As power users of V-Ray for over a decade, we know firsthand how essential it is for creating world-class visualisations. And now, as Chaos Partners and an official reseller of V-Ray licenses, we’re able to offer our clients the complete V-Ray experience, including in-depth training from visualisation professionals, streamlined onboarding, and custom support with licensing.
If you’re not familiar with Chaos’ V-Ray, it’s a leading 3D rendering software that enables architects, designers, and visual effects artists to create stunning photorealistic imagery. With a V-Ray license, you’ll have access to the full suite of V-Ray tools, including its award-winning lighting and rendering solutions.
But we’re more than just a reseller of V-Ray licenses. As an Academy, we’re passionate about teaching the world builders of tomorrow how to create their own worlds. That’s why we offer our clients personalised account managers, training up to professional visualisation standards, and flexible monthly options to suit the needs of our amazing community of artists.
We’re the only place to buy V-Ray licenses that come with a full range of support, coaching, and training to ensure you get the most out of your investment.
If you’re interested in purchasing a V-Ray license, we’d love to hear from you. We’re happy to show you how to install and set up your licenses, and we’ll work with you to find the right package to suit your needs.
In addition to offering V-Ray licenses, we’re excited to provide our clients with access to our V-Ray training courses through our license plus course bundles. These bundles include a V-Ray license and our popular Access into V-Ray for SketchUp course, which covers everything from the basics of V-Ray rendering to advanced techniques for creating photorealistic imagery.
With this option, you’ll not only have access to the full suite of V-Ray tools but also receive in-depth training from industry professionals. By bundling the license with our course, we can offer a more streamlined onboarding experience and provide ongoing support to ensure you get the most out of your investment. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to take your visualisations to the next level with V-Ray and our expert training.
Have you ever wondered how to create a photomontage, completely from scratch?
Going from this…
… to this
Well – we’ve got you covered. Here’s how it is done.
Firstly, what is a photomontage?
A photomontage is a mix of two different media. A computer generated image (CGI) is overlaid onto a photograph to show a new design superimposed into its existing surroundings.
Whilst traditional CGI allows us to model the surrounding environment; photomontages offer us the opportunity to view the real-life surroundings as captured through the lens of a camera, which is often required when trying to win planning permission.
What is the recipe for a successful photomontage?
In it’s purest sense, we can break down how to create a photomontage into four fundamental steps…
Step 1: The photograph.
The photograph that we are to use for the photomontage can be considered as our ‘base’. All subsequent work depends on the initial photograph that we would like to stitch our CGI onto.
As a result, we need to ensure that it ticks all of the boxes before we progress…
The industry standard for photographing Architectural forms dictates that all of the verticals must look vertical within the image – ensure that the camera is not tilted up or down!
Consider the lighting conditions, as this is something that we will aim to copy within our CGI. Clear blue skies or a flat, overcast day – the choice is completely up to you.
The resolution of the photograph is important. We want the highest quality possible – we like our photographs to be 5000 pixels along their longest edge.
In terms of the composition, we need to remember that we will be overlaying a CGI on top of our photograph, which means that we need to ensure that we leave space within the frame to do so!
To maximise the quality of our final product, ensure that we can save out our photographs in RAW format.
Step 2: The SketchUp model.
Now for the fun part… let’s get modeling using SketchUp!
Once we have ourselves a detailed model, we need to roughly match the SketchUp camera angle to that of the photograph.
This is the perfect time to think ahead to our CGI and try to match the resolution to our photograph (remember to ensure that safe frame is ticked!)
A key part of this process is ensuring that we match the Field of View (FOV) – this is akin to ensuring that we make sure that we use the same lens within SketchUp that we did for the photograph in real life.
Within the metadata of our photo, it often tells us the focal length of the lens that captured the shot…
Within SKP, we then head up to View and then choose Field of View…
Here we type in our FOV value in mm, followed by enter – note how the camera within SKP changes.
The next step is to reposition the camera to match the photo. We do this by adding our photo as a watermark within the Styles panel of the tray as shown.
This image overlay acts as a guide as we adjust the camera so that our model sits perfectly within the photo! Hit ‘Add Scene’ to save this angle!
Step 3: The CGI
We now have a SketchUp model which is aligned to our photograph – let’s prepare our CGI using V-Ray…
In this example, we are importing Extreme Texture’s Antique Oak into SketchUp as a Texture, which will allow us to paint this onto a face.
Now is a great time to check the scale – within the Materials panel of the tray; use the global size settings to ensure that our boards are scaled appropriately. To help me do this, I like to draw a guideline that equals the desired width of the board, so that I have something to reference.
