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.

A Mac-based music department at Rugby School

A Mac-based music department at Rugby School

Michael Martin, music teacher at Rugby School, Warwickshire, introduced the school’s first suite of Macs in 1994 to expand the horizons of the school’s already outstanding music department. They now have 22 iMacs housed in two music suites. Here Michael tells us about how the school uses the equipment and the impact it has had on student work.

“Since first establishing a music studio at Rugby School in 1994, we have been using Macs for sequencing and, as the technology developed, for multi-track recording. However, in our main music classroom we initially used a suite of PCs to run Sibelius and Logic. This enabled pupils to do sequencing and notate their compositions. The PCs worked fine for what we then needed, but at that time we were not doing much in the way of multimedia projects or recording audio.

“With an ever-increasing number of pupils taking a keen interest in Music Technology, and with Logic (our sequencer of choice) being no longer available for the PC platform, we decided to replace the PCs with Macs. We also set up a Mac Server within the department and we’ve now been successfully running 22 iMacs (spread over two IT suites) for the last few years.

“This system has worked very well and all pupils and music staff have their own login name, home folder and individual password. The server is backed up daily (using Retrospect) with an additional copy kept off-site for extra security. We also have internet access available from the main school network via a proxy server. This has the advantage that all monitoring of internet usage is done by the school IT department.

Professional-looking results

“For our curriculum, the first years in the school usually start by using GarageBand, which then leads naturally into Logic Express and, for those doing more ambitious projects, Logic Pro. 
More recently, in a move to introduce Sibelius earlier (and to establish the use of notation for composition), pupils have completed a project where they have first used Sibelius to compose 
a ternary composition using drones and the pentatonic scale. They have then exported this 
into an audio file and used it as a soundtrack to a slideshow that they’ve created in iMovie. This is where the Macs are particularly strong, because audio files imported into iTunes and photographs (or screen grabs from the internet) imported into iPhoto are all instantly available in iMovie (together with a startling array of sound effects!). The pupils enjoy this sort of project and come up with very professional-looking results.

“It’s an added bonus that they can very easily export the finished product into a cross-platform movie format and, of course, the iMacs are ideal for displaying [students’ work] at parents’ meetings. For those taking GCSE music, nearly all of the compositions are done using Sibelius, though a small minority sometimes use Logic. These compositions can then be exported to audio files and also sent through the Mac Server to the Dropbox of the teacher responsible for assessing them. In the sixth form, A-level composition and AS Music Technology students continue to make extensive use of the equipment and they are able to use either of the IT suites, or the studio, during and outside lesson times.

Award-winning compositions

“Last term, one of our senior pupils won the Classical/Contemporary class in the Sibelius Student Composer of the Year competition and, not one to rest on his laurels, has now created a musical (using Sibelius), which will be performed by other pupils in the School
 Arts Festival at the end of the summer term. Also in the same Arts Festival, there will be the annual Music Technology Concert. This is a showcase for the Music Technology pupils, plus an opportunity for others in the school to join in with various performances highlighting the use of technology. Items in the past have included straightforward rock band performances (mixed live) to mini recitals using sequenced effects and voices being processed live through the Logic Pro native effects.

“Because watching performers manipulate computers on stage can be a bit boring, we also add lighting effects and use a big screen to display what’s happening on the computer. For instance, we have programmed sequenced backing tracks to switch automatically to various screensets in Logic, and then have musicians play the solo parts live. The projector screen also gives us a chance to show some of the slideshows with soundtracks made by the younger pupils. We are now experimenting with ways of using MIDI controllers in a live situation, including a Yamaha Wind Controller, a MIDI foot controller pedal, Wii games controllers and even iPhones!”

For more information about Macs for your music classroom, get in touch with us on 03332 409 306 or email

Tips for teachers: Demystifying 3D software

Tips for teachers: Demystifying 3D software

When it comes to CAD and 3D modelling there seem to be a never-ending supply of different applications out there, each trying to make teachers’ and students’ lives that much easier. While they all have their benefits, Elliott Smith (friendly 3D consultant) decided to put together a simple guide to help you choose between them.

