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Friday, August 29, 2008

Using 3ds Max and mental ray for Architectural Visualization

This white paper looks at using mental ray® software for architectural visualization.
Autodesk® 3ds Max® 9 software includes many major feature and workflow improvements
to reduce complexity and make rendering with mental ray far more approachable
for Architects and designers.
This document summarizes the important aspects of photorealistic renderings that
Architects, designers and visualization professionals may want to consider when creating
presentation images, visualizations for design review, or physical analysis of lighting. It
identifies the main areas involved in physically based renderings and provides guidance
as well as tips-and-tricks on how to use them in 3ds Max. The main areas of focus

1.Lighting and materials theory
2. mental ray renderer
3. The mental ray daylight system
4. Arch+Design material for mental ray, and more
Included with this document are sample scene files and renders to help provide context.

Transforming Digital Painting into Digital Photography
In the real world, energy is emitted by light sources, bounces around, and is absorbed by
surfaces. The same principles apply in global illumination rendering, especially in architectural
visualization. Architects, Designers and Visualization Professionals need be able
to render images that approximate the real world as closely as possible. In combination
with structure and surfaces, light can change the appearance of a room tremendously.

Setting up the Workbench
Profile Presets
3ds Max software ships with a tool that enables you to preset
environmental defaults that suit the workflow of photorealistic
renderings done with mental ray. This is a great place to start.
By choosing the ‘Design VIZ/mental ray’ profile, you get the following:
1 ray renderer
2 Exposure control
3 New mental ray ‘Arch+Design’ material in the ‘Material Editor’
4 New ‘mr Sun’ and ‘mr Sky’ plug-ins in the daylight system
5 that cast shadows and are set to be ray-traced

Units and Scale
Physically based lighting computation implies that light attenuates
using the inverse square falloff law, which simply means
the intensity of light declines exponentially with the distance it
travels. Therefore, it is crucial that the scale of your scene corresponds
to real-world data—otherwise the results will get corrupted.
A common mistake is to import an airport at the size of a shoebox
or a room at the size of a stadium. In one case, the lighting
computation will be too bright, and in the other case, it will be
too dark.

To verify your scale settings, check the ‘System Unit Scale’ settings
in the ‘Customize | Units Setup | System Unit Setup dialog
You may also want to use the ‘Tools | Measure Distance’ tool to
verify known dimensions in the scene, as well as set the ‘Unit
Conversion’ function in the Import menu when, for example,
importing a DWG™ file from AutoCAD® software.

Optimizing Geometry for Rendering
Good renderings require good geometry. Good geometry does not mean you must model
everything. You can obtain many detailed effects with optimizations such as bump maps
or cutout maps. It only means that the geometry must correspond roughly to what the
renderer expects. It is important to start with a clean model. Fortunately, mental ray is
more tolerant than radiosity in this respect; you do not have to create perfect models, but
more accurate models make rendering easier and more efficient. The following sections
describe good practices for optimizing geometry before rendering.
Smoothing Angles
All 3D geometry—including both edged objects and rounded forms—is made up of polygons.
To display them smoothly, 3ds Max interpolates between the surface normals to
simulate a rounded form and not a faceted one. When importing a file from another computer-
aided design (CAD) or 3D application or when working with the Edit Poly modifier,
you may find that the information about which normals to smooth by interpolation and
which to keep sharp edged with no interpolation can sometimes get lost or corrupted.
Instead of re-importing a file or asking your client to resend it, try the Smooth modifier. In
most cases, the problems disappear.
The cube’s faces are smoothed with an angle that’s too
high, the sphere’s faces with an angle that’s too low (image1).

This is how the cube and the sphere should look
according to smoothing groups (image2).

