When you’re about to show the world a project you’ve been working on for years, you can’t risk getting caught with a poor visualization. So how do you spot a bad job before it’s too late? Asking one of the sharpest Visual Artists we know, there’s one element worthy of some extra attention. Ready to turn your dreams into dust in the blink of an eye. Let’s take a good look at the art of visualizing people.
When it comes to visualizations, the world is not getting less picky. Today’s expectations of 3D imagery are sky-high as to technical skill, creativity, and emotional leverage. And out of all elements at play, people (you might recognize this from the real world) are one of the most challenging ones to deal with. To blame is nothing but human biology, which obviously didn’t spend millions of years learning how to spot a fraud for nothing. So why not invest all our creativity in visualizing breathtaking buildings instead?
The tricky thing about people
And this is why people in visualizations make all the difference: Poorly executed, they can eliminate all sense of credibility to your vision in seconds, leaving a slightly itchy feeling of awkwardness behind. However, made with the right time, skill, and care, it’ll bring an almost magical spark of authenticity to the imagery, helping the audience connect with your vision in a deeply personal way. So how to separate the good from the bad?
Eager for answers, we turned to Frej Agelii, who, besides being one of the most experienced Visual Artists in this field, happens to be our dear friend and colleague here at TMRW, Gothenburg.
It’s all about storytelling
To Frej, the secret behind a winning visualization is not merely about the quality of the composition, shadows, light or other technical aspects (even if those are super important as well, he points out). It usually comes down to the story. And people are probably the most effective way to make stories come to life. But what kind of people are the perfect ones to hero your story? Which characters are best equipped to connect emotionally with your target audience?
Picking the right actors
When working on a project, the creative process has a lot of similarities to making a film. And just like in Hollywood: a big deal in creating an intriguing image is choosing the right actors for the scene. From the main characters that first catch your eye to the extras providing an engaging sense of everyday life in the background. Each person has a unique part to play, and helps determine the emotional value of the story.
”The vital question is not what kind of people fit into the environment but how they help the story unfold. What happens if we place an old lady on a bench peacefully feeding the ducks while watching the city come to life in the background? Or a busker playing guitar in the middle of a crowded square? There’s a lot of testing going on before we find our actors.”— Frej Agelii
In short: If the casting feels slightly off, you should sort it out before you buy a suit for the Oscars. Besides, creating a winning scene takes a lot more than picking the perfect set of folks.
What people do (and don’t do)
When you’re in the humble business of showing people a future of their own—the most critical eye is to be expected. And if your audience can’t relate visually and emotionally to the world you’re presenting: chances are, you’re done. Considering the extent to which cultural codes differ, research is key in creating a natural ambiance.
”To capture that authentic vibe, you need a deep understanding of the place, stretching from specific climate and weather conditions to culture and local activities. And details like how children play and what kind of games they’re into. In this phase, there are no shortcuts. And it’s one of the most common flaws that help you separate a top-class job from a budget one.”— Frej Agelii
It’s clear these things aren’t done in a day. And as you probably figured out, there’s even more to it. The following error is slightly more challenging to spot.
This time you’re not getting your answers by studying the characters’ looks or actions. What you need to focus on is what will happen next.
”In city scenes, a typical flaw is people heading towards the same point, which in reality would cause a collision. A bicycle going in an unnatural direction will disrupt the flow of the scene, just like someone walking too fast or too slow, considering their location. And the thing about flow is: If one single detail’s off, it can make the whole scene feel unnatural, even if you don’t see it.”— Frej Agelii
And speaking of directions, people actually have another crucial role to play, namely as guides of the viewer’s eye.
”Your goal is to make the viewers stay as long as possible and engage in the story. And eyes always follow the people. So characters allow you to control how your audience travels through the image, ensuring they’re not slipping out. It’s a powerful technique when you master it.”— Frej Agelii
The magic is in the final touches
So characters are selected to hero your story, carefully orchestrated to play the right strings of emotion, authentically behaving and moving towards the desired areas of the image. Does this mean we’re done? Not quite. You don’t want to forget the details. And as in the real world, there are a lot of them.
”Have you ever seen a visualization with ”hanging” in the air? That’s the result of not getting your shadows right. Then you have the reflections and lighting corrections to deal with. When it comes to final touches — all have to be spot on to make the scene convincing. If not, all the previous work is pretty much for nothing.”— Frej Agelii
See the difference? In the end, you’re visualization will be judged on the smallest of details. And if you think there’s a magic button making shadows look this real, your’re wrong.
We finally reached the end of this story, and hopefully, it’s a sweet one since you now know how to spot a poor visualization at a glance. Or at least got some clues on how to avoid a disaster. It turns out visualizing people is kind of an art form of its own, right? Considering the time, skill and effort put into this, no wonder there are only a few Visual Artists in the world to operate on this level.
Did you enjoy this little sneak peek behind the architectural visualization scene? Feel free to indulge yourself even more through the links below.