the future of arch. visualization—where does software like Lumion fit into the picture?


Hi all,

What are your thoughts about realtime rendering software like Lumion, or services like this company ''? Do you think that this sort of representation will eclipse traditional arch viz still images in the next 10 years? Will it only become more powerful and effective? Will it be more widely used in high-quality cultural and institutional projects (as opposed to more everyday commercial work)?

As young architect interested in visualization I am just trying to think strategically about what skills I invest in. Frankly I much prefer the idea of still images being the dominant visualization format as I think there is more intentionality and capacity for artistry behind them. This debate between 3d realtime stuff and traditional still images may be mirrored in the architecture industry in which the dominance of BIM technology is growing over and above traditional CAD technology. The results undeniably facilitate faster construction and more efficient projects, but many argue it does so at the cost of the design's specificity and the quality of the drawings generated from the BIM model. 

Anyways, what are your guys' thoughts? My wife is urging me to think about the changing archviz landscape but I confess I feel inclined to continue developing my skills in still imagery. Perhaps software like Lumion will have its place in more advanced project phases - when the design of the building and its interior is being solidified. Perhaps the domains of conceptual and schematic design will still be navigated through still imagery?

Dec 9, 15 4:34 pm
Non Sequitur

I see Lumion and others like it (showcase for BIM is another) as developer condo show-room eye-candy more than production tools.

As for BIM producing low quality drawings, you just need more competent people assembling the construction documents and respect office standards.

Are you looking to be an architect or a visualizer? Renderings are cheap and often outsourced where labour laws are non-existent. Best to be be the one calling the design and managing the project than rendering water reflections.

Dec 9, 15 4:43 pm

Lumion is pretty cool, actually. It's easy to use and produces solid results quickly. But it has a way to go before it generates output that's ready for primetime.

Realtime rendering is the way of the future, particularly now that raytrace-optimized GPU graphics cards are starting to hit the market. At the moment, the software tools available for realtime visualization are pretty limited or have very steep learning curves due to being optimized for non-architectural uses (e.g. game engines like Unreal). Lumion sacrifices much of the quality and functionality of UDK and others in return for speed and user-friendliness. But that will change. When it does, more advanced versions of tools like Lumion will be much more common.

BIM is a production tool. Not a design or visualization tool. I know the BIM partisans will dispute that, but it's true.

Dec 9, 15 4:55 pm

I'm a bit torn.  I would normally agree with Non-Sequitur until I started working with this new firm.  They are landing very large projects, repeat clients, and competitions.  In part, that's due to the high level of ability to produce that eye-candy  and illicit that emotional response from whom they are trying to hawk their services.  So I'm starting to see real value in the production tools of being able to sell the firm and the project to the 'untrained' (who seem to care less about your expertise at the real stuff like cd's).

I see that eye-candy becoming more and more important in the future.  The owners just aren't reviewing the details, how the building goes together... (yawn).  But they'll get excited about a model, a short video, and a graphic presentation....  It's become a necessary evil just to get the project and to keep them coming back. 

Dec 9, 15 4:59 pm

as i said before - lumion is hokey but it works - waaaay faster than vray, maxwell - super intuitive - time is $ - you can make an animation in lumion in 1/100 the time it takes in vray.  the only people that can tell the difference are other architects.

Dec 9, 15 6:13 pm
null pointer

woah, wait, mightyaa? you closed down shop? update your thread!

Dec 9, 15 7:32 pm

Rendering software knowledge, at least a decent competency, for new graduates is pretty much expected at a certain level. It's not that hard and many firms use it to make certain decisions.  Real time VR walk throughs aren't too far off, but the market may be limited - I like Lumion, but it's just abstract enough to be annoying.  A good ray-traced rendering is more 'photo real', though I will say the efficiency in getting them, with all the correct materials is not quite where I feel it's worth the time/cost on many project types.

BIM is not an ideal visualization tool (nor is it meant to be) though the 3D modeling seems to help a lot of people actually understand what they're building (or make very evident those that do not understand construction).

I'll also throw in that hand sketches and rendering still evoke a great response from many people.

