With 2023 slowly but surely coming to its close, the Rebus render farm is proud to present you one last highlight: The talented folks at Refl Studio, a renowned Vietnamese archviz company, have blessed us with a beautiful seaside cabin at the edge of the Norwegian woods. Comprised of both exterior and interior scenes, the project marks the perfect blend of technical prowess and artistic vision, underscoring the studio's coherent design philosophy.
In our interview, Refl Studio exterior lead and co-founder Bảo gives insight into one of his favorite projects, talks about digital landscaping, the 3D industry in Southeast Asia, and the "human element" in archviz.
Refl Studio, 'Cabin in the Sea'
Hi Bảo, thanks for joining us! To start things off, please introduce yourself to our readers.
It brings me great joy to introduce myself to your esteemed readers. My name is Bảo, and I proudly serve as an architect and 3D artist at Refl Studio Vietnam. With a decade of experience in the CGI industry, every project has been a journey of growth and discovery.
Can you tell us a bit about your professional history with 3D and archviz?
My initial exposure to this captivating field occurred during my fourth-year project at the University of Architecture in Da Nang. Back then, I first utilized 3ds Max to breathe life into my ideas. Surprisingly, at that time, I never envisioned becoming a 3D artist; my aspirations at the time leaned more toward working as an engineer in urban planning after graduation.
However, destiny had other plans for me. The pivotal moment came in 2014 while working at my first company. It was there that I realized my true passion for the art of crafting immersive experiences through 3D software. Since then, I've been enchanted by the enchanting process of transforming creative visions into tangible masterpieces.
Please tell us about your company Refl Studio. When and under what circumstances was the studio established?
The studio was established after many employees worked with several large companies. Our desire to enhance personal development, skills, and aesthetic preferences, as well as adopt a working style that reflects our unique approach, led us to create the studio. We place a strong emphasis on detail and current conditions, and strive to create an overall mood that significantly enhances the visual representation of a project. The decision to establish the studio was driven by the need for personal and professional growth, coupled with a passion for delivering a comprehensive and immersive experience to our clients.Although relatively small, the studio boasts a noteworthy achievement of collaborating with many large companies worldwide, a testament to our capabilities and commitment to excellence. Our collaborative approach ensures a deep understanding of our clients' unique visions, resulting in successful partnerships across various sectors, from real estate to urban planning. At Refl Studio, we pride ourselves on staying at the forefront of industry trends, employing cutting-edge technologies to deliver impactful solutions that redefine the landscape of architectural design.
Bảo and his team went the extra mile to accurately recreate the Norwegian landscape through extensive research and expert craftsmanship.
What is your position at Refl Studio and what are your main tasks and responsibilities?
As co-founder and lead exterior at Refl Studio, my primary responsibilities revolve around spearheading the exterior and background visual representation of architectural projects. I am deeply involved in overseeing and managing the creation of exterior visuals, ensuring that each rendering reflects the unique vision and aesthetic preferences of our clients. This includes a meticulous focus on detail, from the architectural elements to the surrounding environment, with a commitment to conveying the intended mood and atmosphere of each project accurately.
Additionally, I play a pivotal role in guiding the creative direction of our team, fostering a collaborative environment that emphasizes innovation and excellence in the realm of architectural visualization. Overall, my position involves not only hands-on design work but also leadership and strategic decision-making to consistently deliver high-quality and visually compelling exterior renderings.
What services does the studio you provide?
At Refl Studio, we offer a comprehensive range of services tailored to meet the diverse needs of our clients in the realm of architectural visualization. Our core services include still image rendering, architectural animation, render production, VR, virtual staging, and 360° photomontages.
Who are your clients and target markets?
Our clients span diverse geographical regions, reflecting our global reach and commitment to serving a wide range of markets. The countries we actively engage with include Norway, Germany, Switzerland, France, Türkiye, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
By catering to this international clientele, we ensure that our services resonate with a variety of architectural styles, cultural preferences, and industry standards. Our goal is to collaborate seamlessly with clients worldwide, providing tailored and high-quality architectural visualization services that meet the unique demands of each market we serve.
What is the meaning of the name Refl Studio?The name 'Refl Studio' encapsulates the essence of our creative vision: 'Refl' is derived from the word 'reflection', symbolizing our commitment to capturing and presenting architectural designs in a way that mirrors the vision, aesthetics, and aspirations of our clients. Through our work, we strive to create visual reflections that not only showcase the physical attributes of a project but also convey the emotions, mood, and atmosphere intended by the designers. The name Refl Studio therefore embodies our dedication to providing a reflective and immersive experience through the art of architectural visualization.
