Markus Groeteke of 3dworks visual computing

This month we have a conversation with Markus Groeteke from 3dworks visual computing. Markus provides design services including digital production and editing of images, architectural animations /visualizations and interactive media.

Hello Markus, tell us a little about about yourself and the work you do on your studio.

Sponza - Created by Reuben FloundersSponzaAfter my degree in architecture at the Politecnico di Milano, italy and after doing some years of work experience in different architectural studios in italy and germany I decided to turn my 'special skills' into my profession. I started 1997, buying a license of Electric Image, FormZ and After Effects, and after doing some 3d animations for commercials and special effects for a film production, I soon specialized into architectural visualization, which was for me like going 'back to the roots' but from a new perspective.

Today I'm running a small studio located in Berlin, which is specialized in high end visualization and 3d animation focused on architecture, art projects and commercials. I'm doing most of the work all by myself, but for very big or complex projects i can count on my networked partners. They cover other areas, like graphic design, camera work and video editing or DVD publishing. My clients are architectural studios, developers and real estate companies, advertising studios and artists.

And What projects have you worked on?

Museum of Contemporary Art - Created by 3dworks Visual ComputingMuseum of Contemporary ArtThe most important projects until now where some winning competition visualizations (TV World Hamburg, Sydney MCA) and a cartoon style animation of the new federal public health agency (UBA) building for sauerbruch hutton architects, the visualization of the New Museum Entrance Building in Berlin (together with EI artist Graham Sproul) for david chipperfield architects which now landed on the cover of the spanish architecture magazine 'El croquis'.

In the last period the focus of my work is on creating various high quality visuals for a real estate business company in Berlin, Tenkhoff Properties.

What are the tools/software that you use for your type of work?

For architectural modeling the main tool is FormZ, becuse it offers solid modeling paired to CAD-like features like advanced layer and symbols handling. We use also LightWave and C4D in our studio, but most of our renderings are done with EIAS.

For the postprocessing and compositing we use Photoshop and After Effects. Additional tools include ImageModeler and Stitcher by Realviz for the fotogrammetric and image based modeling work and for creating seamless backplate images.

Does EIAS works well in combination with other software?

We are using the formZ - EIAS route since ever and are quite happy with it. Also, importing 3DS and LightWave files can be handy at times. For the perfect OBJ import i can really recommend OBJ2Fact 2! Of course, this is an area where there's still a lot of potential improvement, so even with Transporter managing to import a lot of additional 3D formats, there is great expectation for the FBX implementation of the upcoming EIAS release 6.5! I just can't resist to add that my dream for a future release would be to have multipass layered PSD output...

Why do you use EIAS as part of architectural visualizations workflow?

Casa Gaspar - Created by Casa GasparWell, I could tell you many reasons, but there are 3 big strengths of this software.

The first one being the fantastic render quality of Camera. it's antialiasing quality and render speed are still amazing. Also, Camera is well known as a big 'polygon cruncher'. I can render a 8000 pixel wide image of a 2 million poly model without running into any memory limitations on my PowerMac G5. Here other renderers start to show their limits or simply fail.

The second point is the way how EIAS is handling it's project assets. There is a big advantage in the visualization process if the model geometry is stored as a separate entity from the other scene informations like lights, textures or materials. For a model update (which unfortunately nearly always happens short before the deadline) you simply change the FACT files that contain the changed geometry of the model (like for example window elements) reload the project and hit the render button again! No additional change is necessary, because all your texture and material definitions are now applying to the new geometry. The nice thing is that FACT models can contain texturing and shading information as well - this way you don't need to start texturing from scratch all the time when you are loading your models like props - but the settings in your animator project overrides them. Very clever, very flexible!

The third reason to use EIAS are within some of the advanced workflow features inside animator. I just would like to name the Master Materials or the Master Lights. This functions are making it easy to manage hundreds of materials and lights without loosing control. I would also like to mention the Illuminator lights, a sort of one-click light rig for fast natural lighting setups, a feature which i use in all my projects.

What's your favorite EIAS feature?

Dusseldorf Hafen at Night  - Created by Markus Groeteke Dusseldorf Hafen at Night I love the hidden power of the 'control-click ' settings of certain checkboxes and popup menus, which allow to change settings globally. It gives you the feeling of 'super powers' for one small moment.

Any tip/trick you would like to give other fellow EIAS users?

For architectural visualization, the light setup is one of the most important things, so i would like to introduce the beginners to a simple but effective basic lighting setup in EIAS. A good starting point for a convincing exterior light setup in EIAS is to use 2 illuminators and a spot light with soft shadows. Position one illuminator in the middle of your scene, set the stage radius to the size of your model and the radius to around 8 times this size. Add a sky texture as a gel or set the colour to a light blue. Now duplicate this illuminator and scale the Y value to -1 to turn it upside down, then set the light intensity to 1/10th of the original value. This light source will simulate the skylight reflected from the ground. Don't forget to activate the buffer shadows of your upper Illuminator. Now, set your main light to a spot light and orient it properly to illuminate your scene corresponding to the natural sunlight.

Library Competition, Berlin - Created by Markus GroetekeLibrary Competition, BerlinYou may set an 'auto look' constraint for the Sunlight to a Null to make the positioning of the sun an easy process. Then, holding the 'control key' (on macs) drag this light very far away from the scene, because we want to get a nearly parallel lightsource out of our spot light. Choose the light in the popup selector in the Camera window and while looking through the light's perspective, change the outer and inner cones to match the scene. Set the shadows to raytrace with soft edge shadows for more realism. You now can experiment to set the light radius to get nice soft shadows. Give this light a touch of colour, according to the situation, like a light red for a sunset atmosphere. This basic rig (which you can save as a setup project to merge into your new projects) can be expanded with some extra fill lights (add some slight colour here too), but my advice is to keep things always as simple as you can! Last but not least, make intelligent use of selection sets for including/ excluding certain project elements from your light sources and be careful when using soft raytraced shadows casting on raytraced glass, this can take quite a long time to render!

Any projects you have stored for the future?

Lots of projects i hope... and of course the main goal will always be to produce the best possible images and animations for our clients! grin

Markus Groeteke

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