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CG Visualisation at Saunders: Part 2

A strong image can speak volumes. We have worked hard to develop our own visual style with atmosphere and those extra little details, often overlooked, which elevate a CG render to a strong visual.

In Part 1 we presented how we start to map out a visualisation. In Part 2 we'll deep dive into a typical render workflow...


Following the process of establishing the site and building layouts, we often begin planning out visuals in a way that one might plan out a painting or a photograph - sketches and ideas written down to explore what areas should be the main focus to tell a compelling story.


We take the 2D drawings of a project and turn these into 3D assets. Often traditional 2D CAD is the starting point of a render. This is the fastest way to prune extraneous detail and clean up linework before importing into SketchUp. We chose to use Trimble’s Sketchup Pro as the main modelling software due to its speed, simplicity, and ease of use.

As much as possible, we aim to maximise the use of 3D environment in all our projects. While we still produce photo-montages, we don’t often rely upon a great deal of photographs in our environments. This gives us lots of flexibility when it comes to lighting, composition, and mood.


When the modelling is complete, all component models are imported into Epic Games’ Twinmotion for materials, lighting, atmosphere and entourage.

Much of the foundation of the materials are done in SketchUp by way of applying them to the relevant surfaces. The fine-tuning is then done in Twinmotion through adding realistic textures and colours.

Materials communicate the model surfaces’ colour and texture. We mainly use image maps of real photos of materials to enhance photorealism and assets such as physically based materials (PBR).

PBR materials are a collection of five or six separate images (commonly called maps) which tell the rendering software how to display them, and how they interact with light. These usually comprise albedo (surface image), roughness (surface shininess), normal (surface texture), ambient occlusion (surface shading), metalness (surface metallic).

Individual maps.

All the maps combined to form a finished material.


Lighting can make or break an image. Unnatural lighting can lead to an ugly image which may actually put off Clients and stakeholders. Through good lighting we control ambience and mood, to draw the viewer into the image, and to lead the eye to where we have determined where the focal points are.

In Twinmotion, lighting can be controlled very precisely, from the angle of the sun, to ambient lighting, surface reflections, and artificial lighting based upon real life light data. We can exactly emulate the light emitted by a particular product if we are able to obtain the data file from the manufacturer. We approach lighting a scene in the same way that great photographs capture lighting. Often the best light is early or later in the day, when the sunlight is softer, warmer, and shadows are long. Also, to bring out texture and contrast in the image we position lights at 90-degrees to the viewer. Sometimes lighting behind the subject works well too.

Dressing And Props

We call this ‘entourage’ and it encompasses everything from people, cars, and vegetation, to furniture, ornaments, and food.

All these subtle details can often go unnoticed, but add a whole dimension of realism and make a scene believable. Viewers may not ‘see’ them, but their presence makes an image seem normal – they are all the objects that surround us in our daily lives, and to which we are so used to seeing, that the absence of these things can make an image look ‘off’.

Just as in Part 1 we discussed appropriate representation of people within a render, so to we consider appropriate use of entourage – the right cars, tree species, etc., so that nothing looks out of place or is too distracting in the scene. We can liaise with landscape consultants to better show the soft landscape in a realistic way. Dressing internal scenes confirms the function of the space and demonstrates scale. Manufacturers often provide 3D models of their products and we use these where we can.


Rendering is where all the geometry, lighting and material assets and settings are pulled together by the software to create the final image. Depending on the final resolution needed and the cumulative processing and graphics power, it can take anything from a few minutes or hours to a day or more. Rendering can be very time consuming and the length of time taken to produce an image depends on two things; the processing power of the computer (or computers), and the complexity of the scene – how many objects/polygons, materials, light sources there are.

There are many opportunities throughout the modelling and rendering process to revise, add and subtract elements. Our workflow provides for quick changes to the visualisations if any aspects of the project change.


Post-production is the stage where the rendered image is brought into a photo manipulation software to add finishing touches. Sometimes, this is where photo-montages are completed with non-rendered elements added. Other times it is simply to apply levels and curve corrections for contrast, colour balance, or light and shadows.

Final renders are exported to a post-processing software where any final touches are added. We often use GIMP and NIK Collection apps for this, which allows for this process to be automated for speed.

We have the skills to deliver high quality CG models and imagery for your projects with a keen eye for detail and enthusiasm for storytelling that compelling imagery requires.

We can deliver imagery for design development and massing studies, marketing, tenant/occupier negotiations, planning application and public consultation support on any given project, and to suit a range of budgets and timescales for delivery, in resolutions suitable for online media and print. These range from outline sketch style presentations through to full CGI exterior and interior renderings and photo-montages. Please see our Visualisation page for a taste of what we can offer; some images have a few extra treats, so take a look!

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