This guide sets out to answer one of our more common questions: What should a 3D render cost?
Pricing Components of a Render
To better understand how rendering projects are priced, you need to understand the costs to the rendering company. There are two major factors in the price of a render: labour, and rendering time. We will address each of these issues separately below.
In order to create a render a 3D artist needs to:
- Understand the clients vision.
- Create the model.
- Texture the model.
- Set up the lighting.
- Set up the camera.
For more detail on these steps, please click here to see our 3D rendering basics guide.
What increases the labour involved?
The labour involved in a 3D render is not as straight forward as one might think. Skilled 3D artists can create what can appear to be an extremely detailed scene in a very short amount of time using the tools at their disposal. On the other hand, seemingly simple scenes might take much longer.
For example, one could create a large and very accurate aerial view of a forest very quickly using public topographical data and a number of automated processes. However, it could take several weeks to model a single piece of equipment, according to exacting standards, such as an electronic device with complex circuit boards and wiring.
In many cases the process can be sped up using items from our library, such as furniture, cars, people, and finishes. The main factors that affect labour are the level of detail and the number of unique elements required.
Rendering time is the amount of time that it takes a computer to create your image. This is directly related to how realistic the image is, and how much detail you require. However, there are many tricks to create detail without adding much rendering time.
As a consumer, you should not worry too much about rendering time: that is the job of the rendering company! We provide the information below to help you understand why some projects cost more, and take longer, then others.
What increases rendering time?
Depending on the rendering software, the number of light sources can sometimes greatly affect rendering times – thus, exterior scenes can render quite quickly. Another factor is the detail of the scene. The industry term for this is poly-count, which refers to the number of polygons used to model the scene. For more information you can check out Wikipedia’s 3D modeling page here.
A common element that greatly increases detail, and therefore rendering time, is foreground vegetation, background vegetation is generally optimized with a technique of using billboards or sprites click here to learn more. Additionally, curved surfaces tend to require much more detail.
Reducing rendering times
The biggest single thing you can do to reduce rendering time is to reduce the number of required revisions by giving detailed plans and specific feedback. Every time you require a revision, some or all of the image needs to be re-rendered. If you require fewer revisions, it will require less rendering time. This may save you money in the long run – at RealSpace, we generally price lower for returning customers, who we know we can work with efficiently.
Hardware and software effects on rendering time
With the constant improvements in computer hardware and the changes in rendering software, rendering time for still images is becoming a very minor factor in price. However, the rendering time for animations is still a very relevant factor in their production cost.
Below are two pricing strategies most commonly advertised by 3D rendering companies.
With per-image pricing, you are charged a fixed price per rendered image. This type of pricing relies on the fact that most projects require multiple renders. The rendering company probably loses money on the first render, but makes it back on subsequent renders.
Per-image pricing is generally a strategy to productize the service of rendering. It allows the advertiser to offer a dollar value on an ad, or offer “20% off your first render”. Make sure to read the fine print on these offers, as there may terms such as size restrictions (square footage), or restrictions on the number of revisions.
Times when per-image pricing is best.
At RealSpace we don’t feel that that per-image pricing meets most of our clients’ needs, but the exception to this is if you need only a single render. That way you can take advantage of their lost leader and save yourself some money. Just remember that you get what you pay for: if they know that they are losing money, it may reflect on you and your project. To be safe, make sure they have a satisfaction guarantee.
Per-project / Per-scene pricing
For this type of pricing you generally send a company the details of your project, and they send you back a customized quote based on your needs. We may be biased because this is the way we quote, but for most projects we feel this is best for the client. We believe that all projects are unique and all clients’ needs are unique. In many cases we have found creative ways to get our clients what they need while keeping projects within a given budget.
Ways to Reduce Costs When Dealing With a Custom Quoted Project Without Reducing Quality:
- Be organized.
- Include all plans and reference images.
- List and label as much as you can in your plans, drawings, or sketches.
- Mark camera locations and angles in your plans, drawings, or sketches.
- Have everything ready when you ask for a quote. An organized client is generally easier to work with, and you may get a better price because of it.
- Ask if the company has a library of models that you can use for your project. This can be a big time saver, especially with interior scenes.
- Know what resolution you need. If your renders are only going to be viewed on a computer screen, you will require much lower resolutions than if you need to have them printed.
- Find other renders that you like. This makes it much easier to produce a style that you will like and saves time on revisions.
- Ask what can be done to get the price down. Sometimes there are sacrifices that may not make much difference to you, but make the company’s life much easier.
Picking a Company
There are rendering companies producing fantastic work all over the world, but picking one to trust can be daunting. The number one complaint we hear from customers who have had a bad experience is: “they did not understand what I needed, and I was not happy with the results.”
Here are some questions to ask:
- Are they professional and respectful of my time?
- Can I communicate effectively with them?
- Do they understand my vision and the style I am going for?
- Is their work good quality? Can I see high resolution images from their portfolio?
RealSpace 3D Rendering Services
At RealSpace, we pride ourselves on our high quality renders and professional service. Check out our 3D rendering services page for details.