Storytelling through 3D Images – Is it Always Necessary?
3D architectural visualization is nothing new
In the Renaissance era, Brunelleschi worked out a technique for linear perspective. He later applied this in designing and constructing the dome for the Florence Cathedral. And thus, he left a huge impact on modern architecture and engineering. Since then, architectural visualization as we know it today has flourished. Indeed, 3D renderings have been the architect’s most persuasive communication tool. As may be expected, clients are more easily swayed by three-dimensional depictions that approximate reality so well. Flat 2D images can hardly compare.
And so, 3D visualization is not a novel idea. It is not a recent innovation. That being said, the industry has evolved by leaps and bounds since historical times. Contemporary computer technology has contributed greatly these past 30 years. We can now create photorealistic images. Software programs like 3DsMax, Blender, AutoCAD are available to both studio and freelance artists. Trade secrets are searchable on the internet and are shared through social media. As a result, the architectural visualization industry is teeming with newcomers and freelancers who willingly drop prices below industry standards.
So as a 3D studio, what new can you offer to the client?
With the current technology, almost anyone can do a decent 3D render. Novice artists generally offer to do the job at rock-bottom prices. This begs the question: are there still ways you can stand out from the crowd? Let’s explore some ideas:
- Be a slave to the client
Okay, obviously this is an exaggeration. Nonetheless, many studios think that clients stay when they are provided with truly exceptional service. Yet “exceptional” is a difficult word to define. Does it mean bending over backward, doing all revisions, catering to every whim? Where do you cross the line from good service to bad service? I certainly don’t think any studio sets out to deliberately give bad service.
- Be faster
Of course, I believe all clients want faster turnarounds on their projects. Notwithstanding their actual deadline, many clients demand their renders done, like, yesterday. You can try to compete, offering as-soon-as-possible delivery times. However, there will always be bigger studios with more artists to spare for every job. Time and again, they will beat you at the speed game. You won’t be able to keep a competitive edge on them.
- Be cheaper
With the industry brimming with new talent, it sometimes comes to a bidding war on who offers the lowest price. But should you have this as your goal? You might be able to stay afloat for a few months, but you definitely wouldn’t be able to build a solid business on that foundation.
So how can you get clients and keep them? Does such a thing even exist?
Look around. There is no shortage of artists in the 3D ARCHIVIZ industry. With so many creative minds, it becomes difficult to produce something distinct that sets you apart from everyone else. And yet, it is possible to keep clients coming back for more, project after project. You do this by making your images tell a story.
Every painting tells a different story. Every story brings out different emotions in us. We recognize some emotions as good: joy, hope, and love. Some emotions we consider as bad: fear, anger, and sadness. Whether we like it or not, emotions dictate largely how people relate to each other. Many architects and developers fail to consider this truth. They forego the emotional aspect when they think up designs and projects. Instead, they focus on a building’s details - lines, planes, and building materials - considerations that mean little to the vast majority of the public.
Arousing feelings through stories must be the main goal when creating images and 3D renders. This principle actually transcends the architectural visualizations industry. Beyond doubt, everyone in the business of selling ideas via pictures must understand that the ultimate goal is always to entice emotions in the viewer.
Feelings urge us to reach into our past and memories. These events and recollections contribute to our life’s experiences and sum up who we are as people. Memories hit close to our core. Emotions help us relate. Understanding this concept is the most important step to establish a connection between inanimate images and the very animate human beings viewing them. There’s little point in presenting the customer with 3D renders that fail to connect on this basic emotional level. You may initially interest the buyer with concrete aspects like the architectural style and building materials. Yet ultimately, what cinches the sale are abstract concepts, things like familial love and home security. Quite simply, people take notice of images that make them feel. Hence, a rendered image’s ability to trigger emotion determines whether it was a useless expense or a worthwhile investment for your client’s business.
With every project, our studio, Faraday 3D, strives to create emotionally moving images that translate into sales and give the client a return on their investment. How do we do this? Let’s take a look at some elements we can weave into our architectural visualizations:
- Begin with an idea.
Translating abstract emotions directly into tangible 3D visualizations can be very difficult. For this reason, you should never create your render straight off after getting the architectural blueprints. You need to start with an idea that makes concepts, like joy and love, feel real to the customer. Ask these questions. What would convince customers to buy this property? Is it a quaint little place near the ocean? Does it belong in a good neighborhood? What makes it special? Things do get easier once you’ve thought this through. This main idea will lead you on to which images you’ll produce.
- Set the mood.
Some of you may think this impossible. I agree, on the building itself, there’s not much with which you can play around. The architects have already decided on the materials and colors. Those are basically hands-off to you. This leaves you with only one element with which you can influence the desired mood - the background. Try different shots and angles. Experiment with effects. Maybe blur the background for some drama? Bring out the scene’s mood by relating the background to the main subject.
- Appeal to emotions.
Particularly in our studio, we shy away from including people in our renders. I think we should reconsider this. An image that captures a subject in action creates deep emotion. Additions like children playing in the backyard or a couple walking down a gray concrete street do much to humanize an otherwise impersonal scene. Nonetheless, should we prefer to not include people in our renders, we can still encourage emotions with nature scenes: sunsets, night illumination, and the like.
- Narrate a story.
A single render is not enough to create the narration for the customer. And so, always strive to do a set of renders. This will make it easier for the client to weave a story for interested buyers. Your client will greatly appreciate how your 3D renders convince the customer to believe in and buy the particular property.
And the fun part is: the stories you tell need not be 100% true!
To really capture your audience with a wonderful story, just go ahead and throw reality out the window. Both videographers and filmmakers have employed the power of illusion since cinema’s early beginnings. There’s no reason why you can’t do the same with your 3D renders. Push the envelope on reality. Exaggerate for style, drama, or impact. The end goal is to create magic in the viewers’ minds. Give them a heightened experience of what is real.
Why do I advise this? Well, after browsing so many 3D visualization forums, I realized this is the one thing many artists err on. They want so much to approximate reality in their images. Also, I identified that the most common reason behind mediocre 3D renders is the poor quality of actual architecture itself. We have all been saddled with projects like these: dull-colored, unexciting blocks of concrete, set in humdrum neighborhoods. I know I’ve personally thought of some projects this way - just another drab building that doesn’t inspire my imagination. There will always be projects that don’t lend themselves well to our visualization efforts.
On the other hand, as visualizers, we must also remember our job is to draw out the most interesting points of a project. We hold all the tools to paint reality as we imagine it. It is our responsibility to come up with an engaging narrative that engages our audience and tells the best story possible about the project.
So, craft your 3D visualizations as art! Bring out the best in every image. Transcend the functional purpose of 3D renders to present just another property to potential buyers. Stop that thought in your mind that says you need to accurately show reality. Reality can always be what you make it to be.
This can be the one thing that sets you apart from everyone else. This is what leaves the competition in the dust. It will be the reason clients insist on giving one project after another, agreeing to pay you premium rates. It is all because you have gone beyond merely delivering pretty pictures. You have created images that tell an amazing story! You have captured their customers’ hearts with memories and emotion. And that is something new that you’ll bring into the industry of 3D archiviz.