Architectural Visualisation: Answering the Web’s Most Asked Questions.

We have scoured the internet’s biggest forums, search engine queries, and keywords to find the web’s most asked questions about architectural visualisation.

With over 20 years of experience in the industry, we have adapted and evolved to address the accelerating demands and the questions that pop up all the time. From how to get started in the industry to the cost of each deliverable, we aim to put a full stop on the pinch points for people who are curious about the world of 3D.

For our research, we used a mixture of questions asked on Reddit, Quora, Google Search, Bing Search, and Answer the Public to identify the top 10 architectural visualisation questions.

What is an architectural visualizer?

Architectural Visualisers are a person or a team that creates computer-generated images (CGIs) to communicate architecture that is yet to be built. They take 2D plans and sketches to visualise them using 3D modelling, visualisation, and post-production software. The result is an accurate and stunning representation of a design that may be used to secure planning permission, sell a scheme off-plans, make early design decisions, etc.

The deliverables that an architectural visualiser produces may include verified view montages, photomontages, exterior, aerial & interior CGIs, off-plans 360 virtual tours, 3D walkthrough animations, 3D floor & site plans, and more.

Architectural visualisers work closely with architects, engineers, property developers, and interior designers to ensure a high level of quality and accuracy is showcased in their deliverables.

Their knowledge of 3D software will vary and cover the likes of Autodesk Revit (and its render plugins), SketchUp, Rhino, 3DsMax (and its render engines and plugins) to name but a few! They will also have skills in post-production software such as Adobe Photoshop and After-Effects.

How can I become an architectural visualizer? Do I need a degree to be an architecture visualization artist?

Becoming an Architectural Visualiser is not something that happens overnight. Most 3D studios (us included) will expect at least 2 years of experience as a requirement on job applications. While experience is essential, the key to landing an arch viz job is a killer portfolio. As pictures speak louder than words, most hiring managers will focus heavily on your previous work to see if it fulfils the needs of the company and is produced to a high standard.

The best place to start is by learning the software required to create architectural visualisations. You will need to live, breath, eat and sleep the software of choice to get noticed. All projects require 3D modelling, visualisation, and post-production. There are many different types of software to achieve this project lifecycle. To ensure the highest level of quality we use Autodesk Revit for 3D modelling, Autodesk 3DS Max and Chaos Group’s V-Ray for 3D visualisation and rendering, and Adobe’s Photoshop and After Effects for post-production. We are also moving into the amazing world of Realtime Visualisation using Unreal Engine. There is a huge amount of online content tailored to learn how to get started with these programmes. Each software provider has a learning platform on their websites to get started.

There are also growing communities of tutors teaching this 3D software. There are groups across social media platforms that provide help and advice for new and experienced architectural visualisers.

Finally, you can pursue a qualification in architectural visualisation from universities across the world. While this would certainly be beneficial, having a diploma from an accredited institution is not a guarantee for success. Many skilful architectural visualisers have no formal qualifications. 

How much does architectural visualization cost?

It is very difficult to provide standard pricing to architectural visualisation deliverables as it all depends on the requirements of the client. A lot of design studios will have set prices for certain architectural visualisation projects, but this is more for show than reality as every project has different requirements.

It is advised to choose a 3D studio that is renowned for its quality, accuracy, and turn-around times as this will ultimately save a client time and money in the long run by meeting deadlines and breathing confidence in planning authorities.

The cost of architectural visualisation deliverables depending on several factors. These include:

  • The level of detail required to create the 3D model and the size of the scheme. This will include everything from the building design to the detailed landscaping design and cover the modelling and visualisation of it.
  • The number of deliverables that are required.
  • Project deadlines. It is advised to start your project with a 3D studio well in advance of your project deadline. Most 3D studios will require a timeframe of 2 to 8 weeks to complete a project depending on its scale.
  • The number of changes and comments to deliverables. For us, we tend to absorb a considerable number of comments and requested changes on a project. However, where there are significant design changes or new requirements to the scope of work, clients are advised in advance that additional costs, and time, may be incurred.

