3D VISUALIZATION SOFTWARE

Virtual experiences and real-world benefits with 3D visualization

With 3D visualization software, artists, designers, and engineers can save time and money when collaborating with clients and teammates while marketers delight their customers with brilliant virtual demos.

Photorealistic rendering of a non-branded concept car exterior.

Photorealistic rendering of the exterior of a concept car

What is 3D visualization?

3D visualization is a technical and artistic process of creating and displaying 3D designs of products, buildings, and landscapes that viewers can use to evaluate how they will look and feel in real life. Artists, designers, and engineers employ 3D visualization software to model, lay out and/or animate, and render the design into a 3D graphic that anyone can experience on mobile devices, web browsers, and augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) devices.

Many industries—including architecture, product design and manufacturing, and media and entertainment—use 3D visualization to evaluate early-stage designs, test ideas, and share feedback. This digital process leads to improved collaboration across teams, greater productivity, and cost savings compared to physical prototyping. Additionally, 3D visualization has gained popularity for demonstrating and displaying products for marketing and e-commerce purposes.

BIM Global Campaign image showing the exterior of the Romulus building model. Visualization of the Romulus building's exterior. Designed in Autodesk(R) Revit(R)software. Rendered in Autodesk 3ds Max(R) software.

Visualization of the Romulus building designed and rendered in Autodesk software

What’s the difference between 3D visualization and 3D rendering?

While 3D rendering and visualization are sometimes used interchangeably, they are technically different terms. Rendering is part of the larger 3D visualization process. In contrast, the larger job of 3D visualization refers to the overall art of making 3D graphics and animations that showcase the specific attributes of an architectural or product design.

As part of 3D visualization, artists create 3D models (often CAD or building information modeling [BIM] models); add textures and lighting effects; render; and, optionally, perform post-production tasks, such as color correction. The 3D visualization rendering stage uses software to combine all 3D models, graphics, still images, and text and process them into a final, photorealistic 3D image.

Small business interior design image. Rendering of an interior living space. 3DS Max was used to render this image.

Rendering of an interior living space from Autodesk software

How is 3D visualization software used?

Designers, engineers, marketers, and educators use 3D visualization to create digital experiences that present and prove their concepts.

Using BIM data, 3D architectural visualization is common in the architecture industry to create real-time interactive representations of projects for efficient design reviews or to connect architecture and construction teams. Similarly, 3D interior visualization has become invaluable for presenting immersive 3D interior design experiences to clients before devoting physical resources to a project.

For product design and manufacturing businesses, 3D visualization through augmented reality (AR) makes it possible to evaluate designs, validate the assembly process, train factory staff, and simulate fabrication—all in an efficient virtual environment. Along the same lines, augmented and virtual reality (VR) 3D visualization is highly effective for educating the next generation of design and manufacturing workers and is feasible in institutions without full access to a digital factory.

In media and entertainment, video game companies and TV/film/visual effects production studios use 3D visualization to present concept art for approval.

But early-stage stakeholder approval is only one way 3D visualization has impacted business. It has also become a popular marketing tool to convince customers at the point of sale. 3D visualization software is a powerful e-commerce tool providing photoreal renders, interactive product configurations, and AR/VR shopping. 

Benefits of 3D visualization

The realistic spatial presence of 3D visualization has several benefits for the architectural, product design, and 3D entertainment industries. 

Lower costs

Detailed design visualization can reduce the need for physical product prototypes or architectural models while also helping to catch engineering or design errors earlier.

More effective collaboration

With 3D visualization, teams and stakeholders can collaborate and communicate better, leading to more effective problem-solving, greater transference of design knowledge, and potentially faster time to market.

Winning presentations

3D visualization software lets creators present designs with more realism, leading to deeper engagement and understanding.

The bottom line: sales

Effective 3D product visualization makes e-commerce platforms more compelling in the moments when customer interest is the highest.

Autodesk 3D visualization software

3D modeling, animation, and rendering software for games and design visualization


3D virtual prototyping software for automotive design—available as VRED Design, VRED Professional, and VRED Presenter


Cloud-based 3D CAD/CAM/CAE software for product design


See how our customers use 3D visualization software

3D rendering of the V&A Dundee Museum’s facade.