Flipped Normals
Rendering the face of a geometric shape requires both the vertices that define it and
information about its orientation. This can be seen as information about which is the front
and which the back of the face, which is done by the surface normal as well. When
importing a model from a CAD package, you may find that direction information can get
lost or corrupted. The problem is that from the back, a polygon is invisible and appears
as a hole in the model. To fix this problem, try toggling ‘Backface Culling’ in the ‘Object
Properties’ dialog box, or assign a material and make it two-sided. If there are only a few
faces with the wrong orientation, you can add an ‘Edit Poly’ modifier and use Flip on the
affected faces. If the import is poor, you can use a two-sided material such as the
‘Arch+Design’ material to fix the faces without spending too much time on cleanup.
The geometry is the same as in the preceding example, but some faces are flipped so they appear to be invisible.Orientation information can be lost or corrupted during import.

Polygon Count
It is good practice to think about how many polygons an object should consist of before
modeling it. This is true for all geometric objects, especially curved and round ones. Each
face needs to be rendered, but using many polygons on a round object can quickly add
up to inefficiencies, especially if objects are copied within the scene. On the other hand,
using too few polygons makes an object appear segmented.

Picking a polygon count that is too low for your model gives unsatisfactory results for architectural rendering (image1-2).
In this example, the bowl’s appearance is improved because the shape allows for additional faces without destroying the bowl itself; you could simply add a ‘Turbosmooth modifier’(image 3-4).

Unwelded Vertices
In some cases, a model might look as if it is closed, but instead
each face is separated and the vertices of neighboring faces are
unwelded—that is, not connected. Unwelded vertices can introduce
many problems, including large file sizes due to thousands of
unnecessary vertices, damage to the object when moving faces or
altering the model, and even problems with proper smoothing and
normal interpolation, since the faces appear unconnected to 3ds
Max. If the ‘Smooth modifier’ doesn’t correct smoothing problems,
check for unwelded vertices. To weld vertices, simply add the
‘Weld Vertices’ modifier and choose an appropriate radius.

Both spheres look the same, but the right one has a row of unwelded vertices. This wastes memory (for example, instancing an object many times) and makes it difficult to modify geometry.

Problems appear when moving half the faces with an ‘Edit Poly’ modifier. Welding the vertices corrects the loose edges (image 1).

Under certain light conditions you can even see unwelded vertices by studying a render of the object(image 2).

Overlapping Surfaces
Watch out for faces that overlap precisely. The renderer cannot determine which one to
put in front, and a black pattern artifact will appear. Overlapping faces can be introduced
by careless modeling or by importing a file, such as a CAD file with versioned geometry
overlapping precisely on several layers.

Light Leaks
Since indirect lighting calculations have to be interpolated in some way because of their
complex nature, it is crucial to avoid light leaks when modeling. Light leaks are caused by
geometry, usually edges, that let indirect light pass through, even if this would not happen
in the real world. The problem is most obvious in scenes with high contrast, such as sunlight
on an enclosed space with an opening. If not modeled properly, faulty geometry can
let light pass into the space through open edges.
Even if your model looks good in the viewport, it might show light leaks during rendering.
Check your render setup for possible causes. For example, radiosity might let light crawl
underneath a wall if the floor is not disconnected. If the photon search radius is set too
high for thin walls, the sun will be interpolated to the inside. Final Gathering is usually the
most robust way to work around potential light leaks.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Using the Project Browser in Revit

There are a number of ways to navigate through a Revit project. As you start working in real projects, the number of views and drawings that accumulate will become quite large. Being able to find your views and effectively move between them is critical to support an effective workflow. We’ll look at the various methods of moving between views, best practices, and how to customize the display of these views using the Project Browser.

