Understanding the Retail Rendering Process and Requirements Before Offshoring

Posted by Kuldeep Bwail on March 10th, 2017

Retail 3D rendering, to put it simply, is the virtual representation of a retail space that is yet to be constructed. Graphic images of the retail space are rendered to showcase photo-realistic features with minute elements such as material, texture, reflection, depth and lighting.

For architectural 3D rendering in the retail environment, it is important to have a 3D model of the retail space. This 3D model (which could be in Revit or AutoCAD) is then exported to 3Ds Max where textures, materials and features are added. To further bring life to the physical model, content, landscaping, lighting and even people are added using Photoshop to make the image photo-realistic.

Retailers typically use 3D rendered images for new stores and refurbished stores. A rendered image provides retailer stakeholders with photorealistic views to understand what the space will look like even before it is constructed. To visualise a space from a specification drawing is difficult, with rendered 3D retail images it is possible to get a clear picture of what the space will feel like. Retail 3d rendering also serves as an efficient marketing tool for sellers of retail space.

With photo-realistic images, buyers can visualise the space easier compared to blueprints. With 3D walkthroughs, users can explore a space visually with an almost tactile dimension. This facilitates quicker approval and accelerates construction design. Additionally, by outsourcing retail 3D architectural rendering services and using a dedicated offshore team, there is substantial savings compared to the cost incurred for maintaining an in-house team in an office in say London or New York.

However, before offshoring retail rendering, it is important to understand the process, requirements and aspects that need clarity to avoid performance and quality issues.

The Retail 3D Rending Process

The process of retail 3D rendering begins with creating a model, adding textures, adjusting camera angles, setting lighting, adding landscape and finally rendering the image.

1. Modeling - To make the 3D rendering process quick and simple, it is essential to begin with a 3D model. Based on drawings, plans or sketches provided by the client, a virtual 3D model is designed using 3D modeling software such as Revit. The Revit model is then exported to 3Ds Max for texturing.

2. Texturing - To make images look realistic, 3D artists add textures and images to the 3D model. By adding colour information, surface texture such as wood, concrete or bricks, interior photographs of stores, signage and awning, one can help to transform the perspective and provide vibrancy to the retail experience.

3. Lighting – To make an image look real, the right type of lighting is relevant. Using tools such as Adobe Photoshop, lighting manipulation not only illuminates areas, it creates shadows and reflections, adding depth to make it look real. In a retail image, lighting serves as an important attribute in setting the tone of the space and highlighting focal areas of a display.

4. Landscaping – To bring life into the image, adding elements such as trees, plants, clouds, people, neighbouring buildings and other materials is an important stage. It is important to view a retail space set in its environment as it adds to the experience by allowing users to appreciate the surroundings of the retail space.

5. Camera Angles – To make retail 3D images more engaging, setting the right camera angle is necessary. Based on the camera angle the interior space can be perceived in the right light and dimension. Keeping a wide angle is not necessarily the favoured solution for all images as it can distort the scene and may distract focus on the overall image. Typically, the client decides the camera angles at the start to ensure that standard views of the retail space are agreed for renders throughout the entire project.

6. Machine Rendering - Rendering is the final stage, where all the spatial, textural and lighting specifications that are represented mathematically are created pixelwise to generate the photo-realistic rendered image.

7. Post Production – Once a raw render is created, the final touches need to be done. Typically using Photoshop adjustments such as contrast, colour grading, vignetting, chromatic aberration and film grain effects which are then added.

Retail 3D Rendering Requirements

Before offshoring 3D architectural rendering services, it is necessary to bear in mind the requirements to ensure you choose the appropriate strategic partner to implement retail 3D rendering:

1. Software – A third party of offshore provider must demonstrate software experience and competence. There are many software programs that provide panoramic views, aerial views, walkthroughs and details of interiors, texture and material. Some of the more popular 3D rendering solutions for retail renders include AutoCAD Architecture, Revit Architecture, 3Ds Max, V-Ray and Adobe Photoshop. For 3D rendering, a combination of 3ds Max, V-Ray and Photoshop can be used. For 3D models and Retail BIM, Revit Architecture, Revit MEP tools and AutoCAD is generally used. To simplify the drawing process and speed up the design production process, some companies create and manage libraries as blocks (for AutoCAD) or as families (for Revit).

2. Resources – When offshoring retail 3D rendering, one must make sure that the team is qualified and skilled with experience in retail design, documentation and project management. While a skilled team of interior designers and architects will be required for complex projects, skilled 3DS Max, V-Ray and Photoshop users with an appreciation of interior design will suffice for projects that require basic 3D rendering. Some companies provide dedicated offshore resource teams that only work on a single client account for the provision of retail and architectural rendering services.

3. Input / Output Formats – For retail renders the inputs and outputs should be understood by both parties so that scope is clear. Typically working drawings and plans are provided as the input documents and the output is a 3D model, rendered images from that model, interior images and exterior storefront images. Google Street view images are used for exterior storefront images if reference images are not provided by the client. Sometimes a photomontage is required to artistically display how the storefront blends in with the locality.

4. Turnaround Time – Depending on the size of the project, each image can take around 25 hours for only rendering and 28 hours for modeling and rendering. However, it could take 48 hours if the requirement is complex. Keeping turnaround time in mind, clients need to be clear about their expectations and provide complete information to avoid revisions.

5. Quality Check – Ideally the partner should have good quality and mitigation processes in place, particularly to review work in progress images. An efficient partner will usually create pilot render images, which are faster to create compared to a detailed high-quality image, to check if output is as per standards specified by the client. Technical and colour checks are conducted to check for specifications such as highlighting shadows, reflections, dusk and dawn views, focus on front elevation.

As a pilot render takes from 10-30 minutes, a final rendering can take upwards of 4 hours due to higher levels of detail and a more complex image configuration. To avoid loss of time and effort, calculations on the type of material, colours, reflections, shadows and textures need to be checked before rendering. Some characteristics that need to be observed to check the quality of 3D renders include, clarity of the image, noise, duplicated objects and unrealistic elements.

6. Communication – For rendering projects, communication between offshore teams is usually carried out via email, video chat or voice calls. For file transfers, FTP or secure online collaboration tools are used to transfer documents to different geographic locations. Ensuring that all these communication channels are set up at the start can help to ensure seamless information exchange.

Offshoring Retail Rendering Successfully

To make offshoring of the retail rendering process successful it is important to understand the expectations of the project assignment before contracting the process. The lack of clarity only leads to more revisions and higher costs. Sending clear feedback with references helps designers understand what is expected. Once a rendered 3D image is received, a review of the image keeping in mind the actual space, such as the position of doors, windows and railings, the colours and patterns, furniture fixtures and overall lighting will ensure faster results with higher levels of approval. Retail 3D rendering is best completed with the latest software that is used by skilled designers to reduce production time, design cycles and time delays.

With rendered 3d retail images it is possible to reduce the time taken for design reviews and design approval. Moreover, using an external lower cost provider to create such images means that the option of sharing 3D images with a wider audience become possible and allows different stakeholders to plan, decide, design, organise or implement the project in a more collaborative environment.

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Kuldeep Bwail

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Kuldeep Bwail
Joined: September 27th, 2016
Articles Posted: 28

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