Making of CABINS concept
Part ONE by Ronen Bekerman
Pen & Paper
For the launch of the 7th Architectural Visualization Challenge, I developed the CABINS concept as if I am participating in the challenge myself. This was an exercise for me and a way to craft visuals to be used for art showcasing and promoting the challenge as well as an inspiration piece for all of you who are about to take part in it.
In this article, I will break down the process from start to finish. The cabin design is simple and was simple to model once I had it in mind. I did not go into too much detail and kept it at the concept level. I used good old SketchUp for the 3d modeling of the cabin which I then imported into Lumion version 8 for all the rest with some Photoshop at the end.

In Part ONE I will cover the process up to the very start with Lumion. Part TWO will dive into what is going on inside Lumion in more depth.


The Meteora rock formations in Greece.
Photograph by Adrian Baela via pixabay pixabay
I know about Meteora in Greece from my rock climbing days. That place fascinated me and I wanted to recreate a situation similar to what you see in the photo above. Not necessarily duplicating Meteora, but very interested in the structure on the edge of a cliff scenario and what it could offer in terms of story and views to tell that story.

“We seem to underestimate good old pen & paper these days. Don’t! Coming up with the basic idea this way was fast and fun in more ways than one.”

I always carry my FIELD NOTES Memo Book and Machine Era Pen for when I have an idea, so I can put it on paper before it is lost! Digital is great, but sometimes analog is better.

It just is.

Or maybe it’s just me?

Anyway, my cabin is composed of three small triangle shaped cabins in a circular formation so that each cabin goes a little over the edge of a cliff, offering amazing views of the surroundings. A hero tree is placed in the center of it all with my Lunacy Memo Book Moon at the back of it all.

My favorite 3d modeling application of all time!
SketchUp by Trimble
After sketching, I modeled the bare basic shape of the cabins and overlayed the sketch on top of it.

This helped me figure out the way the cliff should look like from the various angles.

I’ve blocked the cliff using rock assets from the 3d Warehouse, scaling and rotating them as I duplicate and put them in place to form the overall cliff shape.

“For fast conceptual design, the 3d Warehouse offers almost any asset you might need for free. Use it!”
I picked one of the potential views that I liked and decided to go back with it to sketch mode, but this time doing it digitaly with my Wacom.
CABINS Optional View #03.
Saved out of SketchUp
The sketch below locked the concept in my head and now it was time to execute. I did not do more sketches from other angles, knowing this is going to be the hero vantage point and all else will be done to fit.
Render without leaving SketchUp!
V-Ray for SketchUp by Chaos Group

At this point, I am still thinking about doing the visuals with SketchUp and the newly released V-Ray for SketchUp so all was supposed to be done inside SketchUp with the help of Skatter and Laubwerk Plants Kit to populate the entire area with trees before I begin the views exploration stage.

Thing is… I took a short break from this initial concept stage before I came back to it for obvious reasons.


I did manage to output some mood / lighting tests with V-Ray while exploring the new version.

CABINS Mood / Lighting Test.
Done with V-Ray for SketchUp by Chaos Group
A big surprize with lots of potential!
Lumion by Act-3D
By the time I got back to developing the CABINS concept, Lumion 8 was already out and I started to explore it. See what was new and if and how it can be used for work at The Craft.

You’ve seen my first tests with it in the “Hello! MMF House Meets Lumion” article I posted on the blog back on November 23rd. I took a gradual approach to this process, as should you if you like to explore it. You can’t just dive into Lumion running around aimless thinking you’ll get the hang of it. It is not like any other software you’ve used.

Lumion comes packed with a few pre-made scenes, the Farnsworth House being one of them.

Testing out Lumion with the Farnsworth House.
Using a pre-made scene that comes with Lumion v8
I took it for a spin and explored what I can do the output from Lumion to look good with little to no Photoshop being used after I save images out of it.

I could not skip the photoshop part, though I did manage to minimize it to color grading mostly. With that part explored as well as remaking the MMF House, I was ready to continue with the cabins concept.

Before that, I took Farnsworth House for one last spin as I practice making an environemt similar to what the cabins concept needs.

The terrain in the images above was done by importing a grayscale heightmap into Lumion. To do that test I just used the first height map that came up in a Google search.

For CABINS, I search for a place with specific terrain features and Salt Lake City, Utah, USA was the perfect fit for what I needed. Creating a terrain to match specific project needs can be time-consuming. There is no need to create it from scratch and many benefits if you rely on real-world data.

