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3D Visualization

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3D Visualization: Overview

3D visualization is the creation of computer-generated drawings which look as if they were photographs of actual scenes.

The quality of the final 3D visualization depends on the skill of the 3D modeler as well as the hardware and visualization software that he uses.

The stages in the creation of a 3D visualization are:

3D Modeling

This is, as the name implies, the creation of a 3D object in the computer's memory. A 3D object can be rotated on the computer's monitor just as one would rotate a solid, real-life object.

The 3D modeler typically uses 2-dimensional (2D) views of the object to create the 3D model. Whenever high accuracy is required, these two-dimensional views should include (amongst other things) measurements of all key edges and radii of all curves.

The more edges and 3D surfaces there are in the object, the longer it takes to perform the 3D modeling.

3D modeling is also known as solid modeling.

3D Rendering

The 3D model has no surface colors, surface textures or light impinging on it. It is gray and casts no shadows. It is by no means realistic.

The rendering stage is where the finish of every 3D surface as well as the various light sources (such as daylight, direct sunlight, directional lights and maybe spotlights) are defined by the 3D modeler.

The visualization software then calculates the path of every beam of light on every 3D surface. This is no easy task, since a beam could successively reflect off more than 10 surfaces before running out of energy.

The software ultimately outputs a realistic 2D rendering of the 3D model. However this output most often is not indistinguishable from a photograph (i.e., “photorealistic”). It has to be fine-tuned with image retouching software such as Photoshop.

2D Touchup

The 3D visualization often has to have background imagery added in, and this is usually incorporated using advanced image-editing software into the 2D rendering generated in the last stage.

The result is now an image which is indistinguishable from a high-resolution photograph of the actual object.


3D visualizations are indispensable to architects and engineers. Architects need to show clients architectural visualizations of expensive projects before clients decide to invest enormous sums of money in the idea. Engineers in manufacturing companies need to show 3D visualizations of products to potential buyers before the companies sink millions of dollars into expensive tooling and raw material stocks.

And thanks to today’s advanced computer hardware and visualization software, we can create these visualizations at low cost with short turnarounds.

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