Multimedia and Presentation Tools for AEC (AEC in Focus Column)1 Jul, 2007 By: AIA ,H. Edward Goldberg
Products push 3D visualization into the interactive workspace.
Until now, AEC presentation products have played a minor role in architects' and engineers' worlds; often called upon to be the "sizzle that sold the steak." To that end, every major 3D architectural CAD and BIM (building information modeling) program has a credible, integrated visualization solution, and existing specialized visualization programs have reached maturity.
The big news in 2007 is the push to extend 3D visualization into the interactive workspace so that designers can share 3D content and information with clients and subcontractors through free 3D readers from Adobe, Autodesk and Google. This year, Adobe entered the 3D arena by equipping its industry-standard Photoshop software with the ability to manipulate 3D content. And the presentation capabilities within Google SketchUp and LayOut are finally accessible since the acquisition made more than a year ago. Below is an overview of my favorite presentation programs from Adobe, ArchVision, Autodesk, Google and Informatix.
Google SketchUp Pro 6 and LayOut
SketchUp is one of the most beloved and useful AEC design and presentation products to be placed on the market within the last eight years. The most important feature in Google SketchUp Pro 6 is an application called LayOut (figure 1). Originally conceived as a sister product to SketchUp (back before it was acquired by Google), LayOut is a full-featured tool for creating and showing presentations. The top four features that make LayOut unique are:
- 1. SketchUp model views placed in LayOut are dynamically linked to the original SketchUp file, so changes to the model are reflected automatically in the presentation.
- 2. SketchUp model views can be orbited, panned and zoomed just like they can in SketchUp. Display settings such as Styles, Shadows, Perspective and Drawing Scale can be controlled for each individual model view.
- 3. LayOut presentations can be displayed full screen, alleviating the need to create redundant PowerPoint versions for client presentations. The same presentation can be printed in high resolution, displayed onscreen and exported as a PDF for digital distribution to clients.
- 4. LayOut introduces the concept of Scrapbooks, a way to make often-used content like logos, north arrows, scale figures and other graphics instantly available for use in every document created by every member of your team.
SketchUp and Google Earth are valuable tools for architects and other design pros. SketchUp users can import accurate location pictures directly from Google Earth, model on top of them and save them as Google Earth KMZ files. Users can share these files privately with clients or upload them to Google's 3D Warehouse, through which clients can see new building designs in context via a public URL. Once the team at Google Earth verifies a building model as accurate, that model can become a permanent feature in this virtual world database.
Figure 1. The most important addition to Google SketchUp Pro 6 is a new application called LayOut. Originally conceived as a sister product to Sketch-Up, LayOut is a full-featured tool used to create and show presentations.
Of course, a test drive is worth a thousand words. To this end, SketchUp provides an eight-hour free trial in a fully functional downloadable version. At $495 (or $95 as an upgrade), this program is a best buy.
Adobe is the leader in 2D digital print, photography and video software. The company now provides software and solutions that offer all of the 2D presentation, interactive and Internet tools the AEC community requires. During specific aspects of the project lifecycle, the AEC community needs the ability to create, communicate and collaborate securely on documents, images and other information with clients and dispersed project teams. Tools for these tasks include Adobe Photoshop CS3, Adobe Illustrator CS3, Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional, Acrobat 3D and Adobe Acrobat Connect. These products can be purchased separately or together as part of the Creative Suite 3 Design Premium and Creative Suite 3 Web Premium packages. All of the products mentioned here have undergone major changes throughout the last year and now offer much more compelling solutions to 3D presentation problems.
Figure 2. The big news is that Photoshop CS3 now works in 3D. A transformed group of composited Autodesk 3ds Max objects is shown here.
Adobe Photoshop CS3 can edit 3D and motion-based images (figure 2). Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended includes capabilities that let you incorporate 3D and motion-based content into your image-editing workflow. Users can render 3D content into 2D composites, edit existing textures on 3D models and embed edited models into Adobe PDF files for easy collaboration with colleagues. Also new to this program is the ability to do 3D compositing and texture editing. Users can incorporate 3D content into their 2D composites and even edit existing textures on 3D models and immediately see results. Photoshop Extended supports common 3D interchange formats, including 3DS, OBJ, U3D, KMZ and COLLADA, so you can import, view and interact with most 3D models.
Adobe Illustrator CS3 is a vector-based program that works very well with other vector-based programs such as AutoCAD. As with all the CS3 series, Illustrator has been highly upgraded but maintains its familiar Adobe product interface. The auto-trace function works extremely well, converting raster images to vectors.
