✱ FormZ and My Fundamentals Training Course are on Sale!

Right now through the end of the year you can get form•Z Pro, V-Ray, and my fundamentals training course at deeply discounted prices. My recommendation, if you can swing it, is to get all three.

And even if you’re a user of an older version of form•Z, you aren’t being left out—upgrades are currently discounted too!

For more information, and to get in on the sale before the end of the year, head over to the form•Z sales page. While you’re at the site, be sure to check out the V-Ray page to see what can be done with these powerful tools, and click here to learn more about my 6 hour video training course on the fundamentals of form•Z. There you’ll find all kinds of information: the description, course outline, some free preview sections of the course, and some happy customer testimonials. Use code FORMZBUNDLE at checkout to get the discounted price of $299 instead of the regular $497 through December 31, 2018.

Happy holidays, and happy modeling and rendering!

✱ Sneak Peak: FormZ Fundamentals Course

Since my last post I've been working hard on my most ambitious project yet here at Method—it's a new digital course called FormZ Fundamentals. It will be available very soon, and I wanted to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what I've been up to.

This is a fully structured course based on how I've taught FormZ in the architecture department at California State Polytechnic University. It's not simply a tutorial, and it's not just for architects. It's over 6 hours of training for anyone who wants to learn how to use the program from the beginning—or for those who already use it—to become better at it. You'll have fun either way, and I think that's an important component of any tool you'll be using all the time.

Here are some screen grabs from the different sessions in the course:

I expect the course to launch later this month if all goes as planned. FormZ Fundamentals is going to cover a lot of ground. I'd be remiss not to mention that I'm an expert FormZ user and have been using and teaching it for more than 20 years. 

Why FormZ?

If you're a regular at this site, you already know it's my tool of choice. It's my experience that it's the most well-rounded, feature-filled modeling program (especially for, but not strictly limited to architecture) that's available today. It does so much more than some popular programs (like SketchUp) and doesn't lock you into a specific set of architecture-only tools (like Revit). Nor does it intimidate (like the interface and commands in Rhino). It hits the sweet spot most programs miss. 

I have no doubt it will make you much more valuable if you take an honest look at it and devote a little time to learning it. After all these years, I keep coming back to FormZ. 

This course is for you if: 

  • you’re a SketchUp user looking to move on to a more powerful 3d modeling and rendering toolset, or a Rhino user looking for a faster, less complicated workflow.
  • you’re new to 3d and want an all-in-one program.
  • you want a 3d program that can play well with all the other 3d programs.
  • you want parametric tools to create your designs, which makes it easier to change your designs later.
  • you’re tired of endlessly searching for extensions to try (and buy!) for every little thing that isn't built into SketchUp.
  •  you’re looking for a one-stop solution for all of your modeling needs.
  •  you want tools that allow for more creative freedom to realize your design ideas.
  •  you want to make more precise, higher quality 3d models.
  •  you’re intimidated by the Rhino interface and don’t want to remember all those commands.
  •  you want your models to be ready for 3d printing without extra work.
  •  you want to be more valuable to you clients, colleagues, and firm.

I'm trying to accomplish a few things with this course:

  1. FormZ is a fantastic program that's fun to use. More people should learn it. Are you tired of SketchUp holding you back? Are you tired of searching in the Extensions Warehouse for plugins that may or may not work? Do you want to realize more of your fantastic designs that you are having a hard time modeling in SketchUp? Chances are that FormZ has everything you need already built in.
  2. Let's start with the basics. This course lays the foundation and will make sure you understand how most of the program works. It's not all-encompassing, but the program is deep. Many tools are more advanced, and I will make more courses (if there's demand, and I hope there is...) in the future. For now, this course covers most of them and ensures you're using them the correct way.
  3. Many people don't know what FormZ is capable of. It's my favorite modeling program for a few reasons—it's powerful, fast, easy to use, and smart. It runs circles around other architectural modeling applications. If another app has a better tool for something specific (like a visual scripting tool such as Grasshopper for Rhino), I like to think of those as plugins for FormZ. I can't model all day long in Rhino without beating my head against the table. Some things are just too hard to do in it. FormZ plays so well with others that you can take your Rhino objects directly into FormZ, modify them further, and have more fun.

