Real-time 3D rendering - what is it and how does it work?

Real-time 3D rendering - what is it and how does it work?

Staffan Hagberg, Chief Marketing Officer
Staffan Hagberg, Chief Marketing Officer

Real-time 3D is a groundbreaking technology that we may primarily recognize from the videogame world, where it has been used for many decades. Real-time 3D rendering means that animations and images are rendered with such a speed that they seem real to the human eye. Today, the technology is finding new use in other areas than videogames, changing entire industries. Companies that adopt the technology can, for example, let their customers experience their future home before it has even started to be built, which is a great marketing advantage for companies using such technology.

What is real-time 3D rendering and how does it work?

You could say that 3D rendering is a multi-step process where graphic content is created using software that generates 2D images based on three-dimensional scenes. 3D rendering in real time means that you digitally build a model that can be rotated and turned. So it’s not a matter of displaying still 3D images, it’s possible to rotate the model and see it from all different angles. Unlike still image rendering, you can use real-time rendering to make changes to the model and see the result directly on the screen.

To give a more technical explanation, you can say that the 3D image of the product is made up of triangles. You create a model of triangles where you make one triangle at a time and place them in a special position (width, depth and height). There are also shortcuts so you can make many polygons quickly, instead of placing one at a time. Finally, you have a model that consists of a few hundred, a few thousand or a few hundred thousand triangles. If, for example, you want to create a moving box, it is a simple model that only has 6 sides when it is closed. Then you use twelve triangles. If you want to create a sofa that has many soft, rounded edges, you need to add a lot more triangles to be able to create the soft shape of the sofa.

There are also many different lighting techniques that allow you to create a stylish and realistic reproduction of the sofa.The more technology advances, the more you can compare the lighting in 3D with how illumination and light works in real life. An important part of producing realistic images is to work with reflections by adjusting light and shadows. Where the light does not reach, shadows are created. How an object is illuminated is important for the result. The reflections are created depending on how the light falls on the object. The intensity of the light and the surface of the object play a major role.

Benefits of real-time rendering

If you compare still image rendering and real-time rendering, you can, when it comes to real-time rendering, move the camera to see what an object looks like in real time from different angles. With real-time rendering, it is possible to zoom in and study every little detail of an object from all angles. It is also possible to experiment with the object’s appearance by changing, for example, color and material.

If you have a model of a car, you can experiment with the look by changing the color of the paint or replacing the rims. All changes are displayed in real time, which makes it possible to see what different designs look like immediately as the change is made. Real-time rendering therefore creates completely new opportunities for companies and also for their customers.

The technology enables, for example, architects and designers to test their ideas and see what it would look like in reality.This also provides great benefits for marketing. For example, customers have the opportunity to experience their future home even before the construction process starts. Customers can also experiment with interior details, test different combinations of wall colors, wallpaper, floors and more.

In which industries does 3D rendering work best?

3D rendering is widely used in many industries, of which the video game industry is perhaps one of the best known. But 3D rendering is also used by architects, product designers and in the advertising and film industry to name a few other areas. 3D rendering works in almost all industries, especially if you have a product offer, a physical product.

If you want to render images, it is possible to render a product with a quality fully comparable to professionally taken photographs. But with a rendered image instead of a photo, you have the possibility to expand its area of use. Large global companies that work with high-end or premium products usually have digitally rendered images and 3D models of their products. They may work with traditional product photos as well, but there is a lot to be gained from using 3D rendering. In the past, it was primarily larger companies with a lot of money that worked with this technology, but the technology is now starting to be used in a greater extent by small and medium-sized enterprises, as it is more cost-effective.

The automotive industry

Real-time rendering in the automotive industry provides great benefits. Firstly, the car salesmen do not have to have every single combination of seats and rims inside the hall. Thanks to this technology, customers have the opportunity to see and experience all the designs and combinations that exist for a specific car. Customers can experience the car in its real size and see how different designs match. This is a huge difference compared to just seeing the car in a brochure.