The Global Data Explorer and how to save out a Heightmap JPEG.
Obtained via USGS
With the help of USGS and NASA, you can download heightmaps from all over the world and import these into Lumion. The screenshot above is all you need to know for getting your jpeg out. You’ll need to register for the service before you can save anything out though.
Salt Lake City, Utah, USA – Area Heightmap.
Obtained via USGS
Once I had the terrain in Lumion, it was a matter of exploring it and finding the areas that fit with my initial concept sketch.

I have identified two areas with a good looking cliff and enough space for water to wrap around it at a lower level. I’ve marked these spots in the diagram below, which represents the terrain data before I tweaked it to accomedate the cabins and added more rockformations to it.

Below you’ll see the terrain inside Lumion after importing the heightmap and activating the ocean feature and setting the water level height so that it all fits with my concept.
The Meteora rock formations in Greece.
Photograph by Adrian Baela via pixabay pixabay
This was my starting point inside Lumion. I then went on exploring the grounds like a bird flying over it all, which is game like and lots of fun!

“Importing a Heightmap is a good start, but do try Lumion’s terrain sculpting & painting tools.”

Once I’ve identified two potential locations for my cabin as was shown in the diagram above, I sculpted them a bit to fit the cabin size and form the cabin approach. I was interested in an overall look similar to my initial sketch with background formation that works too.

Below you can see both locations after the tweaks that allow me to land a cabin on the cliffs edge.

I could only stretch the sculpting tools up to a point before I knew I had to add in some rock formations beside the imported terrain. All about that and more in Part TWO!

Till then, enjoy the CABINS set of visuals below.

Lumion offers lots of options to control the environment and that includes the sun, sky, clouds, fog, ocean and more. I played with it all while creating this set.
So, what do you think of all this so far?


  1. RJ Brando


    I am very excited to see you experiment more with Lumion, and thus posting more tutorials. We’ve been using this program for over a year and I’ve grown to love the simplicity and speed of this software. For someone like yourself who is used to higher quality rendering engines, it would be great to see what you can come up with to bring the best out of Lumion. Keep rockin’ in the 3D world.


    • Ronen Bekerman

      Thanks RJ. Lumion sure made big steps with v8 and we started to use it at The Craft for various deliverables.

  2. Jorge

    Hello and congratulations for your website and challenge you are making for us.

    I wanna ask something which is not very clear (for me), about the softwares we need to use it. Its only possible to do this challengue in SketchUp and Lumion? Or I can do it in 3D Max and Vray? I wanna participate in this challenge and try to do a very good job but I never used Sketchup or Lumion before…

    Jorge Mb.

    • Ronen Bekerman

      Hi Jorge,

      You can use any software you like! This challenge is open to all as far as I can see.

      There will be a few requirements, like using Megascans assets. But Quixel will be providing this for you in various file formats, so no worries there too.

  3. Arimajayana


  4. Vagner

    Wowza!!! Very nice work!

  5. spencer

    This is great! Is there a way to export out the mesh data so you could up-res it in say Zbrush?

    • Ronen Bekerman

      Yes, you can. I did not try it, though I think that once you import back – that is where Lumion limits you. But again, I’m not sure about this… yet.

  6. Dustin

    Wow, Lumion looks it has some great tools!

  7. denison abade

    wow, that is an amazing work you have there and thanks for taking your time to go through your work step by step.

  8. Richard Vilabrera Jr


    This is looking very exciting thus far. Very excited for this one hopefully I can get some time to actually submit. Like you said, WORK! gets in the way sometimes.



  9. Ary Penna da Camara

    Maravilhosa a oportunidade que você está oferecendo de conhecer um projeto impar como esse, parabéns ! abraços. Ary C

  10. sicladix

    hello, Ronen and thanx for this great tutorial, how to participate in this challenge?

    • Ronen Bekerman

      It starts on Monday, January 15th with all the instructions you’ll need to know. By then, join on the main page and share with others too.

  11. Josh

    Excited about this! We use SketchUp + Lumion in our workflow and to see this challenge and learn from everyone will be wonderful.

    Question: How did you make that axon terrain map (with the contour elevations, clouds, water) that you identified the main and backup location? Is that a Lumion + Photoshop output?

    The workflow for that would be illuminating!

  12. Emeka

    Wow, that’s really nice work. I’m a total beginner in the visualization scene and still learning the hacks. Your work inspires me and I hope to do a decent job for this challenge.


    • Ronen Bekerman

      Very happy to inspire you, Emeka. Looking forward seeing your work during the Challenge.

