An Introduction to Architectural Animation

...it can often be difficult to effectively portray architecture with just still images and 2D plans.
Architectural animation

Buildings are made at massive scales, designed to surround the space that we inhabit. Because of this, it can often be difficult to effectively portray areas with still images and 2D plans.

Architects are always on the hunt for better ways to communicate their ideas, and architectural animation gives them the ability to showcase their designs in a whole new and alternative way. In this article, we discuss the purpose and advantages of architectural animation, as well as some of the common tools used within this field.

What is architectural animation?

Architectural animation is the process of creating video renderings for buildings or spaces. Unlike rendering for still images, animation involves rendering several frames of the scene, that are eventually combined to create the appearance of motion in the video.

These videos serve as useful tools to simulate walking through the space or flying through and around it.

How is it used?

With architectural animation, it’s as simple as showing the client or audience a video on your screen, or sending them a link to it online. Videos are typically much easier to understand compared to technical drawings or even a series of still images.

Audiences can view several different spaces at once without having to scroll through an album or sit through a slideshow presentation. It also allows for an experience more similar to actually seeing the space in person.

The process involves creating a detailed 3D model of the project, preparing the animation scene in a rendering program, and rendering the final video. These animations can include the exterior, interior, and landscape, as well as things like water, cars, and people.

They can also feature sound and effects, to maximize the audio visual presentation. Architectural animations can be shown in a meeting, or posted online for viewing on a website or social media platform.

Who uses it?

Architects

Architects use animation for analysis and presentation. This medium of rendering allows for a sneak peek into how a space might come to life.

Viewing their designs through the lens of a video paints a better picture of how it may turn out, and can lead to more informed design decisions regarding light, space, size and scale. It also makes for more immersive presentations to showcase the key features of a project.

Real Estate Agencies

Real estate agencies use architectural animation to advertise properties. They can do this by showcasing an empty space with rendered interiors, including furniture, finishes, and appliances, without having to physically decorate and stage the property.

Animations like this can show the full potential of a property while also saving the agency time and money.

Property Developers

Developers use architectural animation to sell units, lots, and houses, even before they are constructed. They’re able to showcase buildings, rooms, amenities, and entire communities early on in the development process to drum up interest and gain potential buyers.

Pre-selling is when people can purchase properties before or during construction to get in early and secure a good price, and developers use architectural animation in this phase to show customers what they’re buying into.

Home Owners

Home owners, when looking to sell or renovate their house, often turn to architectural animation for a clear visualization of the outcome. With animation they are able to see the house with different furniture, fixtures and additions.

Landscape Designers

Landscape designers often work with wide plots of land designing the pathways, vegetation, and public amenities to add life to open spaces.

Landscape designs are made with people in mind, making sure they have a pleasant time going from place to place, with ample rest space in between.

They regularly use architectural animation to show these features in action, with a video moving through the space illustrating how everything comes together.

Event Planners

Event planners also make use of architectural animation to present mock-ups of event designs, simulate decorations, and explore different venue set ups.

Much like the architectural design process, these simulations help event designers make detailed decisions about decor, color motifs, arrangements and more.

What are its benefits?

Additional coverage

With architectural animation, you can show significantly more angles than in still images. A complete video walkthrough can replace dozens of still photos with an all-in-one tour. This allows for a more convenient and thorough display of the designs.

Realistic experience

Animation allows people to experience the project in motion, as if moving through the space in real life.

With this kind of viewpoint, designers and clients alike can develop a better understanding of the flow of the building, the size and scale of rooms, hallways, and doors, and the general atmosphere of the project.

Immersive design process

When used as an internal review and brainstorming tool, designers can look at spaces and key features to see how they play out in certain scenarios.

Architects can view animations to pinpoint the highlights and deficiencies in their designs, in order to further refine the final product. This immersion during the design process helps to ensure all areas are considered.

Universal presentation

The final product of architectural animation comes in the form of videos. Videos can be shown to anyone, be it clients, private groups, or the public. Videos can be displayed offline on billboards, TVs or monitors.

They can also be embedded online on a website, or posted on a social media platform. Video as a medium comprises all other mediums, with the ability to include visual and auditory content for an enriched sensory experience.

Architectural animation produces universal content, easily transmitted and easy to understand.

Architectural animation software

For architectural animation, software programs are used to set up the scene, create the camera angles, map out the clips, and generate the animation.

The applications achieve this by rendering all of the frames in sequence, to result in a video as the final product. These program’s typically include tools for placing vegetation, a library of 3D objects, a camera toggle for capturing spaces, and various effects to adjust the look.

Here are some of the programs commonly used to create architectural animations:

Twinmotion

Twinmotion is an easy-to-learn rendering program developed by Epic Games and powered by Unreal Engine.

The program combines advanced rendering tools with a game-like interface to offer an intuitive rendering experience that is both simple and powerful to use. The entire interface is guided by icons, and it includes a sizable library of offline 3D assets.

Architects use Twinmotion for architectural animation all over the world, and it’s quickly becoming one of the most popular animation programs on the market. You can learn more about Twinmotion at www.unrealengine.com.

Lumion

Lumion is a fast and simple real-time rasterized rendering program with one of the largest built-in libraries available.