A view is a graphical way to look at the database of information you’re creating. Plan, section, schedule table, 3D view—all of these are just different ways to look at and query the same under- lying database of information that describes your building. Revit organizes all the views of your project in the Project Browser. Your plans, sections, elevations, 3D views, and schedules are all stored there. Double-clicking a view name opens the view in the View window. When you close a window, you don’t need to save first—it’s always accessible from the Project Browser.
The default organization is based on the view type, which is why the views are divided into sep- arate nodes in the tree. The default organization when all the nodes are collapsed looks like this:
With a node expanded, right-click a view name to access additional options for any view. From this menu, you can open views, rename them, duplicate them, and apply view templates.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sustainable Design Support Revit MEP 2009

Revit MEP software provides integrated heating
and cooling loads analysis tools to help you perform energy analysis, evaluate system loads, and produce
heating and cooling load reports for a project. Provide optimal systems design with the same building information model, with realistic, real-time design scenarios aiding better decision-making support. Revit MEP helps to minimize design errors and better define your project’s overall sustainability strategy. Take full advantage of the data-rich Revit MEP model to support better decision making through integrated building performance analysis tools. Revit MEP also supports green building extensible markup language (gbXML), containing information for spaces and zones as well as lighting fixture element data. Export the gbXML file for use with a third-party analysis application for calculating loads. Create high-performance, sustainable buildings with extensive analysis of heating and cooling load, LEED daylighting, thermal energy, and more.

About Revit® MEP

Revit® MEP software is an intuitive mechanical, electrical, and plumbing system design tool, enabling enhanced coordination and rapid design within a building information model. Optimize systems engineering through data-driven system sizing and design. Use the building performance analysis tools within the Revit MEP building information modeling (BIM) software application to support sustainable design. Accelerate accurate decision making through faster engineering design data creation and more reliable client communications. Using consistent, compatible models created in Revit® Architecture or Revit® Structure software, you can minimize time-consuming errors between mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) engineers, structural engineers, and architects. Automatic change management across your evolving design and documentation set helps to keep your plans consistent and your projects on track.
Experience the BIM advantage by designing optimized engineering systems, and enhance building performance with analysis support.
Enable appropriate feedback on your design’s
scope, schedule, and budget.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Trim walls around slab profiles - Revit

Applies To:

  • Revit Structure 2008. May apply to other versions


I want to trim the top and bottom of my walls around the slab profiles. I want to notch or create and opening in a wall.


Step 1 Image:Trim wall profiles.GIF

Step 2 Image:Trim wall profiles 2.GIF

Step 3 Image:Trim wall profiles 3.GIF

Make Background Black in Revit Get the Autocad LOOK

Applies To:

  • Revit Structure 2008. May apply to other versions


Our company wants to preserve our existing color based drafting standard, but this is hard to view with a white background. How do I make Revit have a black background?


Tools > Options > Graphics Tab > Colors > Invert background color > Tick on

I recommend changing the "Selection Color" as it's out of the box setting can clash with a white background or other colors.

Revit viewer - the no cost solution

Applies To:

  • Revit Structure 2008,2009. May apply to other versions.


The engineers annoy you with basic requests, like printing a drawing. Is there some sort of viewer whereby the engineer can view my model without taking up a network license and print there own drawings!


Install the full version of Revit and set the License to Demo/Viewer mode.

Note: If the model is changed in Demo/Viewer mode, you will not be able to print. But you can print drawings and views if you open the model and make no changes. I also observe if you open the model and open any view, it will not print. But if you open the model and go straight to the print button you can print sheets and views.

A no cost viewer and printing tool!

Image:Revit - Viewer.PNG

Set revit installation to Demo/Viwer mode. A Network license is therefore not taken.

Image:Revit - Viewer mode.PNG

Changing "columns" to "structural columns" in Revit

Applies To:

  • Revit 2008,2009. May apply to other versions


How can I change an architectural column to a structural column?

Suggested Solution:

  1. Select the column.
  2. Select "Edit Family" and open the family for editing.
  3. Select "Settings" on the top menu bar, then select "Family Categories and Parameters"
  4. A check box at the bottom that reads "Automatically joins geometry to walls" - Uncheck this box.
  5. You can then change the family category to structural from this same dialogue box.
  6. Reload the column into your project. All columns of that type upgrade to structural columns and "detach" themselves from the walls etc.