Hopefully this will whet your appetite. I'm excited to to share all the details of the 6+ hour course with you very soon. I will be offering special introductory pricing to all of my newsletter subscribers so if you're not signed up, make sure to get in on the early bird discount

SketchUp News: 3d Basecamp Keynote Video

Here’s this year’s SketchUp 3d Basecamp Keynote video. If you have time, it might be worth it to watch the whole thing and see the 2016 SketchUp state of the union. In my opinion, the best part is at the 29 minute mark where you’ll see some great work by Alex Hogrefe of https://visualizingarchitecture.com/. It's mostly Photoshop workflows, and the end result is eye-catching. This kind of work doesn’t have to use SketchUp of course. It’s more a discussion of image quality and feeling. At the 56 minute mark there is an interesting section on feedback based on the types of images Alex posts online. It’s good insight you might consider for the images you make depending on who your audience is.

Video: Get a workout painting in VR with Google's new Tilt Brush

Building on my last post about VR, here's the latest tech from Google called Tilt Brush. I told you that VR was going to be huge this year, and this is the latest mouth-watering entry into the burgeoning field of virtual reality.

This example is using the HTC Vive system. Users get a 9' cube of blank canvas space to work within. In one hand you have the motion-tracked 'brush' and in the other you have your 3 dimensional painter's 'palette'. The brushes are dynamic, much like using the Apple Pencil or a Wacom tablet with jitter and flow variations, except now in 3d. There are internal and external sensors tracking your every move, essentially constructing all of your brush elements in real time and keeping them in the exact spot you place them as you wave your magic wand-brush. 

This looks incredible. Everyone needs to see this video. Make no mistake – there will be tools like this developed for architecture, and I can't wait.

After you watch the video, head over to the Tilt Brush site and check out their additional videos that highlight the other aspects of the system. 

And... it's a real thing, available now within Steam if you have a HTC Vive and a badass computer that meets their hefty requirements.


Tilt Brush lets you paint in 3D space with virtual reality. Unleash your creativity with three-dimensional brush strokes, stars, light, and even fire. Your room is your canvas. Your palette is your imagination. The possibilities are endless. Learn more at http://tiltbrush.com

Link: Astropad

Image courtesy Astropad

Astropad, released today, is a new piece of software that connects the dots between two pieces of technology you might already have - an iPad and a Mac - and allows them to work as one. Our iPads can now be used as so-called professional graphics tablets for $50 ($20 if you're a student). 

The developers of Astropad have solved a problem that has nagged this kind of interoperability for years now which is to cut down on the lag between input and results on the screen by creating something they call Liquid:

Creating Astropad required innovative new technology we call LIQUID. The result is stunning image quality and responsiveness never before seen in similar tools.

LIQUID is true to your source material with color corrected output and retina resolution. What you see on your iPad is the same as on your Mac.

I also love this graphic on their site. Fingers crossed indeed.

Previously using Airplay we got 30 frames per second (FPS) and with Liquid we get 60 FPS. This helps a lot.

I'm hopeful of Astropad because it solves the very real problem I've always had with standard graphics tablets which is the disconnect between the hardware and the screen, and I've never considered myself to be a person that could justify buying a Cintiq. Being able to have direct input between the stylus and the pixels is a big deal, and I'm excited to try this out and see how well it works while keeping in mind it's a v1 product. Will it be as responsive as a Wacom tablet? Nope. But it also doesn't cost $350.

What do you think about it?

(h/t Chris Grant)


Update: I've tried Astropad out, and it works surprisingly well. I used it on the Mac version of Notability and Photoshop CS6 connected between my iPad Air and my 27" iMac.

When you download the Mac app and install it, and then install the free iPad app, you go through a simple pairing process to connect the two over wifi or USB. The instructions are very well done. Except... I tried it in my office where I have no control over the wireless system, and it didn't work. Both devices must be on the same wifi network, which they were, but for some reason they couldn't communicate. To be fair, there are hundreds of devices on that particular wifi so I'm not surprised they couldn't find each other. I ended up simply creating a wireless network on the iMac and connecting to it through the iPad. Once that was setup, they found each other right away. Another option is to do a hard wired connection but I don't carry a Lightning cable with me. Plus, I really wanted to test it out over wireless to see how well it would perform over the air. 

