PADT 0.050 – Prime Time Real Time
Big Names Enter the Fray
I Remember the Night…
This was many years ago when I still had a CompuServe account using a dial-up modem. I had just downloaded and fired up “Wolfenstein 3D.” When this game starts, you find yourself in a prison cell.
I had played with older “3D” software where you did things like go through a submarine and the 3D effect was just created by displaying images of the walls in perspective inside a corridor. But Wolfenstein was radically different. You could rotate the character and see the Walls move around you in real-time and in proper 3D perspective. “Well, Toto - we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Computing game-play would never be the same.
Continuing the Technology
After that, there were amazing offers like “Doom” and many other FPS’s – First Person Shooters. I was still doing 3D Architectural modeling with AutoCAD and 3D Studio, but I knew that the future of Architectural Visualization would be driven by the Game Industry.
I got my first taste of what was possible when I first started playing with importing a 3D model into Unity. But it was complicated and all you could do was walk around.
The Brilliance of Lumion
The problem with many advances in software is that to really learn them takes a long time and way too much experimentation. What Act-3D did with Lumion was to put a more friendly ArchViz interface on top of their game engine. This was a game-changer for me and my work. Prior to that time, I had done a ton of ArchViz animations, but they were mostly just camera fly-throughs that took days and days to render. With Lumion, I could create not only camera movements but animate the entourage and even the foliage. By using the power of GPUs, renders were taking minutes and not hours. I started using it for everything. It didn’t have the visual quality of V-Ray or TheaRender, but to blast out a Design Proposal that included the model AND multiple renderings in a very short time, made up for it.
As more and more firms started working with the software, you got to see some amazing animations. But you knew it was only a matter of time before other players started getting into the fray. Now we have others such as Enscape, TwinMotion, and D5 Render. It’s the last two I want to concentrate on.
Why Not Unreal?
For the longest time, we knew the best games (in terms of 3D quality) were being built on the Unity and Unreal graphics engines. So it only seemed natural that an application would be developed to take the idea that Lumion “coined” (pun intended) and use the Unreal Engine as the graphics engine. This is what TwinMotion did and so has newcomer, D5 Render. They’ve added a simpler ArchViz interface on top of the Unreal Engine.
It makes sense to work directly with the Unreal Engine because it’s hard not to believe it will continue to stay ahead of the competition. There’s now just so much money behind its development. Not only from gaming companies, but now the TV industry is using it for many of their productions. If you’ve seen the show “The Mandalorian” you’ve seen the Unreal Engine in action. The new trailers for the latest version of Unreal are in a word: unreal.
As great as these interfaces are for ArchViz, many users are taking the plunge and developing their projects inside of Unreal directly. It can be a massive undertaking to use Unreal in its native form for ArchViz, but the advantages are tremendous. You have better control over all of the parameters, plus it opens up the AI and programming aspects Unreal is known for especially in game development.
This is the Future
We’re seeing a bit of movement in this area. But if the developers of the real-time ArchViz applications want to stay ahead, they must not only offer the ease-of-use interface but allow more advanced users to directly access the more advanced or “programmatical” features of their engines. This could be done in many ways, but having both a graphical interface and one which uses API through a programming language (such as C#) would give users the best of both worlds.
I’ve been very excited about this area of development. But some firms seem to be resting on their laurels, so it’s great to see younger, upstarts kick them in the butt. Stay tuned – I’ll keep you posted on what I see happening with these developments.
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Dave Edwards has been in the CAD/BIM industry as a manager, developer, consultant, speaker, and author for almost 40 years. He has had 80 magazine articles published, written 3 international newsletters, reviewed over 300 CAD/BIM applications, and 3D modeled over 1 Billion dollars worth of architectural projects. He is available for professional alpha/beta testing, application feature consulting, technical documentation, seminar presentations, and voice overs.
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