Like extras surrounding a star in a movie, entourage fleshes out the 3D scene and frames the main focus of the imagery.

Entourage is a word handed down from the days of hand rendering, and comes to English from French for “surroundings or environment”. Entourage is everything added around the proposed project to create a naturalistic sense of place and setting. Our studio defines entourage as everything that is left up to us to add. Figure 9.1 shows a rendering in which everything that the project’s designers specified is present. The rest of the rendering – the sky, tress, bushes, flowers and people was designed by us – and the result is shown in Figure 9.2.

The exact scope of entourage can be variable. For exterior renderings it generally means the sky, and all the other secondary objects, like people, cars, bikes and landscaping. For interior renderings entourage mostly means furniture, and depending on the type of rendering, people.

Even though entourage must be secondary to the featured design, its importance cannot be overemphasized. Adding entourage is not merely indiscriminate dumping of secondary objects into a scene. When done skillfully, entourage accomplishes the following:

  • Creates Focus – Entourage should act as a silent guide, directing a viewer’s eyes to key points of a design to foster both a direct understanding of, and a more subtle, intuitive familiarity with the design. For example, framing a rendering with a tree can bring a viewer into the rendering’s space by implying an extension of that space beyond the picture’s edge. It’s like a gentle hand reaching out, welcoming a visitor. That same tree can act like an arrow, pointing toward an important feature like an entrance or central gathering place.
  • Creates a Narrative – Choosing which people are placed in a rendering is probably the most powerful narrative device available to a 3D renderer. For example, many of our recent projects emphasize accessibility, specifically to those with disabilities. To underscore that a client’s design addresses such issues, we will include people in wheelchairs, and thus communicating without words that the project is sensitive to such needs. Children playing near a fountain or similar amenity can call attention to such design features but also amplify the mood of the entire image.
  • Creates a Sense of Place – Choosing plants that are appropriate to the location of the project can significantly enhance a rendering’s authenticity. Likewise, other environmental phenomena must be chosen appropriately. For example, our studio is in San Francisco, and the ambient light color tends to be tinted blue because we’re surrounded on three sides by water. Desert locations like Palm Springs tend to have a more golden light quality, the result of sunlight bouncing off the sandy desert floor. Our studio has dozens of sky backgrounds and so we carefully choose one that is appropriate to the project’s location.
  • Emphasizes Demographic – The choice of entourage can communicate implicitly and explicitly a project’s socio-economic status. For example if an animation shows an upscale development, we will place Mercedes, BMWs and Cadillacs in key positions. Likewise, the choice of people, and whether they are in casual or formal dress helps a viewer start to decode what a design is about.

Once the placement of entourage has been finalized, it’s time to move onto the ultimate goal of this entire process – the rendering of the imagery.