Here we can see how important it is for our material to be seamless. There is a vast collection of seamless materials available from the sources mentioned above!
We now have a high-quality, seamless texture applied to our model which is the correct scale.
The diffuse texture is what we see within our SKP model. This can be considered our ‘base’ texture and defines predominantly what the material looks like without lighting or roughness effects applied.
If light bounces off an object and is not absorbed, then one sees a reflection. V-Ray has the ability to control the intensity and glossiness of reflections of materials within the scene by using reflection or specular (see also; spec) maps. For example, areas on a texture where one would see a glossy finish would show up as white on a spec map, whilst matt areas appear darker.
Not all materials are as flat as a mirror; for this, we use a bump or normals map. Areas on a bump map that are darker are shown as depressions on the surface of the material when rendered, whilst the opposite occurs for lighter areas. Be careful with the intensity of bump or normal values – anything above 1 is normally not required.
Hold on… how does glass work?
As we can see, the lighter we make the refraction colour, the more ‘glass-like’ our material becomes.
We can deduce that the setting to use that controls the transparent properties of glass is called refraction. Like with the reflection glossiness, we also have the opportunity to create frosted glass by adjusting the refraction glossiness value!
What about fabrics?
Depending on the qualities of the fabric in question, we would advise taking a look through the preset textures within V-Ray…
Once a similar fabric has been chosen, you can edit the colour and tones of the diffuse, by right-clicking on the bitmap slot within the Diffuse, and wrapping it in a Colour Correction. Here you will be able to modify the hue, saturation, brightness and contrast, to your liking.
Fabric textures now benefit from a new feature in V-Ray 5 for SketchUp where you can add a translucent layer for extra realism.
What if my texture seems to emit light?
One can add emissive layers to all materials within V-Ray as shown…
You can also copy your Diffuse into your Emissive bitmap slot…
Now that you know how to create realistic textures; Wrapping is a term we give to the application of a material to multiple faces within our model – much like the wrapping of a present with wrapping paper. We cover this in great detail on our Access into V-Ray for SketchUp courses.
Learning how to improve the lighting in your CGI is not rocket science, but there are techniques that we use. By understanding a few key lighting concepts I want to illuminate you and show you how to better your CGI, but before we do; let’s talk about why the sky is blue…
Let there be light.
Under intense and unimaginable pressure, hydrogen atoms are forced together in a huge release of electromagnetic energy, of which visible light makes up a small portion of this energy.
This is the beginning of the journey of a single photon from the centre of the burning ball of gas that we call our sun until it reaches our eyes.
After its tumultuous birth, our photon then takes, on average, 6 minutes to leave the surface of the sun and fly across the vast, 150 million kilometers of hard vacuum until it reaches our atmosphere.
As our photon passes through the big air bubble that surrounds the earth, it bounces off and passes through nitrogen atoms which make up nearly 80% of our atmosphere.
Our photon is a package that contains all of the colours of the rainbow – it just so happens that light on the bluer end of this spectrum scatters through nitrogen most effectively… which is why the sky is blue.
On a physiological level, we have evolved not only to love light but to need it.
Light is the key component that enables us to see, gives us security, and stabilises our circadian rhythms which helps us to sleep deeper and more restoratively.
It improves our moods, decreases depression, and even increases cognitive performance such as reaction time and activation.
On a fundamental level, we have an innate and primal relationship with light that can be traced all the way back to the roots of our shared evolutionary tree.
“I sense Light as the giver of all presences, and material as spent Light. What is made by Light casts a shadow, and the shadow belongs to Light.” Louis Kahn, American Institute of Architects Gold-medal winning Architect
Lighting in CGI.
Modern render engines and most real-time game engines calculate lighting in a way that aims to emulate reality.
By definition, rays are traced (note: ray-tracing), from light sources as they then travel through 3D space and bounce off or scatter through surfaces.
Ray tracing software determines the number of times that a ray can bounce off or through a surface – the bigger the number of bounces, the harder the PC has to work, but generally the more realistic the result.
As experienced and industry-leading producers of CGIs, we wholeheartedly recommend V-Ray as our ray-tracing program of choice.
We use this in conjunction with SketchUp and have done so for nearly a decade now.
Feel free to take a look at what our CGI production team is getting up to using this software combo!
These lights have to come from somewhere though, right?
Whether it is the sun, a light bulb, or a candle; it is the job of the 3D artist to add these light sources to the 3D space and program them to emit light realistically.
Check out our article on how to use Dome Lights to create night-time CGIs.
