Making of The Unbuilt House

Csaba Banati 2014-02-03 09:23 tutorial  > 3ds MAX  > modeling

Exterior visualization tutorial by Csaba Banati.

Hi everyone!

First of all i would like to thank Evermotion for this great opportunity! Secondly, I couldn’t make this picture without the encouragement and patience my colleagues at ZOA have provided.

Click on image to enlarge 01_csaba_banati_the_unbuilt_house_900_00706.jpg

Final image



András Onodi at ZOA Architects designed this building which is originally located on the shore of the Lake Balaton, Hungary. A few weeks after the planning phase, it turned out this won't be realized because of other circumstances. But we really liked this project so I got the task to make a picture of it which can be placed on our portfolio. All in all i had 5 days for it approximately.


Because of the background story it was obvious for me that I must make a melancholic picture. (And I also prefer these kind of pictures). I thought that making a winter scene in a place that is known as summer paradise is a good starting point. Then I set up some contrasting pairs, for instance forest – beach (which is not sensible in this case), crows – people, coldness – warmth (same in lights), darkness – brightness. I know everybody does that, it’s just that I like to think that if i can figure out a few guidelines it will help me to stay on track later. It does not mean that i can’t refine the concept later. As a matter of fact I almost every time evolve my story during the process.


I’ve never made any snowy visualization before, so i was very excited! The other novelty in my workflow was to minimize the use of 3ds Max. I always do a tons of stuff in post but this time i really wanted to spend just a few hours to model and texture, and a few minutes to render. This could be done because I only wanted just one good image. During the process I found it very hard to not work on details in MAX so I decided to make pre-renders as much as I can. I also was making „sketches” in Photoshop from the very beginning. This way I knew which parts needed more details in 3ds Max and which are simpler to make in Photoshop. It’s not a big thing but makes the workflow very-very effective.

1. Preparations

I always use linear workflow.

The model was made with simple box modelling techniques. Keeping in mind that almost everything is going to be made in PS, I only did some tweaks where was absolutely necessary and inserted some props (armchair, firewoods, etc.).

2. Modelling

2.1. Snow

I made a simple box where I thought the snow would pile up – mostly in the corners and at the edges of the terrace. After I applied a few noise modifiers in different scales. That’s all.


Click on image to enlarge 02_snow.jpg

Snow modeling


2.2. Fire

The fire is made of two simple planes with a picture from (slightly modified in Photoshop). One is aligned perpendicularly to the Z-axis of the camera and the other is paralell of the edge of the fireplace. It doesn’t have to be very precise it just adds dimension to the flat fire.

2.3. Logs

For the logs, I used a photo reference from I put it on a plane and drew a spline around it. Then extruded it and put a little chamfer on the edges. I used a different photo for the bark part.


Click on image to enlarge 03_log_fire.jpg

Setting the fire and logs modeling


2.4. Blanket

The armchair next to the fire is a BoConcept Scelly chair which I’m very fond of. It’s simple yet cosy looking! For more cosiness and realism (you wouldn’t sit there without a warm blanket - that’s for sure) I added a sloppily dropped blanket.

The blanket is a simple plane made with reactor cloth modifier. The plane has very few segments. In this case 4x4 was enough to keep things fast and clean. For swiftness I also did a simplified lowpoly model of the chair. After a few drops the lowpoly blanket was satisfying so I increased the vertices with a Turbosmooth modifier. Some vertices “sinked” into the highpoly model but why should I waste my time on something that isn’t even visible? By the way it was a hard lesson for me because usually I like things nice and tidy. But efficiency must be the priority in this (and every) business.


Click on image to enlarge 04_blanket.jpg

Modeling the blanket


3. Materials

Materials are very simple. Again: it’s because I was planning the heavy post-production stage. I just focused on some reflections for instance on the wood terrace.


Click on image to enlarge 05_materials.jpg

Snow and wood materials


4. Lights

VrayDomeLight is the main light with HDRI (vizpeople HDRI v1) and there are some smaller vray light planes for light up the interior. To spice things up a little, I used some VrayIESLights here and there. For the fire light I've chosen spherical vray light with warm color.


Click on image to enlarge 06_lights.jpg

Lights setup


5. Environment

I used VrayEnvironmentFog but I could have used Zdepth and post work. Just wanted to try it out.




Click on image to enlarge 08_render.jpg

Render setup -standard medium quality settings


7. Post production

There’s no secret - I just thrown elements on the canvas and blended them into the picture. It’s always fun to see your concept come alive.



Click on image to enlarge 09_raw_render_900_0705.jpg

Raw render


Click on image to enlarge 01_csaba_banati_the_unbuilt_house_900_00706.jpg

Final image


Thank you for reading it! I hope you liked it! More works from ZOA at!

Author: Csaba Banati Editor: Michal Franczak
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arkiwiz22:30:29  |  08-02-2014
Excellent work, can you also share camera settings for this as well. Againg good job on the post production transformation also. Thank you.


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