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Archi-Tech - On-going Project

Alex York

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Hi everyone.


I'm new here, so I better introduce myself first! I'm Alex York - I'm at Teesside University in Middlesbrough, UK studying Computer Animation - currently 3rd and (with a bit of luck...) final year. Please have a quick look at www.alexyork.co.uk if you'd like to see some of my work over the past few years.


I've just started work on my final year project - I chose to create a photo-realistic (or as near as dammit!) original building, entirely in Softimage XSI (my weapon of choice). I've got experience in MAX/Brazil so I'm enjoying learning all the new features of MentalRay in XSI and trying to translate my skills in Brazil across to XSI. It's not easy but it's good fun :)


So this thread will hopefully be an on-going, growing record of my progress in this project.


Any help, critique, encouragement is very much welcome (and needed in fact!).




Model, Texture, Light, Render - Softimage XSI

Composite - Photoshop or Shake (for fly-throughs)


I'm planning on making around 20 of these, but at higher resolution, and a fly-through animation of the entire building. For the final project, I will be designing my own original building from my own designs that I'm working on currently.




The following two images are not my own designs. They are based on photos of a real building (a school) that the archi firm my uncle works for supplied me to learn from. They're tests to see if I can match a CG building with a photo (the buildings are CG and the backgrounds are photos).






Many thanks for any help you can offer.


Alex York

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Cheers! My main area of interest is in lighting and compositing, so I spent most of my time on those phases of the project so far and will continue to do so most likely, although I really need to work on my texturing for this.


There's no HDRI in those images (I've never used HDRI, although I intend to for this project at some point). Just one area light, a few localised spots to pop certain areas and final gathering (I used a polygonal dome mapped with a photo of some sky). Lighting was especially difficult for that second image - I've never done an early-evening look before - I'm quite pleased with how it turned out, although I'm not keen on the lighting inside the building coming through the main glass complex. Not quite right yet.


Thanks again for the compliments!

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Hi Piotr - many thanks for the kind words!


That Roman Bath render is indeed the baths in Bath :) (what a mouthful!).


I definitely need to improve the AA on that last shot this is true. I'm trying to get a result that's both realistic (as if it were taken with a camera - so it should be sharp) and high quality (soft and smooth edges). Not quite there yet, but I'm studying AA tools in XSI so the next batch of renders should be better, I hope.


Thanks again!

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thanks Azkit! I'm afraid I'm using XSI, not MAX, for this project, but I guess the settings are roughly the same.


I'm using final gathering (not GI) with a very low min radius (0.001 or something like that) and automatic computed max (about 4). Accuracy = 500 (went a bit overboard!). The FG is done using an inverted poly dome with a constant material applied (mapped with a suitable photo - not HDRI).


I'm also using an area light for those shadows - it's got 4x4 samples, so nothing major.


That's it for lighting. There are a couple of very small spotlights in those little window sections top left and right.


AntiAliasing is about 0,3 - again nothing too major here.


There's a lot of post work done on those images, to correct dodgy shadows and other things, like the caustics thrown onto the main right panel from the glass section in the center of the image. That was a real pain to get right I can tell you!


There's some serious colour-correction work going on as well, naturally.I think I spent about 1:2 3D|Post :)


I hope that answers your questions. If you need more detailed settings I'll take some screenshots and post them here :)


Many thanks again for your kind words!

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Yes definetly some very impressive work! I'll be watching this thread closely for updates as there are not alot of people using XSI for architectural VIZ work and you seem to know how to make XSI sing that is for sure.


If you can be sure to post some of the details of your post work. I know at Smoothe a great deal of time is spent in post as well.

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Cheers Jeff :)


Yeh it's a shame XSI isn't being used more (or shown more anyway) in archi-vis. I guess that's down to the fact that it's relatively new and has no 3rd-party renderers yet. The thing is that it's MR integration is second-to-none, so you can get some really nice renders out of it. Those renders took about 5 minutes each. I was able to re-use the final gathering map as well, during the tweaking stage.


I'll be posting loads of updates very soon, when I start up the project again down in London.


Thanks again :)

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  • 4 weeks later...

Here's a new WIP image.




This is my 1st ever interior in XSI. I'm pretty pleased with it, although the windows (those grid planes) are a tad overblown. The trouble is that those windows absorb light and bounce it back out, so in the real world they tend to "glow" somewhat. A nightmare to recreate in 3D! I ended up doing them in post using a matte pass. Worked out ok I think. I also need to work on my sense of scale and get some better materials. I'm using FG, 3 area lights (one is shadow-casting) and a whole bunch of light-emitting planes. Rendertimes are about 20mins per pass @ 2k = about 2 hours + about 5hrs post + several hrs coffee-making time = about 10hrs total.


Let me know what you think. Cheers!


