This is probably our most frequently asked question. Most of our clients come to us with little knowledge of how to get started on a 3d project.
We understand not all of our clients are in the architectural design side of the business themselves. Many are marketers, business developers or other specialists and architectural design or interior design is not their forte. Even some architects and interior designers really don’t know what they need to share in order to get a quote…and that’s okay! We’ve created this simple guide to help you make your best decision and to use your time effectively when preparing a project that requires 3d rendering or animation.
Keep in mind: There is not a fixed price for a 3d rendering.
Every architectural project is different and as such, every 3d project will have different needs as well. Generally speaking, studios that have a fixed price for a 3d visualizations lack consideration of each project’s specific goals and details. If a company presents their visualization like a product stamped out from a production line, be wary. It is almost guaranteed that the details of your project that make it truly unique will be lost. Most importantly, it is critical for your visualization studio to understand that each project is affected by its use, physical and cultural environment. A serious 3d company will request documentation on your project to assess these factors and create an accurate quote. You can often save a lot of money and time by having a studio create project specific quote because all of your wants and desires will be taken into account up front. You will also save yourself from a big headache at the end when you receive the final visualization as everything will have been communicated clearly in the beginning of the project and nothing will have been left to guesswork.
Save time by preparing your files.
Most 3d studios will request that you provide a set of drawings or plans to create your 3d visualization. Having a folder including your architectural and interior design drawings as PDFs would be ideal. (Other file formats are okay too! The point is that the documentation should be available in some format or another.) Depending on what phase your project is in at the time, you may have more or less details and drawings available. Many times quotes can be created with a set of drawings that will later be replaced with a series of updates, so don’t feel like every single piece of information has to be totally final to generate a quote. Inform your studio upfront to anticipate such changes and send as much information you can at the time you request the quote. In addition to design drawings, you can include presentation boards, referential images, google maps with geographical coordinates or even napkin sketches! Anything you can provide that will help the 3d professional to understand the nature of your project will help realize your project in the best possible way. The more information you submit, the more accurate the rendering or animation will be.
Include a deadline.
Do not forget to include any deadline you may have, even if they are not hardline or set in stone. Here is a good tip: Always set your deadline 2 or 3 days earlier than your actual due date in case you need to do a last minute adjustment.
Request a non-disclosure agreement.
Be safe before you disclose your project. Don’t be afraid to request a non-disclosure agreement. Most reputable 3d studios are used to signing agreements that prevent them from sharing or distributing any documentation you share with them during the 3d production process. Here is a good example you can use Non-Disclosure Agreement Template
Think about your project as a story to be told!
3d images and animations are much more effective when they follow a storyline. Think about the emotional aspect you want to project when you share the visualization with your customers. What do you want your viewers to feel? Are you trying to make them feel like they are in paradise on a tropical Island? Are you trying to have them experience the excitement and energy of a chic urban experience? Explain the importance of a storyline with your project manager, showing them a purpose and a story will inspire and create more engage with the team. The difference will show at the end. If you don’t know how to make a storyboard, write your ideas and the feelings you are trying to convey down in a document so that everyone involved knows the emotional impact you are trying to convey. Make list of elements you think are key to be considered and then ask you 3d team to create a storyboard for you before they start the 3d modeling. It is much easier for you and your studio to craft the story of your visualization on paper before it moves to the computer.
Make sure you are comfortable who you are dealing with.
What good is receiving great final product if you had a miserable experience creating it? Find out who is responsible for executing your vision at the studio and get to know them. A large animation may takes some time to complete and you want to ensure that you feel good about who you are working with on a day to day basis.
Reviewing a proposal you receive from a 3d visualization studio.
After receiving a proposal for your project, here a few things to make sure are included:
- Check that the technical details specify a resolution for images and video. If you are planning on producing prints or creating large ads with your renderings, it is very important to receive high resolution images somewhere in the range of 4000 by 2000 pixels. Nothing under a 1000 pixels is acceptable for a good campaign for print or video. Make sure the video is delivered in Full HD or larger. Full HD is 1920X1080 pixels and older resolutions like 1080×720 are not full HD and shouldn’t be considered
- Make sure your proposal includes a production timeline that takes into account your delivery date and revision schedule. Thorough 3d proposals will include 1 or 2 rounds of larger changes and several more revision opportunities where you can make small modifications along the way. It’s ok to request small changes in your design for a simple reason: Certain elements might not work in the project any longer when translated to 3d. It’s important to notice there may be a large impact in your perception when you see your floor plan presented in 3d. Its important to know you can use those opportunities to communicate and /or to make changes to improve your design.
- Payment Terms. Most companies will request some form of advance payment to begin work. This is especially true if you are a new customer for the studio. Never pay more than 50% of the total price proposed upfront and never pay the full invoice until you are 100% satisfied with your final product.
- W9 forms or other relevant business certifications. A big benefit of working a US-based company is that you can have solid documentation of your expenses for tax purposes. There are many “fly-by-night” studios that won’t be able to provide you with these important documents so make sure to get what your company needs to do business.
Selecting the right studio to produce your 3d visualizations is the most critical step to receiving the best results for your money. Be aware that there may be a high cost to the low price renderings from discount studios: You may very well end up with a low quality visualization that might even be unusable. Review the company, their work and their staff in-depth before making a decision. Many studios in the US rely on cheap Asian labor and actually have little to no intervention in the development and production of your visualizations. If you look at a studio’s portfolio and see many inconsistent rendering styles, that is a telltale sign that the company is handing work off to many vendors rather than working with a single dedicated team.
Make sure the person who is managing your 3d project has training in architecture. There is a great difference between having an actual architect working on your 3D project rather than just a simple illustrator. A visualization studio staffed with architects will have a much deeper vision of your project and they will be capable of detecting problems or discrepancies with your design that a simple illustrator or 3D artist may miss. At Cicero Studios, 85% of our staff are architects who first mastered their craft before bringing their expertise into the visualization world.
If you feel I left out details that are important for you or if you have additional questions, please reply with a comment to this post and will be more than happy to help answer them. I hope you find this guide invaluable when you are ready to get involved in a 3D visualization project. Remember: You and your project deserve the very best and you should never have to settle for anything less.
About the author: Juan Luque has worked in the architecture, art and branding industry since 1996, providing services to a broad array of industries including entertainment, hospitality, residential and luxury retail. As a Founding Principal of Cicero Studios, Juan leads our creative services and oversees workflows between clients and production teams.