Dec 9, 15 9:01 pm
null pointer

having rendering chops is how I've gotten a few good jobs off the hands of old dinosaurs.

Dec 9, 15 10:08 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_

/\ Null those skills may have just sealed a super potential good deal for me....Yes, design development with materials and drawings and renderings, no problem - I use to teach it!

Dec 9, 15 10:46 pm

1. Rendering is not the same as drawing. Drawing will always be around. We draw digitally.

2. lumion has a way to go, not near the 'romance' as a good vray/photoshop render

3. our clients love our non photoreal/paintery renderings. My tatse changes project to project--some call for NPR, some lend themselves more to lumion, or a crisper photoreal image

Dec 9, 15 11:30 pm

Imagery and walkthroughs are different parts of a process when it comes to visualisation.

Still imagery will be around for oinks, it won't go away - how the hell are you gonna put a video on a poster? I ain't gonna happen, you need something stunning. @Larchinect - Rendering isn't the same as drawing? why is that?

VR/Walkthroughs are a different part of the process - they're to sell an experience and to win presentations, it's to feel a whole journey.

BIM isn't visualisation its a process within a process - I worked for a BIM consult we would never tell you to use it to visualise or "design" although people do. People need to understand that "BIM" isn't a program, it is strictly a process of managing information and collaboration - I'm tired of younger and older folks in the AEC field throwing the word around as if Revit or ArchiCAD is "BIM".

Lumion? its got it's place in the whole journey but it isn't meant to replace rendering engines.

Dec 10, 15 3:45 am

Going back to the OP... Programs like Lumion are the future of visualization.  Well, I would argue they are the present of visualization.  GPU and "real-time" rendering is the most efficient means of producing visualizations.  Software like Enscape, Lumion, TwinMotion, Artlantis, Unreal, CryEngine, etc... have become part of many firms workflows. 

Personally, I have been using Lumion for over a year now and it has changed my life.  I've used many workflows from Revit to Max to VRay... Native Revit... Autodesk Cloud, and so on...  Lumion (and I am sure Artlantic and Twinmotion are similar) is the absolte fastest way to render a design (still or animation).

Without sounding like a Lumion salesperson you should all check out the latest release (Lumion 6).  The new reflections, shadows, glazing, and so on have really stepped up the quality and realism. 

You may be interested to see some of the stills we have made using Revit to Lumion 5:


Every single one of those projects was Revit to Lumion to Photoshop... And I wish i kept better track of how quickly they were developed.

My last comment is on the subject of BIM producing ugly drawings.  As many of you mentioned BIM is a process not a tool, but for the sake of this discussion let's call it a tool like Revit or ArchiCAD.  Just like with AutoCAD, if you don't know how to use it you will produce crap...  Both Revit and AutoCAD can produce absolutely stunning documents, presentation, and visualizations.  I believe this so much so that I developed an entire video course about it...  

Dec 10, 15 12:34 pm

One thing I wanted to add... I am speaking from an architects standpoint... Not a visual artist... IMO different rules apply when you are developing visualizations as well as designing the building, doing CDs, etc... 

Dec 10, 15 12:38 pm

True, tools like lumion will be for the architect not the visual artist - yet.

Dec 10, 15 1:14 pm

Lumion is garbage; it looks like sketchy crap and its animations are jerky and abstract. Lumion is NOT a time saver--vray takes no time whatsoever if you have a good material library, some decent HDRI's, and a decent 3D model of the scene.  So long as you don't get deep into color matching with backplates, or you aren't making crazy custom multimaterials with massive multiplier passes, then vray is pretty straight forward.

Sure, the render may take a few hours, during which I'll get up and do something else on the project.  Maybe, in 10 years, Lumion will be better.  At the moment, it is the Sketchup of rendering programs

Dec 11, 15 1:32 am

Yeah but Lumion is made for that one person in the office that isn't tech savvy and there are loads of those in every office, you know that one guy with 20 years of experience so he doesn't need to learn how to use AutoCAD properly.

Dec 11, 15 1:57 am

The future of archviz is shifting towards streamed mobile VR and GPU accelerated graphics to generate more personalized user experiences. For instance the ability the change furniture, wall-paper, color, wall will play a bigger role in generating a ''memorable'' user experience. The ability to be transported inside a house is simply mind blowing for first timers. 