Kengo Kuma and Associates

Architectural visualization for manifesting concepts

This giant of architecture uses Autodesk 3ds Max for the 3D visualization of its high-concept designs, such as showing the interplay of light and shadow from the sun’s motion across days and seasons on the exterior and interior of a building.

 


Image courtesy of Kengo Kuma and Associates

Digital 3D visualization of Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral.

Ingérop

Illustrating the comeback of Notre-Dame

Engineering firm Ingérop created real-time 3D visualization of the projects using Autodesk tools to judge the entries for Notre-Dame Cathedral’s new landscape design.


Image courtesy of Ingérop

3D visualization of CGI furniture.

CGI Furniture

3D visualization softens furniture’s environmental impact

CGI Furniture sidesteps the unsustainable process of shipping physical prototypes overseas by furnishing international clients with high-end 3D visualization of furniture made in 3ds Max.


Image courtesy of CGI Furniture

3D visualization software resources

Take this free course to start producing architectural visualization with AutoCAD and 3ds Max.

 

Check out these Autodesk University videos covering 3D visualization in VRED.

These tutorials teach you to render in 3ds Max from AutoCAD (part 1) and from Revit (part 2).

Learn the principles of 3D visualization when digital prototyping in Fusion 360, including lighting, scene settings, and other appearances.

 

Learn a variety of 3ds Max visualization techniques, including automotive exterior rendering, advertising strategies, and product visualization.

These Maya tutorials cover advertising campaigns, automotive lighting, product visualization, and more. 

 

Frequently asked questions (FAQ) on 3D visualization software

What is 3D visualization software?

3D visualization software takes data formats such as computer-aided design (CAD) and building information modeling (BIM) files and converts them into interactive 3D objects viewable from all angles on tablets, smartphones, web browsers, and augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) devices. Once converted to 3D visualization objects, models of buildings, products, and environments, such as landscape designs, can be evaluated immersively. These 3D models allow teams, clients, and other stakeholders to easily collaborate to make design decisions in-person or remotely.

 

3D visualization software programs’ capabilities differ but often include 3D modeling, rendering, animation, and simulation.

What is the difference between 3D rendering and 3D visualization?

The difference between 3D rendering and 3D visualization is a matter of process. 3D visualization includes 3D rendering under its broader umbrella. 3D rendering is the final stage of the 3D visualization process, when the software combines the elements of the 3D models, 2D graphics, still images, and text into a final form.

 

By comparison, the larger 3D visualization effort refers to the entire process of making a 3D graphic, which can include modeling, texturing, lighting, 3D rendering, and post-production elements.

Which software is best for 3D visualization?

The best software for 3D visualization allows engineers, designers, architects, and gaming and animation artists to translate CAD and BIM models into real-time interactive 3D presentations. This format is ideal for reviewing the design quickly and easily by remote teams or customers.

 

Autodesk’s best 3D visualization software includes 3ds Max, which is popular in the game, architecture, and product development industries for design visualization. Autodesk Maya also has extensive 3D visualization capabilities, and Autodesk VRED brings complex data to life in 3D visualization in VR and AR environments.

 

Autodesk Revit is used widely for architectural visualization, allowing engineers to create 3D BIM structures, annotate them with 2D drafting elements, and adapt them for 3D visualization. Autodesk Fusion 360 also has powerful 3D product visualization features useful for rapid prototyping.

What are the different types of 3D visualization?

Several types of 3D visualization are used to present architectural, product, landscape, and concept designs for gaming, advertisements, and TV/film. One type that has become very popular—real-time interactive 3D visualization—lets users see digital twins of buildings, objects, or virtual worlds with dynamically updating colors, lighting, and other features.

 

A faster and cheaper alternative displays CGI images of designs without the interactive aspects. Physical models made from clay, 3D printing, and other means can also fall under the banner of 3D visualization. However, the term 3D visualization most often refers to virtual representations rendered from 3D visualization software.

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