First, let’s start by clearing up a BIG misconception. 3D Rendering is not Virtual Reality. 3D Rendering can range in quality and detail from line drawings, similar to what you’d find in Google’s SketchUp, AutoDesk’s Revit, or Graphisoft’s ARCHICAD, to photo-realistic imagery using advanced programs like Maya, 3DS Max, or Cinema 4D. Renderings are flat images and are not truly interactive.
Second, yes, there are too many terms used in relation to Virtual Reality. You’re welcome to get specific and use these acronyms:
Or, save yourself some trouble and use the catch-all: Extended Reality (XR) – at least you won’t be wrong.
We are seeing a good number of firms who provide all types of awesome services related to architectural visualization. Despite compelling marketing, it’s not always easy to know what is actually being delivered. The incorrect categorization of buzzwords, like “VR”, are common in marketing. For instance, a firm may label their 360º panorama as “virtual reality” because “photosphere” isn’t as common a term and “360º panorama” isn’t as catchy; sacrificing accuracy in order to gain interest.
In the expanding world of ArchViz there are several definitions that are confusing or unclear. For the most part, these offerings can be achieved using a variety of programs and processes. As we demonstrate here at SPACIALISTS, to an accomplished practitioner, anything realized through using traditional 3D Rendering programs can now also be achieved using Virtual Reality. However, the reverse is not always true.
Here’s a succinct definition list that will keep you on top of the lingo.
|Programs (partial list)||Definition|
|360º Panorama, Pano, or Photosphere||3DS Max, ArchiCAD, Blender, Cinema 4D, Fusion 360, Lightwave, Maya, Revit, Rhinoceros 3D (Rhino), SketchUp, Vectorworks, Unreal Engine, Unity||These images are the most inaccurately represented as VR by rendering firms. 360° panoramas or photospheres are actually flat images that allow you to rotate within them to see in multiple directions. Users can control their view, but cannot interact with objects in the space. The rendering process of photospheres in traditional programs can take days once the models are built and designed. Using VR software eliminates this hurdle and provides many more experience-based options.|
|3D Floor Plan||3DS Max, ArchiCAD, Blender, Cinema 4D, Fusion 360, Lightwave, Maya, Revit, Rhinoceros 3D (Rhino), SketchUp, Vectorworks, Unreal Engine, Unity||Top-down floor plans ranging in realism based on the program utilized. Once a model exists, adding on a floor plan can be beneficial, especially for space planning exercises or in selling homes/spaces online.|
|3D Illustration||3DS Max, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, ArchiCAD, Blender, Cinema 4D, Fusion 360, Lightwave, Maya, Microsoft Paint, Revit, Rhinoceros 3D (Rhino), SketchUp, Vectorworks, Unreal Engine, Unity||3D illustration a 2D version of a 3D model. Confused? So technically, 3D illustrations are flat drawings that are presented in a way that makes them look 3D. However, you cannot spin them around or look at them from multiple angles.|
|3D Model||3DS Max, ArchiCAD, Blender, Cinema 4D, Fusion 360, Lightwave, Maya, Revit, Rhinoceros 3D (Rhino), SketchUp, Vectorworks, Unreal Engine, Unity||A virtual 3D model of a space, similar to a physical mockup, but presented digitally. The model is the base object for future renderings or VR experiences.|
|3D Rendering||3D rendering is the process of taking a 3D model and creating a flat image. The difference with this process is that a multiple renderings can be achieved using the same 3D model, whereas an illustration must be redrawn each time to accommodate multiple angles.
Using traditional 3D rendering software, some renderings can take several days to compile properly. Using VR technology eliminates the need for render time.
|3D Visualization||3D visualization is a catch-all term that incorporates 2D, 3D, animations, or VR/AR experiences in order to produce powerful visual packages for architecture.|
|Augmented Reality||Unreal Engine, Unity||Augmented reality is similar to VR in that it utilized virtual elements. However, these elements are then incorporated into the user’s existing “real” environment.|
|Flythrough or Walkthrough||Video that automatically takes the user through a path within the space. Flythroughs or walkthroughs are typically not user-driven. If the video is interactive it is more likely using VR technology that has been recorded.|
|Realistic or Photo-Realistic Rendering||3DS Max, ArchiCAD, Blender, Cinema 4D, Fusion 360, Lightwave, Maya, Revit, Rhinoceros 3D (Rhino), Vectorworks, Unreal Engine, Unity||Still 3D images that achieve realistic quality. The goal is to look as near to a photograph as possible. Not all programs are capable of this level of realism.|
|Virtual Reality||Unreal Engine, Unity||Virtual reality simulates real-world visuals and interactivity through simulated 3D artificial environments. Users can control their interactions through headset hardware, mobile apps, or on a desktop and move freely as if in a video game. VR now looks as stunningly realistic as an 3D rendering and offers many benefits over simply producing still images or animations.|
|Virtual Tour||Users can view a space virtually. This is a broad term used to describe how users can view a space virtually and usually more user-driven. This term is also not exclusive to 3D rendering and can be used to describe actual video footage of built spaces.|
Keep in mind, this is not an exhaustive list of terms or programs. As artificial environments evolve I suspect so will the related terms.
Hopefully this list helps you to understand not just what you need, but also what you’re paying for. If you’re firm is interested in a single exterior shot of a single family home, 3D rendering processes are probably your best bet due to cost and multiple service providers. However, if you are looking for multiple shots or any kind of video animation, VR is a solid consideration. If you’re looking for interactivity there’s only one choice. The options these emerging XR technologies provide are paramount.