Architecture Proposals in 4D

21 May, 2008 By: Kenneth Wong

A firm uses CINEMA 4D Architecture Edition to validate concepts.

Mike Jerabek, AIA, a partner at Worn Jerabek Architects (WJA), designed a four-story, 70-unit senior residence in Countryside, Illinois. He designed the project for Illinois Facilities Fund in Nemetschek's VectorWorks 2008, but when he went to the city council to present the project, he brought with him a series of images created in CINEMA 4D, a 3D animation software used by filmmakers.

CINEMA 4D has been a household name in the filmmaking and motion graphics communities. The software is recognized for its role in bringing feature films to life, including Speed Racer, The Golden Compass, and Beowulf. Last October MAXON, the developers of CINEMA 4D, introduced the Architecture Edition, designed to work with Allplan, ArchiCAD, VectorWorks, and other BIM software.

Architecture CINEMA
Even though Nemetschek offers RenderWorks, a rendering module for VectorWorks users, WJA chose CINEMA 4D instead because they needed a more sophisticated rendering package, especially for visualizing interiors. "The Advanced Render module in CINEMA 4D produces the lighting effects and the materials in the quality we need," said Travis Howe, who helped design and visualize the Countryside project.

CINEMA 4D Architecture Edition includes these components:

  • Advanced Render module
  • Sketch & Toon module
  • Architecture Extension Kit

"We model our projects as BIMs (building information models) in VectorWorks," explained WJA's Howe. "So all our floor plans, sections, and exterior features and details existed as a 3D model."

Howe understood that he would have an easier time working on the exported model in CINEMA 4D if he had taken the time to classify all the material types in VectorWorks. He explained, "For example, for window elements, frames are class 1, glass is 2, and so on. Those are retained as material maps when exported to CINEMA 4D. They're all grouped together, so you just apply the materials throughout."

To present its project at a city council meeting, Worn Jerabek Architects generated this rendering, created in CINEMA 4D Architecture Edition. The geometry was exported from VectorWorks Architect first, then materials and lighting were added in CINEMA 4D. The people and trees created in Photoshop completed the image.

In the Countryside project, "there was a lot of debate about how much parking space was available on the side," Howe recalled. "There were also questions about how the new building would look adjacent to the existing buildings. We also adjusted the shadow intensities to get the most attractive images."

At the city council meeting, Jerabek and Howe presented various views of the building showing the open parking space and the new building alongside the existing structures. "We usually produce a series of test renderings to figure out where to best place the sun," Howe said.

According to MAXON, the Advanced Render module comes with SKY, "a collection of 50 presets [skies to help] you quickly find the fitting atmospheric environment for your scene ... SKY lets you create any weather condition imaginable, paint clouds, and even correctly simulate the sun, moon, and stars. SKY even lets you accurately create rainbows. SKY also lets you choose the exact longitude and latitude, and time of year/day of the location of your architecture. So you can simulate the sunrise and sunset in Madrid, animate the sun's lighting over that time, etc."

A Peek inside the Bathroom
In another project, Howe and his colleagues were required to prepare renderings for the remodeled bathroom and the individual units in the Country Health Nursing Center in Gifford, Illinois. "We had to demonstrate the quality of the assisted care facility," Howe explained. "So we had to establish that the room would be comfortable and safe."

For this task, they chose to model the bathroom in Google SketchUp, then export the model to CINEMA 4D for rendering. From CINEMA 4D's library, they selected the appropriate faucets, fixtures, grab bars, picture frames, and other premade items and dropped them into the room model.

Zubin Rao, Howe's colleague and WJA associate, recalled, "SketchUp was used because the project was still in the schematic design phase and different room configurations were being tested quickly. The BIM model did not exist at this point."

Howe added, "BIM models are inherently very front loaded, meaning there is a lot of setup and information in the beginning, which pays off later as the building is designed and changes need to be made, but with such a small amount of geometry [for the bathroom], it really isn't worth the effort of the information model. Alternatively, if the project were at a stage where the entire building was being developed in VectorWorks, then it would have been as simple as setting the camera view for the bathroom."

WJA often uses CINEMA 4D to present interior renderings to its clients to illustrate its concepts, so the ability to drop items into the existing model is a time saver.

"The Advanced Render module's controls for lighting and material reflections are very powerful, but not overly complex," Howe observed. "We could use the global illumination model to create a more sophisticated lighting scenario. We use an environment map [a 2D graphic representing the surroundings that envelops the 3D model] to produce the background reflections."

Global illumination, a feature of the Advanced Render module, uses radiosity to depict the light from nearby objects bouncing off surfaces. This, according to MAXON, produces superior results to software that uses the Raytracing method exclusively, which "simulates most physical properties like reflection and refraction, but lacks support for indirect lighting."

"Being diligent about your material organization in VectorWorks will help you save a lot of time later in CINEMA 4D," Howe pointed out. "For example, when dropping [premade] window and door modules [into your BIM model], it's easy to forget to specify separate classes of materials for window jambs and door jambs, or to turn on or off certain layers. That would make the exported model difficult to work with in CINEMA 4D."

WJA's staff operates solely on the Mac platform, so the dual-platform compatible VectorWorks and CINEMA 4D are both complementary tools to the workflow.

Since the time of his interview with Cadalyst, Howe has moved on to a new firm. He's now an associate at Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture.

About the Author: Kenneth Wong

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