Do you feel the Landscape Industry lacks interest in 3D Visualization?

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums GRAPHICS Do you feel the Landscape Industry lacks interest in 3D Visualization?

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    Luke Coughlan

    I love 3D visualization. It’s a passion of mine. Having the ability to completely bring your design to life, I feel, is something that is truly rewarding, be it with still images or video walk-throughs. This being said I have noticed, in my short time being exposed to the landscape field, that 3D visualization is not something that has really taken off as it has in fields such as architecture and design for example. Surely the ability to visualize designs before construction, in a way other than by hand, is an asset to a company? So I started thinking about possible reasons for this lack of interest and I came to a conclusion, and this is of course my personal opinion, that maybe the lack of interest is due to past programs being extremely ineffective and basically not really catering for the needs of landscape architects and designers. I’d really like to hear some other thoughts on this? I’d also like to know if this is only really an issue here in South Africa or if the problem is global.

    I’d now like to challenge this idea that 3D visualization programs don’t properly cater for landscape designers and architects, and what better way to do this than by showcasing a 3D Video Walk-Through that I feel properly backs my case.

    Video Link Below:

    NEW LINK BELOW: Video of above image.


    For those of you who are still interested, there is a new version of Lumion that has just being released, Lumion 5.0. They have done a complete overhaul of the program which of cause means better renders as well as improved render time, apparently it renders 50% faster! One of the more exciting parts of the update is the fact that they have added a further 190 high quality plants to the Lumion library. I must say I’m really excited to see what can be done with this new version.


    Leslie B Wagle

    You don’t say whether you worked on this, but as sparkling as it is, I’d be interested in how many hours it took to produce. My observation is that it is a TOTAL PACKAGE sales piece, with as much footage centered on the architecture and interiors as the exterior spaces. For selling a high end and large scale new development, the investors can justify the animation, editing, etc. But the typical client in most office project work can still be satisfied with plans and perspectives, so an average LA simply couldn’t justify diverting time and labor resources into a video of that length and complexity. I suspect if needed at all, it would be farmed out to a specialty firm. Emphasis here also seemed to be on sales to the public, not sales of the idea to the client beforehand….although maybe some was done for that purpose, and later incorporated into the promotional version.

    Technology and software keeps advancing, but that’s my best guess, as well as the training it would take away from the cramming already needed to acquire basic skills in LA schools.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    You are going on the assumption that the “lack of interest” is due to “past programs being extremely ineffective and basically not really catering for the needs of landscape architects”.

    I don’t think this is the reason that 3D visualization is not as widely used as you would expect. I know that it is not the reason that I seldom use it. I can only tell you why I don’t make it a bigger part of my practice. I’m a residential landscape architect for the most part.

    Three D visualization is not a finished product. I think most of us would agree that it is a marketing tool rather than a design tool. The designer has to design before the 3D visualization can be made, so it is much more an after product of the design so that others can more easily understand the design. Absolutely a great thing when designing to sell the build of a larger space to a community or a large group of people that have to approve of it to move forward with the project. It is far less important on smaller scale projects and clients that are individuals, couples, or small groups of people. Those smaller clients are also the same people that will be paying for the project to get built.

    The sales structure changes with that different kind of client. There are a lot more design jobs (in terms of numbers of projects, not necessarily dollars) that have  individuals, couples, or small groups of people as the client than there are those with big groups to sell to after the design.

    The sales strategy for a small client is to get them to hire you to do the design. This is not done by showing animations of previous designs and it certainly is not done after the fact by developing a 3D design and then trying to sell it. That really takes away the benefit of 3D as a marketing tool for selling design to smaller clients. There are a number of designers out there that make a living, usually on the internet, selling 3D landscapes as an end product to a certain limited demographic that does exist. That is not the majority of people who are actually looking to have a landscape designed. The majority of smaller clients want a built landscape and don’t really care about the intermediate products in between the designer and that built work. Any good designer working for a smaller client is going to be able to communicate their design effectively one way or another with or without 3D, CAD, perspective drawings, or what have you.