If you have google cardboard. Try this. Experiencing is believing.

Dec 14, 15 5:28 pm

Hey Guys


  Hmm well there are two ways to look at visualization if you are planning to get into it. First of all Lumion isn't used as they advertised . Secondly the question to be asked if you are going for visualization specific jobs ( In house Render) (Architectural Visualizer ) .... Those jobs are pretty much rendering and modelling with very little to no cad ever. 


Currently most of the firms in house or firms specific providing visualization use 3d Max , Vray / Corona and photoshop . You have to be really really proficient with the the rendering software and its more about learning how to recreate an image  . Yes you have to know how to use the software but you have to have a really good eye .. <-- this guy is pretty much considered the god.


The profession is moving towards VR and Animations but its still a long long way cause you need clients who are willing to pay for VR or Animations to actually get into it. I mean several offices including my office is experimenting it but there are hardly any clients asking for it. For now its only still images . 


So learn VRAY/ Corona in 3d Max and train your eye to recreate images..... I highy doubt Lumion will get anywhere because it has very little tools to tweak the images to create moods.... Most clients when they ask for images in house or visual offices usually ask for a specific mood they want. Lumion is far from it but it is easy....


Hope it helps


(3d visualizer in NYC , withholding my company name for anonymity) 

Dec 14, 15 11:27 pm

Or if you want to do animations learn premiere and after effects as well, two programs which are getting more frequently asked at job interviews for vis roles now.

Dec 15, 15 3:02 am

I have to respectfully disagree with you guys about "realtime" software like Lumion... 

If your sole job is a architectural visualization and your entire budget/fee is based on full time arch. viz of course V-Ray is the solution.  You are not designing, writing specs, creating documents, and all the other aspects of architecture.  So spending 40 hours straight on a still image or two is acceptable in that situation.

The real-time rendering software, Lumion is just one of the many out there now, exists for the architect (not the visual artist).  If you told your boss that it would take you a few days to create a rendering and your machine will be choked up for many hours (assuming you don't have a render farm or some other setup) while in the middle of a big deadline I doubt he or she would be happy...

Meanwhile, if you can throw a model in Lumion and produce a very nice image or even animation in 20 minutes I would bet that would be the suggested direction.  

The original question was "where does Lumion fit" ... I believe real-time rendering fits in the architects office... Not the visual artists office.  

I would also add that many of the largest firms in the world ARE using a real-time rendering software like Lumion, Artlantis, etc...  When they are not sending their rendering overseas... ;)

Dec 15, 15 8:32 am

@Jeffrey - I absolutely agree. Working in a collaborative design office in a client service model means that you will be making numerous changes to the design throughout the life of the project.

Because of advancing rendering technology, design is no longer a linear process i.e. research > sketching > idea generation > 3D study model > CAD > final renderings. Our technology (3d modeling and real-time rendering like Lumion) allows us to go back and forth, for better or worse. We render quickly, see what we like and don't like, make changes, and continue to refine. We realize that the render never portrays the scene accurately, but it allows you to go back quickly and make changes where you see fit.

With V-Ray or other 2D software, you end up taking a day to render a beautiful scene, yes, but are then asked to change parts of the design, either from the project lead or the client. It becomes a waste of time. 

The exception to this is in marketing renderings. If you prescribe a part of the design fee to be specifically for marketing renderings (after the completion of SD or DD) then you can "freeze" the design and work in two dimensions. 

Dec 15, 15 10:38 am

Also strong agree with Jeffrey. The point of something like Lumion is to make viz much faster, easier, and integral to the design process - which the standard 3DS/Vray path fails on all three counts.

While imagery from Lumion and similar software is obviously not up to the quality standard of a fully rendered raytrace image, that's an apples-to-oranges comparison that misses the point of what tools like this are for. Lumion-style software lets you get 80 percent of the quality in 10% of the time at a tiny fraction of the cost. That allows viz to become more organic to the design process because you don't have to dedicate lots of man-hours and tens of thousands of dollars to generating renderings and animations, particularly when 80% of a fully-rendered raytrace scene is good enough. And the software is improving to where soon 80% will be 90% and maybe 95%. At that point, the game changes entirely.

