RPCs are a quick way to help boost the proficiency of any still vizualizaztion. It allows vizualizers to import quick versions of usually very complex objects (such as plants, cars, or people) in 360 degree views. Free RPC plugins can be used in many programs and can be found on their site here
. However plugins are probably the only thing you will find for free from Archvision (the RPC umbrella company). RPC models tend to be on the expensive side; up to $50 per model! Archvision leans towards productivity in Photoshop and 3D Studio Max (programs ViZualJourney will cover in the near future).
Up to this point I have used RPCs in Photoshop and have found them to be helpful in streamlining post production. RPCs dramatically decrease the amount of time spent refining the details of still images. However, in reviewing the results of RPCs in 3D renderings and animations, I have one concern. It becomes difficult get the right lighting when RPC objects are rendered into a 3D scene; the brightness and contrast levels often do not match a dynamically changing scene. Realism drops off more than you would think when these image levels are not adjusted correctly. If a more realistic scene is desired straight out of your 3D package, I would steer clear of RPCs and model or import actual objects themselves. I would only import RPCs into Photoshop as new layers that are easily adjustable.
Just starting out, I would hold off on the investing in RPCs until you can justify the cost. I probably wouldn’t be using them if they weren’t already provided by my current employer. I just don’t see them being worth it when similar effects can be created by clipping your own images. However, they are a valuable tool to keep in mind for the future and rest assured VizualJourney will keep a close eye on the developing RPC technology and let you know if things change for the better.