ArchiCAD's LightWorks Engine Renders Designs Automatically

14 Oct, 2004 By: Viktor Bullain Cadalyst

Generate quick, convincing presentations straight from the building model

In this article, we'll look at how ArchiCAD helps you create high-quality renderings quickly, so you can succeed even when your client requests last-minute changes.

With so many applications available to produce high-quality renderings, you might ask, "How is the ArchiCAD model different?" The difference is that you're creating the drawings and the documentation, including high-quality renderings, simultaneously in the same environment--without any extra effort. This is the power of the virtual building, or BIM (building information modeling).

Process in Focus
Architectural design is not a linear process. Changes occur often, and the design is continuously evolving. ArchiCAD focuses on automating the process and deliverables so you can focus on design and have fun in the meantime. Going from the generic design intent to design development and construction documentation is not necessarily a fragmented process anymore.

Set Up Materials
As your design becomes more finalized, you can set up each building element's finish. The Material Settings dialog box in ArchiCAD 9 (figure 1) previews the selected materials using the built-in LightWorks rendering engine, a high-quality, industry-standard renderer.

Figure 1. The Material Settings dialog box in ArchiCAD 9.

Once you finish building your 3D model, it's time to define materials. Then you load and modify shaders connected to these materials using the LightWorks Shader Settings panel in the Material Settings dialog box.

  • In the Create Preview With pull-down list, find the new LightWorks Rendering Engine.
  • The Load Settings from Archives button leads you to another dialog box (figure 2) where you can load shaders. ArchiCAD's archive files store hundreds of predefined shaders.

Figure 2. The Load Settings dialog box leads you to hundreds of predefined shaders.

The Reflectance button in the Material Settings dialog box lets you choose shaders that help you define or modify how the surface of the material reflects light.

  • The Transparency button provides access to shaders that define how much and in what pattern the light will shine through the material.
  • The Displacement button contains shaders that define a bumped appearance for the surface of the material. The image below (figure 3) shows how using the Rough shader modifies the surface of our brass ball.

Figure 3. The brass ball in the Preview window shows what happens when you select the Bump effect from the Displacement pull-down menu.

Set Up Lights
Interior and exterior renderings often call for different lighting conditions. The Light tool and its settings (figure 4) let you specify lighting conditions and effects. In this example, I'll focus on interior rendering.

Figure 4. Use the Light tool and its settings to specify lighting conditions and effects.

  • Select the Light tool and adjust its setting for an interior scene.
  • Place the Light modifier and source next to the window for the best results in your interior rendering. In the live 3D preview (figure 5), make sure the light sources are precisely lined up with the windows. As you change the model and the design, the views automatically update. You can create a test rendering or a check set any time during the design process by pressing the Publish button.

Figure 5. A live preview of the model.

Set Up the Final Rendering
Once you set up the finishes and light sources, use the PhotoRendering Settings dialog box (figure 6) to define the characteristics of the final image.

Figure 6. Use the PhotoRendering Settings dialog box to define the characteristics of the final image.

In the Light Sources field, the LightWorks engine offers four options.

  • Sun: as defined in the Sun Settings dialog box
  • Ambient: light coming from or existing in the environment
  • Camera: light coming from the camera position going toward the target point of the camera
  • Lamps: light coming from normal ArchiCAD lamps and special lamp objects, such as the Sky object, Sun object, and the WindowLight lamp objects

For the first three options, you can set a percentage of how much light you want to use when calculating effects on surfaces.

The Shadow Casting field controls how shadows are cast. If you turn them off, you see no shadows. If you select Hard, you see shadows that are clearly defined. If you select By Lamp Settings, the renderer uses your lamp placement to show shadows.

The resulting image is a high-quality rendering of your design (figure 7). You don't have to update a separate model or leave the ArchiCAD environment to create the images for a client presentation.

Figure 7. The final rendering shows the lighting effects as defined.

Batch Rendering: Set Up a Presentation Set
As you prepare to meet with a client, select the different views of the project that you need to discuss. The Project Navigator helps you coordinate the contents of the presentation set. In the View Editor dialog box (figure 8), you can drag and drop the live camera views into the View Set. The stored camera view captures only the viewpoint and the settings for the 3D environment; it doesn't capture the contents of the model. As you progress with the design, all viewpoints update automatically. The rendering settings also apply to all the saved views.

Figure 8. Organize your presentation set in the View Editor dialog box.

Great Design = Satisfied Client
Using the LightWorks rendering engine built directly into ArchiCAD, you can now create more convincing renderings and convey your design intent more effectively to your clients. When a client requests a last-minute change, you simply make the necessary changes once in the building model, and all the views update automatically. When you update presentation sets, the renderings update instantly.

About the Author: Viktor Bullain

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