Importing 3rd-party file formats into Vectorworks – Google SketchUp

Importing 3rd-party file formats into Vectorworks – Google SketchUp

Vectorworks KnowledgeBase offers the following great tip that allows you to import architectural drawings from Google SketchUp to Vectorworks:

“The Import SketchUp command allows architectural drawings created in Google SketchUp (versions 4 through 7) to be imported into Vectorworks. SketchUp component instances are imported as 3D symbols, and geometry can be designated as walls, roof faces, and floors. After importing, refine the design using Vectorworks editing tools, or replace imported 3D symbols with Vectorworks 3D symbols. Flexible import options allow either automatic conversion of architectural elements based on their orientation, or allow geometry conversion to be mapped to specific SketchUp materials or layers.

Vectorworks 2011 and 2010 can import files from SketchUp 7 and earlier. Vectorworks 2009 can import files from SketchUp version 6 and earlier.

All versions of Vectorworks (except Fundamentals) can import Sketchup files directly from the File > Import > Import Sketchup menu.

When importing asketchup document, by default it will attempt to import the file as if it were an architectural design document, it will try to determine which objects are floors, roofs and walls. You can assign their default settings in the Default Styles tab. Most of the time you should leave the Geometry Mapping to the Automatic setting for architectural documents.

Vectorworks - Importing From Google Sketch Up 1

If the file you are trying to import is actually just 3D geometry and not related to architecture, choose the None option under Geometry Mapping. However, SketchUp import is intended for architectural geometry. Using the Import DXF/DWG command rather than the Import SketchUp command to import polygonal geometry is recommended.

Vectorworks - Importing From Google Sketch Up 2

After importing a Sketchup file into a new blank document, you may see nothing but a blank page. Go to Edit > Select All, then View > Zoom > Fit to Objects. This will focus on the imported Sketchup objects.

If after doing these steps you end up with a blank file containing no objects, make sure you were not attempting to import a Sketchup 8 document. To import such a file, you would have to open it in Sketchup 8 and File > Save As, then choose to save it as a Sketchup 7 or earlier file before importing it into Vectorworks.”

To see the original article, and other similar articles, visit Vectorworks KnowledgeBase

If you would like more information on any aspect of Vectorworks, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email CAD@Jigsaw24.com.

How to use Google Earth with AutoCAD

How to use Google Earth with AutoCAD

On one of our browses through Autodesk blogs and forums, we came across this little gem of a tip that enables you to use the mighty Google Earth Extension right in your AutoCAD project, and vice-versa.

The advice comes from Scott Sheppard, who has worked for Autodesk for 17 years, so really knows his way around AutoCAD-based products. On the Autodesk Labs blog, he gives a few simple steps on how publish your 3D models from AutoCAD-based products directly into the Google Earth application, import a Google Earth image into AutoCAD, drape a Google Earth image onto a 3D mesh in AutoCAD and attach time span information to your model.

1. Make sure you have a compatible version of AutoCAD

When I say compatible version of AutoCAD, I specifically mean:
AutoCAD 2011 Family
* AutoCAD 2011 (32-bit and 64-bit)
* AutoCAD Architecture 2011 (32-bit and 64-bit)
* AutoCAD Civil 3D 2011 (32-bit and 64-bit)
* AutoCAD Map 3D 2011 (32-bit and 64-bit)

AutoCAD 2007-2010 Family
* AutoCAD 2007-2010 (32-bit only)
* AutoCAD Architecture 2007-2010 (32-bit only)
* AutoCAD Civil 3D 2007-2010 (32-bit only)
* AutoCAD Map 3D 2008-2010 (32-bit only)

One of the key points here is that the 2011 family is the first one where 64-bit is supported.

2. Make sure you have the compatible version of Google Earth

The Google Earth Extension is compatible with Google Earth 5.x. It is not compatible with Google Earth 6.

3. Get the installers from the Labs web site

1. Navigate to http://labs.autodesk.com.
2. Click on Sign-In to login with your Autodesk Single Sign-on user name and password.
3. Navigate to http://labs.autodesk.com/utilities/google_earth_extension_beta/.
4. Click on Download Now.
5. Understand that installing the technology preview means that you will need to accept an end user license agreement and click on DOWNLOAD.
6. Save PublishDWGtoGE_32_64.zip to your computer.

You now have all of the installers for the various versions of AutoCAD.

