Turning Architectural Concepts into Photoreal Visualizations
May 26, 2021

Turning Architectural Concepts into Photoreal Visualizations

Whether it’s a new luxury tower in New York, a resort in Dubai, or a shopping center in London, architects win over clients with stunning photoreal visualizations that bring blueprints, sketches, and concepts to life. Global creative content production company Binyan Studios specializes in creating lifelike visualizations that depict how unconstructed concepts and designs will look once built, using a variety of techniques including 3D renderings, film and animation, broadcast-quality commercials, and immersive VR tours. 
Under the direction of CEO and Founder Andrei Dolnikov, Binyan’s international facilities are located across Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, London, New York, and Los Angeles, and service a wide range of clients including property developers and architects who need to sell, lease, or promote new developments. The studio relies on a 3ds Max pipeline to transform concepts by architects, including Sir David Adjaye, Frank Gehry, B.I.G., and Zaha Hadid, into narrative visualizations. These visualizations are then used as full-fledged marketing tools to tell stories and create experiences that take clients on a journey of their architectural designs, ultimately selling them on the concept.

“We’ve recently completed renderings that transform the iconic Brutalist-style Sirius Building in Sydney into a new development that offers breathtaking views of the Sydney Opera House and Harbor Bridge,” said Dolnikov. “In Brisbane, we worked on a vertical garden that was designed for Aria Property by architect Koichi Takada, and the visualization was even re-shared on Instagram by Sir David Attenborough. We’ve also recently worked on a photoreal animated film for the Rivière by Aria in Brisbane, as well as renderings for a resort-style development for the Howard Hughes Company in Honolulu.”

As one of the leading companies in the design visualization industry, Binyan has pioneered many of the trends prevalent today. Dolnikov and his team focus on a more artistic approach when developing visualizations, using photography as inspiration to transform architectural sketches into full 3D renderings that are iconic, emotive, and convey a narrative story behind the work.

“The images we create may be commercial art, but nevertheless, they’re still masterpieces that need to follow the principles of composition, lighting hierarchy, and narrative,” added Dolnikov. “I’m always looking outside the industry for inspiration, viewing things like new product launches, art installations, and the entertainment industry to bring new depth into our work to really create that ‘wow’ moment for clients.”

The typical design workflow begins when Binyan receives a client brief, detailing the project, brand guidelines, overall look, and target demographics. Once the tone, artistic direction, and project style are approved, Binyan begins the 3D modeling phase in 3ds Max – the studio’s main content creation tool – to model each of the different areas that will be depicted in the final visualization.

“We rely on 3ds Max because it’s a complex tool that enables us to be granular with every minor detail. Everything is controllable; everything is possible. Whatever a client asks for, we are able to deliver,” shared Dolnikov. “Among its many features that we benefit from are the ability to view iterations in real-time and the robust retopology tools.”

During composition, the team explores the best time of day, lighting, and angle to portray the architectural model, later managing color production, texturing, lighting, and landscaping. Once the client has signed off on a near-final draft, the studio renders all files and completes post-production, using tools like Adobe Photoshop for stills, Houdini and Phoenix for animation, and Fusion for compositing, among others. For digital experiences or VR projects, the team is further involved in the physical installation of hardware and developing custom software to help the project come to life.

Throughout production, one of the biggest challenges Binyan faces is collaborating with multiple stakeholders during complex projects that can often take years to develop. “It takes a lot of effort to manage partners who are often located in different time zones around the world. This includes everyone from interior designers and landscape artists, to sales and leasing agents,” said Dolnikov.

“We are currently working on a large and complex project in California that is going to completely transform its precinct. The project is in a relatively early design phase and will be developed over a number of years; however, we’re tasked with developing accurate visualizations of how the final product will look, even though many of the elements are in different phases of development and design. This is both an exciting and challenging process that takes all of our experience to bring to life – but in the end, it’s very gratifying.”

In the midst of a global pandemic, Dolnikov has witnessed increasing demand for visualizations as they can be easily accessed by remote clients and shared online. “It’s a very demanding and high-performance work environment, and 3ds Max enables us to handle a diverse body of work – everything from a small bathroom to a massive masterplan on top of a mountain in Saudi Arabia. The range of control, from intimate, hand-crafted models to complex visualizations, is why we continue to rely on 3ds Max to handle our daily challenges and project workload,” he concluded.