As humans, we respond differently to different environs and lighting plays a big part of that. Anything that we see has a direct link to the subconscious, and this is what CGI artists tap into when working with lighting in a visualisation.
How do I put this into practice?
If you have read this far, you already understand the power of lighting within a CGI.
We need a structured workflow to better enable us to generate realistic and emotive lighting setups within our work…
Day two of this three-day course is dedicated purely to lighting.
We explore what light sources that we have available to us, and how we go about adding these into a scene.
We then explore the concept of ‘Three-Point Lighting’, which gives us a fail-safe method of programming the lights within our scenes to work together in a photorealistic way.
If you already have a good foundation, and simply want to improve the lighting in your CGI, look into our Top-Up courses – the premise is simple:
You pick what you would like to learn
A bespoke, coaching session will be designed by us and then pitched to you before you commit to anything
Once you are completely happy with the custom learning material on offer, this is when we schedule a coaching session – we book these out in half-day blocks, to ensure that you have ample time for study and information retention.
The session is held online and is screen recorded – which means you can watch it back when practicing on your own.
Upon completion of the course, we extend a helping hand by offering an after-care period of 30-days, whereby as you take this knowledge into professional practice; you can come to us with any questions that you may have.
All of our courses, now taught online, aim to give you the tools to consistently advance your visualisation skills and improve the lighting in your CGI.
Dome lights: how do I use them to create a night time CGI?
You may not know it yet, but a dome light is the answer to creating ever-more realistic lighting setups within your CGIs…
Let’s break it down…
In a day-time scene, we have direct sunlight to illuminate our scenes. Direct light also scatters through the atmosphere and illuminates our environment.
V-Ray considers both direct and indirect illumination as two separate light sources.
To create a night-time scene, we require a technique to remove direct sunlight, whilst being able to create a night-time environment.
To do this, we use something called a Dome Light
A Dome light is a type of V-Ray light that surrounds our entire model, forcing light inwards. Images can be loaded into these light sources, which enables the user to simulate real-world environments by using panoramic HDR images.
I like to think of a Dome Light as a giant snow globe – with our model in the centre. We can choose what the sky looks like by swapping in different panoramic images.
Now that we know what dome lights are; what does this mean for you?
Select the highlighted tool to add a Dome light into your scene. Putting this into practice is straightforward. Pick out the Dome light tool from your V-Ray toolbar…
Load in your HDRI…
Hit render! Don’t forget to rotate your dome light to adjust the position of the sun
Over the years we have come across many different sources for dome lights…
We would like to recommend just two…
For variety, we highly recommend taking a look at Poliigon. Besides offering free assets; they operate a simple, subscription-type service where, depending on your package, you obtain different amounts of credits every month to spend on HDRIs, textures or models
If you are looking for top-quality HDRIs, look no further than Peter Guthrie’s shop – PG Skies. This in-depth collection of ultra high-quality HDRIs contains skies for all occasions. The handy preview renders show each of these in action, to make picking out your favourite that much easier!
We have no affiliation with these guys – but we rely heavily on their models. Without a doubt; they are the place to go for high-quality SketchUp models of furniture, lighting, and accessories.
For over 10 years, they have worked with premium brands to provide photorealistic 3D models of their products – so that SketchUpand V-Rayusers like us can download and import these into our scenes!
All models are (or can be) made available in SketchUp format, and all textures are correctly applied to each model, meaning it is the closest thing to a plug-and-play technique that exists for our workflow for furnishings
Again, we have no affiliation with this website, however, we have really benefited from the vast 3D collection that they offer.
If models are not available on DesignConnected, we head over to 3DSky, safe in the knowledge that we will find something that we can use.
Rather than the standard SketchUp file-type (.skp) that we are used to; models from 3D Sky tend to be in a different format – a filetype called obj…
In a nutshell, they store the geometry and textural information that makes up a 3D model. Different 3D modelling programs use different file types to save models – however, the .obj file type is the closest thing to an industry-standard in this regard.
To import .obj models, we use an extension called Transmutr. The easy-to-navigate interface allows you to convert these into .skp files – for you to then import into your scenes.
If you are working under a tighter budget, without the capacity to spend much on 3D models – there is no better source than the 3D Warehouse within SketchUp’s interface.
If you own or have owned, SketchUp Pro – there is a very good chance you know about this already.
Use the sliders on the left to control the quality of the models within your search parameters.
Take note… these models are not quality-checked before being uploaded to the warehouse – which means that you can end up with a real mixed bag in terms of quality.
To be safe, we always recommend saving the desired models into their own files, rather than importing straight into your scene – as this protects your master file from any latent errors that may be present within the imported models!