Get set up for BIM: Hardware

Get set up for BIM: Hardware

BIM is not just about investing in the latest products, it’s about adapting to a new way of thinking. However, it does require a certain setup to cope with the changes it’ll bring to your workflow.

We’ve taken a look at the hardware that can help get you set up to run an efficient BIM workflow in which your hardware assists you, rather than holds you back. We’re not saying you’ll need to shell out on a high-spec system that would have NASA going green with envy, but make sure you meet the minimum recommended system requirements.

What hardware do I need?

When it comes to BIM, many people have been put off after experiencing slow speeds when running a test project. However, this is less the fault of BIM and more to do with sticking with outdated hardware that barely scrapes by when running the simplest CAD workflow (BIM or otherwise). If you’re running a large operation, you really should look at improving your server storage space and adopting quad-core processors, 64-bit operating systems and robust wide-area network (WAN) speeds. If you’re running a smaller operation, at the very least, you’ll want to get hold of a quad-core processor and as much storage as you can manage.

Something to consider…

An architect persevering with the same outdated machine could easily be losing two hours of work a week due to a slow machine that’s susceptible to poorly-timed crashes. And if that architect earns £30 an hour (in wages, benefits and overhead) and is losing two hours per week that could feasibly add up to £2880 per year. Whether you’re an architect yourself or employ architects, it all accounts for lost revenue – and all because upgrading sounded too expensive.

What are the options?

An HP Z600 dual quad-core Xeon 64-bit workstation costs £1955 and with that you get 8GB of RAM, a terabyte of hard drive space and (for a limited time) a free 21.5″ LCD monitor.


If you prefer Apple, you could get a quad-core Mac Pro and install some additional RAM. This model comes with 3GB of RAM (that can be expanded up to 16GB), a 1TB hard drive and a mid-level graphics card for £1675.
Or, if you’re in need of a mobile solution, a 15″ MacBook Pro with an i7 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive will more than suffice and yet will only cost you £1249.

Our CAD team can build a custom solution to power your BIM workflow. Give them a call to discuss hardware (or any other aspect of BIM) on 03332 409 306 or email them at

Give Your Animated Camera Angles a Handheld Effect

Give Your Animated Camera Angles a Handheld Effect

Even while he’s been away for a while, 3ds Max expert Ramy Hanna never seems to stop thinking about new tips, tricks and shortcuts. Following a hike up Texan mountain Guadalupe Peak, our favourite 3ds Max blogger has come back with an enlightening tip on giving your animated camera movement a more authentic, handheld feel. You can read his step-by-step guide below.

“If you’re tired of your camera movement animations looking too CG-ish, this tip could help you. If you want to go for that handheld camera feel, there is a very easy way to apply this effect to your already animated cameras. I’ve found using this trick in some of my camera shots brings an extra dimension of reality to my animations. It’s a very subtle effect, but can make the difference. This is achieved using the Noise Float Controller.

Hand Held Camera Effect

When you create your camera in 3ds Max it comes with default controllers assigned to it. To see those controllers, go to the Motion Tab (1.) in your control panel, and open the Assign Controller (2.) rollout. The controller that we are going to select is in the Roll Angle (3.) The default controller for the Roll Angle is set to “Bezier Float”. You will want to change the controller from Bezier Float to Noise Float. To do that: select the Assign Controller button (4.).

You’ll see a list of different controller types. The one we’re interested in for this effect is the Noise Float controller. When you select it and hit “OK”, a new dialogue will pop up: these are the settings for the Noise Controller. You will find that playing with these settings will adjust the way your camera rolls as it moves during animations – this is what gives it the hand-held shake effect.

Hand Held Camera Effect 2

After playing with the Noise settings, here are the settings used for this example’s animation. Every animation will be different based on speed, camera movement, timing; so you will just have to play with the settings through trial and error until you get your desired result. If you’d like to open the Noise Controller window again after you’ve already closed it, simply double click the Roll Angle.

Hand Held Camera Effect 3

If you want to remove the Noise Controller, select the Roll Angle and hit the Assign Controller button (4.), then just go back to the Bezier Float controller.”

You can read Ramy’s blog at

If you’d like to find out more about the potential of 3ds Max and the new feature of 3ds Max 2012, give our 3D team a call on 03332 409 306 or email In the meantime you can view our entire 3D modelling and animation range at

FCPX: Is this the end of broadcast television?