PS. I'm now working on modeling the entire building *before* I do any more renders. So it will be a while (maybe a month or so) before I post any new renders. Having said that I usually get bored with modeling and start playing around with render settings, so I may well post something sooner!

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  • 1 month later...

Hi everyone.


I think it's time for another update! So here's another exterior:




Again, the ground is a photo. Everything else is CG.


And here's a very rough render of one of the other rooms in the school (the projection room):




About 5 more of these to do and then I begin work on a construction animation and fly-through.


C&C most welcome!

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If anyone has a spare minute, I'd really appreciate some c&c on this project. It's going swimmingly but it would be great to have a few opinions from the pros, especially when it comes to the composition and framing of the stills. These renders were totally ripped apart by a guy I was speaking to the other day, so I know there's a lot that can be improved. I'm really pushing for ultimate realism, so I'm sure you guys can spot problems I havn't noticed.


Anything really :)


Much appreciated.

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  • 2 weeks later...
If anyone has a spare minute, I'd really appreciate some c&c on this project. It's going swimmingly but it would be great to have a few opinions from the pros, especially when it comes to the composition and framing of the stills.


Alex, you are a pro! Your work stands out to me as some of the best I've seen here on cga. I'm relatively new to rendering myself, so I'm afraid I can't offer too much critisism on your compositions. I think out of all of them, the only one I didn't particularly care for was the first interior shot with the orange & red chairs. Have you tried lowering the camera & removing some of the distortion? I would either lower the cam. & keep the target at the same height or lower the cam. with a higher target & add a camera correction modifier to keep the verticals straight. Not sure how you do that in XSI though.


Fantastic work though. PLEASE keep us posted and share more of your work with us.

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Goodness! That's a huge compliment coming from you, Tim. I've been checking out your work since I found this forum and it's far and away better than anything I'm capable of right now. You have the realism down to a 't'. My images always seem to come out styalised... Perhaps that's the artist in me refusing to leave an image as it should be!


You're dead right about that distortion in the 1st interior. I hadn't noticed that until you mentioned it. Just goes to show how useful forums can be. Hopeully, this is correctable in Photoshop. There's no way I can go back and re-render any of these, since I've spent 50% of the project time in post, so a little trickery with some plugins might help, I hope!


I'm kicking out a render a week at the moment. I'm going to have to step it up a little, since I need to start working on my report for this project (12,000 words of pure torture!) so I may well have another one finished this time next week.


Many thanks for the kind words and focused advice.


Very much appreciated.



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Hey thanks Alex! :) I am usuallly pretty satisfied with my renderings and then I look at them a week or 2 later and find that there are a lot of things I would have done differently. I guess that's where you just have to keep going and hopefully carry that knowledge into the next job.


The first 2 shots you posted in this thread are my favorites. Everything about them is beautiful. In fact, when I first saw them I saved them to my own little private 'rendering hall of fame'. When I see a rendering I really love and want to try to achieve I save the images to my computer so I can quickly access them for reference and inspiration. Hope you don't mind.


I'm doing a project right now where I'm trying to do a 'just before night' look to it, like you did in yours. It's totally different than a typical daylight shot, so there is a lot of trial & error on this one. I was trying HDRI at first, but couldn't find any that matched the type of lighting I was going for. I think it's much easier to just manually create your own environment. After all, professional photography relies on tricks all the time to get the type of lighting they are after, so why can't we?

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Oh yea, and Delfoz reminds me of my other comment....DON'T lose your style. It's what make your renderings so great. And they are at the same time realistic. If you don't think so, just look at a stock photography book.. They are all photo's, but lots of them have so much post processing done that they are probably no where near what the original photo looked like. But we still know they are photos and they look great.

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Thank you Enrique :)


Tim: good god I don't think anyone's ever saved my work before! An honour... I think I mentioned earlier in this thread that for some of the images I'm working from photo reference. They're black and white and pretty crap quality so getting an idea of the colours and shaders is a real challenge. When I started the project I knew I had to have some idea of what to model, since I've never studied architecture before and I don't assume to be one. My uncle, luckily, is a fantastic architect and managed to supply me with some photos to get me started. I ended up designing quite a lot of the environments myself by the end though.


I totally agree about making your own lighting rig... I don't use HDRI and I try very hard not to rely on final gathering/GI or any other secondary illumination. I DO use them when needed, but I spend 90% of my lighting time using traditional lighting techniques. Why let the renderer dictate the look of your work?


By the way, about 50% of the project time for each image was spent in post. A lot of the lighting was "faked" in post this way. The volumetric light, for instance. Why bother doing that in 3D which would take an extra 5 hours to render when you can do it in post in about 20 seconds :)


Nice to meet someone who really knows what goes into real lighting. I know so many guys who just turn on GI and walk away.

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