Dec 15, 15 11:57 am

Also, those Peter Guthrie renderings are very nice. Some of them are difficult to distinguish from actual professional photographs, which is a neat trick. But they're also a bit flat and soulless too. I tend not to like that style very much. I'm much more partial to stuff Alex Hogrefe and Dennis Allain do.

Dec 15, 15 1:40 pm

@gwharton   - I have heard of Peter and Alex but Dennis is a knew one for me!  Thanks for the find!

My personally favorite as far as "soul" and having a story behind an image is MIR... 

Dec 15, 15 1:53 pm

I love Dennis' work and would hire him for every project if I could. But he's in high demand and extremely expensive. :)

Dec 15, 15 2:13 pm

MIR's work is interesting. Some beautiful stuff there. Very atmospheric and interesting.

I have to say that I'm getting really tired of the fashion for over-exposed, desaturated, misty imagery though. It's bleak.

Dec 15, 15 2:19 pm

Check out Ronen Bekermen, Bertrand Benoid and Doug & Wolf.

Dec 15, 15 3:44 pm
Smile of Fury

To the OP, I don't think there's anything wrong at all with concentrating on still imagery for your visualizations. You can produce great work with a simple rendering from Sketchup/Max and Photoshop and not be tied to any specific  render engine. Check out Pixelflakes and Alex Hogrefe if you don't know them already. If you want to learn one, VRAY is still dominant in the Arch-Vis industry and Mental Ray ships with Max, so is always available.

I do believe that Realtime VR and web-based visualization is going to dominate the visualization scene in the not too distant future. A few other comments here agreed, but I did not see anyone mention Unreal or Unity, the two leading game engines for producing these visualizations. Lumion may be fast, but that's about the only advantage I see. It's expensive, has no cross-platform support, no VR support and requires clients to download and install special viewers. IMHO, Lumion doesn't even belong in the discussion.

Jan 8, 16 4:48 pm

fast being the only advantage.. is the one advantage that really matters for very many tasks.. if doubling the time it takes means no order for the job (as twice the time means twice the cost) it's often down to quick and cheap render, or no render at all. So Lumion very much belongs in the discussion, though it can't compete with ray-tracing in quality, so Vray etc. is still better for quality, if the client is interested in spending the extra money.


I've used Vray renderings many years ago, and we as a office has outsourced for Vray renderings for many competitions. Personally I make the office visualisations, and I only use Lumion/Photoshop.

I'd say that if you are only doing visualisations, and want those cover-renderings, then Lumion won't cut it. If you want to win competitions win photoreal impressive renderings with accurat light, shadow and reflections - then go vray based rendering (ray traced). Lumion has gotten better, but as long as it does the quick route as today, it will never touch the traced quality.

That said, the reason I only use Lumion in our office is time.. Clients want a visualisation to sell the program, but they are not interested in paying the premium it takes to do vray renders. And the only tool(s) that can do as quick a visualisation is the Lumion-type programs, which is tailored around speed, rather than super quality.

If I were to switch to Vray, 90% of all the visualisations I do would never happen, as the price and time of renders would be too high. Vray spend aprox 100x the time per frame as Lumion does, and making last minute changes to a render means seconds or in worst case minute(s) of re-render in Lumion, while we talk hours in vray. And our clients like to move and change things last minute.

Unfortunately, I can not do the top renders through Lumion, which has cost us two render jobs so far to others doing vray renders. The best would be a combination of the two worlds, with the setup and speed of Lumion, but with the choice of doing the final phase (render) in ray traced quality.. Let's hope we are close to getting such a program :)

Oct 18, 17 3:15 am


Think this thread might be dead. :o)

Hey ho, my thoughts on the matter are thus.

If 3DS Max can work with an inbuilt real time plugin that produces Lumion quality or better animations (in less than 10mins) it would be a game (engine) changer.

I don't mean V-Ray RT either as you still have to render each frame and composite.

Hit me up for further advice.


Oct 18, 17 9:22 am

How does Lumion compare to Artlantis?