FCPX: Is this the end of broadcast television?

Oh my. What a day! Let nobody be in any doubt that Final Cut Pro X has arrived. And I’m not sure that anything will ever be quite the same again.

Even at this early stage, I think that it’s safe to say that FCPX is a phenomenon (my apologies to those still grieving the loss of Shake, I didn’t mean to stir bad memories). I certainly haven’t experienced anything quite like it before – perhaps the opening weekend of a big event movie, or ticket sales for a large stadium tour, or dare I say it, those lines we join around Apple Stores whenever a new iOS device is released. It might be difficult to gain proper perspective from inside the bubble, because I don’t actually believe FCP has the same mass appeal as the iPhone, but I do think something pretty significant happened today.

Alongside the initial rush to the Mac App Store to get the software, there’s been a flurry of “first look” reviews and Tweets galore. The thirst for information seems unprecedented, the Ripple Training servers appear to be groaning heavily under the volume of downloads and poor Larry Jordan had his server fall over completely at one point. Apparently he received 1.2 million requests in the first 3 hours following the release. Given that Apple were talking about an install base of 2 million in April, that’s really something else!

Now, I haven’t yet used Final Cut Pro X enough to pass judgement and I promised myself that I would take my time. However, as I sit here musing about the events of the day and reading the ongoing discourse around what might be right or wrong with the software, I can’t help wondering if we might be missing something of the larger picture. For example, a lot of the commentary has referred to the paucity of tape options in FCPX and how this confirms every suspicion we ever had about the lack of “pro” features. Well we’ve all read Philip Hodgetts on the death of tape (if you haven’t, you should), but even as we discuss how Final Cut Pro X could be the NLE for the next 10 years, it strikes me that what we’re really witnessing could be the end of broadcast television…

Earlier this week I had the good fortune of chatting with an editor who’s just wrapping up a video project to launch a new high performance car. This advertisement had a budget of £1.5 million, but will never show on television, it’s been made specifically for the web. The thing is, this isn’t unusual, it’s rapidly becoming the norm. That conversation has helped put today’s events in some kind of perspective. Will we look back at this day as the moment a really big company made a clear signal of intent regarding the future of video content?

I may live to regret such grandiose thoughts, but as we move into the Morning After, I half expect to see a counter stamped at the bottom of the screen: Day Two.

Read the original article at

Want to know more about tapeless workflows and the future of your NLE? Give us a call on 03332 409 306, email or leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you shortly. In the meantime, head over to to take a look at our full broadcast range.

New Perspectives On FCP X

New Perspectives On FCP X

Since the Sneak Peek, I’ve read and watched all sorts of commentary and speculation about the newly designed FCPX interface. I’ve also indulged in both the Larry Jordan and Philip Hodgetts’ webinars to hear their ideas about what we’re looking forward to because, as the saying goes, God is in the details (or the devil if you prefer the dark side).

As I’ve traversed these discussions, one of the features that appears to have polarised opinion is Filmstrip View in the Event Library. I understand Larry, for one, is reserving judgement because he doesn’t think it is an effective way to display a large amount of clips. My immediate thought about that is, no matter how large the project becomes, I don’t actually want to see all of my footage at once when I’m editing. That can quickly become overwhelming. What I need is a way to narrow down the content, to sift through my footage, so that I only see whatever’s appropriate for the section I’m working on and the handful of clips I can choose from now. That’s how I’ve been working with Final Cut Server, and the new tools in Final Cut Pro X seem to extend this concept further.

iMovie X?

Of course for a lot of people the immediate point of reference for the Event Library is iMovie, which includes dynamic filmstrips and skimming processes similar to those demonstrated in FCPX. I think that can nudge people towards feeling it lacks the gravitas required of a serious NLE. While I see that connection too, there’s something else or, more specifically, someone else that comes to mind.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Walter Murch speak on a few occasions and the honour of attending a special Master Class he taught a few years ago in Vancouver. You might argue that his approach is particularly idiosyncratic (whose methods aren’t when judged from the outside?), but I think we must all agree that his contributions to contemporary cinema are profound and there’s no-one more insightful, illuminating or provocative on the subject of editing films today.

