Software Used to Create 3D Imagery

This appendix contains a list of software programs that are used in the production of 3D architectural imagery.

3D Studio Max – Published by Autodesk, 3DS Max is the most widely used 3D software platform in the world, with a huge user base and a wide array of plugins available to extend its functionality. It is used primarily in the production of gaming and architectural imagery, and secondarily in the film and TV industry. Autodesk went on a buying spree several years ago and bought Maya and Softimage, which are the 3D software of choice for the film industry. Autodesk also purchased Alias, a very robust 3D package aimed at the industrial design market.

Adobe After Effects – This is software used in the manipulation of motion imagery, for example animations and video footage. It is analogous in its capabilities to Photoshop, but where Photoshop is used for the editing of still imagery, After Effects is used for motion imagery. Animations and video footage are fine tuned with a deep array of tools, and titles and special effects can be added to create highly polished, professional productions.

Adobe Photoshop – This is software used for image editing. Published since 1990, Photoshop is the market leader, boasting an extensive set of tools and plugins for manipulating, compositing and fine-tuning images. It is an indispensable tool in the post production phase of creating 3D architectural still imagery.

Alias – Owned by Autodesk, Alias is a 3D modeling and rendering software package that is used primarily in industrial design. It was initially developed to model and render automobiles, and so it is adept at creating highly complex, non-rectilinear objects.

Maxwell Render – This is 3D rendering software capable of creating highly photo-realistic images. Like VRay, and, it uses sophisticated global illumination techniques. Maxwell’s user base is primarily in Europe and does not have a strong market presence in the United States.

Maya – Along with SoftImage, Maya is a 3D modeling and rendering software package that is used heavily in the film industry. Maya is also used in architectural imaging, but less frequently than 3DS Max. Autodeskpurchased Maya in 2006.

PolyTrans – This is software used to translate files between 3D software packages. While all major 3D software programs have import and export capabilities, there are always technical issues and errors when translating from one package to the next. PolyTrans addresses a large number of these issues and so allows 3D imaging professionals to use models already created in one 3D program without having to start a project over from scratch.

Rhino – This 3D software package got its start by specializing in the creation of complex organic objects (for example, the head and body of a rhinoceros). It is used primarily as a modeling package; while it is capable of producing renderings, they are inferior in quality compared to other 3D software. Rhino is used to produce architectural imagery, but infrequently.

SketchUp – Published by Google, this is a 3D software package that is very popular in the architectural design profession. It is prized for its intuitive user interface and low price point, as well as a very large online library of free models. ¬†SketchUp is a great tool to study and render early design-phase work. It is less capable of creating high-end imagery when compared to more robust 3D software like 3DS Max. However, SketchUp’s market prominence among designers has made it a critical part of the 3D imaging production process, and so a complete set of import and export tools are available to translate models between all major 3D software packages. This means it is easy to take designer’s model created in SketchUp and use it to create highly photo-realistic imagery.

Softimage – This 3D software package is used primarily for TV and film productions, and only occasionally in 3D architectural imagery. Softimage was purchased by Autodesk in 2008.

VRay – VRay is 3D rendering software published by Chaos Group and is notable for creating highly photorealistic renderings through sophisticated global illumination and ray tracing technology. VRay has become the renderer of choice for creating 3D architectural imagery.

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