Brace yourself – Winter Is Rendering!

I don’t know which country you live in and what weather is like there, but winter is coming. It’s coming now! we have the very first day of the astronomical winter. So let it snow 🙂

Nowadays I live in so-called winter capital of Poland, Zakopane. This is one of those places, where you experience 10 months of winter followed indirectly by summer season. Looking at the snow outside makes me only think that I have to get up 15 mins earlier in order to clear the car of snow and shovel the driveway rather than being a reason to admire the nature’s beauty.

A different story is when I look through.. Behance, for example, and find renderings that present winter scenery. Where everything looks so majestic, almost like on the Christmas postcard. And that’s the topic for today!

Let me start with the work of Federico Ciavarelli. Personally, I often call such works ‘beautiful ugliness’ not because they are ‘ugly’ themselves of course, but rather that they perfectly show how skilled and talented the author is. At first sight, the image below doesn’t make you appreciate the winter time… but when you look more closely… Perhaps, the best way is to actually ask the author himself.


Author: Federico Ciavarella

I guess that the visualisation isn’t made for the developer whose building is in the background? 🙂

I started this image to develop my skills on winter moods, after collected some reference images I went for this NYC street view, I don’t honestly know what kind of building they are represented, even if I’m architectural visualizer I think the main topic here is the mood and not the architecture, my main goal was to let the viewer ‘feel the cold’ of the weather 🙂

And you did it. I actually felt that cold, I like the rendering very much. But could you tell me what do you think about using that ‘feeling’ in commercial renderings?

In commercial rendering is obviously more difficult to achieve that result, because of clients requests, that in different way it is: show the much as possible of the project, but it is in the mind of the artist to find tricks to add the mood, this is why I, from time to time, do personal images, to have complete freedom and to learn tricks for the next commercial work.

Author: Rafał Wróblewski

When I look at such houses with so much snow around, it always makes me wonder: what about the driveway and the access road? On the other hand, you haven’t forgotten about the snow shovel 😉

When working as a 3d artist it is relevant to keep customer satisfied which often means showing in the visualizations things that are not necessarily attractive. For the sake of this image, it wasn’t important to show such stuff as driveway or parking space. The main aim of this shot was to capture atmosphere of a warm sunlight during cozy yet still cold winter day.

Author: Adam Zorian

Corona for Blender, it makes me think more often about switching from 3ds max, I’m not convinced yet though. Ok.. It’s a subject for another post. Can I ask you if making snow is more challenging in Blender than in 3dsMax?

My knowledge about 3dsmax is quite poor. I used it only for a few days as a demo version, and I have to say that I’m really used to blender interface. But as I know, every serious software has got something as a displacement modifier. So it’s more texturing than modeling. I’ve tried to make my own displacement map according to Blender Guru tutorial – but the same day Poliigon just released photoscanned textures with displacement maps so I chose them. In this case I connected every plane with sculpting tools. For making a building and car snow covers I used only sculpting tools with dynamic topology turned on.

Author: Michał Nowak

I’ve seen your works before but I’ve been surprised to have seen only one project in the winter setting. Ok, that’s quite normal.. most graphic designers don’t make winter renderings and people in general tend to like the ‘warmer atmosphere’ more. Do you think that’s the main reason for such rare occurrences of winter renderings?

Visualisations in the winter setting are a bit problematic because of their specificity. We have infinite possibilities to create reality/atmosphere in 3D, but you always have to bear in mind that the winter scenery is a quite narrow direction. Not many topics require that type of presentation and even less clients decide to take that road.

In case of projects that actually are set in mountains or places where snow is everywhere, it makes sense. You have to remember that you don’t get such tasks very often, once in a while. The second element is ‘the sale’. Our job, as visualisers, is to show the project in such a way that the investor would like to implement it. Winter time is a cold one and it actually doesn’t go with many things. In my opinion, there are directions way more interesting but of course if someone needs a winter scenery, we can make it and have a bit of fun along the way 😉

What was the reason for choosing this time of the year in this case?

The winter setting was chosen on purpose in this particular project. The project proper takes place in the mountains. Additionally, the investors are enthusiasts of winter sports, so why not to use it. Architects from created the building using the ski-jump launching pad form, that was their first idea that partially shaped the direction they were heading to. Dynamic, minimalistic clump, the shape of land and the investors’ hobby – the decision of choosing the winter scenery was quite obvious and in my opinion it corresponded to the whole project. The project itself still looks pretty good and has this unique aura around it. I think my job has been done really well.

