Monday, 9 February 2015


                  Tips & tricks for architectural Visualisation

The above image was created while at TP Bennett

The following tips are mostly related to architectural visualisation.

However, users from similar industries such as, Architecture and Architectural design may also find the following tips useful:

Using the Crop tool in a non-destructive way

In architectural visualisation, users are often required to create vanishing lines in Photoshop, in order to correct camera shifts from photos taken for Verified views or Photomontages.

To start, users simply go to the Tools sidebar, and choose the Line Tool from its list. 

To create the vanishing line, simply set the line weight to a visible size (i.e. 5px) and begin creating it, by clicking and dragging it along. 

Once the vanishing lines are created, duplicate the background layer(Ctrl+J) and enable the canvas Ruler(Ctrl+R).

It’s worth noting that, it’s imperative to duplicate layer prior to using the Crop tool in a non-destructive way

Next, click on the top part of the ruler and drag it down to create a guide.
Ensure the guide is positioned exactly where the vanishing lines meet. 

To correct the camera shift, the vanishing line (guide) needs to divide canvas into two equal sides. This exercise will require extending the canvas.

To Crop extend the Canvas in a non-destructive way; first zoom out of the document/canvas and enable the Crop tool(C).    

Next, drag down the Crop tool until its midpoint is positioned at the center of the guide (vanishing line). 

Before Cropping (i.e. press Enter), ensure that the “Hide “option on the main toolbar is enabled, as opposed to “Delete”.
Once satisfied, simply press “Enter” to Crop extend the document/canvas. 

Following that, create a rectangular selection around the extended area of the document with the marquee tool.
In addition, create a new layer( Ctrl+Shift+Alt+N), fill the selection with the Paint Bucket tool(G) and save the document as a PSD file.

This action is necessary to ennsure Photoshop "hides" the the extended area after Cropping it. Otherwise it will assume that, the extended area is empty without pixels/layers and subsequently delete/crop opposed to hide it.  

Once the document is saved as a PSD file, one will be able to go backwards and forwards between the original and the cropped version at any point in time.  

Correcting model scale discrepancies

In architectural visualisation, it's common to find oneself working in scenes, or with models that are not scaled realistically. 
More often than NOT this error is attributed to the manner in which the 3d model/s were merged or imported into the 3ds Max scene,
In such cases, the scale discrepancy is usually by a factor of 1.0.  

To correct this artifact, simply do the following:

If the model/scene is too big (in meters), simply open its Units Setup dialog, and set the System Unit Setup so 1 Unit is equivalent to 1.0 millimeter, to reduce its overall size.

In addition, ensure that the Respect System Units in Files option is enabled.  

Save and close the 3ds Max scene.

Next, open a new 3ds Max scene and set the System Unit Setup to millimeters (I.e. 1 Unit= 1.0 Millimeter) and close the dialog.  

Following that, merge in the scene previously saved . The scene should come in with the correct scale. 

If you find yourself in a reversed situation (i.e. scene/model is too small), simply set the 1.0 unit (millimeter) to be equivalent to a higher unit (i.e. meter) 

If the scene/model is in centimeters, simply use Google to work out the equivalent of it in a different metric system. As mentioned earlier, the scale discrepancy is often by a factor of 1.0.  

Finally, if you require re-scaling one model in a 3ds Max scene; simply Save Selected and follow the steps described earlier.

Using Xref Material

In architectural visualisation there are often times when is absolutely necessary to use Xref materials due to numerous individuals being involved in the same project.

Such large projects are usually broken down into various 3ds scenes while sourcing the materials/shaders from one single 3ds Max file.

To ensure team members can easily view and select materials/shaders from the relevant 3d scene; all objects are re-named according to their shader/material attributes. 

To access the pre-saved materials/shaders from a separate 3ds Max scene, one should click on the shader toggle and pick the XRef Material shader from the Material/map browser dialog list. 

Once the XRef material shader is loaded, click on the File Name toggle to access the material/s and to select the relevant 3ds max file.

Once the XRef Merge dialog appears, select any of the materials previously created and re-named; followed by assigning it/them to various objects in the scene. 

Correcting UVW map arifacts with inherited models

In architectural visualisation, it’s quite common to inherit models with bugs/artifacts from a different artist and/or company. 
In some cases the 3d assets don't display textures applied onto them, even after collapsing the model and applying a new UVW map modifier to it.

This problem often occurs when the 3d model has material IDs, or when a MaterialByElement  modifier is applied to a model .
To quickly correct this, simply apply the “Material” modifier to the object in question. 

DLL errors from 3d objects in the scene

It is quite common to encounter dll errors when opening scenes from architectural visualisation. 
These errors often appear when there’s a missing plug-in, or when an new object from a different scene is merged in.

With 3d objects, is often a case of simply merging the object with artifact in a brand new 3ds Max scene, and re-saving the file to correct the dll error.

