Understand graphics
a guide to 3D visualization terminology

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When working on a visualization project, both the ordering and contractor parties must understand each other perfectly. Thanks to this, the implementation will run smoothly, and the parties will be sure that they understand each other perfectly. Efficient communication is a guarantee of effective cooperation, which is why we present a guide to the terminology of 3D visualization, containing terms that you may encounter when working with a 3D designer.

At Double Prism, we make sure that communication with clients is effective and efficient. For this purpose, each time, we explain the meaning of industry terminology using different words. Sometimes, however, a project requires immediate action, but clarifying the concepts can take too long and slow down your progress. We respect our clients’ time, so we have prepared a glossary of industry terms so that everyone can understand the 3D designer.

The following list may also assist 3D designers. We realize that sometimes it is not easy to explain what action is under a specific term briefly. We hope you will find the terminology of 3D visualization written down by us helpful.

1. 3D visualization

The first item on our list is 3D visualization. This term is used to describe the process of transforming 3D models and scenes into photorealistic 2D graphics (photos) that the customer ultimately receives. 3D visualizations allow you to present the final results of architectural designs, interiors, and products that have not yet been created in the real world.

Promocyjna wizualizacja 3D nowoczesnego, metalowego kwietnika wraz z aranżacją

2. Rendering / render

Rendering is an automatic process of generating a photorealistic image using computer programs. It is one of the last but also one of the most important stages of creating a visualization. The displayed effect can also be called a rendering. In other words, the graphic artist can compare rendering to developing a photo.

Even though it takes place without the designer’s intervention, the rendering process is very time-consuming and complicated. During rendering, the program calculates shadows, the way light is refracted, fog, atmosphere, and all other factors influencing the visualization’s final effect.

3. 3D modeling

3D modeling means the process of creating a three-dimensional model of an object in a digital space using special software. Experienced 3D artists can create 3D models of both natural and fictional things.

4. Architectural 3D model

The architectural 3D model is the result of the above-mentioned 3D modeling process. It is a three-dimensional representation of a future architectural object. Architects use 3D models when presenting their designs to potential clients or investors, at trade fairs, and on their websites. The 3D model can be displayed as 2D images created with 3D rendering, as a simulation on a computer or 3D printed as a physical prototype.

5. 3D animation

3D animation is a photographic film that shows the future project in motion. To create a 3D video, you first need to make dozens (even hundreds or even thousands!) Of still 3D renderings. The images are then combined in a specific order to create the impression that the objects are moving.

6. The level of detail

In 3D visualization terminology, the level of detail (LOD) is a technique that means that 3D objects closer to the virtual camera is rendered in more detail than those far away. This method is used to optimize the 3D visualization process by reducing the rendering overhead. Thanks to this method’s use, we can shorten the rendering time and thus complete the order faster.

7. Lighting

Lighting plays a vital role in creating a visualization. It can enrich or completely spoil the rendering. The photorealistic appearance of computer graphics depends on properly selected lighting. It also influences the atmosphere of the stage. Modern 3D software allows you to set any illumination accurately. For example, the well-known Blender 3D software, which we most often use, offers as many as five basic lighting types.

8. Low – poly modeling

To explain this critical term from our guide, we first need to introduce what the 3D models are made of. Each of them consists of polygons – small triangular surfaces with 3 points. These little “building blocks” create polygon meshes that define the shape of a 3D object. Low Poly modeling creates 3D objects with a mesh consisting of a relatively small number of these polygons.

wizualizacja lasu wykonana w  stylu low - poly
Sample 3D visualization made in the Low – poly system

9. High – poly modeling

Correspondingly, high-poly modeling means creating 3D models whose mesh has a large number of polygons. This method allows you to present an object with much greater precision and a higher level of detail. High-resolution modeling takes much longer than low-resolution modeling but produces more realistic and detailed images.

10. Materials

An important aspect of 3D visualization is the simulation of various natural materials on the surfaces of objects. Having an extensive collection of materials is essential for any 3D artist to create photorealistic photos. Artists create materials themselves and also use online libraries to find suitable options.

11. Photorealism

Photorealism is defined as a type of art in which the artist recreates an actual image using computer techniques to look as if the graphic artist captured it in a photo. However, in architectural rendering terminology, the term is used to characterize pictures of future designs that look so realistic that they cannot be distinguished from actual photos. To master the art of photorealism, 3D artists have to work hard and gain years of experience.

