Updated: Sep 19, 2020
Has the age of complex and resource/time expensive 3D software come to an end? Are the new user-friendly solutions making the 3D Artist expendable?
With the introduction of new technology, the making of architecture visualizations has become much more accessible and spread to a wider range of users. Programs like Twinmotion or Lumion offer a broad set of tools, with a fast learning curve, enabling architecture studios to develop images or animations in-house if they so intend and, in their opinion, helping save time and money. Those savings are, in my perspective arguable but it might look at a glance, that the benefit brought by the 3D artist to the architectural project has become residual or even unnecessary. But has it?
Until now, many architecture companies have often needed the expertise of a 3D artist. These specialized graphic developers, with a particular set of skills, very often bearing the same or similar academic background as the architect, use their unique know-how, set of tools, and creativity to help architects communicate and “sell” their projects.
An architect can easily have a good knowledge of 3D modeling and texturing, but rarely has access to the tools to achieve a high quality visual. The chance to use a software like 3D Studio Max or Blender together with render engines and post-production tools, alongside with the hardware capable of processing a few minutes long animation, is often outside the working and budget scope of a company involved in developing an architecture project. This is why it is often an easier and cheaper solution to contract an outside specialist with the required technical and creative ability, making the 3D artist indispensable to many architecture companies.
Needless to say, not all architecture companies need to contract a 3D artist. Many create amazing visuals internally. But those fall outside the range of our discussion and, from my experience, they don´t represent the bulk of architecture studios.
Since a few years ago, with the arrival of software like Enscape, Lumion or Twinmotion, a few clicks and a bit of dragging and dropping assets into the scene, is enough to create a quite acceptable image in just a few hours. An accomplishment that is also achieved by the drastically reduced render processing times. The software has become so intuitive and user-friendly that it is possible to be fairly familiarized with it in just a couple of days. Imagine that happening with 3D Studio Max or Maya? On top of that, the vast collection of tools and assets offered and the simplicity in which they are laid out, represent a breakthrough for the industry: easily, with just the help of a slider, you can change weather conditions, season, or day/night cycles. Also included are easy to apply post-production filters, light effects, or real-time depth-of-field, just to mention a few, making traditional post-production software like Photoshop, feel unnecessary.
We are entering the new era of archviz, with software becoming easier to master so that is available to a greater number of potential customers. It is happening across all industries. Look at web design for example: at home, without any kind of coding knowledge, you can build your website. Does it mean that web designers are now obsolete? Not at all.
As the main characters of an industry in permanent evolution, we need to adapt to the new circumstances and use them in our favor. Our expertise, as 3D artists, is still pretty much needed, even if the tools of our job have gotten accessible for more people to handle. We need to take advantage of the increased productivity and show the client that we still play a major role in the success of their business.
Learning a tool is possible for everyone, you just need time and practice. To be proficient in visual art is a completely different story. You need a distinctive creative approach and aesthetic awareness. These skills are partially learned from a specific academic path, like color and light theory, and also grow from our own particular life experience and intrinsic way of solving problems, where the basis of creative thinking lies. These technical skills together with innate capabilities are what make an experienced 3D artist unique.
The client might have a similar artistic background but uses creativity to solve problems of another nature differently. On the other hand, they could also, indubitably, possess the necessary in-depth knowledge, but they might be too busy tackling project-related issues and still don´t have the time or resources to invest in a high quality visual, even though the workflow is strongly reduced by the new tools.
3D artists are still the ones that still can fill that necessity and be able to offer a better product, but now even quicker or with more choices for the client. We need to use this new increased productivity and go beyond expectations because now we have more time to be creative.
So don´t be scared of possible lower demand, just take advantage of what the new reality has to offer and use your excellence and experience to show that you are still the right man for the job, because to create something technically correct and visually meaningful a quick and easier tool is not enough. You need to know how to achieve that higher result.