Restoring Charleston: An abandoned historic home comes back to life
Staff Writer By: Meleah Maynard
Their job--create architectural animations showing contractor Trent Fasnacht's painstaking restoration of an 1895 Craftsman-style home in Charleston, South Carolina, that had been abandoned for decades.
With about a week to work on each episode, creative director Maria Rapetskaya and her team used Cinema 4D to devise interesting ways to illustrate the renovation process.
To freely access interiors while establishing the floor plan, they peeled away the roof and clarified the focus of each episode by animating the main structural changes. (See the kitchen and dining room clip here www.undefinedcreative.com/diy-restoring-charleston-201.)
"We needed to find something that looked cool, didn't take a tremendous amount of time and could be revised quickly as the client requested changes," she said.
"From the perspective of our process, the floor plans weren't consistent and we needed them to be accurate because there was no room for error," she explained. "If we set up the geometry of the house the wrong way, we could run into problems while removing a particular wall or other things the producers may want to see."
With accuracy as their number one priority, Undefined Creative's biggest challenge was communicating with the client about what was realistic and what wasn't.
There wasn't time to build a lot of custom furniture and other elements, for example, so they bought several stock model collections from Evermotion and adapted them as needed. This was especially important for the kitchen and bathrooms, which included many different details that needed to resemble those in the actual home as closely as possible.
"This is a perfect example of adapting stock to your needs to save production time for those essential details that have to be custom made," Rapetskaya said.
Those custom details were made by Undefined Creative's 3D animator Jesse Roff who, in addition to modeling the home's frame and walls, created many custom elements, including handrails and spindles on the front porch, the living room's fireplace and chimney and a vintage tin ceiling in one of the bathrooms.
Some of the modeling was fairly straightforward but the handrails and spindles were trickier. Roff modeled those from scratch using blueprints to get the scale.
"The blueprints didn't have the right design, so I had to use photos of the finished porch for the geometry and then go back to the blueprint for placement," Ross said. "Using lathe objects with a profile created in Illustrator, I was able to match their finished spindle and use a cloner in Cinema 4D to distribute them."
Roff also handled all of the lighting, as well as texturing. And because some of the textures, such as fabrics and floors, were animated, he worked closely with Stephen McNally, Undefined Creative's lead animator. McNally used Cinema 4D to set the house's story in motion.
"We used a ton of booleans for animating walls, staircases, furniture and the roof," he explained. "It was the simplest and cleanest way to wipe off older parts of the houses and wipe on the refurbished/updated parts." Keeping the camera moving smoothly and quickly "without inducing whiplash or motion sickness" was by far the biggest challenge he faced.
A subtle vignette, a bit of color correction and a very slight camera blur were added in post to give the show a look that was less digital and "warmer and softer for a better Charleston feel," Rapetskaya says. Everything was rendered using C4D's physical renderer and global illumination. To output scenes quickly they used the remote render farm (rendercore.com).
In all, Undefined Creative has worked on 8 episodes of Restoring Charleston, including three episodes for a second restoration project, and they may do more in the future.
"This was really fun," Rapetskaya. "We love problem-solving when it comes to production, and we'd love to do this again."
Meleah Maynard is a writer and editor in Minneapolis, Minnesota.