LandARCHConcepts (2) - Case Study

Perfecting Video Production Workflow with IRender nXt

We are very grateful to Graham Slocombe (LandARCHConcepts, UK) for sharing the methodology he has developed producing videos using IRender nXt. We hope that this inspires you to expand your IRender nXt skills! Over to you, Graham ...


I started producing videos about a year ago and have learned a lot! What has evolved is a workflow that allows me to complete rendering and video production relatively quickly in relation to the number of render scenes.

It took me a while to develop this way of working, but it started to crystalize for me when I had to complete my Shamrockville Project in time for a meeting with the client. I completed Shamrockville in about two weeks. You can tell the workflow is still evolving as the Shamrockeville house is a white shell given the time in which I had to do this.

For my next project, the Jewish Garden and Synagogue Plaza Project, I further refined the workflow. It’s a really “heavy” model and it forced me to develop a more refined layering hierarchy.

The Scott Project was much more involved and included interior design for the conversion of the dwelling in addition to landscaping, but I completed this in about a month.

Following the Scott Project I think I’m ready to proclaim that I have figured out the workflow and layering hierarchy that works best for me. It’s taken me a year of constant rendering and video production to get to this point, and I’m happy to share it with other IRender nXt users.

Workflow Productivity

I assess the design quickly and start modelling the simplest scenes first so, importantly, I can start rendering straight away. This has two benefits:

The model and thus the rendering preparation is lighter on PC memory in these early stages; It utilizes every minute of my computer time for rendering from the first day of the project until its completion. During all my modelling work on the Scott Project there was never a time when the computer was not rendering; it was rendering 24-7.

Very simply, it looks this: Slocombe 1.jpg

I wait for IRender to arrive at the ‘Preparing model for Rendering’ screen before I start modelling again, but that’s a very fast procedure in IRender. In contrast, when I started modelling with SketchUp I tried to complete the model(s) first before rendering. I did this because I was working as if I was doing a design plan on paper and did not have the layering hierarchy worked out.

There is another benefit to using this workflow. As a landscape designer, I was taught in the old school way to produce a Master Plan first (which I still sketch out sometimes). In reality, these Master Plans often turn out to be bland in places through lack of detailing, or even weak structure. When I actually model the plans in 3D I can see the weaknesses which highlight for me where I need to do more work. By following this workflow I get to see each scene rendered as the design progresses which helps me with the overall design development.

In reality, it’s a bit more complicated than the simple workflow above. I mentally assess each render job prior to rendering, and if I think it’s going to be heavy, I leave those particular render jobs for rendering at night when I’m not on the computer. This allows me to continue modelling unimpeded during the day, and I don’t need to use the thread/core allocation feature in IRender.

For example, the interior rooms of the Scott Project were so fast I could render 2, 3 or even 4 and 5 images per day. The landscape is more difficult because of the number of polygons in the models or components. However, I build generic components where possible and I reuse these over and over for increased speed. I make sure every component is IRender ready when I add it to my master library; I have uploaded some of these to the SketchUp 3D Warehouse and will do more in the future.

Layered Hierarchy

As I build a model, everything must be strictly on layers for which I have a structured plan. My workflow for building 3D models is such that everything is on layers so when you render a scene that’s all that renders because the rest of the model is switched off. These layers are tied to scene tabs so as I switch between scene tabs the layers switch on and off respectively and automatically. Some of my models are so big that I could not possibly have all layers switched on as it would crash my system. I have refined this layering approach over the years and almost have it down to a fine art.

A simple view of my layering hierarchy is as follows:

  • LEVEL 1: Buildings, Soft Landscape, hard Landscape, FFF, Accessories, People, Backgrounds;
  • LEVEL 2: Walls, windows, doors, roofs (i.e., Buildings); Trees, Shrubs, Herbaceous, Annuals, water (i.e., Soft landscape); Walls, Gates, Terraces, Secondary Buildings etc (i.e., Hard Landscape); Furniture free and fixed, flooring and carpets, Lighting, AC, AVIT, etc (FFF); Art, Ornamentation, Clutter, Cars etc (i.e., Accessories); People is a category all on its own; Backgrounds – North, South, East, West (i.e., background models);
  • LEVEL 3: Building Floors; Landscape Main Zones’
  • LEVEL 4: Building Rooms (i.e., within Building Floors), Landscape Rooms (i.e., within Landscape Main Zones); Individual Background Components (i.e., a Bank, School, Hospital, Multi-storey Car Park etc;
  • LEVEL 5: Individual Components.

I build this hierarchy in reverse order: Levels 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 and the end phases as I create the model, and it is essentially components within sub, sub groups; sub groups; groups; major groups; etc.

I work with a neat little plugin called ‘Auto Invisible On-off’, so as I build up a scene for rendering, the groupings are only visible to that scene, i.e., they are automatically switched off in all other scenes that exist, or that will exist in the future. I could not work this fast without this plugin, and the size of my models is such that my computer, while being powerful, would crash without it.

This is easier to see with some imagery. Below is one rendered image of my Scott Project – inside the Art Studio looking West.

Slocombe 2.jpg

Below is the model view of the scene above (unrendered).

Slocombe 3.jpg

If I zoom out you see that nothing else is visible in the model: no garden, no conservatory, and no dwelling, just a very small background model, yet the model contains everything you see in both the Scott Project videos.

Slocombe 4.jpg

Building up this layered hierarchy in SketchUp means that I can relatively quickly switch off whole sections i.e., in one click I can, for example, switch off: all the interior design, or the entire arts studio, or the entire conservatory with plants etc.

The main concept, especially with the garden, is to sector it into spaces and sub-spaces to the approximate points of the compass. It took me around a minute to switch off everything else to render that scene: the house was on one layer; the conservatory on another, the garden on 4 individual layers, and the backgrounds on 4 layers – N, E, S and W.

Working Scenes

Working scenes form a major part of my workflow. I have some very basic scenes with nearly everything switched off on the layers which allows me to work really fast in the modelling phase, and then when I switch to an actual scene it’s all there ready for rendering.

Video Production

I produce my videos with Wondershare Slideshow Builder. It’s a great product, but here’s a tip: IRender is very stable, but I have found that trying to build a slideshow with Slideshow Builder while rendering is in progress results in all sorts of things getting messed up in Wondershare Slideshow builder. It doesn’t affect IRender at all, but regardless, my advice is to do video production when you are not rendering.

IRender Lighting Channels

Finally, I cannot express enough how valuable IRender’s Lighting Channel feature is to my methodology of working. Most renderers do not have this. I could not do what I do with all those snazzy fade outs and ins with say, VRAY, because I would have to render every scene individually and it would be time restrictive. I generally only render one scene to get all the lighting effects. I have recently started rendering a few different HRDI’s with the same scene for more dynamic realism and interest with great results.

The Value

The value at the end of the day is that sales potential is greatly enhanced; you can get as close as possible to reality by using the change of dynamic lighting to help transport the client into the site ambience. I find it to be a wonderful way to work.

Many thanks to Graham for taking the time to share how he has evolved his video production workflow using IRender nXt. It's very interesting and gratifying to see how he's using IRender nXt in developing a repeatable workflow to produce impact videos that are impressing his clients.

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