Author: Strahinja Drazic

In reference to Federico’s work, you succeeded in letting the viewer actually feel the snow storm. It;s still hard to believe, that the picture on the left is just a render. Can you tell more about how this illustration came to be and what techniques have you used?

The point of this personal project was to use my amateur photography knowledge and experience and transfer it to my 3D scene. That included creation of physically accurate environment first (wind, snow flakes, trees, bushes, rocks…etc.). As for the “hard” technical stuff, with simple animation and particle knowledge anyone could do it. Rocks and bushes were distributed with Forest Pack plugin. The combination of realistic environment behavior and real world camera settings (based on my experience what settings I would use in that situation) I got motion blur I think is a good representation of snow storm. The post-production process was used for color correction, little lens distortion and to add some noise on the image.

How many years did it take to acquire such skill level and how long have you worked on this particular shot?

I did start with 3d when I was 12 years old, that’s about 17 years ago. I had only 3D Studio max bible, 3DS max v3.2. I started learning basic stuff from the book. The process of learning was much slower that now since I had now Internet and there were not much tutorials. For 5-6 years as a kid, I was modeling props and sell it on Turbosquid and after that I followed the footsteps of architecture and went on university. It was about 7 years ago when I started working as 3d artist professionally. Just 2-3 years ago I god my first DSLR and started taking photographs and tried to merge it in my 3d workflow ever since. It really helped to improve my composition skills and to better understand how things acts from the lens. The current project took me about a week to finish all four of the images in my free time, so I guess for the winter image it took me about two days after I finished all the modeling of plants, house, rocks and all other props for the scene.

Author: Sam Habbaba

Winter vs. summer! I love comparisons like that. But on the whole, I have never wondered if such works are created rather for fun, for showing skills, or simply the client wants to see both versions? Or maybe in a different way …what is your opinion?

This project was initially made as a summer visual. The client wanted afterward a winter version because winter came. For me getting the opportunity to create a winter scene is always enjoyable. I think creating a winter scene is more like getting a mood/feeling across to the viewer than just an informative visual. Creating a winter scene gives me the freedom to be more creative and free in what i like to show rather than only showing the clean situation.

I truly believe that you like it. I’ve looked through many portfolios during the research for the article but I’ve never encountered such many of the winter renderings anywhere else. What is the most challenging element for you while creating winter sceneries? How much time does it usually take?

I almost always make the summer version first. Converting the scene from the summer version to the winter snow scene is easier because i have a clear idea what types of trees and vegetation i need. I have a good set of custom made geometry stacked modifiers and shaders to create the winter landscape. It usually takes me 1 to 2 days max to convert a summer to a winter scene depending on the complexity of the scene.

Author: Milan Stevanovic

Nonetheless, after the winter time always comes the spring, snow melts, snowmen die. That is a completely different approach to the winter topic than others take. In the end, it worked really well. Did your client have any objections to it.. perhaps at the beginning?

Let’s say that the client didn’t have a problem with it 🙂 On this one the client gave us a freedom to do what we thought was right. It was mid July when we started working on this project and it was very hot. Doing a winter scene seemed like a good idea to cool off. We shared initial drafts with the client and he gave us a green light to go for it. Usually with writer scenes you have everything covered in snow but here we wanted to capture something a little bit different, that part of writer that nobody really likes 🙂 Regarding the snowman, I wanted to use it in render for quite some time but until now I didn’t find the right opportunity. I wanted for it to make some kind of sense and not just be there without any particular reason. The back facade of the building wasn’t that exciting all buy itself and since the building is a family dwelling it made sense for kids to make a snowman in the back yard.

For sure there is still plenty of questions to ask. One of my friends, who was shown the article before the publication, said that he would love to know more about the workflow and the tools used by the artists mentioned here. Which tools they used to achieve the desired effect. In conclusion, I would like to say that it’s only the second article published here but definitely not the last one. I will probably add a piece about winter renderings some time later. I can only hope that you like the form of the articles. Give me some feedback, because there will be more articles!

Meanwhile, I want to give my thanks to all the people that let me publish their works. Thank you for taking the time to answer all my questions. Merry Christmas and see you all in the New Year!

