Lighting the Scene in Norway
The design of the Telenor headquarters at Fornebu was a collaboration between the American architecture firm NBBJ and two smaller Norwegian ones, Hus and PKA. Dark-Design worked on the interiors, and Placebo Effects provided design and decision support in the form of 3D models and visualization.
Placebo Effects uses a variety of software packages in creating computer graphics. Once the 3D model is created, they use Lightscape for lighting design and rendering.
Early in the Telenor project, they provided "shoebox models" of the conceptual studies for new types of working spaces. Since that time, they have produced numerous Lightscape models of workspaces, atria, and canteens.
Kim Baumann Larsen, company founder and CEO says, "There still is no one program that beats Lightscape in terms of visual quality, and the way you interact with models in that program is just so intuitive. The user interface is absolutely brilliant, with one-letter shortcuts that allow you to move within and around very complex 3D models interactively."
Larsen says that the realistic way glass is rendered in Lightscape has been impossible to duplicate in any other rendering program they have worked with, making Lightscape invaluable in their work.
Because Lightscape can use actual photometric or light-energy values, it can more accurately simulate lighting and materials than typical rendering software. Lightscape users can evaluate real lighting products in context using standard industry formats and manufacturers' specifications.
The software provides a suite of lighting analysis tools to visualize and quantify the photometric performance of 3D models. Such "virtual prototyping" is significantly cheaper than constructing a physical prototype, and it helps avoid costly design errors.
Radiosity procedures simulate the energy distribution of light as reflected and absorbed by each surface. These calculations of diffuse lighting show up in areas such as indirect illumination, soft shadows, and color bleeding, and they provide a sophisticated basis for the realism of Lightscape renderings. For finishing touches, the integrated ray tracer calculates direct shadows, specular reflections, and highlights.
Designers and digital content creators using conventional rendering systems often spend a great amount of time adjusting lighting to obtain the natural-looking effects they want. However, the effects achieved are typically not physically accurate.
With Lightscape's interface and global illumination rendering, the process of lighting a scene and obtaining these effects is more literal, allowing the user to focus more on lighting design itself and less on techniques required to achieve rendering effects.
Radiosity calculations are also inherently three dimensional, and Lightscape stores the lighting values across each surface together with the 3D geometry. Because these lighting values do not change with viewpoint, it is relatively fast, after a lengthy initial calculation, to display and render additional views.
In fact, depending on the complexity of the scene and the speed of the computer, it is possible to create interactive walkthroughs of fully rendered 3D models in real time. For Placebo Effects' architectural clients, this means improved design feedback and a more effective presentation tool.
The latest version, Lightscape 3.2, imports AutoCAD 2002 and all previous DWG formats. It offers up to 50 percent performance improvement in ray tracing with antialiasing, as well as other feature improvements.
The software also includes an extensive library of hundreds of ready-to-use luminaires, blocks, and materials featuring products from leading manufacturers. Drag-and-drop tools for placing and positioning luminaires and other objects into 3D model spaces are much improved in this version, as is the interface for previewing materials.
Lightscape in Practice
Baumann Larsen and Placebo Effects cofounder and head of design Dag Meyer are both licensed architects. Meyer has worked extensively as a practicing architect, and he was one of the lead designers with Dark-Architects on the Apotekergaten 10 (A10) project that relied heavily on visualizations.
A10 is the corporate headquarters for Schibsted, the largest media company in Scandinavia. It is an urban infill project on a complex site. The building is a nine-story high-tech building with an atrium that filters light into a narrow space.
For the design of the building, the architects relied on accurate 3D models of all the surrounding buildings, and a continuously updated model of the project was used throughout the process as a design and communication tool.
When BMW sponsored a competition for a new event and delivery center in Munich, Placebo Effects provided visualization services to the Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta. They provided a very simple 3D massing model that Placebo Effects edited and rendered. The resulting images were quite abstract but with realistic-looking lighting.
For Baumann Larsen, no other 3D software captures the play of light like Lightscape.
Elizabeth Bollinger is a professor at the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, University of Houston, in Houston, Texas.
Editor's Note: Another system that combines ray tracing of direct light with a sophisticated approach to rendering diffuse light is the free Radiance Synthetic Imaging System, developed by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Like Lightscape, Radiance was originally created for Unix systems. For both Windows and Macintosh users, a free Web interface for Radiance is provided by Artifice, Inc., and the recently released Desktop Radiance provides Radiance on Windows with a direct interface to AutoCAD. Classic Radiance also runs on Mac OS X.