Want to Improve Your 3D Visualisation? Travel with a Photographer

An Architectural Adventure in Lisbon

A Designer's Viewpoint:

Standing atop of one of the hills in Lisbon near Barrio Alto with an old point and shoot camera, munching the last of my Pastel de Nata (my third of the day) I’m lost. But that’s when you find the best parts of a city. It might seem like an odd place to improve my 3D Visualisation, but I’m doing some intense studying.

The camera in truth, is old, and not in the fun vintage way. It does provide more options than an iPhone lens. With 7.2 mega pixels and a Leica lens you really have to think about the composition and light in the scene before you take the shot. I’m learning to train my eye and not rely solely on the quality of the camera.

Design and research trips are a great way of feeding your inspiration and excitement. I’m beginning to take a camera on mini adventures. Shooting on the road is a great way of practicing and improving your skills. It helps me see the details and take in more of the city than I would if I didn’t have a camera. 

Finding Inspiration in Architecture:

Deciding to walk in a city can be a double edged blade depending on where you are. After the first 10 minutes we managed to cross from one district into another. I can proudly say we walked the entirety of central Lisbon. Because of this we discovered some amazing hidden streets.

I decided to concentrate on improving my framing this trip. I also want to improve this aspect in my renderings. The focus for this, I decided, was going to be the Lisbon Trams. 

Something became clear during this trip. Due to the cramped nature in the maze of streets, it was impossible to capture the architecture in it’s entirety. This changed my eye and how I saw the city. I played with the space and explored ways of putting the same dynamic energy of a hero shot into my camera lens. I concentrated on the features of the streets and buildings. I looked at the parts that I felt held the energy in the scene, and I was able to capture much more compelling images. The same was true from the city's high points. My lens has an optical zoom, so I decided to concentrate on the patterns and lines of the city. I looked at the city as a whole instead of trying to capture smaller details and I was able to create much more drama in the scenes.

Lisbon is full of amazing colour palettes. Painted exterior walls line the streets and an array of new and faded textures greet the eye. There is an infinite number of complimentary and clashing colours. They mix together to create a brilliant vibrancy in the newer and older parts of the city.

Details and Flourishes:

 So here we are. Staring down at the worst menu in the history of food, on an uncomfortable plastic chair in a back ally in Portugal.

‘I don’t think we should eat here’ Elle said to me cautiously

‘It’s fine’ I heard myself say, privately thinking it was an abomination. But it was my idea and I was committed.

‘1,000 Excellent reviews on Trip Adviser don’t lie’ I really hope they don’t…

Long story short, we had the best fried chicken E.V.E.R. probably in the whole of Europe, from the original inventors of Peri Peri.

And then the Architectural Photography ensued.

Some of the greatest parts of architectural photography are the tiny details we don’t recreate in a visualisation scene. Sometimes we make a scene stylised and perfect. We forego the distressed textures that make up reality. The buildings in Lisbon are densely packed with wrought iron balconies and cracked paint. But the faded textures and cracked tiles only add to it’s charm. It’s what gives the city it’s character and makes the streets so vibrant.

Capturing Excitement in the Frame:

The entirety of Lisbon is packed with makeshift coffee stands. Some in the form of ornate kiosks and others tiny cafes. These stands have such a great energy about them, and amazing espresso as well. People gather around them to enjoy their holidays or lunch breaks in the heat and sun. Capturing these moments proved to be an effective way of putting energy into the scenes.

Lisbon particularly, is a city of angles. The hills in the city provide great contrasts in the street and the exterior walls. Finding dynamic angles in the city streets is easy. Trying to capture these on screen is a challenge. There is an energy in the contrasting lines that creates a powerful negative space. Over time the streets have warped and nothing stands straight. I found the trick is to embrace these subtle differences. Not to pick a 90’ vertical shot but try and capture each scene in a way that makes sense to the eye.

One of the more Portuguese styled contrasts is their own brand of old colourful terraces next to grey brutalism. In some instances it can effect a whole city block and is usually on a slope causing an interesting intersecting angle from the street. These concrete fortresses seem to be completely at odds with the surrounding delicate and colourful architecture. But at the same time also appear to prop up some of the more crumbling, ancient structures.


We finally made it back to the UK after an epic last night in Lisbon. We feasted at the Timeout Market on Croquettes, Portuguese burgers and pastry. We eventually made it back to the UK after a whopping 25 hours awake and slept like the dead to wake up refreshed and excited.

Lisbon is a fantastic city for travellers and a gift for anyone with an interest in photography. For anyone considering taking a trip soon, I can say this, dust off that old point and shoot or charge up your smartphone and see what you find. I saw this trip as a chance to train my eye and gain more experience capturing the life and energy in a scene. You will learn so much and see way more of the city. I have a renewed excitement for 3D Visualisation and can’t wait to put these lessons into practice , stay tuned, epic viz coming… 

Experience Rhino 3D

Rhino 3D User Group Meeting.jpg

Rhino 3D UK User Group Meeting 2017

I’m excited as I walk down the steps into the Rhino 3D User Group Meeting. It is a veritable CAD cave of technology. An underground space called the Crypt in Clerkenwell, London, on a 26’C day. I’m excited because I know what’s coming. I can't wait for he talks and presentations, what’s new and what’s on the horizon. And a peek at what other companies are doing and how they are using CAD.


Over the past few years we have seen more softwares pushing towards a cloud based and VR enabled future. Now in Rhino with apps like Yulio, Prospect and Mindesk, you can upload your models to VR platforms. If you have the equipment you can use VR as a new environment to make your 3d models. Whilst it is still in it’s infancy, VR is not just a fad. It is here to stay. As we begin to see better, smoother and cheaper integration, we will have access to an amazing array of design and communication tools. 

Grasshopper 3D

It is not surprising that at an event of about 100 people at least 98%  are heavily invested in Grasshopper. In fact I said to another designer, that this event inspired me to do some fast and thorough Grasshopper learning. He agreed and we realised that we must have been that 2%! The most common saying in the room was:

‘I don’t know how I would model today without Grasshopper’.

Many of them are architects. Taking advantage of parametric modelling's rapid update capabilities. Others are product designers. Taking the opportunity to control every aspect of their design, and make many iterations for feedback.


At the exhibition stands I am impressed by the shear number of physical tools available for CAD. They all have one function - to help users interact with the digital world. We are no longer constrained by a 2D mouse and a keyboard for the 3D world. Now you can choose from the 3D Conexxion mouse, the Wacom Cintiq range and the the crazy 3D Rudder. ‘A foot-powered controller to move in VR, gaming and CAD like you move in real life’. See Below. This was the most fascinating product on display. I had a go moving around a Rhino architectural file. Like with a 3D Conexxion mouse it takes some getting used to. Once you have it, it feels so natural moving your feet to navigate a space. It also helps you to sit better in your chair. You are moving to adjust your position in the scene and keeping yourself in good posture in the real world.

3D Rudder.jpg

On the subject of interaction, one of the projects included a design from Moritz Waldemeyer. It included Jamiroquai and a CAD sculpture of JK’s head. They are using Grasshopper to create a slider interface CAD file in Rhino. Providing JK with the opportunity to finish and customise certain aspects of the design with the sliders. This resonated with me on the same level as the physical products. Allowing us to interact with CAD in a different way. It gives people who are not CAD users the chance to get a feel for the programs and process. They may not be able to design the product as a whole. But they can still be involved and have some ownership of the final outcome.

Excellent Technology

There were some inspiring uses of VR through out the day. Carsten Astheimer gave an excellent talk on transport design. See Top. He talked about how they have integrated VR into the design process. They are using it as a way to showcase the scale of their designs and communicate ideas to clients. They are ‘Very much looking to the future with VR’.

He had a particularly brilliant answer to the Question:

‘How do you make Class A surfaces for the auto industry in Rhino?’

His answer:

'To understand the form you want and what it is trying to achieve. Then get everything into the design, constraints, form, everything. Then scrap it and start again.'

Rinse and repeat. They went through 80 revisions until they got the perfect surfaces for their product. (In some cases).

Part of my now rabid hunger for Grasshopper stems from the great examples of the day. The Elliott Wood presentation about making the Battersea Pump House Pavilion was brilliant. See Above. They have a simple design modelled parametrically with Grasshopper. This allows them to get fabrication information directly from the file very quickly and onsite if needs be. Their user centred approach on a shoestring budget was inspirational.

Arthur Mamou-Mani gave a great talk about fabricating a giant block building robot. It is the size of a building, and Grasshopper is instrumental in the success of this project. Instead of using robotic arms it uses a winch and wire system. The same principle as football stadium spidercams. One the most fascinating parts was the software Flux. It translated multiple designs gathered from crowd sourcing into Grasshopper. See Below. The software uses cloud based data transfer to feed geometry into Grasshopper and G code. Run on the host computer this cuts out compatibility issues associated with the crowd sourcing. The final robot uses an 8 wire and winch system and is indeed HUGE!

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It was here we were reminded of the Grasshopper 3D User Group Meetings in London. And that many of the speakers are regular attendees. So anyone reading this who would like to geek out or learn a bit more, I urge you to attend!

More Presentations

There are so many great parts to the day it is hard to mention them all but some of my other favourite parts are:

Bart Radeki, Digits 2 Widgets gave a brilliant presentation on 3D printing and model making. Their method of using micron accurate 3d printing to make fabrics is amazing. Each fibre is printed to a degree of accuracy so that all the fibres are separate and do not fuse together. This allows the flexibility and strength of fabric.

Wearable Technology Moritz Waldemeyer.jpg

Moritz Waldemeyer had such a prolific portfolio to show I can scarcely mention it all. See Above. His expertise in wearable technology and name dropping is mind boggling. (Ok Go, U2, Take That, Will I Am and recently Jamiroquai.) One of his many fascinating stories revolves around a complex sculpture. It has an even more complex Grasshopper definition that randomised certain features. Their fabricator completely ignored the model. And made it perfectly without referencing the CAD at all. This Prompted his great quote:

‘Sometimes you can think too hard about something’.

Among others there were talks from RhinoCFD, about using their plugin to optimise gold casting in jewellery. Zaha Hadid Architects about building bigger, better computer systems. They are seeking to optimise their workflow and get feedback data faster. Kangaroo 3D made an appearance. Daniel Piker, it’s creator, took us through the developments and the mechanical design features available for Rhino. Carlos Perez and Phil Cook were there all day. They showed us what to expect next in Rhino v6 and demonstrated the new v6 wip on some very impressive systems. See Below. 

Rhino 6 wip.jpg

There was a brilliant presentation from Oliver Salway from Softroom. See Below. His talk centred on not losing the human element whilst building an architecture practice. He made a great point:

As advanced as tools get don’t lose the benefit and what you want to use them for. Don’t lose the human element’.

I though it was great to stand up at an event full of Grasshopper users and remind the room. 'Just because you can make every element different doesn’t mean that you should.'

And of course I can’t leave without mentioning the Chaos Group presentation. See Below. Yavor showed us the brilliant new Vray 3 for Rhino and I was so impressed with the new interface and experience. I won’t get into the tech specs. It seems like this new interface has been truly designed with users in mind. I can’t wait to get it downloaded and into my workflow. And they throw a great launch party as well!

Chaos Group V-Ray 3.jpg


I have seen so much this week at the user meeting. If this event has show us anything it is that with a few choice plugins you can transform the NURBS modeller. You can make it into a cost effective power house for different design industries. This is why Rhino still remains at the top of many people's list of favourite CAD programs. It streaks ahead for it’s versatility, adaptability and affordability. With rapid improvement in VR and design tools coming ever faster, I can't wait for the full release of Rhino 6 and what the very near future will bring.

Thanks for reading. Sign up to our Newsletter to keep in touch and keep an eye out for videos from the event at: www.simplyrhino.co.uk

In The Zone

Approx. 5 minute read


The pixels are falling into alignment, the mesh is coming together and your code is foolproof. You are in the zone my friend. It is the sweet spot in your mind where focus meets creativity. BOSH. The zone is a place that many designers, artists and other professionals talk about. It is somewhere we enter consciously or subconsciously to produce our best work. People thrive in the zone and it is where we strive to end up day to day, but we don’t get there every time. There are so many ways to access the zone and everyone has there own method. Below are a few of our favourite ways to stimulate our journey into the zone. See if they work for you, and let us know if you have any to add in the comments below.

Music & Silence

The most common and popular work aid has to be music. Everyone has their niche, be it Southern Gothic to Ed Sheeran. We create and follow playlists on Spotify for different times throughout our week. Sometimes it’s the Zen playlist, sometimes I need The Tron Soundtrack. And sometimes simple, controllable ambient noise is best. If music is your method, find what genre allows you to access the space you need and build on that. Let the music lead you into your creative zone, and find out what helps you stay there. CAUTION. Do not pick something that will steal your attention and make you forget what it was you had planned for the day. The Moana Soundtrack is off limits. 

And let’s not forget silence. Some people like to meditate to collect their thoughts in the morning. They think about the day, and what they need to do, so they can approach it with purpose. As I’m writing this I am in a quiet room. There is no music playing and no one talking in the background. This is how I reached the zone today, I had a hectic weekend, so the quiet is helping me focus and getting the words flowing.


