable due to the enhanced quality of its renders than Rhino’s generic rendering engine.

The third platform we experimented within was 3DS Max. Unlike Rhino, 3DS Max uses the Mental Ray plug-in to render its images. Although V-Ray is more commonly used than Mental Ray, Mental Ray produces images that more accurately calculate shading and the textural nature of a material. The main disadvantage is the longer rendering output, but that is due to the quality of the image being rendered.

The last platform we worked with was within Maya. Because of the excellent quality of renders that Maya is able to produce, it is most commonly used within gaming systems as well as movie animations. Although it may be appropriate to use for accurate rendering quality, there are some drawbacks which make other programs preferable to Maya, mainly due to its inability to control certain elements due to external sources, like lights, or materials.

There are many advantages to using rendering engines efficiently within the architectural field. However, because of the lack of knowledge within digital platforms, many still preside over inefficient methods that could have alternatively been altered within the appropriate rendering engine.  I think there is a lot of potential to develop and incorporate digital renderings more commonly into workplaces and within schools to create the most efficient representation of a project as possible.

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Photo by Andy Payne

Photo by Kory Bieg

FLUX: Architecture in a Parametric Landscape was presented by CCA Architecture/MEDIAlab at the California College of the Arts in 2009. The purpose of the exhibition was to introduce new technologies developing within the field of digital design. Digital technologies have been utilized within architectural practices for the past two decades, initially as a tool to simply represent existing architectural models, to a more advanced platform in which architects and designers were able to configure materials and space in a new manner.

The FLUX instillation was organized by a team of CCA faculty and students in pursuit of exploring and playing with spatial logics through digital modeling techniques. The resulting product was an undulating structure that could expand and contract as its volume expanded down the nave of the exhibition space. Through the use of parametric modeling, a CNC router, and a series of custom design scripts, the model can be updated to accommodate new design criteria as needed.

I think the incorporation of parametric modeling into design is a fascinating concept. The FLUX exhibition is successful in presenting the development of spatial understanding within digital technologies. These technologies have advanced to such a level that it is no longer used for minimal tasks, but can now be regarded as a platform to approach design strategies, fabrication, and materials in an evolutionary manner.