The Lake House: Corona With 3Ds Max

The Lake House: Corona With 3Ds Max

Olga Alekseeva did a little interview, talking about the tools she uses in her architectural visualization.

Olga Alekseeva did a little interview, talking about the tools she uses in her architectural visualization. 

Hello everyone!

First of all, I want to thank for making this interview with me.

My name is Olga Alekseeva and I am a freelance artist from Moscow, Russia. I’ve been working in the field of architectural visualization since the beginning of 2015. I first got involved with it when I was studying Landscape Architecture at Moscow Timiryazev Agricultural Academy and felt the need for beautiful presentations of my student projects. I realized that this occupation fascinates me much more than as just a necessity in the presentation of the projects.

At first I tried to learn it by myself. I wanted to get quick practice on the specific tasks, and I actively sought for the opportunity. I was able to do some 3D projects for one landscape design studio for very little money. It was a strong shift from a dead point, but the quality of these works didn’t suit me.
Thumbing through the news feed in social networks, I stumbled upon a CG Incubator school and I knew immediately that is what I need. I finished CG Incubator course where I studied 3ds max + Corona renderer, from where I received my first commercial project on architectural visualization and priceless piece of inspiration.

After some time, sending out resumes and works, which were mostly copies of the photographs, I got a job offer in project Institute Mosproekt 4 as a 3D Visualiser. There were not many works in my portfolio, but they saw that I had my artistic vision and great desire. It was a good experience working on different projects in a team of talented architects. I also started to get freelance orders. Then I worked in one Moscow 3D studio in a team of strong 3D Visualizers.

Now I’m working on 3d architectural projects as a freelance artist. This allows me to spend more time with my son, that I am very pleased for.

The Lake House

Initially, ‘The Lake House’ was a commercial project, but when I saw this terrain and its location near a lake on Google Maps, I fell in love with it and decided to continue working on it in my free time.

At first I was more interested in making a good commercial picture, and so I did maybe a couple of regular sunny shots – but then I was drawn to work in a more atmospheric and artistic spirit, and that is how I continued my experiments. I created the camera angles in my free time over three weeks, and in that time outside my window the mood was changing and the weather was changing too – so this was reflected in the footage

For the location of this project, a beautiful place in one of the provinces of Norway played a role – I began to remember the feeling of walking on the fresh overgrown grass at different times of day and in different weather conditions back in my childhood which was spent in my granny’s village in Russia. I remembered the smells of the different herbs, a stillness of nature, and the color of the sky changing overhead. It was a time and place where every flying bird attracts your attention and nature seems alive, in a dialogue with you. These memories became the source of my inspiration.


I do my work in 3ds Max. I started by modeling the main house based on drawings. There is nothing special to say about it, so I won’t linger on it.

All the objects are usually attached into one, with different IDs.

The roof for the neighboring house was modeled with ATiles.

I used a poly modeling technique with Meshsmooth for making an accurate relief based on the heights I was provided with. I also had several photoshoots for a better understanding of the area.


The materials in scene are quite simple.

The material for the roads I usually draw in Photoshop then use those images as Diffuse and Bump maps. Sometimes I add some Composite mix on diffuse:

For the roof tiles, I used MaterialByElement with 3-4 ID count and a MultiSubObject material:

The wood material I also painted in Photoshop, using a small texture as a reference:


Vegetation is quite an important part of making exterior archviz projects. It should look natural and varied, to make the audience believe it is real.

I usually use the existing libraries for greenery. But I surely would like to build greenery by myself, and hopefully I’ll do that in my next projects.

I used 32 types of plants, 11 types of bushes and11 types of trees taken from Evermotion Archmodels, and some were taken from IFlowers and R&D IBushes.

I left the default materials for the greenery, but for some of them I adjusted the Diffuse color with a color correction map and added Translucency. I converted all the models to Corona Proxies to reduce memory consumption and keep a responsive viewport.

The plants were scattered using Multiscatter. There was 1 Multiscatter with basic grass, 2 Multiscatters with flowers and 3 Multiscatters with different plants. I usually draw a mask for Multiscatter in Photoshop. I put the map in to the necessary slot in Multiscatter. I also play with scale, random rotation (by X and Y too) and sometimes Collision or Border Behavior if needed:

Some plants were placed in hand, especially flowers for close-up images. The trees were scattered in the back along the shores of the lake:

Additional Details

There is some outdoor and indoor stuff downloaded from the internet (car taken from Viz-People 3D Cars), animals from Evermotion Archmodels, a boy from AXYZ People, the stones taken from Evermotion archexteriors with moss added, some leaves scattered on the road, and branches on the ground.

