Renderings and 3D visualisations are everywhere right now and you might not even know it. That gorgeous, modern interior in an industrial home you saw on your Instagram feed last month? It doesn’t exist. That soft, velvet pistachio sofa you’ve been dreaming of? It is the figment of someone’s imagination.
Since the advent of 3D modelling and CGI technology, the quality level of visualisations has been on the rise. It’s no longer a matter of technical prowess; all current visualisation engines can create images that appear photographic. The lines between reality and fiction are blurring, and our capacity to understand an output of a design before the input is better than ever before.
Until recently, rendered images and rendering as a whole was only accessible to visual specialists; architects, product and interior designers, photographers. But now, things are changing.
Renders have become a mainstay of architecture, urban design and interior design. They are relatively cheap to produce, and they allow clients or organisms to envision the development of their spaces and tweak designs with little economic consequence.
AI is opening a new way to quickly create concept images that rival the realism of current renderings. Plus, customer-facing softwares are debilitating the skill gap that keeps renderings away from non-trained designers. These tools make the process of creating a rendering exponentially easier: upload a 2D sketch of the plan, receive a 3D model of the space, tweak textures and furniture, add some light and boom. A render is born.
To understand better how rendering works and how artificial intelligence is threatening the status quo of the industry, we spoke to two different players in the space.
- The co-founder of an artichect-led visualisation studio, Luafix
- The co-founder of a photography and real estate service marketplace, widu
In conversation with Jose Ramón Guerra del Moral, co-founder of Luafix
Hello! Could you tell us a bit more about Luafix, its origins, and its services?
Certainly, we started working in 2015. We are all trained architects, and Luafix emerged from the need to communicate architectural projects, both during our training and in our professional careers. Due to my skills in the 3D and architectural visualisation world, the idea of capitalising on that knowledge arose, as we generate attractive images. I started spreading the word and generating interest among certain firms, and that's how the business started.
Within Luafix, what is your specific role? Are you the founder?
Yes, I founded the company, and I still handle the development of the images. Although we now have several employees, I manage the artistic aspect, which includes the setting of the images and the post-production. The entire image has a brand and an appearance that goes through me.
What does Luafix specifically do?
We specialise in architecture and offer services such as creating images and real estate promotion. We have worked with clients who request images to promote real estate properties, and sometimes we have provided improvements and suggestions to the projects. Whenever there is trust with the client, we propose changes in the architectural design to enhance the project. This has led us to obtain more jobs in the field of architecture and project development, thus bridging our initial business with architecture.
That sounds very interesting. What other additional services does Luafix offer apart from images?
We offer a variety of additional services. The first and most important one is through Ombú Arquitectos. We have been working for some time now, ranging from the domestic scale to urban planning, addressing economic, social, and sustainable requirements in a responsible manner.
At Luafix, in addition to images, we also create animations and virtual tours, which provide different ways to present and visualise projects. We package all these services and deliver them as a comprehensive product, which sets us apart from others who only focus on architecture or image production.
I would like to know more about the 3D models of architecture and interior design. Who are your clients in general or what types of clients do you have, and what do they use the 3D models for?
In this field, I would say there are three main scenarios. The first one is real estate promotion, which constitutes about 80% of our work. These are mainly private companies that want to market their residential developments and come to us to tell and communicate their project through images.
The second scenario is architecture competitions and public or private tenders. Architecture studios or private developers hire us to develop competitions where the image is slightly different, allowing for greater creative freedom.
Lastly, there is the interior design of products, which involves unique spaces or objects, such as partitions or even medical objects, targeting a very specific audience.
Wow, I didn't know about medical objects, that's very interesting. I would like to ask you more about how the 3D modelling process starts, that is, what are the steps and where do you connect with the client.
The first step is to determine the number of images desired, as this also determines what needs to be communicated. Sometimes, due to different reasons, the client may have limited resources or simply understand that the project has communicative capacity by itself due to its quality.
Then, it is decided which images are going to be produced, usually one exterior and one interior image. It is also determined what will be modelled, as in many projects there are spaces that are not relevant or interiors that have secondary interest and are not modelled.
Once that is determined, we always work with the final image in mind. Having a clear idea of the final image is very important, so we request the environment and familiarize ourselves with the location, including the specific lighting, in order to work accurately on the modeling.
Based on that, for exterior images, for example, we can use a drone photograph or an image of the location to which we can incorporate the 3D model. In the case of interiors, we always model the entire space.
Once the viewpoints have been determined, we present options to the client for them to see and give their opinion, thus establishing the final scenario of images.
After that, we focus on modelling the most particular details for that viewpoint and on the setting, which includes furniture, vegetation, and pre-studied lighting. Finally, the finished image is produced, and adjustments are made in terms of contrasts and other aspects
Understood, it seems very clear. Thank you very much for the explanation. I would like to know what considerations you take into account when creating a model to ensure that it reflects the designer's vision to the client.
