Actual on-screen quality of Real-time VR

Isn’t now the time to seriously use real-time VR for Arch Vis?

The term ‘virtual reality’ (VR) has been thrown around for many years now (remember that terrible 1992 film The Lawnmower Man?). VR has been a giant catch-all phrase that has covered a number of different technologies over the years. Anything from first person shooter games, to immersive multimedia, to head-mounted displays like the Oculus Rift.

What we here at buildmedia are interested in is the ‘real-time’ aspect of VR. That is, the technology that allows images produced of a 3d model to ‘render’ on-screen at near real-time. We’ve been patiently waiting for real-time VR technology to improve to a point where the quality is comparable with our current pre-rendered technology.

There are many benefits in striving to achieve high-quality real-time VR. The biggest of these is that going real-time completely negates the requirement to pre-process rendered frames. Consider that a typical animation requires around 4500 individually rendered frames, and that some of these frames can take up to two hours to process. It can amount to an incredible 9000 hours of computer processing time to complete three minutes worth of linear animation!

This is why we have invested considerably in a render farm that consists of 40 dedicated high-powered render servers all working tirelessly 24/7 crunching out pre-processed frames. Producing an animation using real-time technology means that frames are literally processed as you watch it, therefore, totally eliminating the requirement to pre-process rendered frames. Up until now this has been a sort of ‘holy grail’ – the effort and investment required to develop the systems, processes and the technology to achieve high-quality real-time VR results simply hasn’t been financially viable.

A typical 3 minute long animation requires around 6000-9000 hours of processing time!

Driven by the gaming industry, there are many players all racing to develop 3d engine ecosystems for gaming developers to develop their games on. The gaming industry is enormous with a global revenue of around $100 billion, far more than the film industry. Many 3d real-time engines such as Unreal/Unity/ CryEngine have all progressed to a point where the achievable quality is now acceptable for architectural visualisation. The architectural visualisation industry can now take advantage of using this technology developed for games to develop architectural visualisation.

buildmedia has explored many options over the years. We began developing our own real-time viewer ‘Realspace‘ around five years ago to visualise large landscapes for wind farm visual assessment, and have since then experimented with various other technologies. We are proud to be at the forefront of this revolution.

Graphics cards have become extremely powerful. A Typical GPU contains 1000’s of processor cores + many gigabytes of ram.


[Image Credits: CryEngine User Forum]


[Image Credits: CryEngine User Forum]


[Image Credits: CryEngine User Forum]

Over the past 12 months buildmedia has been developing systems, processes and workflows to incorporate real-time technology into our workflow. Although the process is slightly different to how we would usually work, the broad principles are still the same. We still need to work through a thorough storyboarding exercise to determine the focus and key messages of the presentation, plus we still need to spend considerable time post-processing effects to get to the same level of buildmedia quality.

Although the technology doesn’t suit every project (and the huge file sizes need to be seen to be believed), real-time visualisation offers massive  benefits that will soon disrupt the industry. More on that another day.

Here at buildmedia we’ve developed a number of examples that push the current technology for visualising large scale public spaces and architectural interiors. We’ll be rolling out more examples over the next few months so stay tuned.

Although the technology doesn’t suit every project, real-time visualisation offers massive  benefits that are going to disrupt the industry.

Hey, but what about VR goggles?

Although there has been a lot of talk and activity surrounding the development of VR headsets – the likes of Oculus Rift (being recently purchased by Facebook for $2b) and Valve (about to release a new headset called Vive) – the technology still has many hurdles to overcome before it becomes mainstream. Nausea caused through latency is still a big factor to overcome (trust us, we can show some nauseating examples!). More on that another time.

We’re now at a point where we have the quality, the power and the systems in place to offer real-time VR as a viable product to our customers. We have some exciting times ahead in the architectural visualisation industry.

Now is the time to seriously consider Real-time VR for your Architectural Project

Gareth has been working with 3d visualisation since the days of floppy disks. He now spends his time wrangling a specialised team of creatives at Buildmedia.

Testimonial Gareth Ross
Gareth Ross
Creative Director