E-commerce

3D rendering gives e-commerce a real boost. Companies now have the opportunity to show their products to customers in a completely new way, as if customers experienced the products for real, in a physical store. 3D rendering allows customers to interact with a product and see it from every conceivable angle. If you as a customer want to buy a bag, you get a completely different experience of the bag thanks to 3D rendering, compared to if you had only seen photos of it. When customers are also given the opportunity to configure the product on their own, the customer experience enters a new level.

Manufacturing

Manufacturers can benefit greatly from 3D rendering because it is possible to create a real-time 3D model digitally of a product and check that the various parts work as they should before the product is manufactured. It is also possible to plan an entire lab by creating many different 3D models. Because it is possible to place them in the room, you can ensure that all parts really work together. Unlike a 2D sketch, with AR and VR you can actually insert a product into an existing lab and see if it fits. It is possible to check that the product, for example, isn’t taller than the ceiling height, which can be difficult to discover on a 2D sketch from above. Maybe you realize that the product needs to be connected to a connector that is 2.5 meters up and to get there you need a ladder. The technology also offers many benefits when it comes to planning.

Animech has developed Anipart that can be used to create, update and distribute service manuals. Manuals created with real-time 3D provide user-friendly guidance on how to service products, which spare parts you need to order and where all the different components should be located. Anipart can also be used for the purpose of showing how to disassemble and assemble a product. If the manufacturer has a 3D manual, it is much easier for them to educate and maintain their products.

Media and entertainment

Being able to show a product to a customer and sell it before the product is available is a very big advantage for marketing. When it comes to the media and entertainment industry, 3D rendering can be used to create animations and sequences that tell a story, for example.

Examples of real-time rendering

The most famous example is video games. All video games are rendered in real time. There, the player chooses what will happen, which makes the game engaging and immersive.

Configuring and visualizing a product on a website may not be as engaging as playing video games, but the technology is still based on the same principles. The customer can interact, examine, twist and turn the product and decide how it should look like by making own configurations. The difference between seeing a static image of a product and experiencing a 3D model of it that you can actually interact with is huge.This means that you as a customer can feel a greater security about a purchase when you know exactly what the product looks like. You know what you’re getting.

Real-time rendering software

When it comes to high quality renderings, it is possible to create applications that are like video games, even if they are not games.There are a variety of 3D engines to use depending on what it is you want to achieve. One of the most famous is Unreal Engine, a premium 3D engine that provides an incredible photo-realistic experience.

Unreal Engine is created by Epic Games, which is also behind the creation of several well-known video games, for example Fortnite. Unreal Engine is a very popular game engine that can be used when you want to show a product in a very high photorealistic quality, a car for example. You can visualize the car in such high quality that it is possible to see exactly how the car’s paint shines and how the different materials inside the car look in detail.

Animech works a lot with Unreal Engine, but also with 3D visualization on the web and then you have to use a 3D engine that is adapted for the web. We use Play Canvas and WebGL for most of our applications. WebGL is a kind of rendering standard. Play Canvas uses OpenGL and is just like Unreal Engine, a game engine with the difference that it is adapted for mobile applications, such as a web browser or a mobile. Due to that, the graphic quality is a bit more stripped down because everything can be rendered through a web browser, but on the other hand, this type of 3D engine is more “open to the public” and you have the opportunity to reach out to the whole world. Thanks to Play Canvas, we can create applications that work on both mobiles, tablets and laptops. Which 3D engine you choose depends in other words on what the goal of a project is and what you want to be able to achieve.

Conclusion

Imagine being able to offer your customers a tool where they can “design” and configure their next car or apartment in the highest photo-realistic quality. With real-time 3D-rendering, a whole new world of opportunities opens up that is guaranteed to strengthen your company’s competitiveness in the market and make customers want to come to you.This is a technology that designers and architects have long dreamed of and now the technological development has brought it here. What is so amazing is also that today this technology is available for everyone, not just the video game industry. No matter what industry you operate in, you can benefit greatly from this. If you want to engage your customers, maintain your competitiveness and increase your sales, it’s time to invest in real-time 3D-rendering. Can you come up with any good excuses no to?