In Notability

Notability is a note taking app that has some really nice ink technology and I wanted to see if I could use it with a graphics tablet to do markups (redlines) on PDF's in realtime during a GoToMeeting while sharing my screen. I don't think the developers were really thinking of this particular use either, which was another reason I chose to do it.

Astropad excelled at what it was designed for, which was allowing me to have direct input on my iPad with my stylus and having my work be mirrored on my Mac. There was little to no lag between the two. For a first release, it is very impressive. 

What it did not excel at was giving me Notability's controls on my iPad screen, which again I can't really blame them for. What this means in real world applications is that I had to do a lot of back and forth between my work on the iPad and using the mouse on my computer to switch between tools, brush sizes, and colors. I don't think Notability has keyboard shortcuts for what I need, and that would make things much easier. 

In Photoshop

Astropad works even better in Photoshop, which seems to be the app's initial target market. It's the same great painting interface, you can zoom and pan around your document right on the iPad, and there are common tool shortcut buttons on the iPad's screen for brush sizes and more. These really help make the experience much better because you spend a lot less time switching over to your mouse to get to your most-used tools.


It would be great if more Mac app developers look to have an Astropad connection now that it's out.  Having software shortcut buttons right on the iPad's screen would be welcomed and would lead to more sales for sure.

Never once did the connection fail. Even after long pauses between uses, I could just pick up and continue without re-pairing the devices.  

Probably the biggest challenge is using Astropad between two devices with such different physical screen sizes. I was going between 27" and 11". There is a lot of time spent panning around to see what you want to see on the iPad. I'm sure with more use I would get much better at it. There are three zoom settings that you can access on the Mac side - full screen, 100% and 200% modes. I was usually in 100 or 200% mode because I was painting and the scale of the image on the iPad made sense. Full screen between these particular two devices makes no sense, but it might for other people if their devices are closer in size (like a notebook for instance). 

I can't wait to see where they go with this. What if Apple comes out with rumored iPad Pro? what if Apple comes out with their own stylus? This could really change the graphics tablet game for professional use.

My advice is to give it a try for yourself. The app comes with a 7 day free trial and you can see if it would work for you. Let me know how it goes. 


Link: Google Earth Pro is Now Free

Over on the Google Lat Long blog, the latest news is that Google Earth Pro is now free. I use it on every single project for my virtual pre-site visits and for lots of contextual research. It helps me get a jumpstart on my design and has been an invaluable tool. It being made available for free is great news. It's better than the previously free version (just called Google Earth) for a few reasons:

  1. You can export super high res satellite imagery and use it as an underlay for your 3d modeling - up to 4800 pixels wide. The extra large exports come in handy when making large format presentation boards. Tip for underlays: turn off Terrain and 3d Buildings layers, and get a straight down view by Command+clicking and aiming straight down with your mouse.
  2. We can see property lines and US Parcel data. It includes lot size as well!
  3. Turn back time and see how neighborhoods have developed by skimming through old satellite photos with the Historical Imagery slider.
  4. Use the Path and Polygon tools to take measurements. Turn on the Ruler in the tool bar to see how long the paths you draw are.

Here are a few other things you can do with Google Earth; either free or pro versions:

  1. Find a 3d building that highlights in blue. You can click on them, and download them with textures from the SketchUp Warehouse. If you use SketchUp, they will come into your project geolocated and can be great 3d context.
  2. Use the heck out of Street View. Just keep double clicking all the way down to a street and you'll get into street view mode. Then click on the street in the direction you want to go, or scroll with your mouse wheel and drive down the street. 
  3. Take a trip to the Moon or Mars and explore. There is some crazy stuff embedded in those models.

These are the most valuable things I use it for on my projects. What do you use it for? Leave a note in the comments. 

Link: formZ LAB releases the Catenary Curve Tool

Antoni Gaudí would be so proud. Get your new, free extension for FormZ 8 from the LAB.

Image courtesy of formZ LAB

Image courtesy of formZ LAB

A chain, hanging under its own weight with both ends anchored, forms the characteristic curve know as the catenary. An overhead utility wire, a tram cable, and a chain connecting two posts will each assume this form.

Grab your copy here.

Link: Vote for where Thea Render should go next

Over on the Thea Render forum there's a poll happening for you to have a voice in choosing the next modeler they are going to integrate with. Even if you don't currently use Thea, you might in the future and wouldn't you like it integrated into your favorite modeling app? I voted for FormZ and Bonzai3d because I want more rendering options in mine. You get 2 votes.

