AEC Tech News (#218)

23 Jan, 2008 By: Kenneth Wong

Visualization with Attitude

A filmmaker takes a dramatic new approach to architectural visualization.

By Kenneth Wong

Kenneth Wong photo

Soaring symphonic music, growling cellos, danceable beat, impossible camera angles, flying choppers, and sunlit skyscrapers distinguish Neoscape’s architectural visualizations. It’s much more than a walkthrough or a flythrough. It’s a cinematic experience, complete with story, drama, and characters. That’s probably because Nils Norgren, the cofounder of Neoscape , is an Emmy award nominee (director of photography for a film about Boston’s Big Dig). He believes in combining “the heart of a filmmaker with the head of a true CG leader” to produce the award-winning deliverables. At Neoscape, the artists don’t just render a CAD file of a Las Vegas residential complex into a 3D animation. They tell stories about young people moving into their first loft.

Forget the Walkthrough
At Autodesk University 2007, during the presentation preceding the Design Visualization User Mixer, his demo reels drew admiring gasps from the attendees.

If you want a straightforward walkthrough along a certain path, most architectural CAD programs or 3D rendering programs would allow you to produce a QuickTime file with a few mouse clicks. “It might be good for design evaluation, but when it comes to selling something, it’s not the most compelling way to get someone excited about something. It doesn’t elicit, in my opinion, an emotional response,” Norgren observed.

In a typical walkthrough, he pointed out, the crude human icon walks down a corridor, opens a door or two, enters a room, exits, resumes walking, and repeats the process ad nauseam. As a result, “You spend 80% of your time watching walls slide by,” he remarked.

He likes to tell his client, “Less is more.” In his view, an architectural scene should give potential buyers “just enough information so they want to take the next step, find out more information about the project.”

The technical details, such as the floor plan and the dimensions, are better left in the sales brochure. “Don’t try to convey every nook, cranny, and plaza,” advised Norgren. Read more »

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Kenneth Wong is a Cadalyst columnist and former Cadence editor. He explores innovative uses of technology and its implications in his writing. Reach him at


AEC Insight Column:
Doin' the DEED

By Jerry Laiserin

Austrian-British philosopher Karl Popper (1902-1994) redefined thinking about science by casting scientific theories as falsifiable hypotheses. Theories that survive the experimentation and falsification process of the scientific method gain greater acceptance and usefulness. By analogy, design ideas are falsifiable hypotheses about possible solutions to design problems. Instead of scientific experimentation, design ideas are tested in the design process. Architectural design ideas or schemes can be tested against the building program or brief, massing models against the zoning envelope, and enclosure designs against desired building energy performance. Design ideas that survive -- those that are not falsified by the building requirements against which they are tested -- gain acceptance and usefulness for subsequent phases of design.

Since the 1980s, digital tools have emerged to help designers formulate, visualize, and test design ideas. In early stages of design, digital tools complement rather than displace analog tools such as paper sketches or hand-built physical models. The coexistence of electronic and paper-based tools alters designers' perceptions of both. The resulting blend of media when applied to concept design, preliminaries, or schematics can be labeled digital environments for early design (DEED). Read more »


Mark Your Calendar: AEC Events

Webcast: "Approved as Noted: The Benefits of Adopting an Electronic Submittal"
January 31, 2008
1:00 p.m. ET
Newforma, a project information management (PIM) software provider, will sponsor this Webcast, in which representatives from BNIM Architects, LMN Architects, and Mackey Mitchell Architects will describe how their firms are saving time by transitioning from traditional, paper-driven methods to an electronic submittal process. Read more

OFCDesk IDC Product Demonstrations
Various U.S. Cities
Various Dates, January-March
Professionals in the interior design and architecture industries are invited to attend these events presented by OFCDesk. The company will introduce its new IDC (Interior Design CAD), reportedly the first CAD software focused exclusively on commercial interior design. A demonstration Webcast is also available. Read more

For Cadalyst’s full calendar of eventsclick here.