How long does it take to produce architectural visualisations?

Much like assigning blanket costs to architectural visualisation deliverables, the timeframes vary on a project-by-project basis. Factors such as improved standards in the quality of architectural visualisations and the complexity of technical reports have extended the time required to produce 3D deliverables. 

With over 20 years of experience in the industry, we have identified our expected timeframes for 3D architectural services below.

Note: Please use the below information as a guideline only. The exact timeframes will depend on the scope of work and the complexity of a project. This is always established before commencement of a project by our production team.

Verified View Montages & Presentation Photomontages:

2 to 4 weeks | 4 to 6 weeks

A VVM project will generally fall into one of two timeline categories – 2 to 4 weeks or 4 to 6 weeks depending on the scale of the development, requirements from the planning authorities and design consultants, and the sensitivity of the site. Timeframes are always heavily dependent on the receipt of well advanced/frozen design information and feedback from draft imagery issued during the project.

Off-Plans 360 Virtual Tours:

4 to 6 weeks

Off-plans 360 virtual tours generally take between 4 to 6 weeks to produce depending on the number of 360-views required and the extent of in-tour integrations required. In-tour integrations can include integrated floor plans, information hotspots, aerial 360s of the development, and surrounding area, and more.

Architectural CGIs:

2 to 4 weeks

Architectural CGIs generally take between 2 to 4 weeks to produce depending on the number of CGIs, the level of 3D modelling required, and requirements from design consultants or the client’s marketing team.

Interior CGIs:

2 to 4 weeks

Interiors CGIs generally take between 2 to 4 weeks to produce depending on the number of CGIs, the level asset population of renders, and the scope of the interior design. The more detailed an interior space is, the more time it will take to visualise it.

Animated 3D Walkthroughs: 

4 to 6 weeks | 6 to 8 weeks

3D walkthroughs take longer than still imagery due to animated cameras which require rendering. Workflows of 3D walkthroughs remain the same as still imagery up to the point of these camera setups. For 1 second of animation footage, 24 or 30 still frames require rendering (24fps /30fps). Consider that careful planning is required from the very outset of these types of projects.

3D Site & Floor Plans:

1 to 3 weeks

3D plans take between 1 to 3 weeks to produce depending on the scale of the scheme or the level of staging required within the 3D floor plans.

Why do we need architectural visualisation? Why is 3D architectural visualisation important for marketing?

3D architectural visualisations have completely transitioned from being a luxury ‘can have’ to a necessary ‘must have’ for planning applications, development launches, and pitch meetings to investors/stakeholders.

Most property developers, real estate agents, architects, and designers now consider architectural visualisations a prerequisite for their projects.

3D visualisation content captures and showcases accurate details and features of a building’s design from any angle or viewpoint, in full 360 and an immersive virtual reality capacity.

Reason #1: Planning Approval

Including 3D visualisations such as verified view montages (VVMs) as part of a planning application provide the planning authorities with an accurate and photo-realistic representation impact, quality in design, and finish of the scheme. This allows the planning authorities to make an informed decision on applications. Furthermore, presentation CGIs that accompany VVMs help sell the scheme to the authorities and stakeholders.

Reason #2: Early Design Decisions

As 3D visualisation deliverables are created from digital 3D models, they are extremely diverse and customisable. Adding elements such as design features, materials along with virtual staging, helps make informed design decisions by the stakeholders and design team.

Reason #3: Communication

High-quality 3D visualisation enhances communication which improves design decisions and maximises sales and marketing opportunities. It has no language barriers and is virtually explanation-free. It is natural for people to understand 3D design and experience the virtual reality it creates.

Reason #4: Competitive Edge

In an extremely competitive industry, and with online platforms being flooded with content, it is imperative to have a competitive edge. 3D visualisations are the most powerful and impactful form of content used in the AEC and property sector. 3D visualisations such as CGIs, animations, virtual tours, and virtual reality give the viewer an accurate representation of a project or idea that is both striking and immersive.