    They generally don’t hire designers based on the design products that they produce, but on how well they think the designer understands what their needs are, the site, any regulations involved, and somehow demonstrates competence to get it done.

    The 3D visualization has little added value for these clients. The other question is whether it has added value to the designer. I think I covered that already.

    Some of my projects do get converted to 3D visualization through an architect that I work with. She outsources our joint projects to a group that does this when we have to go to Zoning Board of Appeals in a particular community in order to “sell it” to that board. We don’t use it to sell it to the client. It is to sell it to the board and the community as they watch on local access television. The viewers don’t have direct input, but the board knows when there will be negative feedback or not based on the presentation.  

    Luke Coughlan

    Hi Leslie, thanks for the response.

    Unfortunately I didn’t have anything to do with this video, I just thought it was a brilliant example that really backed my point of view. However I have made 3D walk-throughts of my own using a program called Lumion as well as some shorter videos on 3DS Max. They’re on my profile if you are interested. Apparently this video was done on Cinema 4D, obviously by someone who really knows what they’re doing, I’ve been told it took upward of 60 days just to render this video, crazy!

    You bring up some really good points, I have lots to think about. I see what you are saying about videos being labor and time intensive, they certainly are when it comes to videos like the one above, but my argument is that there are other programs on the market that are far quicker and easier to use than say Cinema 4D, programs such as Lumion, and they seem to be very popular in professions such as Architecture and Design, so why not the Landscape industry?

    Once again thanks for you input, its’s much appreciated. 

    Luke Coughlan

    Hi Andrew, Thanks for the very thorough response.

    Your input has certainly given me a lot more to think about. I definitely agree with you when it comes to 3D visualization as a design tool, it most certainly is not a design tool, this wasn’t my argument at all. I just feel that it’s a very effective way of showcasing and communicating your final designs. I’m an Interior Designer and now a Landscape Architecture student, so most of my experience is obviously in the design and architecture field. It was in this industry that I really saw just how effective 3D visualization can be, its not the long and tedious process it used to be. Hence me being so curious as to why the Landscape Industry hasn’t really shown as much interest.

    Nevertheless thanks a lot for the response, very insightful, should be interesting to see if others feel the same way.


    With regards to billable hours, when is “good enough” for 3D and 4D visualization?  If an entry-level landscape designer is using his/her single workstation to PREVIEW a rendering, waiting 30-40 minutes, adjusting the setting one degree, previewing a rendering, waiting 30-40 minutes, only to decide that the first setting was maybe better, is that really a good use of the his/her time?  

    Landscape architecture firms, big and small, who have worker(s) doing post-production rendering at least more than 25% of a billable hours in a given week should sit down and produce tangible visual standard operating procedures to explain (either in a memo or presentation) about what is good enough for use by employees.  This SOP may take a few weeks and months to create.  It’s easy to communicate goals through written communication, but we don’t establish goals through graphics communication, unless it is through successive redlining which is cumbersome and stressful, especially to younger workers.  

    With regards to clients, establish different types of post rendering products (standard, deluxe, silver, gold, platinum, etc.).  Show the differences to the client before the work is put in.  Maybe the client is okay with a basic 3D rendering.  Hours are shaved off production time leading to fewer cost overruns.  Hope this helps!


    Buildings and most site features are very easy to model and dont require an obscene amount of computing power. Landscape, particularly plants and trees are extremely complexin geometry requiring enormous computing power to display well.

    Additionally, modeling tends to require more time in production that could be spent on design…with limited returns. Thats why programs like sketchup are so attractive. Its iterative, fast, and can look pretty good with some finesse.

    Ive tried lumion, and still continue to experiment, but for me Iits still more time than its worth. Id still rather capture a few stunning images than spend a week builing an animation.