Picture boards

You’ve probably already seen documentation of the ‘picture boards’ Walter has mounted around his cutting room. Essentially they consist of vast collections of frames from the film he’s working on. Each image on the boards is intended to represent a significant aspect of the shot it’s taken from. The idea is that the boards facilitate a change in the editor’s viewpoint. From the vantage point afforded by this shift in perspective, the editor has the chance to make different casual connections or observe unexpected patterns in the footage.

In his 2004 book ‘Behind the Seen: How Walter Murch Edited Cold Mountain with Final Cut Pro and What This Means for Cinema’, Charles Koppelman describes the philosophy behind the picture boards in some detail:

“Ironically, the more techno-centric film editing gets, the more powerful Murch’s custom-made innovations become. The organic qualities of the scene cards and photo boards compensate for perspectives that are hidden in the digital world. The efficiency, speed and increased choices of non-linear editing all have their benefits. But systems like Avid or Final Cut Pro obliterate some film editing tasks that contribute to the editor’s creative process. As Murch often points out, the simple act of having to rewind film on a flatbed editing machine gave him the chance to see footage in another context (high-speed, reverse) that could reveal a look, a gesture, or a completely forgotten shot. Likewise, the few moments he had to spend waiting for a reel to rewind injected a blank space into the process during which he could simply let his mind wander into subconscious areas. With random-access, computer-based editing, a mouse click instantly takes the editor right to a desired frame; there is no waiting, no downtime and fewer happy accidents. The photo boards are one way to compensate for this.”

The Verdict

The serious editors among you might baulk at an idea as fluffy or new-age-sounding as “happy accidents” but, when I’m feeling stuck, anything that will help me break through the block is a godsend. What I like about the picture boards – and I like them very much – is that they’re about changing how we view and understand the material we work with. They’re designed to spark our imagination, shift our perspective and, in doing so, inspire new ideas.

As demonstrated at the SuperMeet, the Event Library, through a multitude of features is intended to accelerate the editing process and provide that instant access to which Murch and Koppelman refer. While Filmstrips are clearly part of that re-imagined workflow, I also think that we’ll be able to use them to stimulate our creative process.

Read Jonathan’s original article at

Want more FCP advice? Give us a call on 03332 409 306, email or leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you. In the meantime, head over to to see our full video range.

Velocity Pass: Fake Motion Blur at compositing stage in 3ds Max

Velocity Pass: Fake Motion Blur at compositing stage in 3ds Max

Ramy Hanna, author of the Ramy’s Renderings blog on is a superb source of 3ds Max tips and Passes. He’s recently come up with the Velocity Pass, designed to let you use Motion Blur at the compositing stage. We don’t think anyone could explain it as well as Remy himself, so below is his guide to how to create and use the Velocity Pass.

“Animations with Motion Blur (MB) look so much better than without them. Sometimes just adding the MB can be the difference in making an animation go from good to great. But rendering with MB turned on can become very expensive and slow on your renders. So here is yet one more pass to add to your arsenal of compositing passes: the Velocity Pass. The velocity pass will allow you to fake MB in compositing. I’m sure the velocity pass can be used in Photoshop, but it is really geared for using in packages such as After Effects and Composite (which comes with 3dsmax for free now).

Without Blur

3ds Max tips Motion Blur - no blur

With Blur using velocity map (exaggerated for effect)

3ds max tip motion blur - with motion blur

So here is how to create the Velocity map: just go to your render settings window, select the Render Elements tab, and click Add. Choose the element Velocity. That’s pretty much it. Under the Velocity Element Parameters be sure to tweak your Maximum Velocity, otherwise you may never see any results. Often I will check Update, render, then un-check Update. Having Update turned on will change the Maximum Velocity based on your scene at render time. So if you have an object moving crazy fast, it will know what to set that value to. For this post’s example, I found that a setting of 150 worked well for my spinning torus-knot. Also be sure that Filtering is not checked. Much like the Z-pass, the stepping on the pixels must not be aliased or you will get strange results. So now when you render your image sequence, a velocity map sequence will render as well.

