Blender 3D in the architecture – visualization of an apartment

Das finale Rendering
The result of the hard work is counting πŸ™‚

Dear reader, it’s great to have you here. With this article, I’d like to give you an overview of the various steps that ewre needed to create an architecture reel with Blender 3d. This post is no howto or a step by step kind of article. Furthermore it should clarify the progress, the pitfalls and the special tasks that you encounter, when you’re doing such a project. Maybe this blog post helps you to ease the creation of some similar work in the architecture field or if you’re searching one tip or another.
All models have been built from the ground, textured, lit and rendered with Blender (in combination with the gimp). Even the final reel has been cutted and finalized with Blender.

I’m wishing you fun while further reading, and I’m hoping to receive some comments…they’re all influencing the following posts.

The facts:

Blender version: First 2.49b, then 2.5 in the newest revision
Pc: First Intel Centrino, later Intel i7

Vertices: 345338
Faces: 319727
Frames in the animation: 1400
Created models: 20
Amount of time spent for modeling: 10 1/2 weeks
Amount of time spent for texturing: 1 day
Amount of time spent for lighting: 2 days

The finished architecture reel:

If you’d like to have a look at my reel, take this link to the plasmasolutions references (right side). If you’d like to see a high-resolution version of the video, have a look at this link. It’s rendered as a 720p version there

The task

My task was the creation of an apartment that is already rent (and built πŸ™‚ ) and to create an animation of it in the following to allow people having an insight at the apartment that they eventually like to rent. The advance for both sides: No matter if the current hirer is available or not, everyone can get a view around the place to match his belief with the “real” apartment.

Organization of all files

When you’re starting a such sized project, you have to believe me: Organization is not all, but very much! I’m seeing the long faces all of you, shouting out “that’s so boring”. I know that! It’s not fun at all to think about the structure of your project! I for myself would like to start modelling / texturing and rendering immediately! But belief my – the right organisation is a real time saver!

Reusing models

I decided to use a cool (and fairly old) feature of Blender to reuse different models in further projects: The append or link function. Rarely used in small projects is it a great help in this project: One can create an object, put it in a library file and link it to whatever blend file you like. that is helping greatly to use your models throughout different projects.

Linking or Appending

Instead of linking, all my models were appended to the scene. That made it possible to edit the apartment on different pcs, even if the model library was not available to one of them. Tip: You have to use the “file->external data -> pack into blend file” do include all your possible textures into the .blend-file.

The units

First of all it was very important to define in what scale I’d like to operate. That’s because Blender is counting on the digital artist if it goes to units – one Blender unit can mean anything: A foot, an inch, a meter, a centementer or something completely different. At first, it was important for me to be able to zoom in until I reach a millimeter but on the other hand it was crucial to get to a virtual meter at exactly the same accuracy. I’ve never thought about units in Blender before…to stay on the realistic side: modelling without them is not possible at all – so I fought my way through the shallows of the Blender units and (first of all) where you can find them.

Edge Length in Blender 2.49b
Edge Length in Blender 2.49b

A Tip, if you’d like to measure and check units in Blender: Check the “Edge Length” option in the editing panel (F9) on the “Mesh Tools More” tab in Blender 2.49b. This option draws the current length of an edge between two currently selected vertices and helps working at an exact level a lot. To find the option, you have to be in the edit mode.

In Blender 2.5 the option resides on the right if you’re in the edit mode and you’re pressing “N” on your keyboard. If you’re not sure about how the edge length option is looking and where to find it, look at the pictures on the side, you’ll surely find them afterwards!

Edge Length Blender 2.5
Blender 2.5

In so far as the direct feedback, but where are the values for the units? Pressing “N” (in both versions of Blender) will show you a window with the current values without any unit. The way you’re interpreting these values lies completely in your hand.

If you’re stating, that DimX 1.0 is 1 meter …ok! For some others ist eventually 1 cm; or 32m – how you’d like to… I defined DimXYZ = 1.0 = 1 meter – especially because many tutorials on the net for the physic system of blender or Ambient Occlusion are defaulting the values to these definition. This way, the instructions were easier to follow. Enough to the units.

The first two weeks

At the beginning, I took a plan of the apartment to get an exact overview about corners, windows and such… unfortunately it didn’t help that much. There were too many variables that I couldn’t extract from the plan…so I ended up with measuring all the details by myself – one week in total!!

The second week, I created the dining room, the living room and the bathroom. I built them starting with a plane that was extruded several times in 2D. In a last step one final extrusion to the sky was made – and the basic apartment was ready. The entrance caused me heartache in special: Because I’d wanted to take some close ups in my later renderings, everything had to be very exact. That wasn’t easy without a proper plan as you can easily guess.

In the second week I created the doors, frames, the hinges and the balkony. There was nothing special about that, only the hinges made me think of one thing: The “set smooth” feature shouldn’t be overused! More about that later!

Week two to four

In those two weeks, I worked almost completely on the stairway including the upper apartment area and the radiators.

The radiator and the IKEA lamp are happily united

And just another tip: It’s just normal for me to subsurf my rounded objects two times by pressing Ctrl+2. This way, the radiators (5 pieces in the complete apartment) were divided two times. While watching the rendering process, I noticed that the radiator in special slowed down the rendering extremely…digging deeper into my scene I saw that the subsurf setting is causing the big render times. After setting the subsurf modifier level to 1, I saved nearly 20% of the rendering time – without further notice of the quality loss.

Week five and six

The sculpted couch
The sculpted couch

In those two weeks, the dining and living room were created: The kitchen should finally see the finish line, the sofa, chairs and table should finally be created and placed properly in the scene. It was the sofa, that caused the biggest trouble in this stage: How is it possible to make it look really used and not shiny and brand new? To complete this task I used another great tool in Blenders toolkit: sculpting. It’s like working with clay… you push and pull, add some layers of clay and remove it when needed. If you’ve got like me a lot of material on your bookmarks or on your pc about sculpting, but never used it before, I’d like to give you a tip! Take some random (most preferable organic object) and sculpt extensively in the next few weeks – it’s so great and fun!

Week seven to ten

In the seventh week, I normally would take a deep breath and relax…but I didn’t do that. The wardrobe on the upper floor would finally get finished, a carpet with a particle System and the complete sleeping room be created. The particle system in special, that changed very much since 2.45 is really making me say “thank you very much” to all Blender developers – all I wish for now are more presets that put the many many setting to senseful values. But all in all – great work from you, dear developers!

Error in the shading
Error caused by SetSmooth in the shading

The following weeks I nearly fully used for the complete sleeping room plus the matching IKEA-furniture. But the upper wardrobe was causing sorrows at this time: Even if I textured and lit the wardprobe apropriately the shading looked very odd! Even increasing the emit value temporarily, didn’t help much. It lasted some time ’til I got the solution: You shouldn’t do an “all have to do smooooooth” on all your objects… the rectangular areas don’t like that much πŸ™‚

So, this is my tip:: A heartful “SetSolid” and this spooky behaviour is disappearing!

You’ve surely noticed, that I didn’t say a word about the bathroom anymore – this naturally has got a cause : I didn’t model and texture it completely πŸ™‚ Later on, it should only be used on a fly-by shot of the animation.

And another tip right afterwards: Think exactly about what you’d like to have in your animatic or still! It’s so awful to see you spending hours working on a model but later don’t using it in your animation.. Really!

Lighting and materials

After modelling the objects, the lighting was in sight. Aside from making highly detailed models, I wanted to test the internal renderer with this project: AmbientOcclusion was used in the “Approximate”-variant for the first test renderings, later on this setti

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