D5 Render Test Drive

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Here at Fat Pencil Studio, we’re always looking at new software to incorporate into our workflow. The latest rendering software gaining hype in the architectural viz community is D5 Render.

D5 Render is based on Unreal Engine 4 and real-time ray tracing technology also known as RTX. Ray tracing is a technique which simulates the physical behavior of light, shadows, and reflections to generate a digital image. Using the graphics card instead of the CPU, D5 is able to show in real-time what you've modeled in SketchUp (or other industry standard modeling software) and render an image within seconds. What this means is that there is no need to set all the parameters before hand, hit render, and wait an hour to see what you get... in other words, what you see-- is what you'll get.


If you have a powerful graphics card running on a Windows machine, a lot is already available when you download the free version of D5 Render. Moreover, when subscribing to the Pro version, it offers a huge asset library of materials, people, trees, buildings, vehicles, furniture, fixtures, and accessories to populate the scene.

The 3d assets come to life as trees and grass are able to blow with the direction of the wind, lights are able to be switched on, the glass on skyscrapers reflect the landscape, and people are able to walk or run along a drawn path.

With D5 Render, I wanted to demonstrate a dynamic urban scene and observe its capabilities. I used the base model of a Multimodal Intersection located in the South Waterfront neighborhood of Portland, OR.

D5 allows control of vehicle paths, including type(s) of vehicles, density, frequency, direction, speed, and width. It is helpful to simulate an active scene urban scene but falls short of simulating real-time traffic scenarios. As you map out paths, you'll notice vehicles clipping into each other or even into pedestrians. While creating a bus-only lane for a potential BRT lane is possible-- dynamic trains, light rail, streetcars or bicyclist are not features. Though, there is other software to show real-time traffic, I do hope D5 will eventually add the ability to edit specific traffic phasing at a signaled intersection.

It's enjoyable to bring life to the scene by adding vegetation, place characters idling as they wait for their bus, and using the environment settings to provide a good amount of sunlight. While the potential development of Zidell Yards are still being discussed (see The Lot's temporary outdoor theater, Live Nation's proposal for a temporary music venue, Sasaki's Master Plan), it was a good exercise to imagine the lot infilled with the wide array of building assets. Oddly enough, these buildings, with their contemporary facades and high-rise glass towers, fit well within the context of the South Waterfront.

Having used multiple rendering programs in the past, the emergence of D5 Render looks very promising. D5 is easy to use, has a simple and efficient user interface, is compatible with multiple modeling programs, and the free version is able to render stills and videos within minutes.


Kenneth Zapata is a Designer at Fat Pencil Studio