Velocity Pass

3ds max tip motion blur - velocity pass

So you know how to make a velocity pass; now how to use it. For this example, I will show you how to do this in After Effects, but it can also be achieved with other compositing programs. Drop your beauty pass (regular render) sequence and your velocity pass sequence into the timeline. Be sure your beauty pass is the top layer so that you can see it in the preview window. I like to use the CC Vector Blur effect. With your main layer selected, right click and choose Effect->Blur & Sharpen-> CC Vector Blur. In the Effects Window you can now see all the settings for the CC Vector Blur effect. Under Vector Map choose your vector layer. You can now see the blurring effect on your render. You can adjust the Type, Amount, Angle, Smoothness, and Softness to control the look of your motion blur.

With lengthy animations with a lot of motion, this method will be far faster than blurring straight into your render. I’m always a proponent of post work, because you can adjust your settings and see the results in real time without having to re-render.”

So there you have it. If you’d like more information on any features of 3ds Max, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email Visit us at for more products.


Using Photoshop in your post-production process

Using Photoshop in your post-production process

Many of us have experience using Photoshop in our post process, but it’s always good to see an example of an extremely experienced 3D artist at work. Step forward Ramy Hanna.

Ramy has written a step-by-step guide to the post process from part of one of his recent projects to design a Media Centre for Klein High School. Whether you’re an expert keeping tabs on the industry or a newer artist looking for ideas and tips: this blog post is well worth a read.

“Many of you have asked for my post production process and here it is.  I typically use AE (Adobe After Effects) for my post work, but for this post I’m demonstrating in PS (Photoshop) because most people use PS over AE for stills. However, the principles apply to all software. Also, I’m trying to keep it ‘out-of-the-box’, rather than show a lot of plug-ins. I always suggest learning the techniques with the software then, once you understand how to create them, go get the plug-ins to make your job faster.

“Some of you already know, but I do most of my modelling in Google SketchUp (SU). Not because it’s better than Max, but I find it super-fast for building design processes. Because we do architecture, SU is apt as it is very good with boxes and simple shapes. If you want to get into character modelling, 3ds Max or Mudbox would be better.

“I also start materials and texturing in SU.  I find SU super easy and fast for texture layout. If I texture most things correctly in SU, I can almost avoid the UVW layout process in Max entirely. The materials in SU are nothing special, just place holders really for the maps I want to use in 3ds Max.

“Using 3ds Max has been great, because I can import SU files straight from Max without needing to export models from SU. The new importer in Max is incredibly powerful. It respects instanced components from SU, remembers UV texture position from SU, and converts SU materials to A&D materials automatically – an amazing tool.

“During import I opt not to import the SU cameras. I prefer navigating in 3ds Max to get my actual camera angles. This is where I add any entourage from my library of 3ds Max models. Furniture, cars, plants, trees, etc all get added here. Then I begin texturing. I swap out SU textures for better texture maps. Or sometimes I replace a texture map with Max procedural maps like tiles and gradients.

“Some of the general settings for my A&D materials: If I can keep glossy samples to 8 then I do. Under Special Effects, I usually turn on Ambient Occlusion, and set the distance to 3′. Under Advanced Rendering Options, I make sure that backface culling is un-checked so I can render both sides of a mesh. If I have a single plane of glass then I check Thin walls.  If my glass is a box or has thickness, then I leave it as solid/thick. I find the real magic behind getting realistic renders lies in the material reflections. I usually have a reflection map that drives how much reflection takes place. In this tile material, the grout lines are black meaning no reflection, and the tile is more white meaning a lot of reflection. I use the same map for a bump effect. I almost always have my glossy reflections lower than 1.0. For this example I have it set to 0.4 – meaning the reflection is scattered at 60%, in this case with eight samples.

“Next I go to lighting.  In this scene I have one Daylight System, 309 photometric lights, and five MR Sky portals, for a total of 315 lights in my scene. This many lights in a scene would typically be brutal. However, for my photometric lights, I opted to use Point for my Shadow type. It doesn’t look as good as the other options (Line, Rectangle, Disc, Sphere), but renders much faster than the others at their default setting. For every shadow that Point renders, the other options render 32 samples per shadow. So this is a big render saver. For my photometric lights, I usually use the default light levels, and switch to photometric web using an IES file for the distribution. As for the MR Sky portals, I try to limit their use to where the large windows are.  Render times take a big hit from MR Sky portal shadows as well.

