Substance and the New Potential of Arch Viz
We live in exciting times. With the resurgence of
virtual reality (VR)-this time in a form that is highly suited to
architectural projects-we seem to be entering a golden age of
immersive experiences. And if there is anything you can say about
VR, it's that it is definitely an experience.
But behind the glitz and glamor that follow new
technologies remains a simple fact about 3-D visualization-people
take as much pleasure in familiarity, as they do in what's new. For
every abstract design that makes someone go "wow!" there's another
that leans on the traditional and delights that way. Tried and true
is enough for some people, but even then, you still have to
represent those surfaces and shapes with a level of realism that
reads as accurate.
At Clermont-Ferrand, France-based Allegorithmic, we make a tool that reproduces
accuracy and restores creativity to the 3-D material making
process. It's called Substance Designer and it's been re-engineered
to target the needs of architects and visualization teams.
So what is it?
Substance Designer is a node-based compositing tool
that helps artists texture assets (like metal beams) and bake
information into pre-existing models. While you can make anything
from scratch, it comes a wide library of tools, materials and
procedural effects to help artists achieve their goals, all with a
non-destructive workflow. It also started in the games industry,
where it's used on the vast majority of high-profile AAA games.
With Substance Designer 5.3, we just built NVIDIA's
Designworks technologies like Iray, their physically based
rendering (PBR) engine into the software, which produces a level of
quality that is primed and ready for the photorealistic world of
Why do you want a renderer
in your texture creation package?
It means no more switching in and out of different
programs to create your marketing or pitch materials. You begin and
end in one piece of software. It also means you have a
state-of-the-art, GPU-accelerated, unbiased path tracer linked to
the best texture creation tool in the world. Beauty shots are
incredibly easy to create now, with high levels of detail and
photorealism. It also brings sub-surface scattering, true emissive
materials and more to an architect's workflow, opening up even more
ways to build immersive experiences. If VR truly hits like a lot of
us think it will, tools that promote realism are going to be
As you can guess, when you design software, half of
the release process is thinking up ways for people to use it. You
imagine plenty on your own, but it really takes field use for you
to get a great view into what works on the ground. In France, where
we are from, architecture firms have been working with Substance
Designer 5.3 since the beta, and have reported back to us three
immediate uses that have enlarged their workflows.
The first, they can now create complex and innovative
materials (like patterns in concrete, creative materials
assemblies, etc.) any time they want. With all the training
resources we provide online, learning to make Substances is pretty
simple, especially when we are talking about bread and butter
elements like metal, wood, dirt, etc.
The second, they can add a light patina to any
imported 3-D assets. As we all know, sometimes 3-D comes out a
little too perfect, and perfect is distracting to most people. One
of the things Substance Designer excels at is adding the little
bits of wear, scuffs and random features that make something appear
real, and when done right, immersive.
And third, those beauty shots we were discussing
earlier. With Iray on board, architects have a tool that can
produce pitch-worthy renders that will look and feel natural. From
the furniture to the foundations.
Being new to the architectural world makes us excited
to see what the community will do with Substance Designer. It's
obviously a powerful tool, but a tool is only as good as the artist
that wields it. We look forward to working with this community as
it shows off its stuff. And remember, we are around and easy to get
ahold of. If you want something built in, ask for it and we'll do
Francois Cottin is the chief
marketing officer for Allegorithmic, Clermont-Ferrand, France. To
learn more, visit www.allegorithmic.com.
Images (from top): David Lesperance; Marcin