Calling all Architects and Engineers: 3 Steps to Tap Into Visualization with 3ds Max Tool

These 3ds Max tips for project visualization are courtesy of Arup Connect via Redshift partner ArchDaily, “the world’s most visited architecture website.” ArchDaily is dedicated to informing and inspiring architects worldwide to improve the quality of life for an estimated three billion people who will move into cities over the next 40 years.

Arup Connect is the online magazine of Arup, an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants, and technical specialists. For this article excerpt, Arup Connect interviewed Arup visualization specialist Anthony Cortez about how he uses 3ds Max, the skills visualization artists need during design and construction phases, and how augmented reality in construction is changing the face of visualization.

1. First Things First: What’s It For? 

“The strength of 3ds Max is its versatility,” Cortez says. “It’s not a one-industry tool. From film, visual effects, video games, and commercials to arch vis, people use Max for modeling, texture mapping, lighting, animation, and rendering. Architects use it to visualize models of buildings. There are game designers that use it to create game cinematics and environments; the visual effects industry uses it to create explosions and crowd simulations.

Read more on design, architecture, and gaming.

“Here at Arup we use all of that stuff that Hollywood and the game designers use, but we apply it to engineering applications. We have lighting engineers here in the office; they study how light hits surfaces and reflects off of and is absorbed by materials. We use 3ds Max to visualize how light physically behaves in real life. These days, it’s really hard to tell the difference between a photo and a rendering.

“There’s also a project that we’re working on, a new New York bridge, where we’re taking photography from various vantage points around the Hudson Valley area and camera-matching the new bridge design to the survey and photographs and create photorealistic visual impact studies, to show what designs look like so that they can move on to the next stage in the approval process.”

2. Minority Report is Here: 3ds Max and Augmented Reality. 

“Traditionally, the way we export out of 3ds Max is through renderings, still image renderings, or animations and real-time rendering game engines,” Cortez says. “But what’s also emerging is a platform called augmented reality (AR) where we’re able to take 3D objects and superimpose them onto the real world, and you’re able to interact with these 3D objects in real time, similar to what you would see in movies like Minority Report or Avatar or Ironman.

“We’ve used AR on a few projects by embedding building information models [BIM] onto site plans. When your smartphone or tablet recognizes the page, models are overlaid on top, giving you a better understanding of the site design in 3D.

“This application also works on the job site. Our engineers recently went to Montana for a project and were able to access geo-located design models and superimpose them on the landscape. The value of this is that it allows for real-time collaboration with clients by letting them preview things that the designers are proposing. This leads to better decision-making during the design process.”

(For more on the future of augmented reality, check out Meta’s augmented reality–enabled glasses.)

3. Get Your Game Up:  Design and Visualization Skills. 

“Having a good foundation of the principles of design is key,” Cortez says. “Having a good eye in regards to composition, attention to detail. Being able to understand how to interpret floor plans, elevations, and cross-sections. And also, on the visualization side, being able to understand how timing in animated objects works. Understanding the way light behaves when it interacts with physical materials, and then having a good sense of organization and optimization of these virtual scenes.

“Say you have several lights hit a surface and bounce off of it, then hit a window and go through two or three different levels of glazing of the glass so that it reflects and refracts. Some of the light goes through, some of it bounces off and hits the ceiling, etc. If all of that calculation is taking place, it could take hours to render a frame of animation. Whereas if you optimize a scene and adjust the geometry and materials settings, you can balance the time versus the quality of the render, so it wouldn’t take that long — maybe just a fraction of that time — but still have an acceptable level of quality.”

Digitally building up the construction industry

Construction is the biggest industry in the world, and yet, even outside of crises, it is not performing well.

  • Despite restraints, the construction industry is on the cusp of a technology revolution which will reshape its future
  • Construction companies are now in a race to go digital, with the hope that technology will enhance profitability while also fending off competitors.

The construction industry is well known for its resistance to change and has fallen well behind other industries in recent years. This year, however, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced historically conservative companies to make broad, sweeping adjustments.

No doubt the construction sector is the quickest-growing industry worldwide but the last one to bestow with the benefits of technology.  Especially this year, due to the pandemic, construction sites across the world emptied and were among the sector that stalled entirely for a good few months due to the lockdown. But it has also been a year of looking into construction technology — an oft-neglected segment.

A McKinsey report last month predicted a big shakeout across the construction industry over the next decade, with companies adopting technologies and methodologies from the manufacturing world. Indeed, the bulk of short- and long-term pandemic-driven construction industry issues will be solved with technology.

Construction tech boom

Construction is the biggest industry in the world, and yet, even outside of crises, it is not performing well. The ecosystem represents 13% of global GDP, but construction has seen a meager productivity growth of 1% annually for the past two decades, according to McKinsey.

Taking the good with the bad, it is expected that the continuing Covid-19 pandemic will drive a net acceleration in the use of technology, and the construction industry will continue its transformation from a highly complex, fragmented, and project-based industry to a more standardized, consolidated, and integrated one.

To recall, An IDC report published in January 2020 forecasts that demand for construction robots will grow about 25% annually through 2023. As for the global construction market size, it is expected to decline from US$11.2 billion in 2019 to US$10.56 billion in 2020. However, the industry will show signs of recovery in 2021 and reach a market size of USD 11,496.7 billion, projecting a CAGR of 1.2% between 2019 and 2021.

The Asia Pacific (APAC) region is projected to register the highest CAGR in terms of value in the global construction industry during the forecast period as the region dominated the construction industry in 2019. The construction companies have ample opportunities in the APAC market in comparison to the European and North American counterparts owing to low-cost labor and raw materials.

Despite the construction industry’s traditional resistance to new technologies, some are making significant strides in rounds. Notable examples include mobile technology, drones, building information monitoring (BIM), virtual reality and wearables, 3D printing and artificial intelligence. A renaissance in the adoption of new technologies in communication, material production, supply chain management, and industry coordination, is definitely underway. Incumbents now face a choice — lead the change or watch someone else do it.