First thing’s first, if you’re going to give students one piece of advice this September, I recommend telling them to visit Autodesk’s student portal. That’s because Autodesk (arguably the market leader in 3D right now) have decided to offer their software to students for free.

The process is simple: students just need to enter their student email address (one ending in or have a faculty member sign them up, and can then download their choice of software. As well as a way to access the applications, it’s also a great place to post work, learn new tricks and make contact with peers. Of course, there are other helpful resources that you can direct students to, such as 3D forums, which all provide industry professionals with advice on aspects of a 3D workflow.

Once they have the free software, students will need to know how to get started. A good place to learn the basic interface is the Services and Support section of the Autodesk website. This lets you select an application and then navigate through video tutorials, relevant documents, receive updates and much more.

Ultimately, the type of software students will need is going to be prescribed by the course they are studying, with many of those applications falling into one of five categories (Engineering, Product Design, Built Environment, Multimedia (inc. Animation) and Games Design). But to give students a better idea of what software is out there and what each one can be used for, here’s a brief summary of the major contenders.


Application Summary Platform
Autodesk MayaMultimedia

Games Design

Maya is one of the easier pieces of software to understand and learn, and provides comprehensive tools for animation, modelling, visual effects, simulation and rendering. It is a great all-rounder that can be used for just about anything. A lot of film visual effects are done in Maya. WindowsLinux

Mac OS X

Autodesk 3ds MaxEngineering

Product Design


Games Design

3ds Max is perhaps the most difficult application to master. It has been around in different guises for years and has many features that make it incredibly versatile and powerful but also very complicated. Because of this versatility, it is used in a diverse range of industries, from games design to architectural visualisation. Windows
Autodesk 3ds Max DesignBuilt Environment There are two versions of 3ds Max: Max and Max Design. Max Design is used primarily for architectural modelling and designing, and has additional features that do not come with the other version. These include daylight analysis and BIM (Building Information Modelling), which allow architects to model a building and then analyse how it will function under certain circumstances. Windows
Maxon CINEMA 4DMultimedia

Games Design

Product Design

Built Environment


CINEMA 4D has engineering, architecture and broadcast editions that are tailored to each specific need. Where it really excels is in animation. Using the built-in MoGraph toolset (made for creating motion graphics) is easy and delivers amazing results very quickly. The BodyPaint module also sets it apart from other applications as it gives you the ability to paint a texture directly onto a model. Without the need to arrange textures over specific co-ordinates, texturing your models becomes fast and more intuitive. CINEMA 4D is used heavily in both film and TV for these reasons and is a great option for most 3D needs. WindowsMac OS X
Mental RayRendering Plug-in Mental Ray is a rendering plug-in that comes free with most Autodesk 3D applications. The plug-in is used to design and apply materials to your models, add lights to a scene and much more. Mental Ray is not used to make models, only to give them the material that you want, such as a wood texture for the floor and paint finish to a wall. It’s a fairly complicated plug-in to learn but does yield fantastic results when you get a bit of experience. Windows
V-RayRendering Plug-in V-Ray is a separate render plug-in for 3ds Max, Maya, CINEMA 4D and a few other leading 3d applications. Like Mental Ray, it is used to apply materials and lights to a scene. In many industries, V-Ray is the standard choice of renderer as it is considered the best at generating photorealistic renders. V-Ray is packed with features that make it more than just a renderer and is highly respected within the industry. Depends on application it is being used on.
Autodesk MudboxGames Design