Erasing/masking out pixels behind tree leaves/branches for Photomontages

Until recently, undertaking the laborious task of erasing pixels behind tree leaves and branches could be considered to be any visualiser's nightmare.

For those who still do it the old fashion/tedious way, the following technique will definitely help speed up your workflow dramatically:

Without further ado, let's start by first duplicating the layer you'll be working on(Ctrl+J)

To help highlight the effect of this excellent Photoshop tool, we are going to use a red layer underneath the working document (i.e. underneath Layer 1).

To do so, create a new layer below the duplicated layer, and fill it out with the Paint Bucket tool.


To begin erasing the pixels behind the tree, simply go to the side tools and pick the Background Eraser Tool.
Also, choose the Sampling Once method and set the tolerance value to about 52%.
This value is a good starting point to target specific areas accurately. However, feel free to experiment with different values, if desired.

Choose and set a brush size by pressing the keys [ or ] .

To customize the brush size and its softness/hardness, simply click on the Brush button, from the main toolbar and slide the relevant slider to either direction.

Prior to begin erasing pixels, first select  the working document (i.e. Layer 1).

Next, target the pixel colour with a left click, and hold it down thereafter. 

While holding down the left click, begin brushing away.

There will be areas of the image that will not be erased because its pixel colour differs from the initial targeted pixel .

To re-target new pixel areas, simply release holding down the left click, and left click on new pixel area, as previously done. 

After finishing, note how quickly and accurately all the relevant pixels were erased (in seconds) without having to worry about affecting undesired areas such as the tree leaves and/or its branches.  


I hope you have found the tips somehow useful!

The next post about architectural visualisation will focus on a new script to automatically create and place survey points in a 3ds max scene accurately, by using the surveyor's data from an excel spreadsheet.


My 3D Portfolio:

More tips & Tricks:

Essential tips & tricks for VRay & mental ray

Photorealistic Rendering

Creating Customised IES lights

Realistic materials

Creating a velvet/suede material 


Monday, 2 February 2015

Photo Editing

Hi All,

I have recently contributed to an extensive step-by-step tutorial entitled:

Photo Editing, techniques in Photoshop

The tutorial is not directly related to 3d visualisation, However, most of the techniques/topics discussed can easily be transferred/implemented into 3d visualisation!

Do check it out whenever time allows you; and let me know your thoughts about it!

The entire tutorial can be seen in the following website:




Monday, 19 January 2015

Google maps to StreetView Grabber

More often than Not, I find myself working on 3d photomontages, or verified views with set views/images chosen and taken by different Photographers.
Needless to say that, in all accounts, I've always wished I had a panoramic image/photo of the locations, to use as reflections for my 3d environment.

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation and can not retake the photo/s with specialised high definition cameras such as the ones from; then Google maps are your best quick fix.

In conjunction with the StreetView Grabber software, you can find the location (using Google street view) where the original background image was taken from, and automatically grab a 360 view of the site.

To download the StreetView Grabber software, for Free, simply go to the following website:

Next, scroll down the page and click on the following link to download the software.

Once downloaded, unzip (extract) the software, and double click on its Icon to open the dialog.

To start, go to Google maps and type in the address/location where the photography was taken from.
Once the address/ is found( i.e. a red pin floating above the location map) in the Google maps, simply zoom in with the mouse wheel as close as you can, followed by clicking on the Google earth map thumbnail, on the bottom left corner. 

Once the earth map appears ( photo of the location on a plan view), simply grab the yellow silhouette man from the bottom right hand corner of the Google earth map, and drop it on the desired location, to get the Google street view.

It’s worth noting that, you can only drop the yellow silhouette man on areas where there’s a black dot blinking.
These markers indicate spots where the user can take a street view from. 

Once the street view is up on the screen; you can pick from any of the available views displayed in the thumbnails below, if desired. 
Otherwise simply click on the Hide imagery, to minimize the thumbnails on the screen.

As you move the mouse on the Google street view, note the transparent planes that follow it.
They indicate the perspective of the structure/object on the screen. 

While the StreetView Grabber dialog is still open, select the URL of the Google street view and press Ctrl+C to copy it.

Select the StreetView Grabber dialog and click on the Add Pano button.

The Use clipboard dialog should automatically appear. Click Yes to add the copied URL, and close the dialog. 

Before grabbing the 360 street view, you can choose the location to save the final Output image and the file format (i.e. Output JPEG or Output PNG.

In addition, always set the Quality to maximum, by simply moving the slider to the far right.
Also,enable the Weld Tiles and the Crop Panorama option.  

Once satisfied with the settings/parameters, simply click on the Grab button, to capture the panoramic street view. 

Once the grabbing process is finished, a dialog should notify you that the process is Done; click OK to close it. 

Also, open the grabbed panoramic image in Photoshop. 