    All this to say our office is 100% digital with two cintiqs and often doing most of our perspective work in sketchup with lots of post production.


    To offer a counterpoint, our office uses 3d on a daily basis both within the design process as well as final production. I might argue that anything can be a design tool. We are 100% digital. You can see some of our work at

    Richard Freeland

    Good question, Luke. I’ve just started playing around with a product called Pool Studio which generates some pretty impressive 3D graphics, lets you do walk thrus, shows moving water, as well as people swimming, etc. It’s not as impressive as your video, but it presents the basic design idea really well. And it’s quick. You can design in 2D right there with the client, and at the click of a mouse transform to 3D view. I’m still demoing the software and don’t know if I’ll buy yet, but it’s pretty snazy. You can buy a yearly license or pay by the month.

    Tosh K

    I think the main reason LAs use it less than building architects is that plant libraries in every software I’ve used is pretty pathetic.  We have a need, particularly for trees to set branching form, etc (I think some software is slowly getting there).  Often our office finds it easier to whip up a SketchUp or Rhino base model and photoshop in appropriate backgrounds/plants/etc -> can easily be done in a day if the creator is competent.  With newer work stations, a preview is 5~10 min at most for basic rendering engines.  We usually do them on larger projects to communicate with the rest of the design team.  

    I’ve been in offices where a basic model could be post produced at a pace of 30min/image for park renderings – not easy to find folks that are ‘good enough’ to do that effectively.

    Personally I have yet to find videos that was an effective communication tool; the aerial fly throughs for large projects work, but they never look all that great.

    Dave McCorquodale

    I’ve used Pool Studio for several years.  I’m a residential LA and I’m often amazed that my clients rave over seeing how the exterior of the house will look.  Most of my projects happen while the house is just beginning construction or close to starting construction.  I think lack of really high-end 3D is pretty common in the residential world.  Probably not a single reason to look to, but a combination of budget, client commitment (they can walk away whenever they like, design fees are rare), and shorter design time frames all work in concert.  And I’ll second Tosh’s comment below about poor plant selections…

    Luke Coughlan

    Thanks for your input. That’s really interesting, do you not feel that a computer limits your creativity? I often find that the limitations of programs (Revit & Sketch Up), in terms of design, often end up shaping the end product, and for that reason I tend to start with conceptual sketches first before moving to a computer. As I said though, that’s just me. 

    Luke Coughlan

    Thanks for your input, I’ve been hoping someone with experience on Lumion would share their thoughts. It’s interesting that you should say that Sketch Up modelling is a faster than setting up a Lumion scene. From my experience I found that Sketch Up, as fast as what it may be, is still much more time consuming than working on Lumion. My walk throughs usually render over night and possibly into the next morning, but the modelling side takes a couple days, size dependent of course. I do see what you are saying though, its time that unfortunately has limited returns. Hopefully that will change.

    Luke Coughlan

    Hi Dave, thanks for your input, I’m definitely starting to see a general pattern and I think you are right, its not one problem that’s holding 3D’s back, but a combination of factors,sad really. I’m interested to hear about your use of Pool Studio, I personally haven’t used it but I have seen examples of work, do you use it with every project you take on? How much time would you say you spend on it from start to finish? It’s obviously not a program for photo-realistic renders but I can see it being quite popular for residential projects now that you brought it up. 

    Luke Coughlan

    This is something that I have thought about, plant libraries are without a doubt hard to find, but I have managed to find quite a large amount of 3Ds Max models, which have really been very handy. However rendering on 3Ds max obviously takes much longer and that wasn’t really the point to my argument. You seem to be quite clued up in terms of 3Ds, have you experimented with programs like Lumion? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts, I find it to be an extremely efficient program. You won’t get photo-realism out of it but it still stands out as being pretty good when you look at the amount of time you actually put in. Its also got quite a nice ground cover, plant and tree library that is slowly but surely growing. Anyway thanks for your response.

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