Mudbox is a digital sculpting and texture painting application that is used primarily in the game, film, television and design industries. Think of a lump of clay that you gradually sculpt into the final model: Mudbox works in a similar way but, instead of using a scalpel, you use a graphics tablet or mouse. It is very intuitive and is great for creating odd shapes or characters. Windows users have the option of a 32-bit or 64-bit version where as OS X users need to be working in 64-bit. WindowsMac OS X
Pixologic ZbrushGames Design


Zbrush is much like Mudbox and is used to create digital sculptures of unique characters for the games or broadcast industries. Zbrush has many powerful features and has a very elegant and intuitive interface that allows greater freedom and control. WindowsMac OS X
E-on VueMultimedia

Games Design

Built Environment

E-on Vue is one of the lesser known applications on the list but is actually great at generating organic scenes such as mountains, terrains, skies, trees, grass and anything else you might find in nature. It is very simple to learn and was used extensively in Avatar to populate their scenes with organic matter. WindowsMac OS X
Google SketchUpBuilt Environment

Product Design

SketchUp is great because it is free. There is a pro version thats adds more features for professional use but, for students, the standard version is a great place to start. SketchUp is probably the easiest of the 3D programs to learn. Architects love it because they can sketch out ideas for buildings very quickly and accurately. WindowsMac OS X
Nemetschek VectorworksBuilt Environment Vectorworks is a CAD (Computer Aided Design) application that is used by architects to design and analyse their buildings, but is considered to be one of the programs that is easiest to learn. One advantage over other CAD/BIM applications that Vectorworks has is that it is very customisable. If you are trying to re-design or renovate an old building, you can adapt Vectorworks to suit the specific requirement of the building and your workflow. WindowsMac OS X
Autodesk AutoCADEngineering

Built Environment

AutoCAD is probably the oldest application on the list and has been the benchmark for accuracy and precision. It is primarily used by engineers and architects for this very reason. Historically, it has been 2D but is increasingly integrating 3D elements into its features. Windows
Autodesk RevitBuilt Environment Revit is another application made for CAD and BIM. Revit helps architects and designers to capture and analyse early concepts and can then be used to design all aspects of the design process, right through to construction and handover. It is suited more to new builds rather than renovations and retrofitting. Windows-only. Windows
Informatix PiranesiRendering plug-in Piranesi is a rendering plug-in that architects use to produce initial concepts. It doesn’t try to be a photo-realistic renderer but instead excels at producing traditional sketch-like renders that both the building and architect trades still love. Windows and OS X. WindowsMac OS X

It is worth mentioning that most, if not all the non-Autodesk applications, have free trials available from their respective websites and generally provide plenty of support to get started.

If you want to find out more, give the team a call on 03332 409 306 or email To receive the latest 3D news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or Like’ our Facebook page.

Adobe Connect Pro at University of Glasgow

Adobe Connect Pro at University of Glasgow

The Medical School at the University of Glasgow needed an online web
conferencing solution to be used as part of a 3-year postgraduate programme. After consulting with them, we suggested Adobe Connect Pro, arranged the licensing of the application, and trained them in the best ways to use it.

Facilitating online teaching

Phillip Evans, the university’s Director for the Centre of Educational Scholarship, needed a web conferencing solution. As part of a course he was running, he wanted to be able to hold meetings online and communicate with up to 30 students at a time. The solution needed to allow multimedia sharing (both audio and video), and include presentation screens and chat boxes.

Finding a user-friendly solution

After consulting with the university, our consultant Anthony Hammond suggested Adobe Connect Pro. Connect Pro includes all of the features needed to set up a virtual conference. It also comes with easy user management and the ability for everyone attending meetings to be both seen and heard. For Phillip and his students, one of the key benefits of the solution is that Connect Pro only requires Flash Player; users with this installed on their computer are already able to access all of Connect Pro’s features.

The solution also provided Phillip with the opportunity to record meetings and archive them. Students would be able to access these for revision purposes or, if they were unable to attend at the time, play them back offline. Connect Pro would run on Adobe’s servers, but we were able to license the product for the university and get everything up and running. With a little training from us, Phillip was able to comfortably use the application and was ready to start using it as part of the course.