“This image is what the render straight out of Max looks like, known sometimes as the beauty pass. I render inside models with GI & FG. Surprising to me, I rendered this scene with the default settings for both GI & FG. I was reasonably happy with the results. I did get noise near some of the clerestory windows, but I was willing to live with it. I left all of my lights on, then calculated GI, saved it to a file, then rendered FG from each camera adding onto the previous FG map. Before rendering the final renders, I had one GI map and one FG map for the entire scene. This made it easier for me to switch cameras and not have to worry about changing light maps. The GI map ended up being 154 MB. The FG map was rendered at 50% from the final renders at 800 x 400 pixels, and ended up being 34 MB for all 11 camera angles.

“This is the Ambient Occlusion Pass. If you want to know how to do this, check this post out.

“This is a flare pass for the lights. This can be created in 3ds max, or in post. I usually create this image in Photoshop – it’s faster and gives me greater control on what the flares look like.

“This image is a dummy people pass. I rendered this one out to give me correct scale for adding people in Photoshop later. This way my people won’t look like giants or elves when I scale them.

“These are the people that replace the dummy people. To each person I add motion blur, reflections, shadows etc. Then I save this as a .png file and add it to my beauty pass.

“This is a volume pass that I render in 3ds Max. It is created using the Parti Volume Shader. I then add it in PS and tweak it to the right look.

“Lastly, I render a Z depth pass. Depending on the rendering I sometimes use this. If there really isn’t an object in the foreground then often I don’t use this at all, and rather just manually blur the edges of my image.

“With all of these passes combined in PS, AE or other compositing photo/video editing software, you can take your original image and turn it into something much stronger visually. This quick video should give you an idea of how I add all of these elements together using colour correcting, layers, levels, to transform a raw rendering into a finished rendering.”

All of Ramy’s renderings from the KHS project can be found here.

Source: Ramy’s Renderings on 3ds Max Rendering.

If you’re keen on using Photoshop in your post-production process or would like more information about the software, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email

Creating hatched areas using curved shapes in AutoCAD

Creating hatched areas using curved shapes in AutoCAD

We’re always keen to hear about new AutoCAD tips, so when our newest Twitter friend Paul Munford (aka @CadSetterOut) was recently the guest blogger on Autodesk’s Between the Lines blog, we thought we’d share his useful post titled ‘How to create AutoCAD Hatches that use curved shapes’. Enjoy!

“Do you need to create hatched areas in AutoCAD using Circles, Arcs or Splines? Find out how with this quick tip.

OK, my title is a bit cheeky. Of course, you can’t create AutoCAD hatches with Circles, Arcs and Splines. But I can show you another technique that you could use to get a great result.

Did you know that AutoCAD’s CLIP command can be used to clip Blocks?

We can use this feature of AutoCAD to create a reuseable pattern that will act in place of a Hatch.

Creating Hatched Areas In Auto CAD 1

To use this method we will need:
•    An AutoCAD Block which will represent our hatch.
•    A Polyline as the Clipping Boundary.

Tip: The polyline can be closed or open, but it must contain straight line segments only.

Pick a Block to Clip

You will find the CLIP command on the Insert tab on the Reference Panel.
Tip: If you are using AutoCAD in Classic Mode you can use:
Modify Menu > Clip > XRef

You can also start the CLIP command by typing ‘CLIP’ at the command line.
AutoCAD will ask us to select an object to be clipped:
Command: CLIP

Creating Hatched Areas In Auto CAD 2

Select Object to clip:

In this case we will choose our Block.

AutoCAD will ask us for a clipping option.
Enter clipping option:
[ON/OFF/Clipdepth/Delete/generate Polyline/New boundary] <New>:
In this case we will choose New to create a new clipping boundary.

Pick a Boundary

Creating Hatched Areas In Auto CAD 3

AutoCAD will ask you to specify a clipping boundary:

Specify clipping boundary or select invert option:
[Select polyline/Polygonal/Rectangular/Invert clip] <Rectangular>:

In this case we will choose Select Polyline and pick the Polyline that we wish to use as our clipping boundary.

The Result

The Block is clipped to the Polyline that we gave it!

Note: The Block is not permanently trimmed, and can be used again elsewhere in the drawing.

The clipping boundary can be adjusted at anytime by Grip editing or using the CLIP command again to define a new boundary.

An Added Tip

AutoCAD 2012’s new Dynamic Array objects behave like Blocks. They can also be trimmed with the CLIP command.

