3-D Rendering Advice

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    Hello all. I am currently a student at CSU and will be doing an independent study next semester to learn a 3-D modeling program. I don’t know which one to do, but am leaning towards Rhino or 3-D Max. I am just wondering if anyone could give me some advice as to which would be most beneficial as well as user friendly since I will be teaching myself, even if it doesn’t include these two! Any info would be great!! Thanks!

    Kelli Schwab

    Michael Roy

    I like 3-D Max, I found it easy to use. I couldn’t really workout much with Rhino (though I didn’t give it much of a go). I find the terrain capabilities of 3-D max to be really good and it is easy to start off with an autocad model and import.

    Eric Gilbey

    Kelli, As a student you would qualify for a free license of Vectorworks Designer, which is a standalone 2D/3D CAD program, which would allow you to work in both the 2D and 3D space interactively. The package includes all of the modules which Vectorworks offers and the landscape specific module, Landmark provides the opportunity to model and modify your site model and use of other intelligent hybrid and parametric objects. I think for the ability to import and export various file formats, including images, PDFs, DWGs and Shapefiles, you can really make 3D use of many things provided in 2D format.

    Wes Arola, RLA

    If you dont know Sketchup, it is a very easy program to learn and use, and will give you a base to work from. You can take sketchup models into Rhino and 3ds to detail them even more and produce high quality renders and animations. I think it is best to learn sketchup first. It is a great design tool and you can use it for presentation graphics by using programs that work with it to render your models such as artlantis or indigo. I used sketchup and photoshop to render all of my presentation graphics for my senior project at cal poly last year. I have it posted on my website at http://www.wesarola.com
    another thing is… most offices use sketchup or will look for sketchup knowledge before other more advanced programs.

    Frank Varro

    Yeah I generally use Sketchup for my modeling, and then pull it into 3DS Max for lighting and material work. Realistically, you could probably spend a full semester working on lighting and texture/material work alone in that program too. I don’t have any experience working with Rhino, but was planning on starting to mess around with it, as I have seen it lately in a few ads for jobs.


    On the flip side, some firms wont consider you if you dont know rhino or max.

    Ultimately, it’s all about what you want to do and be involved with. You can get better graphics sometimes without getting bogged down in max or other complicated software. Can you render a good perspective by hand/ in 2D?

    If you dont understand and practice the fundamentals, good software will never make any difference.


    Thanks for the info!


    Eric, thanks for the information. I think I will look into that.


    Wes, thanks for the reply. I do have some experience with Sketchup, however, I could definitely get more comfortable with it. I will keep this in mind. Thanks, and I enjoyed looking at your portfolio!


    Nick, thanks for the response. I feel pretty comfortable with hand rendering, although I am always trying to improve. I just feel that an independent study is a good chance to learn some things not taught in school. I’m pretty excited about it. Since I will be teaching myself, I am leaning towards Rhino due to the low learning curve…but thanks for the info!


    They all have their positive aspects. SU is simple but has clear limits with regard to graphics. Rhino is relatively easy to learn and is great for creating crazy funky shapes, which is why its popular with arch students. 3ds I believe will ultimately benefit you more in the long run because of its graphic superiority. You will likely end up bringing in Rhino or SU models into it anyway for that reason. Larger learning curve but also bigger upside. The land form tool is also better here than SU.


    good luck..

    Ryland Fox

    Are you talking about modeling or are you talking about rendering? These are two different issues. If you are talking about rendering the answer is Vray because it is a plugin for SU/Max/Maya/Rhino. It is also the most common architectural render engine.

    If you are talking about modeling then you might as well start with SU because it will only take you a short amount of time to figure out most of what people do on a regular basis and will teach you how to deal and interact with virtual 3D space. Then you can move onto more advanced modeling software – Max, Maya etc.


    Kelli here are a few things you need to decide first before making your decision…

    What kind of design do you primarily do?
    Where do you eventually want to go in your personal design?
    What kind of firm do you want to work for?
    How much time do you want to put in to this and money?

    I have used and am some what proficient in SketchUp, Rhino, Form Z, and 3d Studio Max. After using all of them at one point or another have gone over to completely using 3d Studio Max. I chose this because of my own personal goals as a designer, what style of design I have, and were I want to be.

    1. If your designs do not involve to much complex geometry, revolve around more planning and circulation, and overall design versus specific then SketchUP is definitely the way to go. I have a friend who focuses mainly on this type of design and combined with PhotoShop puts out incredible work in short periods of time that look very professional.

    2. If your designs are some what complex and focus more on individual parts and on planning then Using SketchUp with some ruby script plugins (tons of useful ones out there) and a rendering plugin. This will take you a long way in your design and with some Photoshop create very compelling stuff.
    Your second option at this point as well could be Rhino. Rhino is very easy to use and functions a lot like a CAD program with 3d added in. (never used REVIT or modeled in 3d in Autocad). You can do some very complex things with the program and also output very nice conceptual imagery. The learning curve is not to steep and rendering in it is not to difficult.

    3. If you are after pure design.. design of every object in you site, animations, versatility, looking to push your “designs” to the next level by being able to create objects that you could never be able to draw correctly because of the complexity then 3d Studio Max is the way to go.

    So here is the breakdown…

    PROS: Easy to learn at a moderate level. TONS of resources out there for tutorials. Google WareHouseFor basic design, planning, circulation, spatial arrangement.
    CONS: Very limited if you want to create complex geometry and designs. CHeap. Takes much more work to take it to Advanced Level and not worth it for advanced level modeling.
    Learning SketchUp difficulty on a scale of 1- 10

    PROS: Not to difficult to learn. Great ability to create complex geometry. Great overall program. Lots of adaptability. Great for Landscape Architects who want to go to the next level.

    CONS: Not nearly as many resources. Is not used by a mainstream market. Mid level modeling program.
    Learning Rhino difficulty on a scale of 1-10

    3d Studo Max:
    PROS: Able to create dam near anything you can dream of. Works with tons of other program ad ons and plugins. Create life like Renders. USed by a majority of ARchitecture firms and Rendering Firms. Can create incredible animations.
    CONS: Learning curve. Cost.
    Difficulty learning 3d Studio Max on a level of 1-10

    Some other notes to think about.
    Most big firms have a department completely dedicated to doing post production and conceptual modeling. BIg firms and such send all their info to places like China were they do the modeling and rendering for them. Choosing the right modeling program for you should be to increase your design ability to the next level and prepare your portfolio to showcase your design ability and to possibly fill a hole in firms who are missing that person to do these types of modeling.

    Final thought.
    Figure out exactly what you want to accomplish in the time you have and make your decision based solely upon that. Hope that helps and feel free to contact me if you want to see examples of the work I have done using the various programs.

    Ryland Fox

    Calling Rhino a mid level modeling program is crazy. It is a much more accurate/powerful tool than Max. It has t-splines…….

    And while Max has the majority of users in the past progressive firms are moving to Maya because of the scripting and dynamics.

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