This three-piece traces integral steps of the production process.
How would you describe your approach and overarching vision as an archviz company?
We believe in harmonizing natural and artificial elements to express and enhance the beauty of architecture. Our vision revolves around achieving a seamless integration of architectural designs with their surroundings, emphasizing the aesthetic unity between the built environment and its environment. Through this approach, we aim to create visualizations that go beyond the traditional, offering immersive and compelling narratives of architectural excellence. Our goal is to help clients vividly envision the upcoming construction or residence, showcasing not just the physical aspects but also the ambiance and atmosphere.
Describe your profile as a 3D artist! What are your main areas of expertise?
My main areas of expertise at Refl Studio include being an architect, 3D artist specializing in modeling and texturing, and an animation architect, bringing designs to life through captivating visual narratives.
Is there a part of CG-related work you particularly enjoy?
I particularly enjoy the aspects of CG-related work that involve modeling and texturing, animation, and simulation. These have been my passions since childhood, sparked by a desire to contribute to the gaming or film industry. The joy comes from the creative process of bringing ideas to life and the immersive experiences these elements can provide in interactive or cinematic environments.
Beautiful from the inside and outside: the cabin's interior is an extension of the building's design and aesthetic.
Where does your own fascination with architecture and archviz stem from?
My fascination is inspired by the remarkable works showcased on the Evermotion website. The captivating designs and visualizations displayed there first ignited my passion for the field, driving me to explore and contribute to the world of architectural visualization. The ability to transform concepts into immersive and visually stunning representations, as witnessed through platforms like Evermotion, fuels my dedication to this dynamic and creative industry to this day.
Is there a specific design philosophy or architectural school of thought you adhere to? What inspires you as a 3D artist?
As a 3D artist, my inspiration is drawn from the philosophy of creating designs that are "real but not real". This approach involves capturing the essence of reality while allowing room for imaginative and creative expression. I am inspired by the idea of crafting visualizations that maintain a sense of authenticity, yet transcend the boundaries of conventional reality.
This philosophy opens the door to explore innovative and immersive designs that resonate with both the tangible and the fantastical aspects of architectural expression.
In your experience, what is the current state of the CG industry and community in Vietnam and Southeast Asia?The CG industry and community in Vietnam and Southeast Asia are thriving, marked by significant growth and a wealth of talented artists with immense potential. However, this development is accompanied by challenges, notably the issue of price undercutting by certain companies. Despite the competitive landscape, the presence of emerging talents and the industry's expansion underscore a promising trajectory for the CG sector in the region.
Given his personal history with the country and its architecture, Bảo proudly flies the Norwegian flag at the 'Cabin in the Sea'.
Let us talk about your work in more detail, namely the project you submitted to our campaign, a beautiful seaside cabin in Norway. Can you first describe the circumstances that lead to the creation of this project? Was this a commercial or a personal project?
Norway holds special significance to me as my first international clients hailed from there, and I worked on Norwegian architectural projects for several years. This particular endeavor was both commercial and personal in nature. As a representation of my work for a client, the project was subsequently refined to align with my illustrative concepts, incorporating adjustments to the landscape to better convey my artistic vision. The fusion of personal admiration for Norway and professional collaboration with a client resulted in this captivating depiction of this beautiful coastal cabin.
What were your main goals for this project?
The primary goal was to capture a warm and sunlit atmosphere, reminiscent of a serene day with sunlight or perhaps the aftermath of rain, featuring rays of light streaming through illuminated clouds. The picturesque landscape is further enhanced by waves gently lapping against the rocky shore, creating a beautiful scene on a sunny day.
What parts of the scene were especially important to you, both from a visual/design and technical point of view?
The most crucial elements in the images were the detailed depiction of the building, its surrounding landscape, and the overall mood. The intricate rendering of the cabin's details was essential to convey the architectural nuances. The landscape, with its coastal features and the interplay of light, played a significant role in creating a compelling visual narrative.
Moreover, the overall mood was a key focal point, aiming to evoke a specific emotion and atmosphere within each image. Balancing these aspects ensured a harmonious and emotionally resonant composition in the final visualization.
What were some of the challenges you had to overcome and how long did it take you to complete the project??