Best wishes, 
Janusz Gnatowski

That damn detail

The thin red line of detail, where is it, does it really exist? When is it a good moment to click “render production” instead of working for another hour on a leaf shader of a flower placed on the windowsill at the other end of the room.

Formidable architecture, interiors, astonishing visualisations and pictures of these. That is the reason this blog was created and for that very reason you have come here probably. Thank you for this and I hope you will find it interesting enough to come back.

Anyway, now I would like to focus on interior designs and the visualisations. Have you ever wondered while looking through the visualisation gallery, what is the reason to show a close-up shot of, for example, a cloth placed over the armchair? Ok, it kinda is a part of the whole project. But if a project, not a visualisation itself, is the final product, so looking from the business perspective why should we even bother with such details?

Author: Johannes Lindqvist

Before I started writing this article I had decided to discuss the topic with other designers from different parts of the world. At first, I hadn’t come up with any revelatory theory. Such works are created only for the purpose of adding more than just one rendering, the one done for the specific client, to the account on Behance, for instance. Getting attention of a viewer, whether a potential client or just a potential competition, is the goal of this strategy. Being known to people from the branch is quite important.

The heated discussion ended with one statement: a client is supposed to see the interior design and not to be fascinated by some detail. However, the detailed shots may be examples of the designer’s abilities and skills. In 95% of instances the clients will never pay for a close-up shot of a book placed on the night stand but they might get convinced that their every demand will be met, eg. if someone wants Goncalo Alves Wood from South America, the material used in the visualisation will be as close to its real-life counterpart as it can be. Later on, when clients enter their finished apartment, they would say ‘Wow! It looks almost as in the visualisation!’

Author: Adam Iwaćkowski

Some of the speakers, the ones that deal with graphic design, agreed with me. Lots of great shots in order to get viewer’s attention and hope that the visualisations are seen not only by some acquainted designers but also by the potential clients. But in the end we can’t win over a client just with a wide shot. And that brings us to the question that I want to address to designers: have you ever chosen a graphic designer just because he had some great artistic renderings although you did not actually need such renderings? It all comes to the sentence: it doesn’t matter what they talk about us as long as they actually talk. So it doesn’t matter who sees our works, but what actually does matter is the number of page views.

You have to bear in mind that your works are viewed not only by your potential clients and competition but also by graphic studio owners and headhunters, who are looking for such talents in order to make an addition to their team. Ultimately not every graphic designer wants to be a freelancer. I like to say that it’s better to be a bench warmer in Real Madrid than a striker in Real Farma Odessa (Ukrainian Second League).

Author: Alex Dorokhin

Creating macro projects is definitely a good way to learn how to make shaders. No doubt, you can’t learn the way to make a wood material design when the table is actually 5 metres away from the camera. You will never be sure that every little tree-ring looks like you wanted it too. Once again, it brings us the question… why should we even bother with such things when no one can see it anyway? It reminds me now of a story from my childhood. My friend and I were very passionate about model-making. You know, plastic and paper models of planes, tanks, ships etc. The friend’s father was actually the one who got us interested in that kind of things. Once, he made a model of a military truck engine, then he covered it with the hood. I asked him why he had bothered with making the engine when no one actually saw it. He said that it didn’t matter actually, as long as he knows it’s in there. In that moment I thought it was kinda silly, but now… you might guess 🙂

Author: Blok Studio, Michał Morzy

However, I am truly surprised that I hadn’t come up with one particular idea before. Namely, one of the speakers told me that once the project was finished, he would rearrange the scenery. Little things: like using different colors, accessories, not more than a 1-hour job. Later, he would add a product model of a firm that he was working with, e.g. a bed. Then the rendering takes place, sending an E-mail and what is left is waiting. It is a risky way but, according to him, in more than a half of instances he would make money out of the shot twice. He often sales models through websites, like CG Trader for example. What about the situation when no one is interested in the rendering? Perhaps, changing of the main character, the bed might help?

That might be true, because I’ve heard some interesting opinions from the people that might be potential clients. Perhaps, a zoom on an apple leaf placed on a kitchen table with blurry background is not worth the money… however, the proper framing showing a cupboard and the aforementioned flowerpot… is. Truth is that designers make commissions on the sold products. Everything could be a product and sometimes you have to sell it on the first level – via the visualisation. Perhaps, we should ask ourselves if macro and bokeh are really that important or maybe we ought to…

… ‘zoom out’ a little bit.

What do you think?


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