Design Visualization

AEC From the Ground Up: Multimedia Presentation Tools

16 Aug, 2004 By: AIA ,H. Edward Goldberg

Show off your designs with these hardware and software favorites


THIS IS THE FOURTH YEAR I've written about digital multimedia for presentations. For 2004, industry trends are heading toward high-quality digital presentations for presentation boards, the Internet, and CD-ROM and DVD. The emphasis is on real productivity—how much more one well-trained person can produce on a computer, and the corresponding financial gains.

Currently, optimum productivity with state-of-the-art technology requires an investment upwards of $10,000- $15,000 in a suite of software and hardware products. That includes a computer workstation, color laser printer, CD/DVD burner, and the like. With such a setup, you can produce all the professional construction, presentation, and public relations documents required for any architectural practice. It not be necessary to invest so much in each workstation, and you can share peripherals, but capabilities quickly diminish as you spend less money.

One of your most important decisions will be what digital multimedia presentation software to use. This decision depends on your budget, ability, and specific needs. Here are my favorites from the many options available. Also see the Cadalyst Labs review on p. 16 for more options.

@Last Software SketchUp 4.0

SketchUp (

 Figure 1. SketchUp is accessible enough for new users and sophisticated enough for top architectural firms to use on international projects. Image courtesy of Bignatov Studio (<a href=www.bignatov.com
), which specializes in architectural consulting and small-scale interior projects."/>
Figure 1. SketchUp is accessible enough for new users and sophisticated enough for top architectural firms to use on international projects. Image courtesy of Bignatov Studio (www.bignatov.com), which specializes in architectural consulting and small-scale interior projects.

New to v4 is a Texture Tweaker that lets you stretch and manipulate any texture or photo across any continuous surface. You can now place a photo of a building onto a 3D square created in SketchUp and model directly from the picture. The new Intersector provides Boolean modeling and performs multiple changes in rapid succession. With SketchUp's new Ruby Scripting Interface, you can automate almost any task.

SketchUp is available for both the PC and Macintosh. If you want to produce subtle or photorealistic lighting, use Phong or a similar photorealistic renderer.You can also export SketchUp models to Piranesi to produce results that approach photorealism. SketchUp includes a free downloadable reader so clients can interactively explore but not change models. A test drive is worth a thousand words. To this end, SketchUp offers an eight-hour free trial of a fully functional, downloadable version of the program. If you use ArchiCAD or Architectural Desktop, download the free plug-ins that let you import SketchUp models and automatically make roof, walls, slabs, doors, and more.

Adobe Photoshop Creative Suite

If there's a single software program besides CAD that every AEC firm should have, it's Photoshop from Adobe (Figure 2. Baltimore Architects Hord Coplan Macht (<a href=www.hcm2.com) used Photoshop alone to produce this visualization, including the building reflection on the car."/>
Figure 2. Baltimore Architects Hord Coplan Macht (
www.hcm2.com) used Photoshop alone to produce this visualization, including the building reflection on the car.

Version Cue is a new Adobe product that helps you find files, track multiple versions of files, and share files for creative collaboration. Version Cue ties the Creative Suite together for groups working collaboratively on projects and saves work to a common server. Watch a video of Version Cue in action at www.adobe.com/products/creativesuite/versioncue.html

For the best Photoshop tutorials for architects and the AEC market, check out Scott Onstott's site, www.scott onstott.com. His "Photoshop for Architects" series include Essentials, Plans and Elevations, and Compositing. These video tutorials are amazing—they include all you want to know, as well as information you had no idea you needed to know. They're a bargain and will take any Photoshop presentation a giant leap forward. You can download them for $34.95 each or buy them as a package on CD-ROM for $99.95.

