On the Job: Monster House Contestants Nail Design Challenges in Record Time

14 Nov, 2005 Cadalyst

AutoCAD, 3ds Max help bring TV show ideas to life

Each week, the Discovery Channel's "Monster House" dares professional builders to test their construction and collaboration skills by raising a structure they've never seen before, with a team they've never met -- between Monday morning and midnight, Friday. From Robin Hood's house to Parisian pied-a-terre, Autodesk software helps designers bring life to these outrageous home makeovers.

From Concept to Reality
In its fourth season of wildly creative construction, the show's behind-the-scenes designers invent fresh challenges for contestants -- and develop those concepts into architectural drawings and plans using AutoCAD 2006 software for drafting, detailing and design. With the help of Autodesk, a sponsor of the series, projects are explained to viewers and show contestants using AutoCAD drawings and Autodesk 3ds Max animation software. The "Monster House" builders scramble to make these drawings into real structures in five days or less -- then take home prizes including AutoCAD 2006.

It's no easy feat for the show's design crew to dream up astounding abodes, then transform those ideas into feasible plans. Jinnie Choi is assistant art director at Original Productions, the producers of "Monster House." Choi depends on AutoCAD 2006 to make the most of the two or three weeks she has per project to measure the house to be modified, model and refine plans with the production crew, submit plans and architectural drawings for construction permits and produce sketches to scale for show contestants.

"Less time spent drafting means more time solving the challenges that come up on these once-in-a-lifetime projects," says Choi. "AutoCAD 2006 not only speeds up 'Monster House' design work, it ensures we produce accurate, functional plans and sketches. Although these are way-out designs, the creators -- and the contestants -- face the kinds of time constraints and client satisfaction issues that real-world projects present." Sherwood Forest Comes Alive
Season four of "Monster House" kicked off this summer with the "Robin Hood House," created for a couple who had reached a design impasse in the Sherwood Forest neighborhood of Los Angeles. Enormous metal trees designed to support a deck required structural engineering documentation and special city permits, placing extra drafting demands on Choi.

Hardly a damsel in distress, Choi made short work of these challenges using AutoCAD 2006. When city permits required extra-large concrete footing for the trees, Choi took advantage of automatic calculation capabilities in AutoCAD 2006 to compute the volume of concrete required. She designed the trees' interior armature by extruding circles to represent metal pipes, clicking on each one to see length and dimensions and calculate the thickness of the branches to be built upon the armature.

The completed exterior of "Sherwood Forest House," complete with enormous metal trees, an observation deck and a retractable roof.

In the season's second episode, designers aimed to transform a Californian townhouse into a Parisian paradise. The design plan incorporated the homeowners' love for the French capital, complete with Moulin Rouge windmill, Arc de Triomphe entertainment center and an Eiffel Tower that spanned both floors of the building.

The Paris House design plan called for an Eiffel Tower that spanned both floors of the building. Last-minute dimensions and measurements for the unfinished entertainment center and windmill were calculated using AutoCAD.

Intuitive Presentation
Whether it's "Robin Hood House," "Paris House" or some other monster project, Choi frequently uses AutoCAD 2006 Design Center content and annotation capabilities to present project details in an intuitive fashion, she says. For example, blocks representing common objects such as furniture and people provide the project team and contestants with an idea of project scale, while enhanced hatching now provides a quick means to indicate material or surface qualities.

Previously on "Monster House," Autodesk helped answer students' hopes for a state-of-the-art shop classroom. North Hollywood High in Southern California got a "monster" workshop makeover in which contestants transformed the run-down facility into the Construction Technology Shop, complete with a giant lug-nut-shaped desk for the instructor. Autodesk donated AutoCAD software for use in the high school's new Home Engineering Academy, where students learn to envision and bring their ideas to life through technology.

"Monster House" airs on the Discovery Channel each Monday at 8 p.m. ET/PT. To view further details and designs from "Monster House," visit the Autodesk Web site.