David Sandrik's Invented Homes: Balancing Art and Technique
Architectural visualization is a very demanding world where quality, speed, and efficiency are key if you want to succeed. David Sandrik was kind enough to share his own experience, and explain why he recently decided to implement Substance in his pipeline.
My passion for 3D-generated images began when I was studying architecture and interior design. It was necessary to present visualizations for the atelier projects at school, hence why I started to use my first 3D-oriented applications. During that time, I was closely following the work of other 3D artists who inspired me. I could not stop asking myself: "How did they do that ?!" This made me really curious and encouraged me to develop further.
I continued to study new techniques and continuously improve those. After finishing my master’s degree, I had an internship at Miss3 in Brno, Czech Republic, and afterward, I worked at OLN in Vienna for a couple of years. Besides my daily job, I was constantly working on my personal or commercial projects. At some point, I realized that I could successfully render on my own and I started to freelance.
Architectural visualization artists have to work within three constraints, which are the technical aspect, the artistic aspect, and the timeline. The renderings should accurately represent a designed space or object. Moreover, they need to do so in an appealing way or atmosphere, and in the end, everything has to be done on time. It is difficult to tackle all these aspects at once and many times we have to compromise between all of them.
In my experience, there are many styles represented by visualization studios. For example, I have experience with studios where a big percentage of project work is done in post-production. This requires a very fast workflow and it is suited for architecture competitions where speed and flexibility are important. On the other hand, we have workflows which demand more time spent on the details of the 3D objects and textures in a 3D package. Less time is invested into post-production. The projects I am working on allow me to practice this method.
Persuasive and pleasing
Part of my workflow is mimicking the work of real-world photographers to achieve the most realistic result. But just like in photography, not every realistic image looks persuasive and pleasing. Many factors can drive the render to a successful end. From a technical point of view, you need to understand your tools and the basic theory behind them.
For example, PBR materials are a standard these days. I believe it is important to have at least a basic understanding of the theory behind them. The artistic side matters too: it is useful to understand principles of light, color, and composition. These are the primary ingredients with which we can create a successful shot.
The companies I work for differ a lot. I cooperate with a wide variety of clients - from small architecture firms to real estate developers. Each type of project has its ups and downs but generally, I prefer to work with developers. With them, I have more freedom over the results.
Defining how a “dream” client should look is definitely not easy. An architectural image requires a certain design and render quality. For this work to be possible, communication between all sides has to happen. I think this defines the perfect conditions for a successful project - and clients who provide these return repeatedly because they are satisfied with the delivered product.
“I simply got hooked.“
The first time I heard about Substance Painter was around two or three years ago. At that time, I did not pay much attention to it because I thought it was mainly meant for the game industry. One year ago, my friend came to me with Substance Painter and we prepared together some 3D assets. I was blown away how fast we could create quite complex materials. I simply got hooked.
Time is a very important asset in my workflow and with Substance Painter, I am able to increase the quality of my work and reduce the time it takes. Of course, I could spend hours with Substance Painter adding all kinds of details; however, I don't always have the time for this in my commissioned work. What I really like about this software is that you can produce very convincing textures in a very short time. You can also add up the layers of materials and effects and create very complex custom materials for your scenes. For instance, lately, I have enjoyed adding fingerprints for models in close-up cameras.
Another advantage is the Substance Source material library which comes with the whole package. I use 3D model libraries and material libraries pretty often. They help me to deliver the required quality in a shorter time span. If you do not have enough time for your custom textures, libraries might be the option that gets you covered. These materials give you a good foundation for any kind of surface.
From there, you can add and stack more layers of other materials or effects. Sometimes I take a .sbsar file and plug it directly into 3ds Max to modify the material there. This can also be a time saver. I would also like to stress the functionality of the particle tools, which are unbelievably useful when creating custom effects that cannot be done that easily with traditional 2D texturing tools. I have not yet mastered them completely, but I rather enjoy using them.
A look into the future
The Substance tools are getting more and more popular in the architectural visualization industry. Texturing in a 3D viewport is a relatively new practice, but we are witnessing an increased quality of work almost every year. Having high-quality textures is an inseparable part of this development.
Many visualization artists are using the PBR material setup in their render engines: this standard gives the baseline on how to correctly set up dielectric and metal materials. This means that we spend less time on playing around with the material settings in the renderer and focus more on creating better textures.
In the future, having a proper UV layout with the correct and precise textures will become essential. Tendencies in the industry are moving towards VR and real-time renderers. Having good practices with UV layouts and the textures, just like game artists do, will be the key to success.
Find all of David Sandrik's work on his website.