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The 4 stages of building CGI

by | Apr 7, 2017 | Definitions | 0 comments

Building a real space vs a virtual space.

It’s like building the real thing, a virtual construction.

You’ll be surprised to find out that it’s easy to understand the stages, because there are direct and relatable parallels between building a real space and a virtual space.

We don’t need specialised technical knowledge in order to understand this valuable knowledge.

Why do you need to know the stages? If you know the process, you’ll be at peace as you wait for the work to be completed. You’ll also know what to expect. It also means we can communicate with a mutual understanding and that can ease any concerns you have during development.

This is a non-technical guide for the person who wants to invest in a CG virtual tour for their building project to sell or raise cash or win a pitch and just wants a basic understanding of what will happen during the process.

What are the Stages of building CGI?

  1. The Construction
  2. The Materials
  3. The Lighting
  4. The Rendering
  • It’s a timeline, like a river that flows from top to bottom.
  • Each stage adds to the last in a cascade.
  • It’s a once through process.
  • The transition from one stage to the next overlaps by upto 50%.
  • The final stage is considered a milestone delivery.

What are the Phases of building CGI?

There are also, four PHASES, each of which goes through the four stages.

  1. Exterior
  2. Interior
  3. Fixtures
  4. Fittings

Whether a stage or a phase, each can be created in parallel time with more people working, which is why you can have it delivered quicker for an extra fee.

I’ll discuss more about delivery times and cost in a later post, subscribe to this blog to be notified.

Breaking the stages down into detail. 

1: The Construction.

Like potter clay, this is digital clay or digital modelling.

This is completely artistic, not a programming duty.

The building has already been designed by the architect so no design is involved at all.

It begins by building up the walls where the lines placed by the architect are, just like a brick layer does in real life.

Then put in the floor and ceiling, and the roof if it will be seen from the outside.

All the while, the surfaces are grey – the same material as potters clay.

2: The Materials

The colouring in stage.

This is when the materials are assigned to each surface, whether it is a generic polished wooden floor, glass, metal, plastic, ceramic. Or something specific like artwork or leaves or a herringbone pattern.

A materials appearance is a combination of it’s base colour and roughness and the way it naturally interacts with light.

It’s true appearance is not fully apparent until the last stage, the rendering. Although there are material previews which are a shortcut or a snippet while in this stage to aid the artistic and realistic goal.

3: The Lighting

There are only two types of lighting: natural and artificial.

This is the stage at which the light-emitting elements’ locations are placed. This is not about lights in the sense of a spotlight bulb or lamp shade, items like that are constructed of material so belong to stage 1 and 2.

It’s important to get the natural light right from the sun and sky which both emit light, and are set to a time of year and time of day that is complimentary for the image. There might be other natural light sources like the glow from an open fire.

The artificial lighting items are placed according to the provided lighting schedule or locations defined on the drawings.

4: The Rendering

Like the physical act of rendering or finishing off a building, so it is with a virtual building.

This stage brings out the true appearance of materials and lighting.

This is the final step and has some very fine-tuned parameters set by an artistic hand, and changes depending on the scene.

Once all is set, the button is pressed and the computer works out what you’ve told it too.

The computer accuracy can be of preview quality or production quality. Each taking longer to “bake”.

It’s trial and error which is why it can take a while to get the best settings for an accurate and realistic result.

That can take a long time depending on the size of the scene and because it is an iterative task.