Back at the start of 2020, I was commissioned to create a brand and associated assets for Deheers Warehouse, a sensitive conversion of a beautiful 18th century commercial building into luxury harbourside apartments.
At the point I came into the project, construction was already underway and there was an increasing need to create content for attracting potential buyers. There was plenty of historical information from which inspiration could be taken for written copy but little in the way of visual content, aside from a handful of Architects’ concept images. All historical photos were subject to copyright, the owners of which were impossible to locate or not forthcoming with consent. The build was not sufficiently far along to take photos of the apartments so any visual solution would have to be created virtually. I needed to find a way of producing interior visuals to a level befitting the quality of the development with neither the time nor budget to employ a specialist CGI studio. The only logical solution was to work out a way to produce the visuals myself, despite having no idea of how.
I work with pen and paper, AutoCAD, Rhino 3d, Adobe Suite and have played with rendering software such as Vray, Flamingo and Keyshot. Whilst I had previously used these software solutions to produce decent product visuals, interior visuals had always eluded me. I know from talking to my peers, that I am not alone when it comes to interior rendering. Client perception generally is that photo‐realistic CGI interiors require no effort at all and provided a 3d model exists, created at the click of a button. The reality for most small design teams is that such images are unachievable in-house and unaffordable externally. Even if someone within a business were equipped with the skills and hardware, using existing render software would require as much time to set up and render a scene as was spent modelling it. When presented with the expensive reality, most clients cannot justify the cost.
Such images have quite simply been out of reach, certainly to me. Instead, I have always opted for rather more lo‐fi alternatives such as mood boards, collages, perspective hand sketches, 2d colour elevations and various Photoshop actions to convey just enough information for a client to sign‐off.
The Deheers project however, demanded a far higher level of interior visual than I had previously created. I could have proposed perspective marker renderings had the project not been at a point on the timeline where there was still potential for significant design elements to change. Any viable solution would need to be digital, compatible with my existing workflows and capable of allowing for retrospective design changes. Pretty much the antithesis of a marker rendering. My gut told me there would be something I could use so, hoping for the best, I opened Google and started searching.
I was surprised by just how few options there were. There was no shortage of software offering the promise of ‘high end professional images at the touch of a button’ but, once you read through their literature, very few that I could be confident of using to achieve the level of image I needed.
The large proportion of software I came across could be placed into one of four categories:
- Too expensive. These days most are subscription based, requiring a minimum 12‐month commitment or a monthly rolling subscription. Most came in at around £40 per month which is almost as much as I pay from the entire Adobe Creative Cloud Suite. Some even required a ‘per render’ fee.
- Not compatible. As well as rendering, many of them offered drafting and modelling functionality. In most of these cases the workflow from Rhino would be problematic or impossible altogether, without additional software.
- Low image quality. A lot of the example output images conveyed nowhere near enough of the emotive qualities I was looking for from a final image. Even with significant postprocessing in Photoshop the results would fall short of the mark.
- Overly complicated. These solutions catered more for CGI specialists, communicating in language I was never going to understand and requiring hardware far beyond my computer’s specification to function efficiently. I was in no doubt, given a significant learning curve, that I could produce results with these but were it not for the fact they also fell into the ‘too expensive’ category.
FluidRay stood out from the crowd. As well as claiming compatibility with Rhino, its website content was easy to understand and message simple; ‘fast, easy, high‐quality’. My laptops met all the minimum system requirements and there was a free 10‐day trial with no need to provide any payment information. The pay‐as‐you go subscription model worked for me as did the low monthly amount. Most importantly of all, the gallery images looked to be of an acceptable quality, even once considering the possibility they could have been post‐processed. There was enough there to warrant downloading the trial and having a play.
Before getting into FluidRay I spent about 30 minutes modelling a basic interior scene in Rhino, making sure to include some architectural elements that would feature in the Deheers’ interiors.