View Full Version : Need advice/opinions on how to start an Architectural/Landscape Previz Company

07-15-2003, 08:36 PM
I'm seriously thinking of starting an Architectural/Landscape previz company and would greatly appreciate any advice, thoughts and opinions on how to go about doing this. My first main concern is how to create a portfolio. I think I see myself doing a lot of "freebies" at least in the beginning. My second main concern is in marketing/soliciting myself to the right people and places. There are so many talented and intelligent people in this forum that I can't think of a better place to begin.


07-15-2003, 10:12 PM
Well, the bad news is that in my experience, most architects are doing there own 3d previs in house. Since they're all using some form of CAD design anyways, it's not much of a stretch to import their work into a rendering app and finish the job.

But if there is a market for what you want to do, you should find yourself a couple of good looking shopping malls, business buildings, and/or houses, take some reference photos and re-create them. If your work is really good, it will sell itself. It also wouldn't hurt to design a few buildings yourself. (the truth is, most architects are just artists that create buildings instead of pictures. All of the structural and code stuff gets done by an engineer anyways.)


07-16-2003, 01:58 AM
also rather than limit yourself to just architects, what about people building their own home / people applying for planning permission / estate agents who need a house shown in a good light / interior modifications etc.

07-16-2003, 03:59 AM
I have created a model of my neighbour's proposed new house in LightWave so that they could see what it would look like eventually, instead of just the rubbish black and white picture they got given by the architects... They were very happy with the idea, especially when I said I was working on a VRML version they could walk around. Now all they need do is supply me with their decorations and there'll something nicer to look at than bare walls. It made me think that there was a market for this too, but on reflection, homeowners aren't going to be the kind of people who want to pay for all the work that has gone into the model so far - if they were paying me by the hour, they'd have passed the cost of the original plans by now... :)


07-16-2003, 05:22 AM
Hmmm...not sure...we do most previz for Audi car salons/stands...And mostly because we also do the communication design (so the big bosses have some sort of idea of 'what the hell we are talking about')
Most previz for architecture is done inhouse aswell (most CAD programs have some way of exporting to something Lightscape or 3D studio (Viz)...)

But, all info i can give is, go do some research at architects (companies), and ask how they do previz, or that they use a third party for the renders...

07-16-2003, 07:10 AM
Since the house walkthrough was so successful, but yet more expensive for the "average" homeowner, maybe you could contact the company that produces the plans themselves. You could do previz for plans for the company itself, they could then pass the option to "buy" a previz along to the plan-buyers as an option. This would spred out the cost over a larger group of people and make both you and the plan company a little more cash.

Of course you would not get to "customize" every previz for the specific wallpaper, carpet color, corvette-in-the-garage person, but you could do some "generic" wall coverings, etc.

Just $0.02-worth.

07-16-2003, 10:06 AM
Most house plans come from blueprints and blue prints are usually copyrighted, so you'd better have the rights to copy that stuff that you will be using to build a 3d model of, or else you could be sued... don't know exactly how many cases there are but I imagine that there are actual lawsuits out there where blue print copyright owners have sued house builders for using the blueprints to build without having copyrights.

Tom Wood
07-16-2003, 10:38 AM
As an architect...

I've never run my own shop, but what I've noticed is that the larger firms have in-house previz capabilities. However, they might be inclined to farm some of that work out to someone with special skills, or during crunch times when they have a lot of work. The mid-level firms are your best bet. Their projects will tend to be things like suburban office buildings, churches, schools, and small industrial stuff. That last one may offer opportunities in equipment layout previz.

I wouldn't even try the house market, unless it's a custom million dollar plus house. Drive through any new neighborhood and if you look closely, you will see that there are about a dozen designs being repeated with variations. If a buyer needs to previz, they can walk into the real thing.

The architecture industry has tried to develop what were called 'smart drawings' where each line meant something in terms of materials. However, that requires that the CADD people know what they are doing, which only comes with a lot of experience. The people with a lot of experience don't want to draw because it doesn't pay. Catch 22.

The best thing you could offer is rapid turnaround at a low cost.


07-16-2003, 12:50 PM
You guys are awesome!

Youíve already mentioned things I hadnít thought of.

I really want to do this. It seems that it would be such an interesting and creatively challenging way to make living. Being new to both 3D & Lightwave (about 2 years) and in my mid 40ís, I know I would never get hired by an efx house, no matter how good I may be. (There always seems to be somebody younger and better than you waiting in line.) I am taking everything that has been posted here to heart and I will look into all of them. But please donít stop if there is anything else you can think of!

I knew this would be the right place to start.

Thank you, all of you for your time, experience and wisdom.


07-17-2003, 12:17 AM
Hi exrabyte,
Thinking of doing the same thing myself and I'm at the stage of what ericsmith said about finding a few intresting location and buiding and working on them at present, just one thing I will not do

is "freebies"
don't even go there:(

Use local stuff to build a v good profolio up then go and sell yourself if you DO one job for free the next one will expect the same and so on before you know what your doing you will be working 24/7 for sod all, here speaks the voice of experience from the web design market, trust me on this one.


07-17-2003, 11:11 PM
Start somewhere with something I started with markers doing land plans some 18 years ago. Now well I get to work in Lightwave most days of the week, but I started with markers one lot at a time. I miss the smell of them there makers sometimes.

Architecture is kinda taking it on the chin right now in the Houston area we just let go 9 hardworking co-workers. Got more work than I know what to do with thou myself.


07-18-2003, 02:58 AM
And another company starter here... not architectural, but general 3D and web stuff...

There is a good chapter in Lightwave Applied that talks about starting your own (animation) company, the general business guidelines are useful...

07-18-2003, 11:06 AM
Deleted by User

07-18-2003, 12:35 PM
as a recent grad, who works freelance for architects, I think that there is a place for arch viz companies, but it depends on the market of your geography. as joel_longie wrote, check out your competition to see which markets they already cover to see if it can handle more work or if it would be more prudent to cover another angle.

Here in nyc, the high-end will indefinitely survive b/c they have skills/expertise/infrastructure that in-house guys don't - to give the extra 33% when it matters most. The full-time in-house positions spend 75% of their time keeping up with the most current revisions and communicating with the designers & project leads. still, what joel says is true, that 3d skills are more prevalent among arch grads (i being one), and that firms pay nothing for these skills.
Developers and home-builders are far easier clients to deal with than architects; however, working on good designs will get you more jobs. it is also easier to make a good image out of a good design rather than the converse.

cgarchitect (http://www.cgarchitect.com) has an insightful column by David Wright of Artmaze. thedrawingstudio (http://www.drawingstudio.com/) website helps so that you can see the 'typical' process, contracts, etc.

Joel, your website is a real good resource. great portfolio too

07-18-2003, 01:08 PM
As quartermain says, look at http://www.cgarchitect.com and ask your question there, and especially i like to see another Lightwave user in that forum, not to forget nearly in the same age ;)


07-21-2003, 05:55 PM
I just wanted to give another round of thanks to everyone that posted on this topic. Again I must reiterate how great it is to have such a wonderful community such as this to come to for honest and intelligent answers to people's questions. It's so refreshing and inspiring to see such passion for ones craft and to help others at the same time.