Wayne Renshaw, Architect
commercial architecture
landscape & site design
rendering::modeling tips

  Every rendering and/or animation project begins with a model. Tables, chairs, windows and walls all pull together to form a virtual environment. There are as many different approaches to building a computer model as there are different software packages. However there are techniques that can make the process easier, and the rendering smoother and faster.
keep it simple
 The most important rule of modeling is to keep it simple. This rule is so important that you will probably discover that all of the other rules are actually just practical applications of the keep it simple principle. Rendering is extremely demanding on a computer, requiring it to execute millions upon millions of calculations as it traces every ray of light. Therefore, if you want to do bigger, better, and faster rendering projects, you have some choices--buy a bigger, better, faster computer, or take maximum advantage of what you've got. Translated, that means keep it simple, and you can do more. Simple doesn't mean dull--it means learning not to waste your resources.
don't over-model
 Rule number 2, as obvious as it may sound, is do not "over-model." For example, most architectural modeling packages will model a wall using two parallel surfaces (an inside face of the wall, and an outside face). If you are rendering the exterior of a building, then a wall's interior face is not needed, and will in fact slow you down if it is present. The more information that the renderer has, the more calculations that it has to go through, and consequently the more time things will take. If you know that the interior face of a wall will never be seen from the exterior, than you can save the computer all the time and effort it must go through to reach that same conclusion every time it renders.
model detail
 A corollary to the don't over-model rule is to manage your detail. Detail adds richness to an environment, making it more realistic, however it also adds to the rendering overhead. It is important to learn where to include detail so that it will have a maximum impact on the overall composition. A doorknob is a good example. If you are planning an animation that begins with the viewer staring at a heavy oak door as the latch falls and the door swings open slowly, than the doorknob would obviously be an important detail to include. However, if the door swings open, and the user walks through--all over the span of 3 or 4 seconds, it is doubtful that anyone would even notice if the doorknob wasn't there--especially if there was something of interest on the other side of the door.
divide and
 I spoke a person once who was complaining about the poor performance that he was getting from his rendering software, despite the fact that he had the best computer that money could buy and acres of RAM. When I asked what he was modeling he said that he was doing an architectural project, and the architect had given him huge files. He wasn't suffering from poor performance--he was lucky to be getting any performance at all! I suggested that he divide his model into logical groups, that way he could shut down (hide, freeze, turn off, etc) those groups and/or details that were not immediately relevant. For example, if you are doing several renderings of the interior of a home, if you have grouped all of the living room entities together, you can hide them while you render the kitchen.
paint detail
into a model
 Details can often be painted into a model instead of being physically modeled. This is important, as many things can be painted far easier than they can be modeled. Transperancy and texture (bump) mapping can add depth and translucency to simple geometric shapes, allowing them to simulate things of much greater complexity. I go into greater detail on this topic in a separate section dealing with painting detail into a model.
use blocks
 Using blocks (shapes, shapes, cells, library references, or whatever terminology a program uses) for repetitive items (doors, windows, furniture, etc) will lower the overall size and complexity of your data file. It will also allow you to edit these items globally, and allows you to hide them to temporarily improve a rendering performance.
build a library of
standard objects
 When building objects for a rendering, it's worth spending the time to do them well, especially those objects that can be re-used in other projects. By building a standard library of those objects that you use again and again, you can spread the cost of building them over several projects. Organizing your library, and keeping a file (complete with samples) will also pay for itself quickly.
 Last but not least, one should always spend some time up front planning out a project before building the actual model. This will help you to decide where it is appropriate to place detail, which areas might be ignored, what resources will be required, etc. Planning will also help you to maintain the project scope, and keep the job on budget.
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