Architectural Visions from Finland

Render Vision Finland creates compelling visuals for clients using LightWave 3D

Posted: Mon 05 Nov 2012

3D architectural visualizations help architects, builders, and interior designers convey to their customers how a finished building or living space will look when the work is completed. Unlike 2D sketches, 3D architectural visualizations let the client view the place—whether it’s a house, apartment building, or room—in 360 degrees and photorealistic detail.

“In the 3D universe, people can freely explore all their design options, such as comparing expensive furnishings, décor, or architectural accents, to ensure that they get the exact look, mood, or style they want,” said Matti Jokihaara, CEO of Render Vision Finland Ltd., in Riihimaki, Finland. “This experimentation is far more cost-effective than actually spending money to redecorate or renovate.”

As a 3D architectural visualization firm, Jokihaara finds growing demand for his services, which began 15 years ago as a hobby. After years of teaching himself 3D animation techniques using LightWave 3D animation software, a friend of his asked him for help on a paying project.

“My friend was building a couple of apartment buildings and wanted to know if I could create 3D visualizations that would help him to market them more effectively,” said Jokihaara. “While 3D animation had only been a hobby up till then, I quickly realized that I could monetize these skills and compete with other ‘archviz’ companies in this niche business.” Start-up capital costs did not present a barrier to entry because LightWave is a very affordable yet powerful 3D animation platform.

Catering to clients

“Today, the biggest challenge I face is production deadlines and balancing the client’s expectations with their budgets,” said Jokihaara. “Early in the process, I give prospective clients examples of what level of quality can be achieved in their timeframe. That way they can decide whether to spend more for a couple of extra days to fine-tune the images to achieve their desired results.”

Using LightWave 3D’s versatile, proven toolsets, Jokihaara is confident he can fabricate whatever look or style is needed—including textures, objects, surfaces, lighting and reflections—in the 3D world. “When clients give me ‘free reign,’ I can push the limits and produce the highest quality possible, but not every client wants to pay for that,” Jokihaara said. “It’s frustrating, but that’s what it means to really serve your customers.”

Understanding the clients’ needs and expectations is the starting point for the 3D architectural visualization process. He starts virtually every project using LightWave’s 3D modeler to create the basic shapes and structures that will comprise the 3D scene. He then employs LightWave plugins, such as LWCAD, to quickly add doors, windows, and other custom details to the basic structure.

Manipulating the 3D environment

“I personally like to use LightWave’s material editor because it makes it very easy to create materials and textures to enhance objects in Modeler. Then it usually only takes a few test renders and tweaks, within Modeler and Layout, to get the materials just right,” said Jokihaara. “Fortunately I can move the models around in Layout without loosing the coordinates of the textures I’ve applied in Modeler.”

While roughly 30-percent of every project involves modeling, 70-percent is consumed by adding embellishments like textures and lighting. Lighting and radiosity (the way light reflects off 3D objects and surfaces) are critical to making 3D architectural visualizations look realistic and credibly convey the mood and ambiance of the proposed environment to end clients.

Here Jokihaara supplements LightWave’s photometric lights with lighting tools in KRay, a compatible rendering plug-in that pushes the envelope on light composition and radiosity. “There are many design-specific CAD tools on the market that work well within LightWave and move these projects along faster and easier.”

“In the 3D space, we can present a scene or product in the best light, with full creative control over all the attributes and parameters. And we can also provide a 3D virtual tour or perspective of it, which a 2D photo or ad cannot do,” said Jokihaara. “Finished 3D architectural visualizations not only sell the immediate interior design or architecture at hand, they also serve as a portfolio of the quality of work a particular craftsman can deliver. I try to impress upon my clients, Why give your company or product a bad image just to save a couple hundred Euros?”

Developing economic resilience

Nevertheless, Jokihaara concedes that, in this tough global economy, entrepreneurial 3D animation businesses must work quickly at very competitive rates to succeed.

Since he also teaches 3D animation at Hyria Education, a professional school in Southern Finland, he is knowledgeable about all of the major 3D animation software on the market. But he recommends LightWave to aspiring, entrepreneurial artists for several financial advantages: it keeps upfront capital costs low, there is no pressure to continually upgrade, and new software releases are compatible with previous versions.

Perhaps the most compelling reason to base a new business on LightWave 3D is the LightWave community—a forum of users who generously share their knowledge about the software and craft in order to support and advance fellow LightWave artists.

“As an artist, you need to discover and master as many 3D animation techniques as possible to ensure you can tackle any project. The LightWave community is one that generously shares knowledge with others and helps new artists over creative barriers,” Jokihaara noted. “As my business grows and expands, I will be able to add LightWave licenses very cost-effectively and find talented, qualified partners and colleagues among the many new friends I’ve made in the forums.”

See more examples of Render Vision Finland's visualizations at the company website.