Harris Kalinka

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Thursday 14th November 2013

How much will a visualisation cost?

This is the question we get asked more than any other, and it’s always a tricky one to answer because there are so many variables that affect the cost. So I thought it would be useful to give you a better understanding of the factors we consider when we quote, then take a look at how to make the most of your visualisation budget.

What we consider when we quote

The 3d model

To give an accurate quote it’s always helpful to see the project drawings. This allows us to see the scale and complexity of the project and understand the time it will take to create the 3d model from which the images or animations are generated.

The number of views you need

We also like to know how many views you need right at the beginning, because this determines how much 3d modelling is required. For example, if you need a limited number of specific views then we might be able to model only one or two elevations for an exterior, or two sides of a room for an interior. This will reduce the amount of modelling and in turn the cost. If you want views of your model from every angle, this is going to cost more. As a general rule the most time-consuming part of any visualisation service is creating the 3d textured model, so this stage makes up a high percentage of the total cost. Once we have the 3d model, generating the views is a relatively quick process. So the first image will be more expensive because most of the cost will be for the creation of the 3d model, whereas extra images will become progressively cheaper.

The type of visualisation you need

A photomontage will typically cost less than a verified view, and a CGI will naturally be cheaper than an animation. We always like to discuss the project with our clients before providing a quote, so that we can identify the best visualisation for your needs.

How to lower your visualisation costs

1. Send us a detailed package of drawings

Sending us sketches or unfinished drawings means we have to do more work to interpret the drawings and fill in the areas that haven’t been designed. We love working from sketches and many of our clients send us concepts or unfinished drawings. But if you want to save money it’s best to finalise the design and drawings before you send them to us.

2. Send us the drawings in CAD format

We occasionally work from hand drawn plans, which look fantastic, but it can take a lot of time to digitise them in order to start creating the 3d model.

3. Send us a 3d model

Sometimes clients send us SketchUp or Revit models, which should plug into our workflow and minimise the amount of modelling work we have to do. Although this will save time don’t assume that all we’ll have to do is render the views, because it’s likely we’ll still have to add some detail to the model and work on the materials. It’s best to send us the model and let us take a look.

4. Send us all the references

This might be specifications for furniture, fittings or images of a particular tree or style of lighting. The more we have at the start of the process the faster we can work and this will help to bring the costs down.

5. Use furniture from our 3d model library

For interiors we have an extensive library of furniture and fittings which can be used to quickly furnish and decorate a room. This isn’t appropriate for every project, but it will save you money if you use items from our library. Many of our clients like to specify particular items and if they’re not already in our library we’ll create a bespoke 3d model.

6. Allow plenty of time

An urgent deadline might require us to work late nights or weekends which adds to the cost. Giving us plenty of time, even some notice as to when the project might start, will not only save money but also give you more opportunities for commenting on our progress and tweaking the materials and lighting. In a future post I’ll discuss the cost efficiency of hiring a visualisation company at the start of the design process, and how being involved in multiple stages of a project can be beneficial.

A final word on expectations

Like in any industry, you get what you pay for. You can get visualisations of different qualities with substantial differences in costs. However, there’s almost always a good reason for this and it’s not just the quality of image you should consider. Some companies will offer a ‘give us the drawings and we’ll send you the images’ style of service, whilst others will work with you, offering a personal service that gives you plenty of opportunity to review progress so the final product is better than you imagined. Before you decide on your visualisation company, you might want to read my post on 7 steps to buying a great architectural visualisation.

So how much does it cost?

Having read this post you’ll hopefully agree that it’s not as simple as providing a cost per image or per second of animation. It would be misleading to simply pluck costs out of the air, because every project is different and there are too many variables to even provide a range of costs. Costing visualisations is complicated, but that doesn’t mean we can’t give you an accurate cost fast.

Tell us about your project and get a no-obligation estimate