Creating Hatched Areas In Auto CAD 4

I hope that you enjoyed this quick explanation of Block clipping.”

Paul has his own website devoted to providing the CAD community with tips and advice gained from his experiences as a joinery draughtsman using AutoCAD and Inventor

If you want to get your hands on AutoCAD, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email

Top 5 tips and tricks for Revit 2012

Top 5 tips and tricks for Revit 2012

Revit Clinic’s Ryan Duell recently published his five best features in the new Revit 2012 release. We couldn’t let these time-saving innovations go unappreciated, so put on your best Tony Blackburn voice as we begin the top five countdown…

5. Editing Requests
You can now view editing requests directly inside Revit on the status bar.  This makes it easier to see if you have any pending requests, and allows you to automatically grant a request directly from the dialogue.

4.  Saving all Families / Export Family Types
You can now easily save all families from a project under Save-as > Library > Family > <All Families> .
You can get here even quicker using the process in #1. And speaking of families, for anyone who has ever created a Type Catalogue, you can now export or import your Revit family types in this format.  It’ll help streamline the initial type catalogue creation and formatting.

3.  3D Connexion Support

If you have a 3D Connexion device, you can now utilise it to navigate in Revit 2012. For many users this may be one of the best new features for 2012, which opens up some great shortcuts for navigating the model.

2.  Semi-transparent Selection
The Semi-transparent element is the default selection (although you can disable or change the colour under Options > Graphics).  This creates a dynamic approach to select an element and automatically view it transparently.  It’s a quick method for looking through an exterior wall into the project, without overriding any element settings (see image).
1.  Project Browser Right-Click Shortcuts
In the Project Browser you can now right-click on Legends, Schedules/Quantities and Families as a shortcut to the corresponding tool.  This is similar to the previous right-click Sheets > New Sheet functionality.”

Ryan Duell writes for Revit Clinic.

For more information on the new features of Revit 2012, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email Do you agree with Ryan’s top five? Post us your favourite 2012 features below.

The techie’s guide to life beyond Xserve

The techie’s guide to life beyond Xserve

In January, Apple officially pulled the plug on Xserve. But, if you’re now looking round your server room wondering what that means for your school’s setup, we’ve got good news. Whether you want a Mac server or feel you’re ready to tackle Mac/PC integration using PC hardware, we’ve got the answer (and you won’t even need to enrol yourself on a training course before you can use it).

The Apple Way

Mac OS X Server is still very much alive! If you’re after an alternative and want to swap one piece of Mac hardware for another, you have two options: add Mac Pro with Snow Leopard Server to your infrastructure, or divide up the workload between a gang of Mac minis.

Mac Pro with Snow Leopard Server

Choose this if: You’re looking to stick with Apple hardware as it’s the most obvious Xserve alternative.

The idea of using a Mac Pro as a server is far from new, and the Pro tower is actually a more expandable option than Xserve ever was. There’s enough space for up to 64GB of memory, four internal drive bays (which support up to 8TB of SATA storage), and the option of adding the Mac Pro RAID card for internal RAID capability. There are also three usable PCI Express expansion slots (versus Xserve’s two) and the same built-in connectivity as Xserve.

However, the hot-swappable drives are conspicuously absent and there’s no dual redundant power supply. That said, there are plenty of third-party solutions which can help alleviate any problems.

Bear in mind… Mac Pro doesn’t have the same form factor as Xserve, and if you do like everything to be nicely shelved, two Mac Pros will take up 12 units of rack space! For more information about Mac Pro with Snow Leopard Server, get in touch with us.

Mac mini with Snow Leopard Server

Choose this if: You need a solution for a small workgroup of up to 50 users.

Mac mini has had its own dedicated server version for a while. The latest edition comes with easy memory access, a built-in power supply, a dual core processor, and a compact form factor that lets you fit two systems in a 1U rack space.

Mac mini can deal with all the standard server services offered by Mac OS X Server – such as email, file sharing, instant messaging and web work – making it ideal for use by a particular department or class. One of the big benefits of Mac mini is that it’s easy to set up and run. This makes it a good choice if you want a machine that’ll do a lot of the hard work for you.

Bear in mind… Mac mini uses less than 10 watts of power when idle, helping keep your school IT green, and cutting energy costs. For more information about Mac mini with Snow Leopard Server, get in touch with us.