The project was completed within one week. One of the main challenges involved in this project was to construct a landscape and lighting that closely resembled the actual conditions of the area. The goal was to provide the client with a visual representation that accurately conveyed the essence of the location where they planned to build their structure.Overcoming this challenge required meticulous attention to detail, extensive research, and a deep understanding of the natural elements specific to the region, ensuring a visual depiction that resonated authentically with the client's expectations.
The “human element": this man enjoying a cup of coffee on the porch is a simple yet effective part of the visual narrative.
You decided to include people in some of the exterior shots. What was the reason for this and, generally speaking, what are the advantages and disadvantages of introducing a “human element" to an archviz scene?
The decision to include people in some of the exterior shots was driven by the desire to infuse the images with vitality and unique emotions. The human element brings life and a relatable narrative to the scene. The primary challenge lies in seamlessly integrating human figures into the overall composition and enabling them to tell their own story within the visual narrative.
While the advantage is the added dynamism and emotional connection, the difficulty lies in ensuring that the human element enhances rather than distracts from the overall visual storytelling of the scene.
What can you tell us about the living room interior and how the design matches the exterior?
The living room interior draws inspiration from Slettvol, a Norwegian furniture and interior design company. Leveraging their expertise, they provided us with creative approaches to furniture arrangement and decor placement that beautifully showcase an interior style characterized by subtle elegance and sophistication.
This design seamlessly complements the exterior, creating a harmonious transition between the captivating outdoor scenery and the inviting ambiance of the living space. The collaborative efforts with Slettvol ensured a cohesive and aesthetically pleasing connection between the interior and exterior elements of the project.
Please tell us a bit more about your use of colors, materials, lighting, and the overall composition, both on the inside and outside!
For the exterior, the color palette is derived from the actual surroundings of the construction site, considering the colors of the sky, vegetation, and other landscape elements. The aim is to ensure a harmonious blend of colors that reflects the realistic features of the environment. The choice of materials is guided by the client's specifications, ensuring alignment with their vision.
On the interior, adherence to the client's brand is evident in the use of colors and furniture mixing principles. The goal is to achieve a cohesive and aesthetically pleasing composition, drawing inspiration from the desired brand style. High attention to detail is maintained in rendering and recreating every piece of decor, with a focus on meticulous modeling and material representation.
Lighting is carefully considered both inside and outside to create an atmosphere that complements the overall design. The composition is orchestrated to showcase the seamless transition between the exterior and interior, creating a visual narrative that tells a compelling story of the living space.
“Subtle elegance and sophistication": Bảo and his team designed the living room with the professional help of the interior designers from Slettvol.
What software did you use to create this scene? Are there anyplug-ins or tools you would recommend?
The scene was crafted using a combination of powerful software and tools. The primary software includes 3ds Max for modeling, Corona Renderer for realistic rendering, ZBrush for intricate detailing, Chaos Phoenix FD for fluid dynamics, SpeedTree for vegetation modeling, Substance Painter for texture painting, and Quixel Mixer for texture blending. These tools collectively contributed to the creation of a visually stunning and detailed scene.
What is something you have learned from this project that you can share with us?
This project taught me valuable lessons in creating the most realistic image of a project, emphasizing accuracy in depicting the existing conditions and intricate details such as the landscape and vegetation. It underscored the importance of closely adhering to client requirements while also providing the creative freedom to craft moods that contribute to a unique and compelling visual narrative. Balancing technical precision with artistic creativity is instrumental in achieving a captivating and authentic representation of any architectural project.
Please tell us about your experience with RebusFarm! Is there anything you especially like about our services?
I have used RebusFarm during my tenure at previous companies. It has proven to be a valuable solution, enabling clients to save both time and costs by eliminating the need for extensive hardware investments. The efficiency and cost-effectiveness of RebusFarm's rendering services make it a practical and reliable choice for professionals in the field.
A closer look at some of the interior decorations, with every element carefully selected and placed in accordance with a most coherent architectural vision.
In closing, is there anything else you want to say? Any plugs, shoutouts or present or upcoming projects you would like to mention?
I want to express my gratitude to RebusFarm for this opportunity. I always strive to deliver my best work within my capabilities. Thank you, everyone, for your ongoing encouragement and engagement, your support means a lot! Currently, I'm working on a personal project that deviates from architecture, and I look forward to sharing more in the future.
Bảo, thank you so much for taking the time and all the best in the future.