4. Run the installer that matches your version of AutoCAD
1. I happen to have AutoCAD 2011 on a 64-bit machine running Windows 7.
2. As such, I select the C:\Users\sheppas\Documents\PublishDWGtoGE_32_64.zip\PublishDWGtoGE\2011\64-bit folder.
3. I drag and drop DwgPublishToGEX64Installer.msi to my My Documents folder.
4. In My Documents folder, I double click on the msi file to run the installer and follow the on-screen instructions. Even though I am the only one who uses my laptop, I install the technology preview so that it is available to all users of this computer.

If you repeat these steps as appropriate for your system, you now have the technology preview installed.

5. If you are having problems, check that your install went well

The following commands should work from the command line.
* IMPORTGEIMAGE
* IMPORTGEMESH
* GETIME
* PUBLISHKML

The following files should be in your AutoCAD folder:

One of the wish list items was to make the technology preview compatible with the ribbon interface.

If you’ve got any AutoCAD 2011 architecture tips to share, let us know in the comments box below. Call us for more information on 03332 409 306 or email CAD@Jigsaw24.com.

AutoCAD: Mac or PC?

AutoCAD: Mac or PC?

If you’ve managed to avoid the news that AutoCAD for Mac was released this month, then where have you been hiding? This new release from Autodesk is an important step towards giving people a choice of platform in their CAD workflow, but what should you choose to run AutoCAD, Mac vs PC?

It’s difficult to ignore the fact that over the past few years, Apple have managed to take the computer market by storm. Their Mac-based platform has become the computer of choice for creative professionals and it’s increasingly showing its face in businesses up and down the country. With more and more PC users opting to switch to Apple computers (take a look at Apple’s yearly sales figures to see how significant this is), you have to ask yourself why.

Apple design both their hardware and operating system, which means you don’t suffer from system conflicts. Macs benefit from better protection against viruses than PCs. Macs are notorious for being hardwearing, and come with a lower total cost of ownership than their PC equivalents.

What do you do if you want the benefits of a Mac but still need to work in AutoCAD?

Until now, Autodesk users in the construction industry have not been able to choose the platform they work on unless they opted to run Parallels, Boot Camp or similar virtualisation applications. These let you run Windows (and a Windows version of AutoCAD) on your Mac system. The problem, though, is that by running software through a virtualised desktop, you can suffer from reduced system performance when compared to running it natively on a Windows-based PC.

But apart from a slightly more sluggish machine, this is also an expensive option if everyone in your office needs their own copy of the virtualisation software in order to get on with their work. So unless there is a compelling business argument for running those Macs, then it’s likely that the PC option will always win.

That’s exactly why the release of this new AutoCAD is such big news. Not only is it going to benefit the end user, it’s also a sign that Autodesk have started to think outside the box in their approach to the entire CAD market.

If you take a look at AutoCAD for Mac, you will still see the majority of the functionality that comes in previous versions. The result is a typically AutoCAD setup that makes use of a lot of the functions that are native to the Mac.

One noticeable difference is the user interface – the ribbons are out, and in is a cleaner, streamlined screen. This lets users hide additional icons at the sides of the screen, providing a larger working space.

 

The new interface also comes with the ability to dock the side bars.

 

A big addition to the Mac-based AutoCAD is the ability to use the trackpad for editing designs more intuitively. If you’re working on a MacBook, MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, AutoCAD will use the Multi-Touch functionality to pan and zoom around the drawing. If you’re using a desktop-based Mac, the new Magic Trackpad will give you the same freedom.

The Mac’s Spotlight search function is also utilised. It provides a very intuitive search function from within the AutoCAD application which lets you search for commands, and highlights their location in the menus.

 

Obviously, that doesn’t even begin to over the functionality in this new release (you can find out more by clicking here), but one final thing that’s worth pointing out is that you don’t need to download the relevant plug-in to upload drawings to AutoCAD WS. As the new application is already built into AutoCAD for Mac, all you need to do is select the upload option in the File menu.

Should you change to AutoCAD for Mac?

Well, AutoCAD for Mac certainly appears to be a sleeker version of AutoCAD, adopting the style of the Mac perfectly, and if you’re onboard with the Mac platform (ie improved user interface, more security against viruses etc.) then I’d certainly recommend that you start to take a look at AutoCAD for Mac. But if you’re happy with the PC software and the way it functions on your computer, then in truth, you should probably stick at it.

Only Autodesk hold the answer whether this Mac release is a hint at where they are taking their CAD applications, but given how Apple and the Mac platform are positioned in the market, Autodesk would be pretty foolish not to expand on their Mac portfolio.

