“I have to tell people that these are not photos,” says David Supple, owner of New England Design and Construction, in Boston. While many remodelers have been using 3-D imagery to help clients visualize their projects, Supple has found that the renderings produced in Auto­desk’s 3ds Max (formerly 3D Studio Max) “are lifelike and have the best quality and resolution,” he says. “There’s a huge difference.”

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Reality Bytes

More like a photo than a rendering, New England Design and Construction's use of 3D Max for client presentations allows the remodeler to give clients an accurate idea of how their remodel will look.

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Spec-Tacular

Part of Autodesk’s suite of design software, 3ds Max allows designers to play with shape and scale, and to create animated walk-throughs, line-of-sight studies, and daylight analyses.

Supple doesn’t need to own the software. He has freelance architectural rendering artist Nick Carroll, based in Los Angeles, develop the renderings using actual product specifications. By viewing Supple’s CAD-created blueprints, Carroll takes a faucet, for example, finds what he calls its “base geometry” — i.e., “every polygon that has to be built to complete the 3-D model” — and creates “a sort of Hollywood scene,” he says. “I don’t build the inside of the walls, but I [create] everything you’re going to see inside a room.”

It takes 20 to 30 hours to build out the rendering, then several more hours to process the final image with the computer doing all the light calculations. It costs Supple about $500 per rendering, but that changes based on the complexity of the design.

“The idea is for it to look like a photograph,” Carroll says. “There’s a lot of science behind all the calculations and a lot of light bouncing around your 3-D screen to create that look.”

Seeing It All

Supple orders a rendering only when a project is meaty enough to need one. He uses the renderings to differentiate his company from competitors. “[Renderings] provide a lot of confidence that [clients] will love the actual product,” he says. “Heck, they can pretty much see it spot-on beforehand.” He can move the image around in 3-D and works with Carroll to develop the best vantage point for maximum effect.

Supple presents the renderings to clients at the end of the design process just before construction so they are accurate. The renderings not only wow clients but have helped cut down on change orders.

—Stacey Freed, senior editor, REMODELING.