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Viewpoint: Pros and Cons of Digital Rendering Tools

Bhushan Avsatthi
Nov 30, '17 1:40 AM EST

The idea of perfect architectural designs is not only propagated by architects and architectural design firms but also the clients and project investors support it to a great extent. But is it really good for their mental health? As in is it deceiving them by deviating from the reality? We find it out by several arguments apparent from the works and instances of architectural industry. 

Those in opposition of architectural renderings

While a majority of architects in the industry is embarking upon architectural rendering with a mindset that rendering brings profitability to their business, there exists a bunch that condemns the very concept. Opponents’ argument is that wrong style adopted for rendering can create unrealistic expectations, deceiving designs and misleading concepts for the end client. Such a thought process has made it difficult for digital architectural rendering tools to find a place in the AEC industry.

Further, they argue that with digital rendering there is an image created in client’s mind that final output will be flawless. But in reality this is nearly impossible to exists and hence impossible for architects to deliver. Such consequences affect the reputation of the architect of over-commitment and under performance when it comes to delivery.

What does it mean to advocates of digital rendering?

Architects and pioneer architectural firms who support digital rendering for architectural designs are of the opinion that these rendering tools, 3ds Max or Photoshop, are nothing more than mere tools. They do not necessarily alter the original designs, only enhance them. And to a considerable extent, this argument is more reliable with apparent instances.

Grey Scale Model of Interior Architectural Designs

Rendered Model of Interior Architectural Designs 

These two pictures, grey scale and rendered image, they say a lot as far as the value of digital rendering is concerned. The later one seems more perceivable, relatable to the reality and actual existence of the property. While the grey scale model will definitely not be appealing to the client which hinders them from any changes he would like to have unless the entire thing is built.

Rendering has added value to the design for a better understanding of each feature. It assigns appropriate physical properties such as shadows depending on varying lights, illumination, dents, enhances curvature and texture of the surface, carving - if any, dents and similar properties. Architectural scenes designed can be more clearly explained and presented when rendered and to end clients who may otherwise fail to understand the design intent without explanation.

Developing the context of the designs

Additionally, with rendering, the more beneficial thing is that it assigns content to designs which helps clients envision them same as the designer. It not only gives architectural designs a sense of pragmatism but also makes the designs more inviting.  

Proper lighting is one great way to develop the context around the building. For example, bright yellow color shine represents a sunny day; but simultaneously the architect or the 3D artist also needs a touch of white balance for objects to make them look real. It doesn’t take a genius to understand this, but failing to include the fact in model makes the rendering go wrong. [Guess this is what opponents of rendering mean when they claim ‘rendering gone wrong’]

If the mark of lighting is absent if gives a feeling that the property used, whatsoever is just hanging there in the picture. Artists develop architectural external scenes of buildings using lighting and external hard and soft objects like automobiles, landscaping, trees, human activities and much more. This makes the entire design to become more fruitful.

Digital rendering tools are literally the tools

For a stronger argument in favor of digital architectural rendering is the utility of final rendered models. In interior designing, many will argue that photographs will work fine. But they often forget the costs associated with hiring a professional photographer, property used and the fact that pictures once clicked cannot be changed in view, lighting or even aspect.

While on the other hand, rendering can always be tweaked; colors can always be changed and designs can always be manipulated with the native CAD sketching software. This is all because digital rendering is a tool. Had that been a process, it cannot be reversed, at least not exactly the way it was directed forward. 

Besides, tools used are also very much synchronized and designed to work based on mathematical graphs and algorithms. These mathematical calculations will decide how a source of light will behave in the real world, and accordingly sets illumination in the models. Rendering thus ensures the sense of pragmatism and variation with reality in the models as well.

Architecture is moving to an era where history and design symbols used are as important as the medium through which they are delivered. And digital rendering is a medium that augments the designs and makes them more real. Being argumentative and showing resistance to digital rendering isn’t a very healthy sign of progress for architects and architectural firms.