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Digital Design & Production | IoA Institute of Architecture | University of Applied Arts Vienna


The course will address various topics within the field digital imagery and CG production. By introducing advanced tools and techniques and through productive experimentation we will also address the ongoing discussion around the digital realm, image sciences and the iconic turn. Students are invoked to further develop their technical abilities as well as define/refine an attitude towards their style of visual communication.

CGI production overlaps the domain of architectural production although approaches and methods are slightly different. Where architects need to measure and keep a consistency between the existing physical space and the artifact, CGI production just operates in the realm of visual content.  CGI tools are more derived from sculptors painters photographers animators than from constructors or engineers.  CGI production needs to be fast, imaginative, consistency is needed just when you can see it. Think of a set design from the movies.

Brief, requirements and schedule:

Meting Dates:

First meeting for summer term: Monday March/08/2021 (invitation sent by mail via BASE)

Due to Covid restrictions we will hold our meeting via ZOOM.
Each slot is limited to 4 participants.

Comments adding to the brief:

When we do this endeavor to dive into the world of digital imagery we are confronted with a huge set of instruments, most of them easily accessible but not easily implemented for our needs. We find all sorts of outcome in the web and we find a school with an endless number of classrooms we could join in. So we can refer to these resources easily, evaluate them for our needs, and use them as a basis for our work. I selected two of these resources. Both tutorials together mediate key techniques for digital content creation. They are chosen by intention. So please stick to these tutorials and not try to do it differently. Also see how the outcome is presented: Composition, light, background colors etc. Compare it with your presentation!

Even though we are intrigued by all the fancy tools and methods, by all the techniques derived from other sciences, the attractiveness of the latest effects have a rather short halve-live and are drawn into the endless archives of tech-history quite soon.

Not to be misunderstood, all these opportunities are fascinating. It is great to see a flocking swarm of particles organizing within imaginary landscape, researching ephemera behavior of fog for architecture, simulating a building disintegrating by physical forces etc., but all these activities need to be wrapped into a basic framework of visual communication. Communicating visually needs a understanding of a rather old culture of what an image is on its own and how we can construe it. This is of course a endless story going back almost to the beginning of mankind. Nonetheless i want come back to some issues coming up repeatedly:

First: What is the story behind your image what do you want to communicate? What is the main image statement? How does it relate to your intention. Is all the staffage needed? Reduce it to your core statement.

Check the composition:
How does the camera relate to your space. How is the space constituted. How are the constituting elements organized in space. Revisit lessons for composition (e.g.: from Neil Blevins) . Try to see your work through the eye of your audience, what would they see?

Avoid distracting materials dull lighting situations and sloppy modelling:
Easily said, but most issues come around when the basic lighting is not ok. You have your light rigs not under control? Maybe too many lights: reduce them, or better check each light’s contribution to the scene. Try to render just with one material (material override), for exteriors maybe just one Hdri is enough.
Not all modelling is perfect. But at least those elements mainly looked at should be fine. You can hide issues by moving in back turning them etc. Objects are also read by their shadows. Are they properly grounded?

Bad texturing is a bad culture. Enlarging UV’s because the map is too small is not an excuse. You should never get the feeling that something was mapped. Improve your textures in Photoshop, find a better texture, reduce the strength or turn it off.

No effects for their own sake:
Don’t ruin your work with effects. Good effects need to be applied with care. If they don’t work out let them be.

Regarding Tasks 1&2:

Please go through the tutorials thoroughly first!
For Task 1 we need a object constructed of special polygons also called “quads”. Each quad is defined of 4 vertices exactly! no more no less.
The object should have a “faceted” look, no subdivs, smoothing whatsoever! The object should be symmetrical along one axis so we work with a mirror modifier. The animal needs to be different from the one shown in the tutorial!

The second tutorial is about proportion precision of detail and a proper visual representation. Good texturing is key for this exercise. Working with wood textures also needs a proper UV-mapping, and a understanding how wood is used in real. Please care about scale and orientation. I see a lot of bad texturing. For presentation please go for a neutral light setup. I just want to see the chair in total and maybe some closeups, no extras any more. And of course i don’t want you to hand in Andrews chair from the tutorial!

Recommendations for your project (Task 2):

  • Define your project:
    You have an idea? fine. try to describe it with one sentence (The door opens and:……). The door is just meant as a placeholder for a sudden change, when a spectator is exposed to something completely different, a surprise, whatsoever. So the door itself does not need to show up in your project. Stick to your idea! Maybe the first one is already the best. Try not to get lost in the endless possibilities of 3D. Find good references. Maybe a paining a photograph, a short sequence of a movie to sick to is helpful. You can even “copy” elements of your references (mood, style, composition …). Doing tests is fine to learn some new techniques, and for defining you own style (NPR vs. photorealism?). But also try to conclude your tests with a summarize where you set some of the techniques you want to apply. Less is more! Too many different techniques and styles maybe hard to realize and also can weaken your project.

    And last but not least keep thinking and designing as an architect! We are looking for a spatial experience not for a game play, effects collection, strange behavior whatsoever. Form matters! and also a basic good understanding of typology, tectonics, proportions, composition is expected. So if your scene is organized along a symmetry axis I want to know why, and you will need a strong argument!
  • Outline your project.
    Start with a rough layout, if you want to do an animation make a so called “previz” – means you do the animation before detailing your scene.

    How long will the animation be? Too long is not good, also too short is not nice. So feasible length can be between 20 sec. and one minute max.!
    Setup your animation from start to end. Animate whatever constitutes your project. Again less is more, maybe a slight movement of your camera is enough, a full walk-through is a different kind of project. Or maybe you only animate some objects to give an impression of a living scene? Do it all with dummies (boxes, spheres, simple objects, no subdivs etc.) first. So no color no lighting etc. and later refine it as you are confident with the outcome. If you also use sound you should also use it in your previz.
  • Produce!
    Your project is outlined? Fine! Now we can add detail, populate the scene, do the lighting, materials, details, render setup…

    Did I say: “Think as an architect”? Sure, but this does not mean work like an architect. Doing imagery means we just work on what we see! We just need to setup a stage for our camera, nothing more! No backsides, less detail in the background, clipped objects, etc. everything is allowed to minimize the effort to achieve the intended result. Even image planes are allowed to fill up our stage. If you work with assets (people trees cars etc.) you can take them from libraries (this is allowed of course !). But I would try them first in a separate file an check if the geometry is OK (not too big, textures are loading fine etc.). And last but not least: use instances! Instances are objects referring to the same data in the scene so you can save lots of memory.

    Testing still renders once a while or a small sequence is helpful to find glitches and see how long the final render will take. Maybe doing the final rendering is much faster on a proper workstation. If things go too slow don’t waste time waiting for rendering to complete! Reduce quality, render only regions to test, work with Evee, or even reconsider your project plan.
    Do you intent to work with channels/render layers? Plan ahead, this is a nice method to process your outcome in a “Composition Software” like: After effects, Natron, Nuke, Davinci Resolve or within Blender Compositor. Even if you do not intend to “post” your animation you should always render so called still-sequences (a series of images stored as exr, png or tif) and later convert it to a playable movie (mov, avi, compressed with h.264 e.g.).

  • Ian Hubert: Shows some concepts about “world building” and staging. I guess Ian is one of the most inspiring artists in the Blender world:
  • Neil Blevins: I always have to refer to this guy just because he is my favorite artist for a long time, also because he cares a lot about teaching and providing tools for the community. See his tutorials about composition (Chapter 3):

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