Communicating with students wherever they are

The Adobe Connect Pro solution is now being used as part of a 3-year postgraduate degree programme run by the Medical School at the university. It has proved very successful, and students (both inside and outside the UK) are now able to communicate with each other and the course leaders.

The University of Glasgow has now decided to run a further two courses that use Connect Pro. After seeing the success of the original course, Phillip Evans also plans on using the application again for future programmes.

For more information about Adobe Connect Pro, get in touch with us on 03332 409 306 or email

Demystifying 3D for students

Demystifying 3D for students

Are you starting sixth form, college or university in September? If so, read on as this article will clear up some common misconceptions about the world of 3d modelling, and will offer sound advice for anyone just starting out.

The first piece of advice is that you should visit Autodesk’s student portal. Autodesk have very generously decided to offer their software free to students. You will need your student email address (one ending in or a faculty member to sign up but, within a few minutes you can start downloading all your favourite software.

Once you have signed up, I would recommend creating a profile and posting work, as it’s a great way of learning new tricks, making contact with your peers and will be useful when comparing your work to other students.

There are other resources that you can rely on to be informative and helpful, irrespective of your skill level. For example, forums such as our 3d site are there to advise on all aspects of the 3d workflow.

Anyway, once you have the free software, you’ll need to know how to get started. A good place to learn the basic interface is the Services and Support section of the Autodesk website. From there, you can select the application you want to start learning and can navigate to the video tutorials, read the documentation, get updates and much more.

So now you know how to get the software, you need to know what software to get; this can get confusing! Ultimately, it will largely be dependent on the type of course you are doing, so it may be worthwhile contacting your tutor and finding out in advance what you will be learning.

It is likely that your course will fall into one of five subjects; Engineering, Product Design, Built Environment, Multimedia (inc. animation) and Games Design. So that you can better understand the various applications and in which field they are used, we have given a brief summary of all of the major ones.

It is worth mentioning that most, if not all the non-Autodesk applications, have free trials available on their respective websites and generally provide ample support to get started.

Final thought

Finally, remember not to try and master everything. There are so many applications with so many tools that no-one could possibly learn them all. I’d bet that even the most advanced users only know 40% of one individual application’s capabilities, so don’t despair if it takes months or even years to get to a decent standard. You will need to develop near god-like levels of patience but if you stick with it, you will be rewarded.

If you want to find out more, give the team a call on 03332 409 306 or email To receive the latest 3D news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or Like’ our Facebook page.


Maya lighting tutorials

Maya lighting tutorials

The other day I stumbled across these lighting tutorials which I thought I would share with you. They were published a few years ago and provide a brief introduction to the theories of lighting as well as how to practically implement them into Maya.

The tutorials are broken down into six separate sections that cover different types of lighting such as moonlight, candlelight and underwater light. I really recommend reading them even if your choice of weapon isn’t Maya or Mental Ray.

Below are some examples.

maya lighting tutorials Underwater

maya lighting tutorials Twilight


For more information on improving your 3D workflow, call our team on 03332 409 306 or email To receive the latest 3D news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or Like’ our Facebook page.



A shining example of 3ds Max, V-Ray and After Effects

A shining example of 3ds Max, V-Ray and After Effects

Unless you have been living in a cave for the past seven months, you will have probably seen and admired Alex Roman’s short film, The Third and the Seventh. It is without doubt the best photo-realistic short film ever produced and has successfully managed to make almost everyone in the industry feel woefully inadequate!

Watch the masterclass in 3ds Max, V-Ray and After Effects here.

Be sure to check out the ‘making of’ videos as well.

To find out more, call our 3D team on 03332 409 309 or email receive the latest 3D news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ our Facebook page.

Linear workflow and gamma correction – part 4

Linear workflow and gamma correction – part 4

This is the final part of our series of linear workflow articles. Here, I will look at the manual method of working in a linear workspace with 3ds Max and Mental Ray.

