The Techincal Illustration Process 2 – (Architectual Renderings, Animations, 3D Visualizations)

The intent of this series is to explain the Technical Illustration process so illustrations can be produced that meet one’s desired expectations and clearly communicate our ideas. Typical concerns for our consideration include budget and deadlines within a project, and the quality and effectiveness of the media itself. Our previous article on the Technical Illustration process served as an introduction to the craft, as an explanation for the necessity of this media in today’s corporate world, and as an orientation to the variety of Technical Illustration options available. This article serves as a guide for the process, and lists the information needed to produce illustrations or renderings.

The Technical Illustration process constitutes a small percentage in the project’s overall design process, but it is an important component. This process can begin during any stage of the project’s design schedule. The level of effort required to produce a rendering varies, depending upon the stage in which it is produced. For example, producing renderings during the concept stage of a project requires more interaction with project team members than producing illustrations once the final design of a project is complete. Renderings developed “early on” offer assistance in the development of a concept, where those developed after the design stage reflect the completed design. Regardless of when a renderings is produced, the process seems to follow the same routine-information gathering, model development, scene creation, pre-final rendering, final rendering and post production.

Gathering Information for a rendering can be as detailed or abstract as conditions permit. A rendering can be produced from either verbal instructions or sketches just as easily as it can be produced from a final set of plans. At this stage, all of the available information about a project’s composition should be discussed and a determination about which items will appear in the rendering. Items to be covered are related to specific ideas that will be communicated, the purpose of the illustration, camera orientation, color scheme, architectural elements and any other specific needs. Note that the level of detail has a direct influence on the amount of effort to produce a rendering.

Developing the Model begins when there is enough information available to produce any element of the model. For example, (in Architecture) the exterior walls and roof may be ready to model even when specific door and window locations are still in question; (in transportation) the piers and fascia girders of a bridge may be ready to model even when the profile and baseline are still in question. When desired elements of the model are complete, a preliminary rendering may be produced for review and approval.

Creating the Scene is the stage of the illustration process in which the camera orientation is determined, along with lighting and solar position. The materials and colors for the project are obtained from libraries or created using color matching techniques. Additional elements necessary to complete the scene are added-sky, water, plants, automobiles, people, ships, etc.

The Pre-Final Rendering is a low-resolution image developed for review. This stage allows for the verification of colors, materials, lighting, solar position, camera orientation, image cropping and other elements that make up the scene.

The Final Rendering is produced after the comments from the preliminary review are incorporated. The illustration will receive one last quality control review before going to the Post-Production stage.

Post-Production includes touch-up work, such as adding a watercolor effect, inserting logos, or placing an existing inset photo on the rendering. The illustration will receive one last quality control review before it is delivered in the desired media format.

Understanding the type of information required to produce an illustration, is essential to ensure that the finished product meets the needs and expectations of the client. Items that should be considered are the project details, the type of illustration and media format.

Project Details include plans, elevation and architectural/engineering information used to depict the project; however, in many cases these items are not available at the time an illustration is produced. The minimal amount of information needed to produce an illustration includes (for architectural) building footprint, elevations, roof slopes, door/window locations and finish material types; (for transportation) the baseline, profile, roadway cross section, pier locations, pier types, special girder types, color scheme and material types. Prior to creating the model, additional items for consideration are the architectural features of the project and the use of existing images in the illustration; specifically, if the illustration is going to be a photo modification.

The Type of Illustration that is selected affects the creation of the model. In the previous article, each type of illustration was introduced-renderings, photograph modification, architectural collage and animations. Determining the type desired prior to starting the Technical Illustration process ensures the proper model, lighting, materials and environment are used. In addition, this will ensure an appropriate amount of effort is allocated for creating the illustration itself.

The Media format is the final product of the Technical Illustration process. Determining the best media format for a project depends on how the illustration itself will be used. Will the illustration be used as a PowerPoint slide, a prop, printed materials, a leave-behind or a website graphic?

Available types of format include digital images, large-format printing, color printer media and photographic media. While renderings, photograph modifications and architectural collages can be displayed as digital images or printed media, an animation can only be viewed in a video format. Video formats comprise computer media, online/streaming media, videotape and DVD.

Scene – the collection of all individual parts that make up a rendering or animation.

Resolution – describes the quality of an image in dots per inch (DPI) or number of pixels. Low resolution denotes a low quality image and high resolution denotes a high quality image.

Solar Position- in 3D scene creation,the position of the sun is calculated from the global geographic location of the project, time and date.This can also be used to perform solar studies in relation to a project.

Existing Inset Photo- often a smaller existing image of the project site is placed on an image to provide a before and after effect. (Example)