Its library boasts thousands of materials, trees, people, objects, lights, and effects, with many of the 3D assets pre-rigged for motion and animation.

It has widespread compatibility with 3D modeling programs, and some powerful tools for shaping land topography, bodies of water, 3D materials, and animated vegetation.

In Lumion, you can easily populate your scene with walking people, moving cars, and vegetation swaying in the wind. It’s well known for its animation capabilities and quick workflow times. Learn more about its features at www.lumion.com.

Enscape

Enscape is a rendering plug-in quickly gaining popularity for its seamless integration in 3D modeling workflows. It runs from within 3D modeling programs, and offers a real-time preview with tools to create quick, high quality animations.

It has a small library of 3D assets including surroundings, skies, and lighting effects, and the library can be expanded with additional downloads. Many favor Enscape for being lightweight on computer hardware, easy to use, and fast to render.

More information on this here www.enscape3d.com.

Where to find architectural animation music

Animation scenes are nothing without an ambient background track, the below summary provides several of the most popular free and paid for services available.

Premium Beat by Shutterstock

Premium Beat is a trusted resource for some of the best royalty-free music. It houses an industry-leading collection with thousands of curated tracks, trusted by iconic brands for use in commercials, advertisements, and social media.

Motion Array

Motion Array is a one stop shop for all kinds of video enhancement assets. The site features thousands of free and premium audio files, as well as over 500,000 assets for Premiere Pro, After Effects, Final Cut and Davinci Resolve.

They offer some of the best templates and presets in the world for all of your video editing needs.

Artlist.io

Artlist is re-imagining how music licensing is done. The site offers thousands of high-quality, royalty-free tracks and sound effects created by inspiring indie artists and composers exclusively for Artlist.

They are quickly becoming a go-to resource for filmmakers and editors to find fresh new music for cinema, TV, YouTube, and social media.

Free Stock Music

Free Stock Music is a great place to find royalty-free tracks for videos and multimedia projects. The music is free for everyone, including for commercial purposes, with the only caveat being that you must include attribution in the credits.

The site is ideal for students, young professionals, and any small businesses looking for free soundtracks for their content.

Bensound

Bensound is another website full of free-to-use music, as long as you include credits to them in your video description. For use without credits, or higher quality audio files, subscriptions are available for licensing and advertising.

Top 5 architectural visualization studios

Brick Visual

Brick Visual is an international visualization company with over 50 employees and a growing portfolio of stunning visuals.

Their clients include some of the most high profile architecture firms in the world, and they view architectural visualizations as a new medium for creating art. Their headquarters is located in Budapest, and they also have an office in Cluj-Napoca.

Luxigon

Luxigon is known as an expert in the field, with over 20 years of practice and office in Paris, Milan, and Los Angeles.

They specialize in creating iconic visuals for design competition entries, but they also have a massive portfolio of work in commercial renderings and animations.

They are one of the leading providers of visualizations for large scale architectural projects around the globe.

DBOX

DBOX is a creative communications agency with offices in the US, Europe, and Asia.

They are known for developing innovative and strategic marketing campaigns for architectural projects including luxury residential, commercial, and cultural properties.

They specialize in architectural visualization for international markets, particularly for showcasing real estate.

Hayes Davidson

London-based Hayes Davidson is one of the longest running visualization studios in the world. It was founded in 1989, and has since bagged numerous awards for its work.

The team consists of architects, artists, and photographers, collaborating with many well-known architecture offices to create realistic, engaging imagery.

Mir

Mir is a Norwegian studio focused on delivering unique visuals and quality artwork for architectural projects around the world.

The studio’s eight-member team of versatile visual artists has continually created striking imagery with captivating atmospheres for architectural concepts of all kinds.

They combine principles of photography with a sophisticated approach to ambiance, atmosphere, and natural settings to make well-rounded compositions with strong visual effects.

FAQs

Can an architect be an animator?

Architects are equipped with a broad range of skills and knowledge, and although the profession is focused on the built environment, there are many different opportunities available for those in the field.

Animation is a common path for architects who take a particular liking in visualization and 3D rendering. With strong technical skills, attention to detail, and visual design knowledge, architects-turned-animators are often capable of making high quality content for environments and characters.

Many films also require sets to be built, either physically, digitally, or a combination of both. These scenes often require the expertise of an actual architect to make sure things work in terms of structure, size, scale, and realism.

Even fully-animated CGI backgrounds in movies require some form of physical objects on set to represent the placement and proportion on the green screen.

How much does an architectural animation cost?

The price of architectural animation varies greatly, depending on the complexity of the project, length and detail of the video, and the level of rendering required.

This includes what effects will be needed, how much of the surrounding environment needs to be included, and what resolution the final output should be.

Generally, a high quality architectural animation can cost you $4,000 per minute, for a total between $5,000-10,000.

It may seem high, but visualization studios often have several artists working on each project, using powerful computers and expensive rendering softwares to get the job done.

Lower prices can be found for simple renderings and animations, but a corresponding drop in quality should also be expected.

Summary

Architectural animations are a useful way to showcase designs, present to clients, and land customers. It’s a dynamic medium that is easy to view and simple to understand.

As computers and software applications continue to improve, animation may soon become a common form of communication for architects. Architectural animation could be an important tool for every architect to have in their arsenal.

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