Reason #5: Marketing

3D visualisation deliverables are the top form of content used to present and pre-sell ‘yet to be built’ properties resulting in higher ROIs. They are used as promotional materials on websites, targeted ads, social media platforms, and for print media such as booklets and infographics. Delivering this type of content well in advance of a finished development underpins pre-sales. Marketing without this content wastes time and ultimately money.

What is the difference between an architectural model and architectural visualization?

An architectural model is a physical scale model representation of an architectural design. They are used by design and marketing teams to study a development from different viewpoints. Depending on their purpose, architectural scale models can be made from materials such as wood, paper, plastic, and blocks. There is a growing trend of using 3D printing to accurately produce scale models from digital 3D models. Physical architectural scale models can also range from the very basic to fully interactive showcases.

Architectural visualisation on the other hand is all digital content that is used to communicate architecture in the form of 3D design.

What is the best 3D software for architectural visualization?

Depending on who you ask, you will get different answers. It will all depend on the visualiser’s/studio’s preference and what deliverables they offer. For example, some visualisers swear by SketchUp for modelling and Cinema 4D for visualisation. Others do all their modelling and visualisation in 3Ds Max. For us, however, the most important software for architectural visualisation is Revit and 3ds Max by Autodesk. We do all our modelling in Revit as it ties in with our workflows across our various services and deliverables. Furthermore, a huge number of architectural practices are Revit-based, so collaboration with them is made easier.

Revit is also important for us as it is essential for Building Information Modelling (BIM), something we are continuing to grow within the studio – (competitor to Revit is of course ArchiCad). BIM involves using a digital 3D model at all stages of a project from concept right through to handover and facilities management.

For post-production, our chosen software is Photoshop and Aftereffects by Adobe. This involves adding the final touches, the cherry on top so to speak, to a project. This may include asset population such as people, trees, and landscaping for still CGIs. For 3D walkthroughs, we use After Effects to combine animated cameras and to add overlay graphics and transitions, etc.

What are the top benefits of 3D visualization technology for architects?

There is an abundance of benefits for architects using 3D visualisation software for their designs. It allows architects to better communicate their projects in a more accurate, photorealistic, and immersive way.

Before the digital transformation era, architects would use 2D drawings to showcase their designs. Compared to simple 2D images, 3D visualisation content captures and showcases accurate details and features of a building’s design from any angle or viewpoint, in full 360, and an immersive virtual reality capacity. We have outlined the top benefits for architects below:

Detecting design faults & making design decisions

There is a rising use of architectural visualisation software by architects to overcome design faults, for cost-effectiveness in design and construction phases. As CGIs are made from digital 3D models, they are extremely customisable. Elements such as design features, materials, textures, and staging can easily be integrated into designs. This allows architects to finalise designs and identify faults in the early phases of a project. Even before showcasing the final visualised building, most architects design in 3D from the start with software such as Revit, ArchiCad, Sketchup etc. This has a massive time saving and decision making benefit.

Planning Approval

Architectural visualisation is becoming a vital component in the planning of our expanding towns and cities. Most planning authorities across the globe now require architectural visualisations as part of planning applications. For architects, their designs must be understood by planning authorities to ensure their success in being realised.

3D visualisations such as verified view montages and presentation CGIs allow authorities and stakeholders to make informed decisions around planning submissions. They address the overall design aesthetic of a project and the potential visual impact that it may have on its surrounding environment.

Marketing

The architecture industry is extremely competitive, and with online platforms being flooded with content, it is imperative to showcase designs in the most impactful way. Architects achieve this by showcasing architectural visualisations of their designs in their portfolios. 3D deliverables give prospective clients an accurate representation of the quality of design that is both striking and immersive. An architectural practice that cannot showcase their future work (whether that be created in house OR by a visualisation partner) will be left behind.

We’d love to hear about your project: