With their beautifully produced Aedas City animation, Beehive made history by creating the largest ever project rendered in Lumion. In this interview, you’ll step behind the scenes and discover how they were able to build and render Aedas City in just one month.
‘Aedas City’ was a groundbreaking animation combining award-winning designs from the internationally renowned Aedas with the impressive visualization talents of Beehive, the Chinese architectural visualization studio that built and rendered the project.
Together, Aedas and Beehive created the largest scene ever rendered in Lumion, featuring 7 real-life architectural projects designed for different cities and contexts, all brought together to create a massive, fictional city — one that ended up being only slightly smaller than Singapore (in km2).
To accomplish this incredible scale, the project required about 30GB of video memory to render, which was only possible with a top-of-the-line graphics card and Lumion rendering software. With Beehive’s collaborative and iterative work style (which relies on quickly making renders for each stage of their process), their visualization team was able to have the right conversations when it mattered and bring Aedas’s buildings to life in about a month.
In this interview, we spoke with Beehive founder and CEO Tang Tao to better understand how this monumental project came to be. You’ll get exclusive access to the minds behind the rendering and take a deeper look at their process to explore how, in Tang Tao’s words, “they gave the city its soul.”
Many thanks to Beehive’s Chen Jiajian for translating.
Can you tell us a little about Beehive?
Beehive was founded by Tang Tao in China. As the founder and CEO of the company, Tang has been working with and using Lumion for 10 years. Beehive is also the first company in China to specialize in applying Lumion technology to architectural visualization, and we have worked with global leading architects.
Does this mean you have been working with Lumion since the beginning?
Yes, Lumion 2 was out when Tang started using it!
What is Beehive’s approach to architectural rendering?
Our customers gave us a lot of flexibility in deciding what we wanted to do. We saw that most renderings looked very similar, and there was no soul in the rendering, image or animation. We wanted to do something unique instead, and leverage and translate our aesthetic into a soul for each image.
This became our design process — we focused on the aesthetic and then inserted and transformed that aesthetic into the soul of the project.
By giving the images a soul, what do you hope you can achieve?
We think visualization can help architects bring their ideas to life. We make something that is very complicated and turns it into a visual outcome, helping people to simply understand it. And understand it in a simpler form.
It also helps the audience to more quickly understand the designer’s or the architect’s intention and creativity. And as a result, we think visualization is a key bridge between the architect (the owner) and the audience (the end-user of the design).
And how do you create this bridge?
So, we look at the scenes as if we were the audience as if we were living there. We then communicate often (perhaps more than enough) with the developers and the architects to make sure their intention is displayed and shown in our views.
are able to do this by creating a channel for real-time feedback, using technology like Zoom or other online communication tools. This way, the architects can come in and say, “I like this and I like that.”
We’ll also explain why we create a certain look and what we’re trying to express in the video or image. We understand whether they want morning, evening, afternoon or the middle of the day, and we understand the atmosphere they want to create for the audience.
We’re able to do all this by creating a feedback loop, allowing us to pivot, present a new version, get feedback, and on and on. We focus on creating a unique composition that the architect is trying to build for the audience, for the public, and we want to bring it to life with all the little touches — plants, life, scenes of a city, etc.
What visualization software did you use before Lumion?
Before we used Lumion, we thought that 3D renders were very realistic and good at communicating life. I could look at an image as if it’s the real thing. This was a huge advantage for a rendering tool, but all of these tools were really, really slow. If we used rendering for an architectural proposal, and the focus was a quick turnaround, the slow rendering speeds didn’t help us at all.
It also didn’t help the architects to quickly show what was in their minds. It took days, even weeks, to make things happen, and as a result, it wouldn’t help to improve the look of the image.
Was Lumion able to help create a better feedback loop?
Yes. Speed was one of the key reasons why we use Lumion. And also, Lumion renders have a quality that’s equal or better than the other tools out there. Speed is obviously very helpful because of the speed of construction in China and the unique approach among the architects there. Other tools cannot accommodate.
Do you think Lumion’s speed is better for the architect or the end-user?
We think that, with architectural visualization, the audience gets the most benefit, which means the tenants, the family, the people that live in the building. So as a non-professional, it’s very hard to imagine what’s on the design paper and what it will be like after construction.
Architectural visualization can bring forth that process because previously you had to build the design in order for people to see what it is like. Now, you can see it before it’s built.
Also, Lumion’s speed makes it possible for visualization studios like us to work with our customers (architects). Architects get back a lot of valuable design time, instead of spending weeks of rendering to just show version #1. Now, we can do it in 3 days, and in some extreme scenarios, we do it in a day.
And so designers and architects can spend more time with their families and friends and enjoy their lives. Instead of spending too much time trying to get the render right.
You know, in China, [architects] actually work very hard. We feel for them. We want them to enjoy life but, given the fast-paced demand, it’s very common for them to work overnight or late into the night. This is also very common before a tender is done and they’re trying to get everything sorted before the deadline. It’s very stressful.
However, with Lumion, we can really give them back their life. That’s why many people like to work with us.
About Aedas City, the first and most obvious thing about the project is its massive size. How was the experience of making and rendering that scene?
The first thing that comes to mind is ‘fast.’ It was speed. We wanted to express our idea in the fastest possible manner so that we can edit, change our idea and improve our creativity as we go. We wanted to quickly finish the video.
What major challenges did you come across?
The most challenging part is the structure and logic of the storyline in the animation script.
We asked, how do you connect these Aedas projects, which are all designed for different cities, into one single scene? It’s almost like figuring out a way to connect the Eiffel Tower to Big Ben. How do you do that in an aesthetic way? You don’t want it to look like some funny game where you just stick one thing next to another.
This was a challenge because the scene was so big and they are all real projects. We wanted to bring our approach of giving a soul to the project and make it look like a real city. After dozens of rounds of reconstruction, improvements and edits, we got the final version.
And the second hardest part was actually making it work. We wondered if we had the infrastructure, meaning the computer hardware and the Lumion software, to open such a huge file.
With your hardware and Lumion, how long did Aedas City take to render?
In total, the time to produce the scene and render took about a month. The bird’s-eye view took a day to create in Lumion. And the Aedas models and the city took 2 days. That’s how long it took to put the scene together [in Lumion].
Then, it took about 5 days to render. Each shot you see in the video equals about 2-3 hours of rendering.
And how big was the scene in Lumion?
The area is about 600 square kilometers. That is a huge city. If we do a search online and compare it to another city, it is bigger than Singapore if you ask me. (Chen takes a moment to look online)
It is about the same size as Singapore. Just so people have an idea of its size.
What was the most interesting part of the project?
The process was the most enjoyable part. The process of being able to create something unique, that’s never been done before in the architectural industry. In my opinion, I’ve never seen anything like this.
We created it in an extremely short amount of time, and it was very enjoyable. The moment we made it happen, it was very fulfilling.
That’s all the time we have. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us!
Thank you! This interview has been edited for length and clarity.