The gamma correction of the bitmap inputs is handled in the exact same way as the VRay workflow, you simply add a colour correct node to the diffuse channel and use a gamma value of 0.4545.

As you might expect, the process of gamma correcting the image output is different for Mental Ray, but is thankfully very straightforward. Press F10 or go to Rendering > Render Setup and select Mental Ray as the renderer, then switch over to the Renderer tab and scroll down to the Camera Effects section. Click on the empty slot next to the Lens shader, and choose a Utility Gamma and Gain shader.

Instance this to the material editor and make the changes as shown in figure 1.

gamma 4

This will bake the gamma correction into your outputted image, which is ideal for test renders or if you aren’t planning on doing any post-production work on the image but, if you are, you will need to remember to return the gamma value to 1 when you are ready to start your final render.

As you can see, it is a very simple process and one that is very easy to implement. And that concludes this series of articles. I hope you have found them informative and interesting.

If you have any questions, call me on 03332 409 306 or email To receive the latest 3D news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or Like’ our Facebook page.

Linear workflow and gamma correction – part 3

Linear workflow and gamma correction – part 3

In this, the third of what will now be four parts, I look at the manual method of setting up and working in a linear workspace with 3ds Max and VRay.

I’ll try not to repeat any of the points made in earlier articles, but it is important to reiterate that all inputs and outputs require some form of gamma correction.

The Input

The method I am recommending is to add a colour correction node to your bitmaps and colours, and then apply an inverse gamma curve to that by setting the RGB gamma to 0.4545. You should remember this value from the first article – if you don’t, I’d advise you to take another look.

gamma correction 1

This will not doubt be a change to your existing workflow and to start with, you will probably forget to apply this additional node when creating materials but it really is the simplest method and most flexible.

It gives you absolute control over the amount of correction you are applying and allows you to make some materials darker or lighter depending on your preference, as well as tweaking the other options that the colour correction node offers.

The Output

As mentioned in part 2, there are slightly different workflows depending on what you are planning on doing with the render after the 3d application. If you aren’t going to do any post processing then you will need to bake the gamma correction in to the final render. VRay does this with the Colour Mapping rollout in the Render settings.

gamma correction 2

Baking this gamma correction is also the method I choose when rendering out test scenes as it gives instant feedback without the need to get it into post. If you adopt this method, you will need to remember to revert back to the default of 1 when rendering out the final image.

There is of course a tool for this that can also help with previews. What you will need to do is, enable the VRay frame buffer from the render settings, return the gamma correction colour mapping to 1 and then toggle the sRGB button to apply the gamma correction.

gamma correction 3

The correction is made after the image has been rendered, so there will be times when you turn it on to correct and brighten up the image, but because there wasn’t enough sampling in the darker areas, it will become noisy. This is the trade-off for sheer ease of use! Personally, I don’t use this method (for the above reason) but it is a very useful tool.

By now you should be familiar with both the concept and workflow involved in manually setting up a linear workspace with 3ds Max and VRay. It may be worth your while getting to grips with this now by testing it out on some of your old scenes and seeing for yourself a marked improvement.

Part four of the series is on its way. In the meantime, if you’d like to find out more, give the team a call on 03332 409 306 or email To receive the latest 3D news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or Like’ our Facebook page.

Maxon Cinema 4D plugin for After Effects

Maxon Cinema 4D plugin for After Effects

Maxon have recently made available the CS5 compatible plugin for Cinema 4D and After Effects.

The plugin features 64-bit native compatibility for Windows and Mac OS X to allow users of Cinema 4D to take full advantage of available hardware operating system performance for improved rendering and workflow efficiency directly inside the After Effects application.

Plugins available here

Email us for more information at or call our 3D team on 03332 409 306. To receive the latest 3D news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or Like’ our Facebook page. Visit our website