By Nick Bentley

Rendering is a fundamental part of our process when creating architectural CG imagery. It’s the part when we’ve input all of the material and lighting settings, our viewpoint has been locked down for the most exciting and compelling composition, and we press GO! Then we wait, and wait, often hours or sometimes days for the virtual photograph to ‘develop’.

It takes time and processing power. When the masses made the shift from film cameras to digital, they suddenly had instant feedback on what their photos looked like, rather than having to wait for their images to be processed. This meant people could learn the technical do’s and don'ts of photography much more rapidly, and then quickly focus their attention on creativity. With the development of faster hardware, and optimised rendering software, this comparative shift is now becoming a much more viable trend when creating CG imagery too.

Only two years ago rendering was being described as a religion. A crucial, fundamental part of arch vis that one US CG artist, Scott Metzger said was “the most exciting part of being part of our industry right now”.

Fast forward to 2014, with 240 people gathering at the annual SOA Academy outside Venice and the talk is of ‘active rendering’, giving the artist immediate visual feedback, with predictions that this really is the beginning of the end for this part of the architectural visualisation process. While this isn’t a new concept, it was the most impressive demonstration our team had seen on a live project, with software developers Corona Renderer presenting the case. Uniform’s architectural visualisation team were present again this year, keen to stay in touch with future trends and follow up from our talk delivered by me and Mark Lee, Senior Artist.

There was one clear overriding message. The speed of technological change and progress will transform the industry, and provide commercial benefits for clients, ranging from architects to developers.

It’s a view supported by Jeff Mottle, CEO of CG Architect. Speaking in the annual survey by software developer Unity, Jeff shoots from the hip talking about “seismic change”.

“Increased computing power will eliminate barriers such as rendering and make the speed at which creatives can iterate and make decisions faster than ever before... the sector is on the cusp of a very exciting future: we are entering an era of innovation in how we communicate design and pushing the realm of architectural visualisation artistry to the next level.”

The demand for quality and the photo realism has never been greater. Which may explain why, despite the lower entry level to the industry being so low, that the gap between the major arch vis agencies and the rest is getting greater.

Unity’s poll showed that of the businesses that grew in the last 12 months, 84% thought they would grow in the next year. Of those who didn’t grow in that period, only 47% predicted growth in the next.

So there’s a feeling that we’re at a real turning point for rendering as we know it, where CG artists can see the changes they are making in realtime. What this means is that the time artists can dedicate to projects can now be much more focused on the creativity within production and the idea of ‘crafting an image’, which is great news for everyone.

The technological investments taking place are encouraging, inspiring and an opportunity for all of us, and one that we all need to grab with both hands to remain at the forefront.

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