essential presentation tools

30 Apr, 2003 By: AIA ,H. Edward Goldberg

Each year for the last three years, I've covered the progress of multimedia options for architects and engineers. My latest list of recommended products to assist digital presentation covers three capabilities increasingly in demand: real-time speed, interface ease, and portability. Architects, designers, and engineers want to create digital presentations instantly. Clients, no longer willing to pay high fees for flybys, want to interactively investigate projects. The ability to interact with the computer in a more natural manner is great-and portability opens new doors.


When this program entered the market three years ago, it set a new standard for ease of use and capability. Still one of the easiest 3D

Although SketchUp does not render in a photorealistic manner, its ease of use makes it a best buy.
visualization programs available, it's perfect for both novices and veterans and works on both PC and Macintosh systems. Its patent-pending push/pull technology gives you a great return on investment of time. SketchUp isn't designed to produce photorealistic lighting or rendering, but if you need that capability, it exports to Piranesi's native file format. SketchUp's free downloadable reader lets clients explore your work (but not change it) interactively. You can download a fully functional version of the program to try for eight hours-a test drive is worth a thousand words.



Autodesk Architectural Desktop
Work done in Autodesk Architectural Desktop 2004 can be linked to its included VIZ render engine for photorealistic visualizations.
Autodesk Architectural Desktop is on the list because the new 2004 version includes a version of VIZ, Autodesk's extremely capable 3D photorealistic visualization and animation program. Although this VIZ version does not include the plug-in capability of the full-blown VIZ 4, it links seamlessly to Architectural Desktop. You press a button to reload changes made in Architectural Desktop to VIZ, and materials assigned in Architectural Desktop transfer through for rendering.

Because Architectural Desktop's modeling capability is so sophisticated and because it includes so many of the important rendering, lighting, and animation features, purchasing a separate full copy of VIZ 4 seems superfluous. You no longer need two software products to produce construction documents along with photorealistic visualizations and animations.


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Cubicspace rtre is a Windows-based real-time photorealistic-rendering program provided as a suite of plug-ins and stand-alone tools for

Cubicspace rtre
Cubicspace rtre is a Windows-based real-time rendering program that produces animations and virtual walk-throughs.
Autodesk's VIZ 4 and Discreet's 3ds max 4 and 5. It operates from within these programs, reading data directly without requiring export. As a result, any design changes made to a 3D scene register automatically and immediately and render in real time within the rtre-controlled viewport.

Established digital presentation methods for architects, which require several hours or days to generate an image, prevent late updates and tie up system resources. At the other end of the scale, virtual reality systems offer instant images but produce unsatisfactory quality and require powerful, expensive, and proprietary systems.

Cubicspace rtre combines the best of both methods. Able to render multimillion-polygon-textured scenes in fractions of a second to produce photorealistic images, rtre achieves superior rendering quality in real time on desktop and laptop Windows PCs. Other rendering styles include shaded, wire frame, transparent, hidden-line, silhouette, cartoon style, hard and soft line sketching, and pencil fill.

Cubicspace rtre lets you navigate scenes freely at 30 frames per second, the standard speed for smooth animation. You navigate via the keyboard and mouse, with full six degrees of freedom and real-time walk-through capabilities. rtre interactive visualizations also benefit from 3D positional sound using technology from Sensaura.

You can publish scenes to a royalty-free stand-alone program file that runs without VIZ, max, or rtre. Thus, clients without technical experience can view your models. Note that rtre is not compatible with the VIZ rendering module included in Autodesk Architectural Desktop 2004 because that module does not accept max plug-ins.



QuadriSpace Presenter
With Quadrispace Presenter, you can assemble files from multiple programs to build an interactive presentation.
QuadriSpace Presenter, a program along the lines of Microsoft's PowerPoint, is aimed at professionals such as architects and engineers who use presentations as sales and communications tools. How often have you had to explain how your widget unfolds, or what shadow your new building will cast in June as opposed to December? Presenter offers features for creating self-running CD-ROMs and interactive Internet movies, so your client can go to your Web site or peruse a CD-ROM and test the ideas.


Though still in its infancy, the new tablet PC (available from many manufacturers) offers a glimpse of a new future for design presentation. All tablet PCs are based on Microsoft's Windows XP Tablet Edition (sold only with the new hardware), which recognizes handwriting and converts it to text. Using screen and stylus technology pioneered by Wacom, you can draw on screen as though on paper. These features, and portability, should make tablet PCs a hit. A drawback right now is the relatively low processor power of these units. Most are in the Pentium III 866MHz to 1GHz ranges. Toshiba is the only manufacturer with a Pentium III 1.33GHz tablet, but faster processors are necessary for sophisticated paint and multimedia programs.


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Sketch Book
The author created this drawing of a car directly on a Wacom Cintiq 18SX using AliasWavefront’s Sketch Book Pro software.
Alias|Wavefront's new Sketch Book Pro paint program is an excellent adjunct to a Cintiq or tablet PC. This inexpensive program, doesn't have all the tools and versatility of PhotoShop or Paint Shop Pro, but its pencil and brush tools are, in my opinion, the best on the market. Sketch Book Pro is specifically engineered to work with a stylus and is an excellent drawing tool to use out in the field. Try the demo at the Alias|Wavefront Web site.

Wacom Cintiq
Wacom’s Cintiq combines an LCD monitor with the control of a tablet.

Given the current state of Tablet PC technology, the Wacom Cintiq remains the best option for digital drawing. Though the Tablet PC uses the same screen technology, my 180 Cintiq 18 SX ($3,500) uses the 2GHz power of my desktop (it also comes in a 150 size for $1,900). It may be expensive, but my Cintiq has greatly increased my productivity and helped me create better presentations.

More good software is available for interactive presentations, but for lack of space I'll mention only some. Please test-drive the demo versions at the vendor Web sites:

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