12. Textures

In the terminology of 3D visualization, the texture is a raster graphic applied to the surface of a three-dimensional object. Textures are needed to simulate colors and bumps in a 3D model.

przykładowa tekstura

13. Render style

You can create 3D images in a variety of styles. There are watercolors and other stylized visuals, as well as semi-realistic and photorealistic ones. If the image requires an actual appearance, a photorealistic style is the best option.

14. Reflections

In 3D rendering, achieving photorealism requires showing reflections on glass and other reflective surfaces. To do this, 3D artists use ray tracing. There are different types of reviews in 3D renderings, such as glossy, blurry, polished, and metallic.

15. 3D sculpting

In the real world, artists shape sculptures using materials such as clay or stone. In a digital environment, a 3D artist can do the same using 3D carving software. Using special programs such as ZBrush, you can disassemble, combine, and smooth 3D objects to create complex forms and organic curves.

16. Soft and hard shadows

There are two types of drop shadows that are used in 3D rendering – hard and soft. Complex shades are apparent and have sharp edges, while soft shadows are not that deep and have blurred boundaries. Small light sources and direct light produce difficult clouds, and pale shades are typical of indirect lighting and its relatively large origins. Mastering the use of soft shadows is crucial to achieving a photorealistic effect.

Wizualizacja 3D sali weselnej przedstawiająca wnętrze sali z nakrytym stołem
Przykładowe zastosowanie miękkich cieni

17. 3D wireframe modeling

A 3D wireframe model is, in other words, a representation of the “skeleton” of an object itself. 3D wireframe modeling helps you to present the basic design structure of things and understand their dimensions.

18. Interior visualization

Interior rendering is 3D visualizations that show the future building from the inside. Such photos show the layout and the design solutions used, including general style, selected materials, furniture, and decorative elements. Thanks to 3D interior visualizations, recipients can assess both the functionality and aesthetics of the space.

19. Exterior visualization

In professional artist terminology, 3D external rendering means a graphic that shows an object from the outside. With such 3D visualization, the recipient can carefully analyze the building’s exterior design – its facade, roof, walls, entrance. Moreover, external rendering allows you to see the surroundings in which the property will be located.

20. 3D flythrough/ 3D walkthrough

The above names mean two types of architectural 3D animation. The main difference between them is the point of view from which the spaces are shown. The 3D walkthrough animation presents the project from a human perspective, while the 3D flythrough animation presents the scene from a bird’s eye view. Human-level animation is an excellent choice for interior presentations. The loop-through video will work well when showing the property from the outside with the entire surroundings.

21. Floor plan

In terms of 3D visualization, a plan (3D projection) is an image showing the building’s layout in a bird’s eye view. The 3D projection includes furniture, decorations, and other interior design elements. This type of 3D visualization is perfect, in particular, for presenting the layout of rooms in a house or apartment.

Przekrój 3D mieszkania - wizualizacja pomieszczeń
3D floor plan

22. 360 panoramas

The 360 ° panorama allows the viewers of the 3D architectural presentation to explore a large area in all directions. That helps to understand the project entirely.

23. Virtual walks

The 3D Virtual Walk is one of the fascinating types of presentation material on our terminology list. It is an interactive presentation that shows all space elements from any angle, thanks to which the receivers feel as if they were walking around the presented property. During the 3D walk, viewers can use the mouse or touchpad to choose a direction and go to any part of the house they want to explore. 3D walks also allow you to zoom in on objects to get a closer look at each element.

24. Post-production

In the terminology of 3D visualization, post-production is the stage in which the final effect is refined to perfection. For this purpose, 3D artists use special software. It is possible to correct colors, shades, saturation, glare, apply special visual effects, and add characters of people, animals, cars, and more in the post-production stage.

25. High resolution / low resolution

In 3D rendering, image resolution is critical. It can be high or low definition. High-resolution images have more pixels per inch than low-resolution photos. Images below 300 PPI are considered low-resolution graphics. When presenting the design of a building, high resolution plays a vital role as it allows you to see all elements of the building and the surroundings.

The terminology of 3D visualization without secrets

We hope that this short but comprehensive guide to 3D visualization terminology will help people who plan to work with a 3D designer and the 3D graphic designers themselves. We are curious if you have encountered a situation on your professional path in which it was difficult for you to explain to the client the meaning of the concept that was obvious to you. 🙂

We also invite you to our frequently asked questions and answers section, which includes terminology-related questions and answers to various doubts regarding cooperation and implementation of 3D visualizations.