✱ Q&A: Troubleshooting Emitter Lights in Maxwell Render for Beginners

I got an email regarding troubleshooting emitter lights in SketchUp using Maxwell Render over the weekend, and I thought I'd post my answers here because it could be useful for you. Lots of people struggle with emitter lights when they're first starting out using Maxwell Render and think that the software just doesn't work when in fact you're probably just used to the brute-force techniques required by other rendering programs. I know this because that's what happened to me when I first tried using emitters in Maxwell. 

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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. 

Education
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.

✱ 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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Link: formZ/bonzai3d + Maxwell Render Bundle

There's a 30% off promotion going on right now for some of my favorite 3d tools - formZ, bonzai3d & Maxwell Render. You get 30% off a Maxwell node-locked license when you buy either fZ or b3d. Don't miss the part that says the next version of fZ that's coming out (v8) is going to be a free upgrade to everyone who buys v7 now.

I don't get anything from this offer - I'm just letting you know about it because these are my go-to design tools and it's a great deal. I'm also letting you know about it because they used my image for the promo email :)

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!

Link: FormZ for Architects Webinar

Featured on Novedge.png

I'm happy to announce that I'll be hosting a live webinar for Novedge showing off some cool stuff in the latest version of FormZ on March 26th at 11am.

There are specific tools included in formZ 7 that make it a very smart tool for conceptual architectural modeling. Parametric tools that are specific to architecture include walls, stairs and more. Other helpful things like working with a combination of solids and surfaces, booleans and NURBS, 2D drawing layout abilities and several 3D rendering types make it a production powerhouse.

I hope you can join me. The whole thing will go for about an hour. There will be a live question and answer immediately following the presentation. The video will be posted afterwards as well, so if you can't make it you'll still be able to see it. 

Click here to learn more, and to register for the event

Link: $300 off FormZ

What I consider the best tool for architectural concept and schematic 3d modeling, FormZ, is $300 off through the end of February. It's time to jump!

AutoDesSys:

February 14 is a special day for Autodessys as it is the 23rd anniversary of the release of form•Z v1.0.

In honor of this anniversary we are offering a special savings of $300.00 off new form•Z licenses and form•Z RenderZone bundles. We are also offering a $300.00 discount when you add additional seats to an existing form•Z license. This special applies to purchases from February 14th through the end of February.

Go to this page to see the details. Highly recommended. Tell them Evan at Method sent you!

✱ Introducing the Maxwell Grass Preset Pro Pack

I have some awesome news that I'm finally able to share with you. I'm launching my first product! I'm so excited to put this out into the world because it's something that has helped me time and time again.

Helped with what? I'm so glad you asked. 

We all do renderings of our architectural projects and are using some amazing modeling and rendering tools. I'm eyeball-deep in FormZ/Bonzai3d and Maxwell Render. They are some seriously fun and powerful tools that make my projects look great without a ton of effort. I decided last year to start making my own custom presets to take my renderings to the next level. Like I said, they have really made my images look great, and now I'm making them available to you!

Don't just take my word for it. You've probably seen a couple of renderings I've put up on the web lately teasing this new product. It's finally here!

So check out the new Method store where you can see everything all in one place - tons of renderings, what's included, how it works, and how it can help make you a rendering rock star!

And for the first week, I'm running a special that takes $20 off, so get it at that price while you can. 

I hope you love it as much as I do. 

…and can I just say that the bonus tutorial videos are worth more than the price alone. There's so much great stuff packed into them, you're going to learn a ton. You might consider buying the presets just to get the tutorials!

Learn more about the Maxwell Grass Preset Pro Pack

You can share this news by clicking the share link below. 

Video: FormZ Updates Layout

Things just got a lot more interesting.

A brand new video from a recent webinar has been posted that shows off the latest developments to FormZ's Layout functionality. This is starting to turn into BIM-lite. If you have 30 minutes, it's definitely worth watching what they have been busy doing for the last few months and rolled into a very solid version 7.3 update. 

Also, did you know there were object-based associative hatch patterns in the modeling environment? I hadn't seen this before, and it is great news! 

I can't wait to see where this goes next. It's a great foundation for things to come. This will be a great alternative to a full-blown BIM application as long as development like this continues. If you want to see more, please let them know.

Link: FormZ 7.3 Update Released

Screen Shot 2013-09-18 at 1.32.22 PM.png

Apple's iOS 7 isn't the only update out today: AutoDesSys has released v7.3 of FormZ. The latest update included many refinements to it's Layout portion of the program, as well as expanded NURBS tools and texture mapping controls. Other speed, display and rendering tool improvements have been made as well. The update is free to v7 owners and can be downloaded here or from within the already installed application.  You can download the full release notes here for a complete rundown of the changes.

Here's a screenshot of the NURBS tool addition: 

Screen Shot 2013-09-18 at 1.34.40 PM.png