The chances are that you’ll be required to flip the grabbed panoramic view horizontally before using it as a reflection in 3ds max.

To flip the image horizontally, simply click on the Image main toolbar and choose the Rotate Canvas option, followed by clicking on the Flip Canvas Horizontally.

You can also save the new flipped image under a different name (i.e. …flipped). 

It’s worth noting that, if the Photomontage/verified view happens to be  a Night shot; depending on your personal Photoshop skills, you might be able to turn the panoramic day map into a night one (with a considerable amount of effort, one may add).

Alternatively, you can try some of the Kolor cameras, on location. 

For more information about these High definition 360 cameras, please visit:  


To apply the newly saved panoramic bitmap in 3ds max, simply do the following:

In mental ray: Please refer to this article posted earlier:

In Vray:

Start by opening the Render Setup dialog (F10). 

Under V-Ray tab, expand the V-Ray: Environment rollout parameters.

To plug the previously saved panoramic bitmap from Google street view, simply click on the Reflection/refraction environment override toggle.

The Material/Map browser dialog should pop up. Click on the Bitmap procedural map to locate and load the previously saved Google street view bitmap.

Once the bitmap is loaded; you may be required to edit some of its bitmap parameters in order to make it fit correctly in the viewport.

To do so, open the Material Editor dialog (M) and drag the bitmap from the Reflection/refraction environment override toggle, onto any available material slot.

The instance copy (Map) slot dialog should appear. Choose the “Instance” method and OK to close it.
As instances, whatever changes take place in the Bitmap parameters, will also affect the Reflection/refraction environment override toggle. 

In order to control the position of the reflection map in the 3d environment; the reflection bitmap needs to be visible in the viewport, through the Environment Map toggle.

So the next step will be to open the Environment and effects dialog (8), followed by dragging and dropping the reflection bitmap from the Material Editor, onto the Environment Map toggle. 
Choose the instance option again. 

Next, we are going to select the camera viewport and open the Viewport Background parameters (Alt+B).

In the Viewport Background Parameters, first enable the Match Rendering Output function, followed by turning on the Display Background option, and the Use Environment Background.
Click OK to close the dialog and see the reflection bitmap in the Viewport. 

Back in the Material Editor, under the, Coordinates parameters, enable the Environ function and set the Mapping type to Spherical Environment.

You may also choose to offset its U and V coordinates, if desired. 

In addition, in order to increase the amount of reflectivity seen on the glass/reflective surfaces, simply scroll down to the Output rollout coordinates and increase its RGB Level values.

Once Satisfied with the reflection settings and its coordinates, go back to the Environment and Effects dialog clear it from the Environment Map toggle. 

To do so, simply right click on the toggle and choose to Clear, from the pop up menu list.  

It’s worth noting that, clearing the Environment Map toggle will only affect the Environment display image, Not the reflections from the Reflection/Refraction environment override toggle.

At this stage you can now load back in your original background image being used for the verified view/s or Photomontage/s, in the Environment Map toggle. 

Note: In Vray, when using photographed image/s from verified views or Photomontages as back plate renders, it’s important that the background photography renders with its original colour and gamma; especially when matching lights and colours directly in 3ds max.

To ensure consistency, one might need to change the image Gamma settings to, Override 1.0. 


Furthermore, you’ll be required to set your V-Ray: Color mapping NOT to Affect background. 

Finally, once satisfied with the reflections, the environment map colours, the lighting and with the cameras; you may choose to save the render presets for each camera (i.e. cam 1, cam2, etc).

To save render presets, simply click on the Save Preset option. 

When the Select Preset Categories dialog pops up, I often choose all of them, because it saves the render output size, the render elements, the reflections, the environment, etc.

However, some users prefer only few specific categories. 

To save different light settings and positions, choose the Manage Scene states in addition to render presets. 

Unlike render presets, scene states are NOT saved outside 3ds Max; instead, they are only stored in the 3d scene they have originated from.

So if you choose to merge your 3d scene (with presaved scene states) into a new one Max file; the chances are, you will automatically lose all your pre-saved scene states. 

The Save button allows users to save their parts/categories.

Note: After saving a scene state, ensure that NO new objects or lights are added into the scene; otherwise you might be required to resave all the scene states again.

The Restore button allows users to restore their presaved scene state/s.

Note: You need to select your saved scene state first, before restoring it.

When selecting the Parts/categories of the scene to save, make sure you don’t save the environment settings again (override), if already saved from the render preset. 
Only save light related parts/categories and layers.

Some users may prefer to make things less complicated (No render presets), by opting to use the Scene states only, when saving the light properties, layers and the environment settings.

However, they should take into consideration that, when using numerous cameras and environments; different reflections will also be required. 
And currently, the Environment Part/category from the Scene States doesn't have the option save the V-Ray Environment settings.   

I hope you have found this article somehow interesting!


Please also check: