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An Archiviz Workflow Overview in 3ds Max, Sketchup, and Digital Fusion

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Read Time: 10 min

In this Architectural Visualization workflow overview you will learn how to use Google Sketchup for photo matching, create a Vray-proxy in 3ds Max, use Max script to speed up your workflow, reduce render times when creating a large scene, set render layers in 3ds Max, and do some post production in Digital Fusion.

Step 1

Start Google Sketchup 7.1 (sketchup 6.0 at least), go to (File > Import...). Use "use as new matched photo" as the import option. This will help you quickly step into "PhotoMatch", Sketchup's new function.

Step 2

"Spacing" = 1000 mm, meaning 1 meter per grid unit when the "Grid" option is set to "On".

Step 3

The Red and Green axis stands for the two vanishing points of the original photo, and the Yellow line should be matched by the photo's horizon line. These points should be matched the photo's V.P as correctly as possible.

Step 4

Go to (Draw > Rectangle) to create a rectangle based on the original photo's perspective, and then use the "Push" tool to generate a cube.

Step 5

Right click the top line, and chose "Divide", then use the "Line" tool to create lines. Divide the cube by 17x19x5 segments.

Step 6

Use the same method to create a new cube on top of the original one. All of the segments should be created based on the original photo.

Step 7

Use the "Circle", "Push", and "Offset" tools to create a column. Copy it by pressing "N" (N=1,2,3...).

Step 8

This is the final result of the Sketchup modeling portion.

Step 9

Go to (File > Export > 3D model).

Step 10

Chose "3ds" format as the file type, and export it into 3ds max 2009. This is the end of the Sketchup part.

Step 11

Start 3ds Max 2009, make sure your 3ds Max units are set to "Millimeters".

Step 12

Go to (File > Import...) to import the '3ds' file.

Step 13

Hit 'C' to switch to the Camera view, and press 'ALT+B', to open the Viewport Background window.

Step 14

Hit 'F10' to open the Render Setup, and set the "Image Aspect" to 0.6667. Change the render engine to Vray 1.5 sp2.

Step 15

Select the Camera, call it "Fine", and set the FOV to 45 degrees.

Step 16

Select all of the columns, add a "Smooth" modifier.

Step 17

Modeling the window frame.

Step 18

Final result of all of the frames. Use the Instance Copy option to copy the frames based on the imported 3ds file. Try to match the original photo as correctly as possible.

Step 19

Create the window glass by using the Shell modifier on a plane.

Step 20

Move the glass into the right place on the bottom of the frame.

Step 21

Create the Door Gate by using Extrude + Shell + Edit Poly modifiers.

Step 22

Use the Line + Extrude + Shell Tools to create the top window frames.

Step 23

Add an "EditPoly" modifier, and use the "Chamfer Settings" tool to fillet the edges.

Step 24

Create the glass geometry by using the Shell modifier. Notice the glass's position.

Step 25

Create a plane, and apply the plan image to it as a material. You can use this reference plan to create the interior wall.

Step 26

Here is the result of the interior wall and ceiling base.

Step 27

Draw a line on the floor, and go to (Create > AEC Extended > Railing > Pick Railing Path).

Step 28

Create 3 instances of the glass railing (click to see the large version of the image.)

Step 29

Create the 3rd Floor interior walls. There is no reference image so just rely on the plan and the original photo.

Step 30

Using the CV Curve + Loft tools, generate the small ball in the interior.

Step 31

Use the Line tool to create the support wires.

Step 32

Use the same techniques for the large ball.

Step 33

Use the Line + Extrude tools to generate the ceiling panels. Don't forget to fillet the edges.

Step 34

Model in the lights on the ceiling panels and move them to the right position.

Step 35

This is the final result of the modeling part. We will be moving on to the material steps in a moment, but before starting I would like to introduce this amazing script called "VraymtlPresets". You can visit to download it and also get more information. The latest version is 0.6.

Step 36

Put the "vraymtlPresets_v06.mcr" to your Max script directory. The Macroscripts (.mcr) should be placed in "maxroot\UI\Macroscripts" folder. Go to "Maxscript > Run Script".

Step 37

Open your "VraymtlPresets_v06.mcr".

Step 38

Go to "Customize > Customize User Interface".

Step 39

Select the S_Vray Tools Category.

Step 40

Click "New" to create a new toolbar, name it whatever you want it to be, and hit "OK".

Step 41

Drag the new toolbar to your top max toolbar, and drag the "VRayMTL Quick Presets" action to this new toolbar (under the Action window in your Customize User Interface) and click it. You should now have the script installed.

Step 42

Select all of the window frames, open the "VrayMtl Presets_0.6" toolbar, and go to "Gemstones > Onyx Black > Assign". Open the material editor, set the diffuse color to (35,35,35), and leave everything else as default. Apply the material to all of the frames. Click to see the larger image.

Step 43

Open the material editor, change the material type to "VrayMt"l. Set the "Diffuse" color to (213,203,202),
the "Highlight Gloss" to 0.45, the "Refl. Gloss" to 0.92, the "Subdivs" to 20, and make sure the "Use Interpolation" is on (it will help you reduce the render time). Apply this material to all of the columns. (Click for the larger image.)

Step 44

Select the Glass of the bottom area, open the script, go to "Glass > Architectual > Assign". Make sure the Reflection "Use Interpolation" option is off. Click for the large image.

Step 45

Open the script, go to "Metal > Stainless Steel > Assign". Change the BRDF type to "Blinn", the "Anisotropy" to 0.7, and the "Rotation" to 90 degrees. Apply this material to all of the chrome objects, like door frames, door handles etc..

Step 46

Select a new material ball, change the material type to "VrayBlendMt"l, and select White Plastic as the base material and Black Plastic as the Coat material. Make sure the "Use Interpolation" option is on. For the "Blend Amount" option, use a black/white jpg as a mask, where the white part will be the Base material, and the black part will be the Coat material.

Step 47

Select all of the window frames and apply the "VrayblendMtl" material to them.

Step 48

Select a new material ball, change the material type to "VrayMtl", and set the diffuse color to (219,203,180). Set the "Reflection Color" to (168,168,168), and make sure the "Use Interpolation" option is on. Select all of the interior walls, and apply it. Click to see the larger image.

Step 49

This is the final result of the material part.

Step 50

Now to plant some trees. Here I use Evermotion's product. You can buy and download it from It has a lot of polygons on this tree, but it looks amazing to me, so I used it to detail this scene. 40EUR per models may be a little pricey for your taste, but anyway you can find any tree models to finish the scene.

Step 51

Select all objects that make up the tree, and go to (UtilitiesPanel > Collapse > Collapse Selected) to convert them into a single object.

Step 52

Right click > Vray Mesh Export.

Step 53

Select a Folder to store the ".vrmesh" file, and make sure the "Automatically Create Proxies" option is on.

Step 54

Set the Display mode to "Preview From File. 3ds Max just created a proxy automatically.

Step 55

Use the Instance Copy and Scale tools to duplicate the proxy in front of the building.

Step 56

This is the final result of adding trees.

Step 57

Create a plane VrayLight, and set the color to (249,132,74). Set the "Invisible" option to "off", change the "Multiplier" to 70, and Instance Copy this VrayLight to fit all of the ceiling lights. Click to see the larger image.

Step 58

Go to (Render panel > Vray panel > Global switches), and you will see that it is at draft render settings.

Step 59

Open the Indiect Illumination panel and hit render (467x700). My render time is around 57 seconds (ASUS C90P Notebook,cpu:Q9550, ram:4G, GC:9600MGT).

Step 60

Go to (Create panel > Lights > Free Ligh) to create a photometric light using an IES file. Move the photometric light under the Vraylight, and Instance duplicate. Here I have 114 IES lights in this scene.

Step 61

Here is the result of adding photometric lights. The render time is 1 min at 467 x 700.

Step 62

Create another VrayLight, set the color to (255,163,82), and make sure the "Invisible" option is off. This means the light can be seen by the renderer.

Step 63

Instance duplicate the light to the interior corridor (match the photo's position as correctly as you can). Use the Scale tool to get light to fit the interior walls.

Step 64

Go to (Render Setup > Vray:Envirorment), and set the GI multiplier to 1.0. Use the Fine.jpg to generate GI. Use a jpg to generate the reflection and refraction, with the multiplier set to 2.0 to give brighter reflections. Notice that the mapping is set to Spherical.

Step 65

Here is a test render done at sStep 64. The render time is up to 5 min because of the VrayLight subdivs are set to 14 with 144 VrayLights. You can reduce the subdiv value to speed up the render time. From this test render, you can see that the interior was a little bit dark.

Step 66

Create a big Vray Plane light. Set the color to (255,188,82), with the "Invisible" option on, but the "Affect Spec and Reflections" off.

Step 67

These are the final render settings in the render setup panel (click for the large version!)

Step 68

And the final render layers settings and render results (again, click to see the large version!)

Step 69

Now for the final compositing step we will use the software Digital Fusion 5.3.

Step 70

Drag the final exr file into fusion, and rename it as "BeautyPass". Go to the "Import" panel, change the depth to "Float32", and set "Post-Multiply by alpha" to "On". When you save the .exr file in 3ds Max, Vray also puts every pass to a single file, so you can change every render pass easily. Here are two examples (Diffuse and reflection pass). Click the "Format" panel, and change the RGB channels the way you want it to be. When you are done with a pass, use Ctrl+C to copy, and Ctrl+V to paste another node. Then go to the "Format" panel to change the channels. You should have a Diffuse, Raw_GI, Raw_LT, Reflection, Refraction, Specular, Sell_Ill, and Beauty pass. Click to see the large version of this image!

Step 71

Here is the final result (click to see the large version!) Thanks for watching. If you have any questions or suggestions, please let me know. Hope you liked this tutorial. EnjoY!!

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