Autodesk w Autodesk VIZ 5

auto des sys form Z 4.0

For anyone serious about 3D modeling, visualization, and animation, Autodesk VIZ (

Alias SketchBook Pro 1.1

Toshiba Tablet PC

Wacom Cintiq

I've heard some fellow professionals say they don't design on computers because they think better with pencil and paper in hand. From personal experience, a Tablet PC and the Wacom Cintiq (www.wacom.com) have the same feel and ease as pencil and paper. However, they are completely digital and can make you more productive. Both use the screen and stylus technology pioneered by Wacom. I use a Toshiba Protégé Table PC with an Intel Centrino 1.5GHz processor (www.toshiba.com). These devices use resistive technology so you can even use a plastic triangle or ruler on the screen. I also own a Wacom Cintiq 18 SX and think it's the best way to draw on a computer. The Wacom18SX sells for $2,500, down from $3,500 last year; a Toshiba Protégé with 768MB of ram costs $2,600.

Alias SketchBook Pro 1.1 ( www.alias.com ) is a raster drawing program designed for use with a Tablet PC or Wacom Cintiq, although it works with any digitizer pad (figure 2). It uses raster brush technology gleaned from Alias' high-end industrial design software. The digital pencil tool is indistinguishable from a regular pencil. SketchBook Pro 1.1 features a gesture-based user interface built around Alias' patented Marking Menu technology. No keyboard entry is necessary—you can even label the layers by hand. Free demonstration software is available at the Alias Web site for Macintosh and PC. Try it, print out the results, and see if your clients can tell whether you used a computer or conventional drawing tools.

QuadriSpace Presenter and Presenter Pro

Again this year, I recommend QuadriSpace (www.quadrispace.com) Presenter and Presenter Pro, electronic presentation programs similar to Microsoft's PowerPoint. Though PowerPoint is ideal for general use, QuadriSpace software lets you create and publish interactive presentations directly from 2D and 3D CAD files. Interactive documents maintain interactivity when they are published, so a client or customer can view the design from any location without installing CAD or modeling software. QuadriSpace is aimed at professions such as architecture, mechanical design, industrial design, and interior design that need presentations not only as sales tools, but also as communication tools during the design process. To this end, QuadriSpace Presenter also has tools to create self-running CD-ROMs and interactive Internet movies. How often have you had to explain how your widget unfolds or what shadow you new building will cast in June as opposed to December? With this program, a client can go to your Web site or load a CD-ROM and interactively test the ideas. Try out the free trial versions on the QuadrSpace Web site.
Figure 3. Use Alias SketchBook Pro 1.1 with a tablet PC or Wacom Cintiq, and your clients won't know if you used a computer or conventional drawing tools.
Figure 3. Use Alias SketchBook Pro 1.1 with a tablet PC or Wacom Cintiq, and your clients won't know if you used a computer or conventional drawing tools.

ArchVision Composer and RPC Content Libraries

ArchVision's RPC (rich photorealistic content) technology and content libraries make this company the leader in 3D visualization content (www.archvision.com). RPC people, automobiles, trees, and environments are used throughout the world. Software products such as Autodesk VIZ, Revit, Architectural Desktop, AccuRender, Bentley MicroStation, SGI Performer, Cubicspace rtre, and Informatix Piranesi all ship with a native RPC plug-in. ArchVision Composer ($249) is a powerful tool that helps you add RPCs to 2D renderings and photographs.

Composer includes features such as automatic scaling, shadow generation, and individual opacity, saturation, and brightness controls. To operate the program, load a 2D rendering or photograph, identify the horizon, and adjust the scale of the setup person to match the scale of the background image. Then begin placing RPC content in the rendering. When you drop an RPC into a rendering, it automatically scales and adjusts as you move it around the image. A list of features is available at the ArchVision Web site, along with a Flash demo that illustrates how the application works. Take it for a test drive!

IN THIS ARTICLE
IN THIS ARTICLE

Many More Options

Many more excellent software products are available for creating and distributing interactive presentations. There's only so many I can cover in my allotted space. Do some online research to check out these other options: TechSmith Camtasia Studio (www.techsmith.com )


AutoCAD Tips!

Lynn Allen

Autodesk Technical Evangelist Lynn Allen guides you through a different AutoCAD feature in every edition of her popular "Circles and Lines" tutorial series. For even more AutoCAD how-to, check out Lynn's quick tips in the Cadalyst Video Gallery. Subscribe to Cadalyst's free Tips & Tools Weekly e-newsletter and we'll notify you every time a new video tip is published. All exclusively from Cadalyst!
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