  13. antonio cidade

    I really enjoyed reading through your creative process. Looking forward for part 2. 🙂

    • Ronen Bekerman

      Thank you! Documenting the process is not easy but does help learn things better I found. Part TWO coming up soon.

  14. ar.seshukumar

    Nice Work!!

  15. Danny kai

    Buddy, you had outdone yourself this time and I am proud of you. Almost thought you did the terrain in world machine. Awesome output!!

  16. Val

    Wow! That’s a hell of a story, Ronen! And you are a perfect storyteller. Another cliff to climb, well done!

  17. oleg

    Nice description of the process!

    I don’t get one thing about the challenge – is it started yet or it will start soon? Did I miss something?

    • Ronen Bekerman


      Challenge starts on Monday, January 15th 😉

      See you at the start and good luck!

  18. anas

    it’s really nice idea

    • Ronen Bekerman

      Thanks! It’s been on my mind far too long 😉

  19. Eduardo

    Hi Ronen,

    Thank you for promoting such contest. I have my first question: will it be mandatory to use the same terrain or we will be free to use another one?

    • Ronen Bekerman

      You can do what you like. Any kind of terrain.

  20. Emmanuel

    Firstly, your work is really inspiring, congratulations!

    I have a question about your process. How did you make that axon terrain map (with the contour elevations, clouds, water) that you identified the main and backup location?

    Thanks in advance for your reply

    • Ronen Bekerman

      This was done in Photoshop based on the Heightmap. I will share this process too… It is pretty cool!

  21. jupiterdesign

    this is very very wonderful
    thanks you ronen

  22. smokedishy

    Cool stuff! I was wondering about the axon image also. Can´t wait for that process!

  23. photoshop cowboy

    What a beautiful pen you have. May I ask what it is?

    • Ronen Bekerman

      It is a Machine Era Pen, Solid Brass. The design they have now is a bit different.

  24. Patrick D.

    Is the challenge starting today?

    • Ronen Bekerman

      Yep… final updates and the frontpage will update!

  25. Larissa

    Ronen –

    Thank you for your amazing site! Been a fan for years.

    I am sure you will be covering it however, when saving a JPG of the height map, I get a low quality map. How do I save a larger version?

    Can’t wait for the rest of this making of!


    • Ronen Bekerman

      The one I use is 1900px wide and works ok. What is the pixel size of your JPG?

  26. Bruno andrade

    Great article Ronen, thanks for doing it.

    • Ronen Bekerman

      Thank you! I enjoyed it a lot 😉

  27. imranmidas

    So much explained and surely we can do it. Thank Ronen to provide us a beautiful opportunities.

    • Ronen Bekerman

      Thank you! I hope I can help more 😉

  28. muhammed yasin eşin

    Hello Ronen, congratulations on a very useful and beautiful article.

    I want to ask you something about the challenge. Can I do a VR project with Yulio without VR glasses?

    • Ronen Bekerman

      Sure! Yulio can deliver a none VR Headset experience as well.

  29. Michal

    It’s not possible to post/upload anything yet? I’m trying to figure out this new system, I remember using forums on old vineyard challenge and it’s kind of confusing to me. Cheers!

    • Ronen Bekerman

      Yes you can and I see you did by now 😉 Good Luck!

  30. MartinH

    I have registered and downloaded a couple of height maps from USGS and none have anywhere like the detail you have illustrated on your example. I used the same export settings but the image downloaded was only 450×450 pixels and not usable. Is there a section on increasing the map size/detail?

    • Ronen Bekerman

      What I showed is all there is to do and the maps I got are around 1800px – 1900px wide. I’ll explore this more…

    • Fran O

      It happend exactly the same to me. Very sharp picks. Not very much detailed image map I guess.

  31. Jesus L

    Right when I saw the theme of the challenge I already had the vision for my project, now I’m looking to take out those ideas and make them real. I hope to have enough time to make everything.

    I already told my architecture friends about this so they can join and make something too.

    • Ronen Bekerman

      I hope you managed to enter and make progress! Please link me to your updates to follow your work 😉

  32. Suraj


    **Amazing**….I am very excited to see your experiments more with Lumion.:)

  33. Ronen Bekerman

    Hi all! Please join the Drove page I’ve opened for the CABINS challenge. It’s new, I know… some of you might be skeptical about one more platform, but if you don’t try – you never know! Go here and join :

    I plan to do some action related to CABINS on Drove and see how it goes 😉

  34. Giovanne Souza

    Hi Ronen! Just one question: we can made a matte painting for environment or we need to model everything, all 3D?


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This