Before I begin, let me say first that this thread is NOT about what settings you need to use, what 3D modelling programs to use, or anything of that nature. This is merely a post about what I feel is the number one reason why almost every animation / video / picture I see screams “CGI” to me.
To give a bit of a background, I have an associates in multimedia, specializing in CGI work. While in school, I took several classes in CAD and architecture. I am also an avid post-production enthusiast (hobby), and I namely use After Effects for all of my post production work. Of course, living where I do, not much work in the field, but that is besides the point of this thread.
I have followed the works of Andrew Kramer over at Video Co-Pilot for a very long time now, and he posted something which helped me immensely. “The real world is not perfect, so why are your renders perfect?” is the basic gist of it. So for TL/DR people, there you go.
For ease of reading, I will be using “compositions” instead of visualizations, games, gobbleygoops, etc…
Tip 1: In the real world, wood, drywall, tiles deform with age. Even during the manufacturing process, no two things are exactly alike. It could be a tiny amount, or it could be a hugely visible amount. Either way, we may not see the imperfections, but our brain picks up on it. In a composition, when you see something perfect with no imperfections, it screams “FAKE!”. Take the time to add even a tiny amount of noise to the edges, a small dirt smudge decal, even a fingerprint on a window, and it will go a long way.
Tip 2: I only know of a small amount of people that live in a sanitary environment. While I do like having a clean house, there will always be dust, dirt, cobwebs, something to say that I shouldn’t open up a hard drive casing in the area… and so should your compositions. Unless you are in fact, designing a clean room
Tip 3: I have never seen a camera that has a perfect lens, even if it was brand new. A good resource I found describing this is here: http://www.blenderguru.com/articles/the-1-reason-your-render-looks-fake/
Tip 4: Composite the ArcViz elements on top of a real environment, add HDRI, and use it as a background (Skybox). Why? To make it look like your composition exists in the real world. Some research links:
Tip 5: Randomize your composition. You see that chair behind that perfect desk you made? Instead of having it at exactly straight, rotate it by a degree or so. Make the environment look alive.
Tip 6: (im)Perfection takes time. Start a small project, let’s say, your bedroom. Take pictures of it, look at it, notice every detail. Create a short video of it. Just a camera on a tripod that moves in a circle showing the room. Now… create it. An exact duplicate (with the camera). Once you cannot tell the real one from the fake one, you should have learned everything you need to know
Well, that’s about it I guess. Hopefully this is of some use to someone out there