Corona Renderer

Though I don’t work with other renderers, having only tried them several times, I fell in love with Corona from the beginning when I could produce a good image just by placing a white color in the Environment slot. Its settings are very easy and friendly – you don’t need to think much about them, as they work by default, and that leaves you free to concentrate on your work.

There are some Corona Renderer features that help me a lot. For example, I use LightMix while rendering, and that helps me to change or correct the lighting scheme without interrupting the rendering process. That way I also always get the LightMix variant as an additional image along with the Beauty pass – 2 results while rendering one image!

While making these different images, I played a lot with the Tone mapping. It is great that you can correct things such as highlight compression, white balance, saturation, filmic shadows and vignette during rendering, and that means there’s no special need to make big adjustments in Post Production as the images are almost ready when rendering completes.

I couldn’t imagine my work without Corona’s Interactive Rendering– it is the only way I can “paint” in real time.

Artistic mood

I usually get this artistic mood by lighting settings and cameras angles. This romantic mood I get from poetry, music and films and bring them out to images as feelings.

Let’s firstly talk about lighting. I use quite simple lighting schemes, just the sun or an hdri, but to achieveing good atmosphere effect a Corona Volumetric material helps me. I use the Volumetric material on all the shots, the only thing that changes is that the distances are different for some camera angles.

For this project, I used HDRs from NoEmotion and Peter Guthrie. Here are some lighting schemes:

Different HDRIs add their color and hue to the scene and materials, tinting them, and sometimes this plays out well.

Talking about camera angles -it is one of my favorite parts of making a render.
In many ways, I came to 3D visualization because of the photography that I was doing before. Now with 3D, I can photograph the world that I create. Sometimes it may lack certain people or animals, but exploring the scene still fascinates me in the same way that exploring the real world does.

I often like to use low camera angles with plants in the foreground where the Depth of Field means they are out-of-focus and they frame the architecture or the scene in the distance. For me it is like a “moving camera” was paused in some random place. This moving camera has a certain trajectory in my mind, but the point of the camera is not to reveal a particular object, but instead to show the atmosphere of the place, its character. That’s the feel I aim for in my images, like it is a frozen scene from a film.

In practice, I start experiments with the cameras after the vegetation is created, so that we can walk among it.

Technically, regarding the DOF, there is nothing special, I put the camera target close to the object that needs to be in focus. The closer the blurred objects are to the camera, the greater the contrast between foreground and background will be. I usually use F-number – 2.0.

All the cameras are similar to each other with the only difference being the focal length, which varies from 22 to 50mm.

As mentioned earlier, I place the camera and play with the existing vegetation, but typically each individual frame needs additional improvement with some herbs, flowers, bushes etc. added specifically for that shot.

When creating the flower close-ups, for those cameras I pick the plants, light and butterflies specifically for that shot. First, I do a test on one flower and check how it will look:

Then I create a floral arrangement. The plants need to be Meshsmoothed for these close camera angles.

For doing this kind of work, Corona Render’s Interactive Rendering and Render Regions help me a lot. They allow me to build a composition, taking into account the light and the materials, in real-time. It really saves time and allows you to create freely.

Post Production

Here are some render elements that I usually use:

1 of 2

Almost all the images had no special correction in Photoshop, just some additional Brightness and Contrast or Levels, Vignette and Reflection mask, as seen below:     Many thanks for the opportunity to talk about my work and thank you for your time, I hope you’ll find this interview helpful and inspiring!

Best Regards,

Olga Alekseeva, 3D Artist

Join discussion

Comments 3

  • Shuvo

    WoW, Lady ! i've learned many things from your post. Thanks for sharing your workflow.



    ·a year ago·
  • cgarchitekt

    nice - very good job done.
    How long have you worked on it (production time until you gave the result to your client)?



    ·3 years ago·
  • Anonymous user

    — Really beautiful renders , Olga !


    Anonymous user

    ·3 years ago·

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