Thanks to Acrobat 3D and Adobe Acrobat Connect products, the Adobe Acrobat 8 family has become a presentation tool as well as a communication tool. Adobe Acrobat 3D software facilitates collaboration by allowing extended teams to use Adobe PDF documents to communicate 3D design intent. With this solution, users can insert and publish 3D designs created in major CAD applications in Adobe PDF documents that can be shared with suppliers, partners and customers using the free Adobe Reader 7.0. Adobe Acrobat Connect is Web-conferencing software that allows professionals to communicate and collaborate in real time through easy-to-use, easy-to-access online personal meeting rooms. A new addition to the Acrobat Family, Acrobat Connect, breaks down the technology barriers of traditional Web conferencing by providing real-world, interactive online meeting rooms. With the high cost of travel today, this product is an excellent way to train or present in real time directly to your client's desktop. The Adobe Acrobat Connect service can be leased monthly starting at $39/month.
Autodesk has several architectural visualization and presentation products, including Autodesk Impression, VIZ, 3ds Max, Maya, Sketchbook Pro and Freewheel. AutoCAD, AutoCAD Architecture and Revit Architecture include their own integrated rendering, animation and visualization capabilities as well.
Impression is a stand-alone, vector-based program used to create presentation graphics directly from DWG and DWF files (figure 3). Impression software is easy to use and recognizes blocks and layers from a CAD file.
Figure 3. Autodesk Impression is a stand-alone, vector-based program used for creating presentation graphics directly from DWG and DWF files. Impression is easy to use, and it recognizes blocks and layers from a CAD file.
VIZ 2008 is Autodesk's lowest-priced product used for the creation of photorealistic visualizations, models and architectural walk-throughs and flybys. You can choose from a variety of renderers (mental ray, scan line and third-party products such as V-Ray and Brazil) that are compatible with AutoCAD, AutoCAD Architecture and the Revit family of products.
3ds Max 9 features all of the tools and connectivity capabilities in Autodesk VIZ 2008, as well as tools that enable professionals to do far more involved, realistic and sophisticated visualizations (event-driven particles, character animation, real-world physics and true subobject animation).
Maya is Autodesk's high-end 3D animation, modeling and rendering software. A number of boutique architectural visualization companies have added Maya to their toolkits to complement 3ds Max. Maya has excellent conceptual modeling tools.
Freewheel is Autodesk's free, on-demand Web service that allows engineers and architects to communicate their drawings with clients, partners and suppliers without having to install viewing software. Users simply upload DWF files onto an Autodesk Web site, which creates a link that is sent to whomever the user would like. The link pops up in e-mail, and the client/partner/supplier can view in his or her browser across Windows, Mac, Linux and handheld-device platforms. In addition to simplified design sharing, Freewheel allows Web designers to integrate 2D and 3D CAD information within Web applications and Web sites without installing special software or plug-ins.
Tying all of these products together is the Autodesk DWG file format, which allows design data to be stored and shared accurately for all of the products.
ArchVision makes RPC (rich photorealistic content). It's the premier product that contains people, trees and cars for your scenes (figure 4). All of the top architectural and engineering firms in the world use RPC.
Figure 4. An example of ArchVision's RPC, a premier product used by the best architec-tural and engineering firms in the world.
New to Arch-Vision is RPC All Access. This exclusive RPC Content service is available on an annual-fee basis. RPC All Access provides three plans, available in single-user or multiuser licenses, with thousands of unique RPCs available for immediate download from the RPC All Access Exchange.
RPC is very powerful. If you're interested in using this content—and you should definitely use it—it's highly recommended that you go to the ArchVision Web site and look at their tutorials. If you have any problems, ArchVision has an excellent support group that can help you get up to speed.
Informatix Piranesi 5
Available in Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows, Piranesi 5 is a 2.5D specialized painting tool that allows users to start with a simple rendering of a 3D model and quickly develop it into high-quality images ready for client presentations. Although Piranesi is a 2D illustration program, it responds to depth and material information stored in the 3D rendering file. Piranesi 5 and its sister program, Vedute, offer a wide range of new features and improvements. And Informatix has provided an extra 200 royalty-free images to use in your work.
Figure 5. With Piranesi, you can start with a simple rendering of a 3D model and quickly develop it into high-quality images.
Cutouts are 2D pictures such as people and trees that you can use in your Piranesi scenes. A new Multiple Cutout placement tool places as many cutouts as you like, chosen randomly from a suitable set. Using it, you can quickly populate a shopping area with people or create shrubbery or a forest. Support for Arch-Vision RPC models is included, providing access to the latest models, including 3D cars. Try the free 30-day demo.
H. Edward Goldberg, AIA, NCARB, is a practicing licensed architect and AEC industry analyst. Ed's full-length book, Autodesk Architec-tural Desktop 2007: A Comprehensive Tutorial (Prentice Hall, www.prenhall.com) is now available. His new Revit Building tutorial book will be available in fall 2007. Visit www.hegra.org for more information or e-mail email@example.com.