CG artist talks about realistic architectural visualization post-production

As soon as the markups are in, no second is lost on the route to the upcoming deadline. Especially when it concerns final 3D render fixes. But no worries – CG artist is a bit of a magician: a couple of Photoshop magic wand waves and a photorealistic visualization with full brushing up is all set.

photo of 3D artist Dmitry Shuganov

CG artists of Lunas studio Dmitry Shuganov

Our 3ds Max and Photoshop guru Dmitry Shuganov shares with you ins and outs of post-production of 3D architectural renderings.

Personal profile of Dmitry Shuganov

  • Age: 28 years old
  • Education: Belarusian National Technical University, architect
  • Life motto: Be Unique
  • Zodiac sign: either Taurus or Gemini (born May, 21)
  • My dream: A dream is therefore a dream to remain unshared
  • Favorite music: Hip-Hop, Rap. Notorious B.I.G., Big Sean, XXXtentacion
  • Favorite book: «Shawshank Redemption» by Stephen King
  • Favorite movie: «Seven Pounds», «I Am Legend»
  • What about your hobby?
  • – My hobby is 3D visualization, the very thing I’m constantly thinking about, even while resting. Then, rollerblading (aggressive inline skating), which I have been passionate about for more than half of my life (a case of using architectural environment as a skating rink). Last but not least, sneaker collecting. For now, I have more than 20 pairs of Jordan.

    Apartment building architectural rendering with high quality Photoshop post-production

    Architectural rendering and post-production by Dmitry Shuganov

  • What is your favorite software for retouching still images?
  • – At Lunas most CG-artists use good old Adobe Photoshop, some of them – Adobe After Effects, Affinity Photo, Nuke, Fusion, etc. Still, we strive to minimize this stage by focusing on the high quality of raw renders. By retouching we mean color correction, light and shade adjustments, minor flaws corrections, highlighting the most significant objects, and adding some other effects for a specific mood or atmosphere. As a reference here we use photographs, which allow to achieve greater photorealism and perfect some details that were not realistic enough in 3ds Max and render engine.

  • Why are some clients still being skeptical about image editing programs?
  • – I think the stereotype was formed due to the multiple examples of Photoshop ineffective use (e.g. definitely out-of-place objects added in image editor). In fact, no matter what the tools are, when you have a highly realistic and atmospheric picture in the end.
    When it comes to exterior renderings, a number of studios resort to matte painting, for example. Briefly, it is a creation of photorealistic images (or another editor) using photographs, textures and raw renders. As CG artists we mainly operate in 3ds Max and Corona engine, but the software choice is limitless. I’d say it’s not a big difference what to work with, if eventually the viewer mistakes a high-quality computer generated image for a real photo.

    Post-editing of architectural visualization of private house in Palo Alto, California, USA

    Exterior rendering and retouching from Dmitry’s portfolio

  • What elements are refined at the final phase of 3D render post-production?
  • – Most often at this stage a visualizer adjusts the overall tones, emphasizes important spaces and eliminates minor flaws. Actually, people rendering is an exciting topic. You can insert them either in Photoshop or 3ds Max. However, both options have, let’s say, peculiarities. While working in the latter, one must find an extremely high-quality 3D model, otherwise, it will negatively affect image realism and noticeably prolong render post-production.
    The benefit of using PS here is the possibility for a designer to find a character in any needed posture or clothes according to client’s demand. However, it is crucial to be cautious with lighting – if the light angle on people is different from that on the original rendering, the realism suffers.

  • What tools of the editing software do you use most often?
  • – Mainly masks in combination with adjustment layers. i.e. curves, levels, hue/saturation, selective color, etc. Additionally, I use Camera Raw Filter for enhancement, which is, roughly speaking, an extended version of correction layers. ArionFX plugin is the one to turn to when working with photorealism of the 3D visualization – it adds vignette, bloom glare, aberrations (kind of deviations in the optical system), etc.
    Of course, CG artist turns to image editing not only for post-processing – quite often, a customer asks for a specific tree or building to be displayed in the rendering. Or when a newly modeled structure is to be integrated into the photograph – it is vital to get the right perspective and light settings as even the slightest misalignment hugely messes with the overall picture. Certainly, we use Photoshop in such cases.

  • What do you like more: 3D modeling or post-editing?
  • – At this particular moment, I’d say 3D modeling. Here you can thoughtfully twist the camera, consider various viewpoints and find the most appealing. Nevertheless, I would like to master matte painting and operate in Photoshop more. I think that these two techniques combined allow time-saving and delivering top-notch renderings.

  • Is it possible to create a photorealistic architectural rendering in graphics editors only?
  • It definitely is, since it’s a multi-purpose application. For instance, when some 3D visualizers build a 3D blank of a model with basic lighting presets and materials (or even without them) and the rest is photoshoped. That is not sloppiness, rather a different approach, which, indeed saves time. Thus, sometimes it’s easier and faster to create a single close-up in PS rather than prepare this scene in 3ds Max. Nevertheless, if it’s a situation with several pictures or animation, we would prefer 3D program for identical background recreation.
    Vaudoise Assurances office building 3D render, Lausanne, Switzerland

  • How much time does the render post-production stage take?
  • – Some minor manipulations always follow. It depends on the 3D project scope and allocated task. If the rendering is already upscale, this phase takes up a few hours. The hardest part is knowing when to stop – the sky is the limit and one shouldn’t get carried away.

  • What is your favorite project?
  • – Among the latest, I really enjoyed working on Eglinton Avenue by our frequent customer Quadrangle Architects. The task was to insert 2 new skyscraper hotels into the existing architectural ensemble which should have been recreated in 3D as well. Massive scope and short deadline – the project turned out to be a challenge. Overall, grand city projects with unusual exterior surroundings are the ones that appeal to me most.

    Architectural visualization of two skyscrapers at Eglinton Avenue, Toronto, Canada

    Eglinton Avenue architectural visualization project by Dmitry Shuganov © Quadrangle Architects

  • Favorite architect or 3D artist?
  • Norman Foster, impressing with his projects’ scale and meticulousness. He is an outstanding architect; a hi-tech pioneer.
    Mir is among my favorite rendering studios, that does incredible high-end retouching of architectural renderings. Almost every single image of theirs is a master sample for me.
    It’s also worth mentioning gaming studio Naughty Dog. Their game «The Last Of Us» influenced my decision to take up 3D visualization. I was captivated not only by the plot but rather its overall concept and 3D world built from scratch. The game artbook is my handbook in times of need for inspiration.

  • Share a funny story happened to you at work
  • – It was at the beginning of my career at Lunas. Back then I used to come to the office earlier in the morning before everyone else did. Once on Monday, knowing the guys had worked at the weekend, I opened the door and …There was no PC on my workstation. Only a somewhat antique version of it. Mine was peacefully resting on another table, completely crashed with a footprint on it!… Has anybody lost their temper ?! As it turned out, one of our managing partners just leaned on the table, which couldn’t bear any pressure, that’s why it completely collapsed resulting in monitor crash. The other co-founder decided to take an advantage of the opportunity and make a mark on history.