Some people need the physical stimulus to lead them down the path to productivity. I had a teacher who would lock himself away on an exercise bike and train by himself for hours. He would train until the sweat was coming off him in sheets. He did it so he could engage his mind in a repetitive activity that helped him focus. But cycling and his level of fitness are one example. People who work from home often walk around the block before starting their day. It provides that physical switch that clicks brain into work mode. Find what you gravitate towards and give it a go. This could be the gym, taking the dog for an earlier walk, or going for a run. These don’t have to be solitary activities. Many people feel a confidence and energy boost from team sports or games, you can put this energy into your work.


So many artists and designers talk about their morning inspiration. They create mood boards on their desktop and comb through sites like Behance. They find the images and projects that are going to energise and inspire them for the day. This is helping them form a creative flow they can use to motivate themselves throughout the day. If I’m working on visualisation projects I often choose specific movies to watch in the evening. I take in the colours and compositions. And I let the production help me get my head into the character and style of the project.


Many people thrive in routine, others prefer to make it up as they go along. I love routine and I try to create routines and rituals that lead me into my zone. I have a simple task list of things to complete before sitting down at my desk. I try to complete it every day and the further I get down the list the more I can concentrate and visualise my day. It is a simple list of chores I can do while getting my thoughts together. At the end of the list I know work will begin and I am prepared. A popular one is to tidy and organise your workspace first thing. To think of it another way, before starting a particular type of work, you physically and mentally clean your space. The act of cleaning prepares your mind for a new beginning, concentration and focus. It is important to record these little routines. When you have a great day or productive session you need to find out what is working for you. Now you can do it again or be aware of what to avoid in the future.


It is important to know how people work best. We all work in different spaces, some like deafening noise some deafening silence. Some people tap into the hustle and bustle of a coffee shop. Some need the quiet of a home studio and the smell of paint to get that focus. Each place has a different feel that can help people get into the zone. People often have different places for different types of work. This ranges from co working spaces to cafes and some can only think in outside spaces. A wise man once said; ‘I get my best ideas sat in front of my laptop, said no one… ever' Mark Shayler, 2016. Find the places that work for you and try different ones. If you sit down in a coffee shop and spends the whole time looking at what is going on around you, try the library, or at home. You can look into co working spaces, most of which have great prices for about 2 days per week.


It is important to remember, it can take more than an hour to get into the rhythm with your work. But once you’re there what you can do is double or even tripled. It can make you defy the laws of work and concentration. No breaks, no food, no water, no blinking, that last one’s an exaggeration. But some types of work absorb you into this level of concentration. I’m not encouraging destructive behaviour, we are ALL more effective when hydrated. You need to build this into your routine. We don't want to disappear for days and emerge with a completed project, and a migraine. After all we don't want to have a great week and then crash. The goal is sustainable creativity and productivity.

Final Thoughts

Don't mistake this as an opportunity to procrastinate and waste your valuable time. We've all been there. Instead make this a specific time to focus and allow the gears in your mind to start turning.

So how do you do it?

You have to find out what works for you. It could be as simple as a 10-minute meditation, or clicking on your favourite playlist. It is important to think back, when did you make your best work? Or have that perfect day? What factors led up to that? How did you start that day?

Start recording your actions so you can see what patterns emerge and build up routines. Ask yourself, what did I do in the morning? What did I do before starting? Build on that until you can follow your personal routines and get your best work done LIKE A BOSS.

Thanks for reading.

Let us know if you have any tips to add in the comments below.

Rhino Sweep Rail Cutlery Tutorial

Check out our new Rhino 3D Tutorial as designer JP takes us through his workflow for creating his amazing, elegant cutlery. There are no edits, the video is a raw cut, mistakes and all, so you can see some of the pitfalls you might run into if you are modelling up something similar. JP pushes the sweep rail tool to the limit, finding ways of creating smooth geometry using this simple command. 

Staying Healthy While Running a Business

MESHCANICS x Fitness Wild x Elle Sorridente Studio

When you work for yourself there is no sick pay and no paid holiday. You make your own energy and have to keep yourself fit and healthy to avoid burn out.

For many of us that comes from being outside, away from the office, refreshing mentally and physically, which allows us to sit down and be awesome in front of a laptop.

Our amazing collaboration with Fitness Wild and Elle Sorridente this summer, has helped us find a better balance between working and keeping ourselves from getting literally, bent out of shape.

Thanks everyone for this amazing collab, complete with DSLR’s, gymnastic rings and of course Star Wars T-Shirts.

Photography by Elle Sorridente