Oct 18, 17 9:51 am

Having not used Artlantis I might not be best placed to say. ;o)

Oct 18, 17 10:47 am

This might be a little off topic but close enough.

I was really excited about arch-viz a couple of years ago.  I think the technology is exciting and the modeling/rendering can be fun too.

There are two problems, though:

1. Every office I've worked out will latch onto whoever is skilled/interested in arch. viz and that becomes their role at the company.  I've been that guy before.  If you want to get into that for your career then great, but it's tertiary at best to a career in architecture.  If you want to become/stay a traditional architect be known as the person who's great at figuring out tricky construction details or building code -- not rendering.

2. I've generally worked in smaller firms so this might be different elsewhere but it seems that the more and better rendering options we offer we're only upping the bar for ourselves.  It's beyond the scope of basic services (usually) and unless the client is really excited about paying you for the time invested in renderings (which can be a lot) I don't think it's worth it.  

The point of renderings, at the end of the day, is to convey an idea.  Not too long ago it was common to present plans, sketches, a few (basic) renderings (by hand even), and possibly a fairly simple physical model.  The goal was to show an idea.

Now, it feels like you have to present a multimedia experience that I'm sure the clients are more than happy to see (because it IS cool) but there's a cost to that that we're not being compensated (or at least not always) for.  

I've heard the argument that clients don't understand the design without the renderings but that's BS.  Clients have been understanding traditional architectural drawings for centuries.  I'm sure they'd love to see all the renderings and animations you can but it's not necessary and the more we offer them the more they become the expected norm.

Oct 19, 17 2:31 pm

Absolutely bang on dsarchs,


People see the renders, fly-throughs etc. they do on HGTV shows and think it is a basic service.  I've had multiple people ask for them.  

Oct 19, 17 3:31 pm

What has been seen, cannot be unseen etc. Arch Vis is here to stay.

What it needs is regulation. A union or body to protect valued talent being abused by the system. Business likes CGI because it can be used to beat competition. However the time scales and cost to do so are not regulated.


Oct 20, 17 3:31 am

Though an older discussion, I think this is helpful mainly because we have both architects and viz pros in here.  As a viz pro, thought trained as a landscape architect, I can say that our services have their place but they're quite difficult and expensive to insert into the design process.  

However, many architects haven't quite caught up to the modern marketing trends like the product and automotive industry have. Virtually all car and product images from a manufacturer are renderings, yet do you see  manufacturers use watercolor renderings in their brochures?

An herein lies the problem, watercolor renderings, paintings, illustrations focus on the potential, ideal for the design process, while realistic renderings focus on reality, what the client is actually getting. I get excited when I see concept sketches from major car manufacturers but I know it does mean a thing until they actually put that thing on the production line.  

My problem comes when architects armed with Lumion think they're hot stuff with viz and convince the client not to get an expert for their final marketing images, which is a huge mistake.  I've seen great architecture being displayed with inferior Lumion renderings and degrades the experience of the expectation.

Feb 23, 18 10:03 am
Non Sequitur

most fresh grads can produce spectacular renderings which are more than acceptable for marketing. They can't set up construction docs to save their lives thou, but that's a different topic. Outsourcing renderings to "viz experts" is unnecessary if you have good staff but keep the viz guys for the heavier urban fly-through scale renderings.


"I've seen great architecture being displayed with inferior Lumion renderings and degrades the experience of the expectation." I've seen great architecture displayed on napkins...still great. The problem isn't the software or hardware, it's the lack of imagination in the eye of the beholder.


"The problem isn't the software or hardware, it's the lack of imagination in the eye of the beholder."

Totally agree, that's why my service exists in the first place.


I have rarely seen new architectural grads that produce "spectacular" renderings by 2018 standards. The bar has been set much higher than you think.  

Feb 23, 18 11:24 am
Non Sequitur

You should get out more then.


I’m not sure you’ve seen marketing or competition images lately. If you know a school where most grads are putting out Mir and dbox quality renderings send me a link cause we have some hiring to do.


I get my renderings done for 20 dollars on Fivver

Feb 25, 18 4:52 pm

How much should we charge for a Arch Viz ?

May 19, 19 12:20 pm

All of it.

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