Architectural visualization — it’s a dream come true for anyone who’s ever wondered what remodeling or redesigning their house would really look like…before they commit to a design. DIY Network’s new show Good, Better…Best offers homeowners a glimpse of the future of home design where, as if by magic, contractors’ ideas rise up from blueprints, offering a clear, dynamic, three-dimensional view of their refurbished home sweet home.
Each Good, Better…Best sequence features a highlight shot that shows all of the design elements in their entirety, says the show’s 3D modeler and animator, Kent McQuilkin. (See more of McQuilkin’s work here: http://vimeo.com/mcq3d.)
Hosted by licensed contractor Jeff Devlin, each episode of Good, Better…Best takes one home reconstruction project and bids it out to three different contractors. Each contractor’s vision is brought to life and animated in 3D using Maxon’s Cinema 4D. Construction starts once the homeowner chooses the design they like best.
Projects are overseen by Scripps Networks Interactive, whose brands include the DIY Network. A leading developer of high-profile, lifestyle-oriented content for television, digital, mobile and publishing, Scripps has been responsible for bringing the popular lifestyle brands HGTV, Food Network, Cooking Channel, Travel Channel and the Country Music Network’s Great American Country (GAC) to television.
“Setting up MoGraph assets to respond to effectors that can roll through the scene according to the voiceover allows me to knock the animation out quickly,” says McQuilkin.
Assembling the tools
It was Scripps that chose self-taught freelancer Kent McQuilkin to create the show’s 3D design elements and animated sequences. With years of experience designing everything from energy drink packaging and TV ads to prototypes of medical devices, theme park attractions and stereoscopic work, McQuilkin has consulted on several of Scripps’ past projects and trained most of their in-house designers.
It takes McQuilkin about two and a half weeks to create three different designs that are 25- to 30-seconds long, along with a 15-second animation—a total of more than two minutes of animation for each show.
Knowing he needed to achieve a photorealistic look for the show, but also work under the tight production schedules of broadcast TV, McQuilkin opted to rely primarily on Cinema 4D and After Effects for the project. “Cinema was the right choice for the animated arch viz sequences,” he explains. “What distinguishes C4D from other applications is the speed in which scenes can be built and animated, then rendered quickly in a photorealistic style”.
The MoGraph Module also sets C4D apart, offering tools to quickly add variety to both the appearance and animation behavior of 3D elements, as well as quickly replicating and animating objects such as floor tiles and bricks. “MoGraph’s powerful toolset allows me to quickly set up dynamic animations,” says McQuilkin. “I can just tweak the settings until it looks great, and you want to be able to make things interesting for every show.”
Once the final 3D animation render is complete, it is comped in After Effects with live-action footage and ready to be edited into the show.
Bringing ideas to life
For each episode, the design process starts when the three guest designers send their blueprints to McQuilkin, as well as photos of example spaces and notes on the look and other things like chosen appliances, surfaces, and other features. He also receives a copy of the script, including the voiceover describing what the homeowner and audience will be seeing as the design comes to life in 3D. (Check out a DIY interior proposal with voiceover here: http://vimeo.com/36102680.)
Using all that he’s been given, McQuilkin builds the interior (or exterior) and then sends the designers test renders or still images of different views so that they can review the appearance and specify changes before McQuilkin starts the animation process. “Once the 3D animations are finalized, they are combined with live-action footage in After Effects to create the final sequence” he explains.
Between building the geometry, creating textures, planning camera moves and working out the color and materials, it takes McQuilkin about two and a half weeks to create three different designs. Each design is about 25- to 30-seconds long and includes a 15-second animation.
In order to highlight specific details of the proposed designs, the live-action footage is carefully composited with live-action to add to the real feel of the animations.
What’s unique about the approach of Good, Better…Best, McQuilkins says, is the fact that each architectural visualization is both animated and interactive because the contractors literally interact with ideas they’ve suggest by pointing out different aspects of the 3D design.
Getting the details right
Over time, while building the designs for each episode, McQuilkin created a library of household objects that he can use repeatedly. But because each episode features many custom requests, there is still plenty to model, texture and animate on deadline.
“The designers are very particular,” he explains, adding that about ninety-eight percent of all the models on the show are built from scratch in C4D. “If they want a specific chair, the only way to get that specific chair is to build it.”
Vue xStream was used to populate the scene with and plants, and the grass was created in with C4D’s Hair Tools.
Exterior scenes are even more challenging, he says, because you’re dealing with additional geometry and the creation of things like plants and grass. E-on Software’s Vue xStream (http://www.e-onsoftware.com) plays an important role in the show’s pipeline to deal with this challenge. Vue’s specialty is the creation of the natural elements like plants, trees, bushes, etc.
The natural elements can be added to the scene directly inside the C4D scene file using the xStream plugin connection, making the tedious task of populating exterior environments with detail fast and easy. “Vue and C4D are great partners in being able to bring in the ‘natural’ elements into our animations,” says McQuilkin.
The animated arch viz sequences in the show include both interior and exterior design projects, and getting the exterior landscaping detail to look good often relies on the tools included with E-on Software’s Vue xStream.
McQuilkin relies on the Hair Module to create grass. Density maps were used inside the hair materials in order to control how and where the grass would actually grow in the scene. “The scenes with plants are the most work, but they’re also the most fun,” he says, adding that he has really enjoyed working with Scripps Productions on the show. “For every episode they pushed me to deliver high quality work on a tight deadline, and they gave me great support with a team of top-notch designers.”
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Article by Scott Strohmaier
Scott Strohmaier is a writer living in Los Angeles living with his wife and son.
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