Can Psychology and Digital Design go together? YES, in more ways than you can imagine!

An interview with ESR-dc founder Eric Reid


This article shares the experiences of Eric Reid with creating architectural visualizations (aka Arch-Viz) using 3ds Max, V-Ray, and *ehem ehem*  GarageFarm.NET

What comes to mind when you hear the word psychology? You’d probably think of Sigmund Freud (psychology’s granddaddy), MBTI personality types (do you know what’s yours?), or even James McAvoy’s stellar acting in the 2016 movie Split (it’s amazing, you gotta see it!). 

But 3D modeling? What can the study of the human mind possibly have to do with computer graphics and animation?

A lot, actually, if you ask Eric Reid, the founder of Arch-Viz house ESR-dc based in...well, they have a unique “office” setup. But that’s getting ahead of the story.

So going back, what’s the link between psychology and 3D? Let’s hear it from Eric himself:

“I have an undergraduate degree in Architectural Design and a minor in Psychology. This has allowed me to imagine and create scenarios from multiple perspectives, and relate to people on a deeper level. My passion has always been expressing feelings and experiences through storytelling. With my design and visualization skills, it has allowed me to pursue my passion of crafting stories through captivating visual narratives, using digital software.”

Turns out, 3D is as much about technical skills as it is about storytelling. It is the storytelling part where a background in psychology comes in handy. If this is the case, then those guys over at Pixar must have PhDs in psychology…

But what does storytelling have to do with Arch-Viz, you might ask? I mean, you’re pretty much-showcasing building facades and interiors, right? Where’s the story? 

Very good questions, my perceptive reader. Here again, Eric’s experience speaks for itself:

“Starting my own company has allowed me to travel and take in experiences from an architectural and psychological lens. Learning from these diverse and memorable experiences has provided me with the skills to realize my stories through digital visualizations. My passion for design and travel is a never-ending source of inspiration. My life long goal is to collect life experiences that will enhance and further my architectural career in order to become a well rounded and respected architect.”

At this point, you’re probably curious to know the kind of work that Eric and his team produce. Well, it’d be easier to show you than tell you. Here are a few pieces of their work:

1. Suspended reality


2. Aerial rendering of a Heritage District in Ontario, Canada

3. Animation of Recovery Bays of a Hospital in London, UK

The animation captures the clean, comforting aesthetic of the renovated hospital floor that allows patients to recover in a comfortable and dynamic environment. The future renovations will improve conditions for the patients and staff.

Amazing, right? Now, if looking at these amazing visuals made you interested in arch-viz, Eric has a lot of insights to share with you in creating stunning worlds like these. Here’s a little Q&A we’ve had with Eric that you might find helpful:

Do you render with V-Ray exclusively?

Yes for rendering in 3ds Max, as well as Unreal Engine (+V-Ray) for animations.

What made V-Ray your engine of choice over at ESR-dc?

In order to make sure they can access and take full advantage of templates and the large asset library, we only use V-Ray for 3ds Max.

What changes have you observed in the Visualization industry over the past few years, and how does V-Ray fit into these?

I have only been formally in the Arch-Viz industry for 5 years, but I have seen a boom in interest and credibility. As there should be, visualizations play an integral role in design resolution internally and can make or break a presentation, competition, or proposal. V-Ray is a valuable and trustworthy tool.

What upcoming features in V-Ray would be the most impactful to you and your business? 

I have not really thought about this, but I would like to see more customization options for the render channels. Whether that be excluding or including certain objects only to be utilized for desired channels. As I prefer to create my renderings more like a layered painting in Photoshop/post-production, render channels are integral.

What deliverable do you think will be most in-demand in the next 3 years?

I have always preferred animations, as they can tell a more dynamic and engaging story. I see this and more open world style video game-style environments being used at all stages of the design and visualization process. As of right now, animations are generally expensive, rendering frame by frame in 3ds. This is why we are forced to incorporate Unreal Engine as the go-to for animations. It can provide faster turn around times and drastically reduce costs, meaning we can win more projects. Our preferred method for renderings is still 3ds Max + V-Ray.

What is the role of a cloud render farm in your 3d production pipeline?

Now, what role does a cloud render farm like GarageFarm.NET play for arch-viz artists like Eric and his team? The way Eric tells it, it’s fundamental to their process. 

You see, ESR-dc isn’t a traditional 3D graphics house. They don’t sit at an office somewhere designing away on their computers. Instead, they are a network of digital nomads, meaning every team member is free to roam and travel and work anywhere they please, allowing them to really be immersed in the real-world environments that they are trying to capture in 3D. That’s a huge advantage. But the challenge comes when rendering time comes around. I’ll let Eric take it from here:

“If we are modeling an office tower at dusk, we could actually be outside observing reality at dusk while working. This flexibility is an advantage, but it can be hard to provide quality results using a laptop or more mobile workstation. Our workflow is built for this by providing high-quality results efficiently using GarageFarm is an integral part of our workflow. We use our computers/laptops to set up the scenes and test render locally, but all client-provided visuals, process, and final output use GarageFarm. Instead of creating our own render farm, which would never be comparable, we rely on GarageFarm for every project.”

And Eric keeps coming back to GarageFarm.NET primarily because of one thing: support. A lot of things can go wrong during render and it could be a cause of delay if these aren’t addressed promptly. Here is Eric’s experience:

“One of the reasons why I went with GarageFarm is the quick and helpful support. As no scene or project goes perfectly, there can be issues that don’t appear when rendering locally. With almost every other render farm I’ve tried, there was some sort of issue with support, either slow response, a lot of attitudes, or they couldn’t actually tell me what the problem is. GarageFarm.NET’s upload and download process are by far the smoothest and least error-prone. Completed renderings are as expected.

We have been using GarageFarm.NET for years now and never had an issue. We have tested almost every farm out there and we enjoy the ease of use and simplicity of the upload and download process of GarageFarm, which allows us to provide high-quality visuals on or ahead of schedule for our clients.”

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