Thea already integrates with 3dsMax, Blender, SketchUp and Cinema4d and I know a lot of people like it. What's your experience with it? Leave a comment below.

Vote here.

Link: The FormZ Lab

Exciting news from the folks at formZ:

AutoDesSys has started a Tumblr blog called formZ LAB that is showing off new tech that they've been developing for a while now, and if we can glean anything from the first entry, this is going to be huge for architectural designers that use or are thinking about getting into formZ v8. 

A collection of profiles possible (but not limited to) in Profile Tools.

A collection of profiles possible (but not limited to) in Profile Tools.

Profile Tools is the first new tool that they are showing from what I assume will be a collection. The good news is that you can download it today and start using it yourself if you have formZ 8. It is a brand new extension for creating dimensional lumber and steel shapes (and more) in your model. They are parametric and retain their abilities to be updated in the future without having to do the typical extra work that we used to. This is a fantastic addition to the program and I can't wait to see what they come up with next.

  • Parametric control of profile shape, dimensions, and rounding. Adjust multiple profiles at once, after construction. Shapes include: Rod, Round Tube, Rectangular Bar, Rectangular Tube, Hexagonal Bar, Hexagonal Tube, H-Bar, I-Beam, Angle (90 degree), U-Channel, T-Bar, Z-Bar.
  • Dimensioning follows common industry standards. Tubes, for instance, are defined by O.D, I.D, and wall thickness.
  • Justification makes revisions easier. With justification, you can refine the profile shape and proportions and keep the profile properly justified to neighboring objects. For example, beam profiles can be justified to the underside of a ceiling. If the web thickness is later changed from 10” to 12”, the top of the beam will remain aligned with the ceiling; there’s no need to move them down “manually.”
  • Freely draw extrusions between any two 3D points. The bottom of the profile shape will remain aligned to the ground plane.
  • Profile Surfaces can be constructed, too. They work nicely as inputs to an axial sweep tool.

The announcement from AutoDesSys:

Welcome to the formZ LAB

formZ’s extensions provide a powerful set of technologies for 3D generative design, task automation, and interfacing with devices. Extensions currently include plugins and scripts, and a parametric visual scripting environment will be added soon.

The LAB seeks to unlock the potential of formZ’s extensions for architects, designers, and artists. The LAB was conceived in the spirit of invention and rapid innovation, but with a practical bent. We are developing a collection of resources that are both useful and inspiring. Our efforts are focused in three areas:

Production Tools
Production tools streamline or automate complex, tedious, or error-prone modeling tasks. Design professionals will find these useful to improve their modeling and rendering pipeline. We are building and maintaining a collection of production tools, which will be made available to the community for free. Production tools will be robust and fast, built as plugins using formZ’s powerful C-based API.

Generative Design
Generative Design is exciting territory. One of formZ’s core strengths is the shear breadth of modeling technologies it provides under one roof: polygonal and smooth (ACIS) geometry, surface and solid modeling, NURBS and subd’s. Hundreds of functions are available for generating virtually any form, and all can be leveraged for generative design. Currently under development at AutoDesSys are some exciting additions to formZ’s extension development portfolio, including a parametric visual scripting environment. When these are publicly released, we’ll be providing sketches and examples of what you can accomplish, with code you can freely modify. 

We’ll also put together some tutorials for how to use this new stuff. Let’s grow a community of like-minded 3D experimenters.

The LAB operates out of Los Angeles, independent of AutoDesSys’s head office. At the LAB, we focus on experiments in 3d tooling and generative design that can be rapidly developed, and which will benefit from user feedback early in the design process. Our releases will not be tied to major-release numbers; instead, we will release when a set of tools is ready for feedback. You can expect regular updates, so check this blog often.

We thank AutoDesSys for making the LAB possible. 

Welcome to the LAB. We’re excited to show you what we’ve been working on.

News: Maxwell Render Now Free For Faculty & Students

Next Limit:

As of August 2014, Maxwell Render is offering FREE licenses to academic institutions and the students enrolled in their courses. 

This is great news for those of you either in school or working at one to start using Maxwell Render. It can be used for anything non-commercial.

Read more about it on the Maxwell Render site.