What influences an architectural visualizations price and the work that goes behind them

Being an architecture visualization artist I came across a lot of people who aren’t familiar with the process behind a professional 3D Render and the amount of work that goes into creating a single render.

In some cases this is due to either that person not working in the architecture or 3D field, thinking it’s something that you can just press render and it’s done or due to that person using rendering software that it’s more user friendly that creates somehow fast results but coming nowhere close to a render done in 3Ds Max or one that was heavily post produced in Photoshop.

Thus I decided to write this article as a way to share the process that goes into creating a single or set of renders and how both internal and external factors influence the renders price and delivery time.

 

So what are some factors that influences the starting base price?

1. Project Complexity & Render Style

One of the key factors that starting prices are based on is the projects complexity, as you can image a simple house involves a lot less work then a shopping mall or a stadium. Another factor is the renders style like do you want them hyper-realistic, semi-realistic, or watercolor? these are styles that involve different workflows, each with it’s strengths and weakness.

2. Equipment and team size

Creating a single architecture render can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to setup, depending on the desired style, approach, team size and rendering power. During this time if you don’t have another pc or if you aren’t using a render farm, your pc is pretty much unusable this means that the archviz artist is stuck with waiting for the renders to finish so a small part of the base price includes the time in which the artist can’t do anything at that computer as well as the power consumption generated during that process since when rendering, computers run at full capacity which use a lot more power then your typical laptop. Companies that specialize in architecture visualization would definetly be able to deliver a render faster, due to the amount of people and raw power at their disposal, however their base prices are higher ss a way to cover the speedy delivery, their team expenses and other aspects such as software costs, technology investments, power consumption and so on.

4. It takes years of experience to master

Most people neglect the fact that it takes a lot of time for a person to master something, roughly 10.000 hours, and when you think that being an architecture visualization artist involves knowing multiple software applications like a 3d software: Cinema 4D, 3Ds Max , Maya, Modo,etc for modeling and scene setup, knowing a render software like V-ray, Mental Ray, Corona, Maxwell to apply the correct settings and get optimal speed/quality ratios as well as knowing a post-production or composition software like After Effects or Photoshop. All these software require additional plugins or assets, making it quite pricey, thus one’s base price may or may not include the time investment required to get a good grip of all these types of software.

5. Software & courses price

Learning all these software involves buying books, tutorials or taking architecture visualization courses as an entry point into the industry. Once you pass this entry stage, you realize that in order to speed things up or increase your render quality you have to buy assets such as objects, textures, foliage, hdri and plugins, further pushing your investment. Compared to other industries like web or graphic design, the architecture visualization industry is roughly 10 times pricier to get in  due to the higher costs of software, render engines, courses, assets and general workflow.

 

So what is the goal of a professional render?

In some cases hiring an archviz artist or company isn’t needed like for example if you are designing your dream house or tackling another project similar in scale, where the costs of a render might be close to the actual architectural project. With this in mind,  professional renders are used to help sell the building to investors or potential clients as well as display the architects vision to the local approval board, increasing your chance of approval or as previous stated to a wide group of people like in the case of renders that promote apartment buildings or business centers,malls thus potentially generating interest and sales before the building is even built.

Having professional architecture renders can also help your project stand out if you are participating at a local contest due to archviz renders being better at creating atmosphere and having a more realistic look to them, while also boosting the presentation aspect of your project. Sure there are a lot more important factors when judging a contest, but none the less in some cases it comes down to the way your project or building feels and looks.

Interior architecture renders are quite often used in magazines to sell products, check out IKEA’s catalog as an example, or to help sell an interior design concept to the client, due to it having a higher level of detail as well as looking more realistic, making it more easily for the client to see what the end product would look like before investing time and money in the actual interior design. In conclusion we can see that the goal of a archviz render is to sell a building with a potential return of that initial investment, an architects vision or persuade someone to choose your project over someone else`s.

  

What goes behind creating an architecture visualization or what’s the typical 3Ds Max workflow

Now that we’ve talked about the basics, it’s time to see how a  render is done in order to get a sense of the amount of work that goes into creating a single one, thus helping you better understand it’s process and complexity.

1. Project Importing

The first step involves importing your building and if it’s a complex project, it might involve re-creating the 3D building in order to improve viewport performance and cut down render times by lowering the polygon count from over 1 million (like in the case of importing Revit models in 3Ds Max) to a few thousand, making everything move faster when working with that 3D software and thus avoiding viewport lag.

2. Scene setup

The second step involves creating and applying materials to your building, adding assets like trees, cars, grass, furniture, etc and optimizing the scene using object proxies like in the case of V-Ray. This ensures that the 3d performance will remain the same, until you get ready to press render. This can take a good few hours, especially if it involves modeling custom objects and it usually involves creating or recreating the interior design that was provided by the architect or interior designer.

3. Camera setup

My favorite part of the process, it involves discovering interesting camera angles that benefit the building and their interior design. This process is similar to what a photographer does when he searches for the different angles that highlight that persons best features or discovering the perfect background.

4. Lighting

This is the part where the magic happens, based on what the client wants and the projects complexity you could spend anywhere from 10 minutes to 5 hours like in the case of a client requiring day and night renders for both exterior and interior, making it quite a daunting but refreshing task.

5. Test Renders & Tweaking

After everything is setup, it’s time to start doing some test renders too see if the materials are displayed as intended, some problems that occur are materials looking too shiny or to check if the lighting is casting strange shadows, or if the scene has enough lighting, etc. These test renders are done with low quality presets so the render time will be short, sometimes this process can be speed up by using VRay RT that uses the GPU for faster renders.

6. Final Renders

Once the test renders are done, the final renders start where production settings are used to achieve the desired look. These can take up to a few hours , in which you just wait for the computer to finish, during this time your pc might be unusable unless you have a render farm or a secondary pc.

7. Post Production

The final renders are then exported and re-composed in Photoshop or After Effects, where they are tweaked a little bit, to increase their realism by including sun flares, altering colors and contrast, adding people and so on. The post production time depends on the render style, usually a realistic type render style requires a few minutes, while other styles can take hours.

Closing Thoughts 

This steps described above create the typical 3Ds Max workflow that goes into creating a single or set of render, thus if you require a single render the time needed to create a single render is quite high , having a high cost per render but the price becomes more manageable once you add more renders, since it involves only rendering and post production due to everything already being setup. As a way to make renders more affordable and faster for clients who require fewer renders, studios usually don’t spend so much time on the mentioned steps but instead create a basic render that then get’s completely altered in Photoshop thus creating a more surreal or semi-realistic look.

 

Based on the mentioned workflow, these are the remaining elements that influences an archviz price, besides the starting base price:

  • the number of renders needed, a single render done in 3ds max would be a lot more pricier then a render done in Photoshop, however 20 renders in Photoshop would be a lot pricier then 20 renders in 3ds max
  • the buildings file format, if the model is already built in 3Ds Max or it needs to be rebuilt
  • what time of day will be used: night,day renders or a mix of both
  • it’s type: normal render or an animation
  • it’s style: ultra-realistic (3ds max + ligh post production), surreal (3ds max + medium post production ) or Photoshop (fast render + heavy post production)
Gradinar Razvan
Gradinar Razvan
I've been in the industry for over 9 years and as a Senior Designer I've managed to gather a solid knowledge in a wide variety of fields such as UX, graphic & web design, architecture visualization as well as earning some awards & recognitions. Nowadays I work with clients from across the world doing all of the above, depending on the project & clients need. If you would like to know more about me feel free to view the about section of this website or visit my LinkedIn profile.
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