Eliminate the Wait AECbytes Sponsored Article (May 30, 2018)

You’ve got a great design, and you can’t wait to show it to the client. You put the final touches on the 3D model’s lighting and materials, position the camera at just the right angle, and click the Render button.

And then you wait. And wait.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could show your finished renderings at the click of a button? With the convergence of faster CPUs/GPUs and continued development of real-time rendering engines, you’d think it would be possible.

Actually, it is. The creators of real-time renderer Unreal Engine, seeing the potential of this technology for Enterprise applications like AEC, are now catering to this emerging use for real-time rendering.

Real-Time Rendering Goes Photoreal

Early real-time renderers produced graphics with enough basic realism for gameplay, but they weren’t really suitable for a convincing architectural or product visualization. But over time, as offline renderers like V-Ray and Corona improved their results, real-time renderers like Unreal Engine made concurrent improvements to lighting, shadows, and other rendering considerations.

These days, real-time rendering has reached a high level of fidelity to rival offline renderers. In fact, 21% of architectural visualization professionals by survey use Unreal Engine as part of their regular workflow, with another 41% currently testing it for adoption.

The most important improvements have been to the processing of lighting. Scenes imported from popular programs like 3ds Max and Revit retain the lighting you’ve so carefully set up, giving a realistic portrayal of the design with ambient occlusion and realistic shadows. This holds true even for scenes initially set up with lights from an offline renderer like V-Ray or Corona.

Real-time rendering relies on optimizations that improve rendering and playback speed without compromising realism. With most of the environment in an architectural visualization being stationary, ambient occlusion maps can be baked in ahead of time. If light sources also won’t move, shadows can be baked as well, presenting a photoreal picture without the overhead of calculating these aspects of lighting on every frame.

Unreal Engine includes a number of optimizations like this, all with the goal of achieving photoreal rendering in real time. With such overhead removed, Unreal Engine can render photoreal images at 24fps, 30fps, and even 90fps.  

Consider the possibilities for you and your clients. Tour the rendered design in real time, looking at it from any angle, and make updates to the model as the client requests them. Remove endless do-overs by involving the client directly in the review-and-update process.

Unreal Studio for Enterprise

To help designers take advantage of real-time rendering, Epic Games recently released Unreal Studio, a suite of tools designed to make entry into real-time rendering for architectural visualization quick and easy.

Unreal Studio includes:

  • Datasmith - Export/import plug-ins to convert CAD data into Unreal Engine’s format intelligently and quickly, without loss of fidelity. Datasmith transfers CAD data from over 20 CAD sources, including Autodesk 3ds Max.

  • Learning Tools - A series of video tutorials specifically for architectural visualization, from data preparation to final presentation. Watch at your own pace and apply what you’ve learned to your own projects.

  • Documentation - An online help system with instructions and tips on preparation, import, and tutorials.

  • Assets - Allegorithmic Substances for common architecture and design materials, plus industry-specific templates to quickly create immersive design experiences.

  • Support - One-to-one ticketed support and a monitored discussion board connecting you to other users.

Unreal Studio effectively adapts the workflow of importing to Unreal Engine for architectural visualization. Scenes set up for photoreal rendering in applications like 3ds Max come in intact, with everything converted to Unreal Engine format.

Give Experiences, not Presentations

Real-time rendering is more than just a time-saver for your existing workflows. Real-time rendering opens the door for experiences rather than presentations.

With real-time rendering, stakeholders can review a design together in real time, giving the ability to explore, discuss, and make design changes in real time. Clients can take a self-guided tour of the rendered model, exploring any area as they like, both inside and out. You can even change lighting for different times of day for a true picture of how the structure will look when built.

For a deliverable presentation, you can take advantage of game-like features in Unreal Engine to enhance your audience’s experience. For example, you can set up a clickable icon at key parts of the design that trigger a text pop-up to describe the feature.

Unreal Engine natively produces stereoscopic virtual reality imagery. With the addition of a head-mounted display, your design instantly becomes immersive. Participants don’t just view the design, they experience it.

Get the Future Now

Architects and designers are adopting real-time rendering at record rates. Unreal Studio has made this possible, with training and videos to make the transition to this new technology smooth and easy.

Unreal Studio is currently in free beta until November 2018, and only $49/month after the beta period. Sign up for the free beta now, and get started with real-time rendering for visualization!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in AECbytes sponsored articles are those of the sponsor and do not represent or reflect the views of AECbytes.