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Photo-realistic Rendering

by David Bier

Photorealistic rendering, used in the context of product design, is the creation of visual material using 3D CAD (Computer-Automated Design) software, resulting in a digital image that’s generally indiscernible from an actual photograph.  Using sophisticated software such as VRAY, a limitless array of colors, textures, materials (such as steel, glass, hard plastic or soft rubber) and properties can be applied to a CAD model to achieve realism.  These elements, in combination with sophisticated virtual lighting and staging produces an extremely realistic representation of what a production level part or product will look like.  This is invaluable in a designer’s workflow to convey a design to a client.  Every aspect of a product’s aesthetic and ergonomic design can be clearly defined using renderings, removing any guesswork or confusion between the designer, client and manufacturer.  This helps to streamline the production process and can save valuable time and prototyping cost. 


A VRAY rendering uses Global Illumination (a general name for a group of algorithms used in 3D graphics, to add real-world lighting to 3D objects).  Through an often time-consuming and painstaking process, an Industrial Designer defines all colors, textures, material properties, lighting, cameras and scene properties to a 3D model.  Depending on these innumerable property combinations, a photorealistic image can take anywhere from a few minutes to 15 hrs to fully render.  The software performs millions of calculations to determine primary and secondary light bounces, material reflections/refractions and shading (how light scattering is distributed across an object’s surface) to produce a very accurate 2D image.  Rendering technology will only become more impressive and valuable to product design as computing power and software continues to advance.