✱ Which Rendering Program is the Best One for Me?

I get asked all the time what 3d rendering program I use and why. This is coming from a particular point of view - mine. I do architectural work. I do my own design. I work in small and large teams on small and large architectural projects. You may not do the same thing as me, but I'm sure there's some overlap if you're reading my site. I hope this is useful for you. 

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News: The Latest on FormZ, Bonzai3d, SketchUp 2014, and Maxwell Render

There have been a bunch of small and large announcements recently about the tools I talk about (and use) a lot, and here they are in summary:

FormZ v7.3.4, Bonzai3d 3.2.4 Updates

Updates to FormZ v7 and Bonzai v3 are out that address many small issues, and are available from within the app when you check for updates. There are a bunch of refinements that make the apps more stable and predictable - basically better to use in a production environment. We all know how important it is to have the most stable software instead of whiz-bang new features with these maintenance releases. You can read more about the FormZ fixes here and the Bonzai3d fixes here

Maxwell v3.0.11 beta for FormZ and Bonzai3d

The latest plugin for Maxwell 3 for FormZ 7 and Bonzai3d 3 has been posted to the Maxwell Beta site. I've been beta testing this for a while and I recommend grabbing this one because it fixes a bunch of stuff. Something new is that you can now download all of the beta plugins for Maxwell so you don't have to wait for the official releases. You can read the release notes and find out exactly what the latest fixes are when you login to the Beta site. Here's how:

Next Limit is delighted to announce the launch of the Maxwell Public Beta Area. Customers can now get access to the most recent builds, and won't need to wait for official releases to get the latest fixes. It will also help us to reduce development cycles, meaning that you get better versions of Maxwell, faster! 

For more information about how to access the public beta area, please visit our forum: 
http://www.maxwellrender.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=41692

SketchUp Pro 2014

Trimble SketchUp Pro 2014 is out, and just like previous releases this is an iterative, refined and more powerful version of SketchUp. While there aren't any new features that make my eyes pop out of my head, there are a few nice upgrades to the ubiquitous modeling program that affect us architects and designers from previous versions:

  1. Faster shadows (up to 15x faster depending on your setup)
  2. New Arc drawing tools (nice, finally!)
  3. Classifier (a new way to add metadata to objects in your models - think BIM)

While these may seem small, these are very welcome updates. The Classifier alone is a great new foundation in SU because we now have the ability to tag types of geometry, do quantity take-offs, and when using the new IFC exporter you can pass that data along to a higher level BIM tool so it knows that a wall is a wall, a slab is a slab, etc. Having faster shadows is a big deal for real-time walkthroughs. I actually do our presentations on the fly right inside the program, and I'm looking forward to not have to wait for the shadows to pop into existence only when I stop moving. That's always been jarring to me and I hope this will fix that problem. If it's jarring to me, I know it's jarring to my clients watching the presentation.

There are other advancements under the hood and on the web regarding the extension warehouse, underlying Ruby API framework and more. They seem to be going more in the direction of BIM which is a big deal for a program that costs $590. I expect a lot of people to jump on making some very cool plugins for SketchUp in this area in the future because it's a huge market.

New Layout features for creating documentation of our designs include:

  1. Auto text
  2. Smart labels
  3. Improved vector rendering
  4. Much better handling of large documents

These are all things that, if you haven't tried for yourself, have been major slowdowns in previous versions. More and more people tell me they are looking for a single tool to do their architectural work in (which I don't actually condone), and the team at SketchUp is clearly listening. And I get it - learning a few programs and their quirks takes longer than learning a single program. I'll talk more about that in another blog post.

If you haven't tried using Layout in a while, I suggest giving it a try. I think it's one of the most underrated and easy ways to document and present your 3d work as printed documents, PDF's or as a Powerpoint-style presentation. While some people have dug in and have been using it for construction documents for a while now, these new enhancements will make it easier for new people to adopt the program in this way. 

Image courtesy SketchUp

SketchUp 2014 runs on both Mac and Windows. As far as I can tell, the Pro version is the one getting all these updates. There is also SketchUp Make which replaced the free version last year and is not for commercial use, but it's still free but has some serious limitations as you can see in the graphic on the right. You can read about all the upgrades in depth here on the Trimble site.

Maxwell Plugin v3.0.1 for SketchUp

More great news for SketchUp users is that there has been an update to the plugin released that fixes some important bugs in conjunction with the newly released Maxwell 3. They say this update is a must-have. I've written about the new stuff in Maxwell 3 in a previous post, so check it out if you haven't yet. You can get the update in the customer portal or on the previously mentioned Beta site if you're a current v3 customer.

Happy modeling and rendering!

Google sells SketchUp to Trimble

This seems like a great opportunity for AutoDesSys' Bonzai3d. They need to do a couple of things I think (and fast):

  1. Get a free version of Bonzai out there for students. It needs DWG import/export, and PDF export among the standard in/out capabilities. Continue to charge more for Bonzai3d with all the bells and whistles.
  2. Get either Renderzone included (maybe resolution-limited to 1024x768) or work with Maxwell Render to get a free limited renderer via plugin like they have for SketchUp. 

So, ADS, how about we get this going in time for the AIA Convention?

✱ Maide Control - A New 3d Mouse

Maide Control is an exciting new app for your iPad from Maide that does two things. First, it allows you to control SketchUp or Rhino on your computer wirelessly and present your model from your iPad. Second, it lets you use your iPad as a 3d mouse (like a 3dConnexion device) during the modeling process as another input device.

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✱ New Aquatic Center Article on Artlantis.com

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I recently wrote an article about a project I've been working on where I used Sketchup, Bonzai3d, Revit and Artlantis in my 3d design workflow. The article was written for Abvent, the makers of Artlantis. Originally they posted it to their blog and Facebook page, and today they put on the front page of their website. I am truly honored.

Check it out here and let me know what you think.

Terrain Modeling Plugins for SketchUp and Revit

I was looking around on the SketchUcation forums and found this link to an amazing set of plugins for SketchUp created by Vali Architects. They are geared toward terrain modeling and roof creation. They aren't free, but very affordable ($15-$25 each). Definitely worth checking out if you're using SketchUp for architectural, civil or landscape work. I've been wishing for something like this for a long time, and now in the past week I've found tools like these for both Revit and SketchUp.

Check out Vali's Instant Road, Roof and Site Grader Plugins here.

The Revit tool I found is called Siteworks by Eagle Point Software. It will cut parking lots, sidewalks, curbs & gutters, retaining walls, berms, swales and other things into Toposurfaces. It is full of features and therefor obviously costs a lot more. Watch the demo videos on their site to get a better idea of what it can do.

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✱ Things Just Became Easier

It’s interesting how my history with AutoDesSys comes full circle. After I spent a few years away from Form•Z, they released a new application for designers called Bonzai3d. I jumped at the opportunity to beta test the application and hopefully help form it into a great app for architectural designers. After all of the years of experience I’ve had with Form•Z, both professionally and in teaching it, I knew exactly where Bonzai3d needed to go to become the go-to modeler that I and so many others needed. What was so unexpected was that AutoDesSys had already built the application that I had been needing for so many years.

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