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Features List 13
From CAD User AEC Magazine Vol 18 No 05 - MAY/JUNE 2005
Autodesk enhances VIZ 2006 in the raft of improvements to its’ core CAD product, AutoCAD 2006, as David Chadwick explains.
Visualisation is rapidly becoming one of the most important elements of the
design process. Whether the intention is to produce quick concept sketches, or
high quality photo-realistic renderings , lighting a building project or
depicting a complex mechanical assembly, a professional quality image enhances
the acceptance of the design solution, and, speeds up the decision making
process. One of the most widely used in the Autodesk market is VIZ.
Autodesk’s VIZ 2006 is a dedicated 3D modelling, rendering and animation piece of software, that can be used with Autodesk’s 3D software – ADT, AutoCAD and Inventor – (and even Revit, if their models are imported into the software via the DWG format). It is based on the 3ds Max engine, and can produce highly photo-realistic renderings and animations. VIZ 2006 contains tools for creating and managing the rendered scenes, and lighting, using a new content browser for lights, cameras and materials.
It operates, basically, at three levels – the first for modeling forms or importing data from other design applications, so that users can develop their ideas visually on the screen. The second level involves managing the design data, enabling users to experiment with materials, lighting and cameras. The third level represents the ability to share the design data with others through high quality images, descriptive animation sequences and interactive views.
To understand better how the software works, it is useful to picture, in your mind, the steps that would need to be taken to set up a model for a photographic shoot.
The first priority would be to assemble the tools that one needs for the shoot – the cameras, lights, and materials (in your mind, the ones that would drape the model ) that will be used to render the design object. In VIZ 2006, all of these are available in a large inventory within a Tools Palette, available for instant access, and displayed as icons Commonly used tools – or those required for specific project - can be assembled into custom palettes, and in VIZ 2006, Autodesk has, helpfully supplied some useful Tool Palettes for specific roles -including Current Scene and Recycled materials, Architectural Material
Palettes, Studio Palettes, Light Palettes, and Camera Palettes. Materials in the material palette can be applied to models by simple drag and drop methods.
The architectural palette contains flooring, concrete, masonry, wood, doors and windows, as well as some industrial materials like metals, paints, plastics, rubber, and fabrics. These, as well as all other types of palettes, are completely customizable. The ability to create customized material palettes can expedite the process of making new materials available to other members of a design team, published by dragging from the tool palette to the content browser.
The Lights Palette contains commonly used lights including Standard Lights and Photometric Lights with preset values, each of which are merely dragged and dropped into the scene, assigning heights to individual lights in the palette and saving the height as a property of the tool.
Sample studios - literally the a pre defined space in which to display the scene, are supplied with VIZ 2006 and includes surfaces with various materials already assigned like reflective surfaces, transparent surfaces, stone and masonry, and exterior planes with grass and sky.
Similar to the Tool Palettes in AutoCAD 2006, the tools help to streamline the creation of render scenes.
Besides recording materials in use in the palette, (Current scene) materials previously used, but replaced are stored in an unused material palette (Recycled materials) , as a history item, which can be reused at any time.
Rendering with Mental Ray
Using studios, you can quickly import a part or other object from Autodesk design applications, place it into the studio scene, and then create a rendering in a matter of minutes. Rendering is handled by Mental Ray, described as the world’s most powerful rendering system. In VIZ 2006, the latest technological tweks in Mental Ray are added to the software, including the use of physically based indirect lighting, support for IES Sun, and indirect illumination. Lighting and illumination have subtly different luminosity characteristics. Mental Ray also comes with a simpler user interface, including the one that handles global illumination.
Instead of importing models form other software packages for rendering, concept designs can be created quite rapidly using the simple 3D modeller, which includes such functions as loft and sweep to create 3D forms from users sketches, and other tools that allows complex shapes to be custom built or combined with an array of shapes that come with the software.
Access to all of the above – the tools palettes, lights, cameras, etc is managed by the Contents Browser. The rendering process itself cannot be performed until a radiosity mesh is created within the model. The complexity of the mesh can be modified to optimize the rendering process, with users able to establish maximum and minimum mesh sizes.
The VIZ library of materials is ‘scale aware’. This means that the scale of some materials is based on the geometry imported – bricks, for instance, will be properly scaled in relation to the wall. Scale can also be applied to new objects, by checking on Real-World Map Size in the Generate Co-ordinates check box. this enables users to import scaled objects directly into a model without having to subsequently fiddle around with the scale in the viewport.
Another new tool allows users to tweak the applied material. Using the same bricks as above, these can be aligned to a particular start point –the edge of the wall – using the Manipulate button which has been added to the UVW map modifier. The manipulator tool has handles that allow users to change the size, tiling and position of the material map.
Having ‘set the scene’ it is now time to capture it! The object, layer, material, camera, environment and lighting can all be saved in a Scene State, applying, of course, a title to the scene. Additional scenes can be captured after modifying any of the elements within each. And then they can be rendered.
Rendering is a long-winded business, depending upon the size and complexity of the scene. VIZ 2006 can even be used to farm out its rendering needs to a network of 10,000 render ‘slaves’ for the largest rendering projects.
Links and Interoperability.
We hinted at Links with Autodesk’s Architectural Desktop at the start of this piece, and the softwares Revit capabilities. ADT has a file linkingh capability that allows users to model in ADT with the modifications being automatically updated within the VIZ renderings. The same materials can also be made available to the two software packages, merely by dragging material from the VIZ tool palette into the ADT material palette, where a new ADT material definition can be applied allowing the material to be applied to ADT objects.
Likewise, Revit users can create high quality visualizations of their models using VIZ 2006. The software can’t take in native Revit (RVT) files, but can use Revit model in DWG format, and have scene objects correspond directly to individual Revit objects. Revit materials are translated and assigned to the objects, allowing Revit users to use VIZ to render their models.
Layers created using the Revit DWG exporter are respected by VIZ 2006 import/link process – likewise Revit objects colours. File Link Reload is also supported, allowing, like ADT, the link between Revit and VIZ to be maintained during the modelling process.
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