Every 3D production starts with an idea. In order to implement this, one quickly lands on the question of how. In addition to content and technical considerations, the choice of software is of crucial importance - and the selection is enormous. First of all: There is no perfect one-fits-all solution. This article is a simplified explanation of the technical relationships in terms of 3D rendering software and therefore serves as a good first step in this area. The choice of 3D software always depends heavily on the individual use case. We play this through using the example of a product visualization.
5 steps to 3D rendering
First of all, a rough distinction should be made between 5 work steps in the area of product visualization:
- Modeling the 3D geometry: either from scratch, based on existing CAD files or based on an existing point cloud e.g. through a 3D scan
- Allocation of projection surfaces of textures on the model (UV mapping)
- Create and match textures and shaders
- Illuminate and iterative preview rendering
- final render process with subsequent optional post production
Of course, there are numerous other relevant details for more specific applications such as fluid simulation, animation and sculpting, which will be discussed elsewhere. The above Work steps are strongly linked: If you change e.g. the geometry of a textured model, you have to correct the texturing in most cases afterwards and the rendering is not necessary for the geometry. The actual effect of the texturing only becomes apparent when it is illuminated, so that the textures always have to be adjusted retrospectively. In reality, this means: CGI is not a linear process, but extremely iterative work. Nevertheless, CGI is often the more efficient alternative compared to conventional photography, especially since a comparison is also further serious advantages revealed.
It should be borne in mind that texturing and lighting together with rendering are strictly speaking two steps in themselves. However, these should be carried out with the same software, since each 3D rendering software interprets textures and shaders differently or may no longer be able to process them when converting from other formats. The final rendering process itself represents only a negligible part of the visualization work. This can be done via a render farm and fully automated. The preparation and fine-tuning of this render perspective, including lighting, cannot, however, be easily automated. This requires the eye and the experience of the 3D artist to emphasize the individual chocolate side of the product. Because our goal is not only to create any product images but to do justice to the products and thus to create the best possible, sales-promoting product images . Until you have a final renderable 3D scene, you have to do a lot of fine-tuning of shaders and lighting - provided that photo-realism is the goal. However, partially automated solutions based on standard scenes are also possible. We would be happy to advise you individually.
schematic representation of the distribution of work
This schematic representation shows a common distribution of the work steps in product visualization. Depending on the individual properties of the product and the project requirements, there may be large deviations. Shearing a toaster, bed or bench over a comb would not do the product justice. For a transparent and predictable processing of your projects, we would be happy to present you with targeted categorization options based on your project request.
What 3D rendering software is there?
Here is a short list of common software solutions according to the subdivision discussed above, without claiming to be complete.
|3ds Max, Maya, zBrush, Catia, Audocad, Rhino, Cinema 4D, Blender, Modo
|part of the render engine, or separately e.g. via Substance Suite or Mari
|iRay, VRay, Corona, , Cinema 4D, Octane, Redshift, Cycles, FStorm, Keyshot, Unreal, Lumion, LuxCore, Renderman, Eevee, Sumerian
The render engines listed here sometimes have very different advantages and disadvantages and are therefore not equally suitable for all applications. For each area there are partly generalistic, partly highly specialized 3D software solutions. There are different standards depending on the area of application. For example, worked with other 3D rendering software in the games industry than e.g. is common for architectural visualizations . One reason for this is a different prioritization of performance and photo realism. In the construction, in turn, aesthetics are less important than precision , so that construction files are fundamentally prepared differently. Nevertheless, these often represent a very good starting point for a visualization project.
What does a 3D rendering software cost?
If you want the work steps e.g. cover for the photorealistic visualization of furniture with a workstation, so for a 3D artist workstation, costs of thousands of euros per year are quickly incurred for software licenses alone - this can vary greatly depending on the setup.
For some 3D rendering software packages in the area of construction there are costs of EUR 20,000 / year per workstation - if you stick to the basic package and ignore additional programs. On the other hand, there are also a few free applications such as Blender. However, the decision is not only relevant with regard to the areas of application, but also the question of usability and learnability in the event of a software changeover, because time is money , as is well known.
3D Software Addons
Many programs also benefit from numerous additional paid add-ons that simplify specific operations and functions. In practice, each tool and add-on can be mastered separately. In addition, not all programs are equally easy to customize.
Sometimes productive work is only possible with such additional programs, tools, plugins, addons, and scripts, which then often result in highly individualized and specialized setups. This is the only way to enable photo-realistic renderings . A 3D beginner is usually not even aware of which function should ideally work how and what appropriate requirements might look like. An understanding of this mostly develops in the course of several years of experience in dealing with relevant software.
Basic 3D Rendering Software
In the area of furniture visualization, for example, there is an extended combination of Autodesk 3ds Max and VRay widely used. The Corona Engine is e.g. in itself a good choice for rendering products and environments, for displaying hair, fur, fur or similar. But this quickly reaches the limits of photo realism. As regards the usability and clarity of the user interface, Cinema 4D in the lead and is very popular with beginners. One reason for such dominance is above all path dependency of the spread of software and the lock-in effects associated with your use. Since most formats are not 100% convertible for technical reasons, especially when it comes to shaders and render settings. The choice of software should therefore be carefully considered.
When working with our customers, we are happy to take care of the right choice of software and the availability of files in the digital warehouse.
possible distortion of perception
In addition, the use of no 3D software should be underestimated, because this is not the good old Microsoft Paint, but rather highly specialized production applications like those used for blockbuster films . If you watch a video on YouTube showing someone how something is created, 3D rendering often appears very simple and linear. However, you should always keep three things in mind:
- It is mostly a prepared or edited video. It doesn't all happen that quickly and there is a lot of preparation and post-processing so that it appears handy and accessible to the user.
- How long the initial implementation took before showing is usually not known.
- Most of them are professionals with several years of experience. Until you have the handles in this way, experience is required: The operation of the software itself is a craft.
conclusion on choosing the right 3D rendering software
So which 3D software is the best? There can be no general answer to this. Depending on experience, budget and purpose / industry, the choice of 3D software is of crucial importance . We would be happy to make the correct choice for you as part of your project, to provide advice or to act according to your individual requirements or specifications. Otherwise, you can use these three learnings to answer this question:
- The choice of 3D software depends on the type of display desired, since each software has individual advantages and disadvantages
- DIY beginners are recommended to start with an easy-to-use software so that they are not immediately overwhelmed by the input
- For photo-realistic renderings, it is not primarily the choice of software that is decisive for the result, but the experience of the 3D artist with the software. We work with the best 3D artists in the respective industry to achieve high end quality.