Primarily, we seek to highlight the "goodness" of the project. We receive many projects that are good and of direct quality. Since we have a background in architecture, we always analyse and evaluate them, bringing out the best in each one.
That makes sense. Could you tell us about a project you are particularly proud of?
Yes, there is one for which we won an international award, and it's on our website. It was a particular case where we worked with a designer from Mallorca. We collaborated on an international competition that involved developing different design proposals for the same space.
Now, I would like to ask you about the current challenges with 3D models and renders. What do you consider to be the major challenges today?
In my opinion, the biggest challenge we face is the ever-evolving world of augmented reality. New possibilities are being explored, such as incorporating virtual reality glasses that allow people to move within a space in a hyper-realistic way.
However, this process is complex and requires significant resources from the team producing the information. Additionally, it can have significant economic implications, as many clients are not willing to pay the associated cost for this type of technology. Therefore, while augmented reality is exciting, there are still limitations in terms of widespread adoption.
It seems that augmented reality has great potential but also presents challenges. Another topic that is being mentioned a lot is the impact of artificial intelligence in the world of renders. How do you see the future of renders in this context?
Personally, I believe that artificial intelligence is here to stay, and I love it. Although we don't know how far it can go, what we do know is that it offers an amazing capacity for exploring ideas and generating variations of the same space.
However, the current challenge lies in ensuring that artificial intelligence maintains a certain vitality and flexibility within a single project. If a precise project is needed and all measurements are critical, artificial intelligence may have limitations. Although advances are being made in this field, it has not yet reached the level of skill that a human being possesses.
In conversation with Francisco Gallardo, co-founder of widu
Hello! I would like to know more about the history of widu and how you made the transition from being a photographer to an entrepreneur in this field. Could you tell us about your journey?
Firstly, I was hired by a company in Spain that needed architectural photographers for a specific project. During that job, I became very interested in how they managed my schedule and handled payments promptly, which allowed me to focus on my work without worrying about finding clients or getting paid.
Although that company no longer exists, I came up with the idea of adapting their business model to the Latin American market.
I reached out to people in Chile but had no success. Then, I partnered with a friend in Germany who had experience with startups and investments, and together we founded widu. Through my friend, I met the other co-founder of widu, Peter Karimurio, a Kenyan based in Düsseldorf who is currently in charge of Product. Later, Peter introduced me to Ben Moller-Butcher, also based in Düsseldorf, who handles sales and marketing. Both of them are former Trivago employees. We secured funding from investors, including the founder of Trivago, who became our main investor.
With the team formed, we developed a marketplace to connect photographers with companies in the real estate sector. We take care of training the photographers and ensuring they align with our work standards so that they can provide the best possible service to the sector we specialise in.
Understood, thank you for sharing your journey with us. What is widu specialised in today?
In summary, widu is an application and platform focused on the real estate world. We offer image and rendering services in various formats, from the early stages of a project to after its completion. Our services include 3D renderings, floor plans, videos, drone photography, and more.
We have a network of over 500 photographers in the countries where we operate, currently Chile, Mexico, and Spain. We are currently in the process of securing a second round of financing to expand to another country, possibly Germany.
Our differentiator lies in offering a personalised service tailored to the needs of each client. Additionally, we focus on ensuring the quality and realism of our renderings to resemble photographs. Fast delivery is also an advantage we offer.
Could you tell me more about your main clients for renders?
Our main clients are real estate developers, architects, and interior designers who also request photography services. Whether they opt for one service or the other depends on the stage of the project. If the project does not yet exist, they often request a rendering as it is more cost-effective and quicker to promote the property. They prefer not to wait for everything to be built before taking photographs, which can take months or even years. Renders allow them to sell quickly and make decisions on how the project will look before its construction.
Very interesting. Lastly, I would like to hear your perspective on the advancement of artificial intelligence in the field of 3D modelling and renders.
Although artificial intelligence is advancing rapidly and can perform amazing tasks, it still lacks the ability to read a blueprint in AutoCAD or another format, interpret it with material specifications, and create an exact representation. Artificial intelligence is useful for generating quick concepts that appear realistic, but it has not yet achieved the precision we need in terms of specific measurements and parameters.
However, when it comes to materials, it has shown good performance. There is still a long way to go for artificial intelligence to directly transform a blueprint into an image. That's why I believe rendering remains the preferred option.
However, it's important to mention that this situation can change at any time, and what I'm mentioning here may become outdated if significant advancements have already been made in the field.
Many large companies are automating tasks and laying off employees, including graphic designers who create logos and drawings. I believe that in the near future, artificial intelligence will easily replace many computer-related tasks.
Of course, human intervention will still be necessary in certain aspects, such as capturing images by a photographer in a specific location. However, in the field of computer-aided design, I believe it will soon be replaceable.
Thank you so much for reading this article. If you like this type of content, make sure to check out our Journal for more professional interior design articles. For more AI-related articles, we highly recommend “38 AI Tools And Softwares Every Interior Designer Should Know” and “How To Use AI, DALL·E 2 And Chat GPT As An Interior Designer”.