The EDA Way

Another option is to venture into the world of Mac/PC integration and use your existing infrastructure. Thanks to the Enterprise Desktop Alliance (a consortium of software manufacturers), incompatible files, snail-like transfer speeds and nightmarishly complicated update rollouts are no longer something you need to worry about.

The Enterprise Desktop Alliance

Choose this if: You already have Windows servers on-site and want to manage your Macs using them, without having to learn a new set of skills.

The EDA is a project set up by a group of high-end software producers (including Group Logic, Centrify, Absolute Software and more) with the intention of making it easier to get Macs on your PC network. The EDA alternative to Xserve lets you break free of the Golden Triangle approach. Rather than running Mac- and Windows-based servers alongside each other, you use software such as Centrify’s DirectControl and Group Logic’s ExtremeZ-IP to move Macs on to your existing Windows servers, where they can be managed as if they are PCs.

Manage preferences with Centrify DirectControl

This software sits on your server and makes all your Macs look like PCs, so that they can be managed using Active Directory. As well as letting students and teachers who are using Macs benefit from Active Directory’s tried-and-tested failover policies, it reduces your workload by moving all server operations on to a single platform, so you won’t have to waste time translating between Apple’s Open Directory and Windows’ Active one.

Manage file and print servers with Group Logic’s ExtremeZ-IP

Though some versions of Windows Server (not including the current one) only provide limited support for Apple Filing Protocol (AFP), they tend to be slow. ExtremeZ-IP offers native AFP support, so students and teachers get the full Mac experience at native speeds. It also lets you enforce cross-platform file-naming policies, so important files are always available to Mac and PC users.

…and then keep track of your systems using Absolute Manage

Absolute Manage is a powerful asset management system that offers licence tracking and version control functions, and even identifies shortfalls that would normally stop you rolling out a universal upgrade smoothly. It can also image computers without users having to log off, perform global power management to improve energy efficiency, and provide theft tracking and remote wipe functions.

Bear in mind… we’re the world’s first Enterprise Desktop Alliance Systems Integrator, so can work with you to find a configuration that meets your school’s needs.

For more information about what your school’s post-Xserve options are, give us a call on 03332 409 333 or email learning@Jigsaw24.comFor more news on technology in Education, follow @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter and ‘Like’ Jigsaw Education’s Facebook page.

3ds Max: Why leaving feedback will make your life easier

3ds Max: Why leaving feedback will make your life easier

Let’s face it, like most 3D applications, 3ds Max crashes. No way near as much as it used to do, but every now and again, it’ll suddenly give up on you without warning. This can cause anything from mild panic (when did I last save?) to absolute rage (corrupted file).

We’ve all learnt to deal with this and accept that it’s part and parcel of working in 3ds Max, but how many of you fill out the Customer Error Report (CER) dialogue box that pops up after the crash?

We’re all guilty of skipping this stage, especially as we just want to get back into 3ds Max and continue with our project. But did you know that off the back of those customers who submit error reports; Autodesk fix hundreds of bugs every year? Yes, believe it or not, not only do those error reports get read, but they ensure that there is a regular stream of hotfixes and service packs released.

If you’ve sent an error report and included your email address, Autodesk will notify you if your error is addressed in a maintenance update. On the rare occasion that their software developers may need to collect additional information from you about your system, they may also do this (a privacy policy can be found by following the link at the bottom of the page).

A CER only sends the below details to aid Autodesk in solving the issue:

•    Operating system name and version

•    Autodesk product name, version, and serial number

•    Graphics configuration driver name and version

•    List of applications loaded when an error occurs

•    List of recent Autodesk commands

•    Portion of Autodesk program in memory when an error occurs

Your report will be read and if a bug is found, it will be fixed. And, what’s more, you’ll have helped improve 3ds Max for users everywhere!

Whilst we’re at it, I’d also like to stress the importance of the Customer Involvement Program (CIP), which is yet another way in which customers can help the development of the products they love. The CIP involves data about the type of operating system being used, hardware configurations and commonly used tools; all being sent automatically to Autodesk. This data is used by Autodesk so that they can evaluate how their customers are using their products and give them an idea of how they can develop future releases.

Click here, for more information about CIP and how it works, and here for more on CER.

For more information on 3DS max, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email