Want to find out more about the Mac and PC CAD divide or got a question about which platform is right for you? Get in touch with us on 03332 409 204 or email CAD@Jigsaw24.com or take a look at our full range of AutoCAD for Mac products.

Epson Stylus Pro 7700 and 9700 review

Epson Stylus Pro 7700 and 9700 review

With the help of our CAD expert, Sam Tomlinson, we put the new Epson Stylus Pro 7700 and 9700 printers to the test.

Epson says: The Epson Stylus Pro 7700 and 9700 are packed with the latest Epson technologies that add precision, reliability and productivity to a wide range of professional printing needs. Together they give you the finest quality output without compromising speed.

Sam says: Each time a new printer is launched onto the market it always promises the latest and most advanced technology, so your cynicism is understandable. But from the print samples I have seen, these printers do exactly what they say on the tin! The Epson Ultra Chrome Ink (which now includes vivid magenta) makes the prints clear and they precisely match the colours on screen. Epson have also assured us that prints should last around 75 years, (though we clearly didn’t have time to test this) and that is perfect for archiving. The Micro Piezo TFP printhead is probably to blame for the bulkiness of these printers which seems to be an issue with a lot of Epson printers. However, a look under the magnifying glass revealed perfectly accurate little dots that didn’t mist or have any satellites. Even after long periods of inactivity, it still produced perfect prints immediately, with no nozzle issues.

Epson says: These printers are designed to give you faster output without compromising print quality. They do this by using advanced compression and decompression technologies that speed up data throughput during printing.

Sam says: When it comes to printers, the faster they are the better, but that is only if they can maintain the quality. Of course the level of precision is reduced when you print at faster speeds, but even at the highest speed, these are perfect for drafts and sketches. The slower, higher quality prints are outstanding and would probably give you that competitive edge when pitching for new business. Whilst the highest quality prints do take considerably longer, these models are conveniently equipped to deal with overnight printing.

Epson says: A range of features make the printing process as easy as possible, and gives you the flexibility to match your printer to the way you print. Fast network connection, clear, simple control and straightforward operation and maintenance are built-in.

Sam says: With new ways of monitoring and controlling print jobs, you don’t have to hit print and hope for the best. The control panel screen isn’t your usual multifaceted gadget that scares even the most technical of minds; it is simple, easy to use, straightforward to understand and it genuinely makes a difference to the level of control you have over printing. If anything does go wrong – for example, if you run out of media half way through a job – barcode printing allows you to back-track just as far as the problem, without having to start over (saving both time and money). Different departments can track their printing too.

Buy it if: you do a lot of professional printing. An on-site, high performance professional printer is a worthwhile investment, especially given the cost of external printing. In terms of price, both of these models compare quite favourably to similar printers on the market. These have been crammed with all the latest Epson print technology but, despite all of its technological glory, the 7700 model only takes print sizes up to 24″ and that could be quite restrictive. If you’re not going to exceed this size, great but, if larger prints are what you are after, I would recommend the 9700, which takes paper sizes up to 44″ wide.

Get in touch with our CAD experts on 03332 409 306 or email CAD@Jigsaw24.com for more on our printing solutions.

The benefits of QuarkXPress 8 for teachers and students

The benefits of QuarkXPress 8 for teachers and students

When it comes to desktop publishing, Keith Martin really knows his linking tool from his Bezier picture box. Senior lecturer in publishing at the London College of Communication, Keith has extensive experience under his belt, with a degree in graphic design and numerous books published about digital media. He also juggles the role of technical editor at MacUser magazine at the same time as teaching!

Keith has been using QuarkXPress for desktop publishing since he was at university and now teaches his own students how to use the latest version. He explains the way its logical design makes it easy to produce quality layout for anything from leaflets and posters to full-blown magazines and newspapers: “You make a box, you put a picture in it. It’s as if you are working with pieces of cut paper on a big poster-size page on a desk.”

Quark’s flexibility makes it really user-friendly according to Keith, and he says it is really easy to make Flash content without having to get involved with coding. “Today we are in a situation where, if designers want to actually work in digital output, they have to learn programming. But with QuarkXPress 8, you can actually get Flash done quickly and you don’t have to look at code, so I think it’s a great option for designers,” Keith added.

Now in its eighth version, Keith believes that QuarkXPress’s “pedigree” means it has a longevity that will see it carry on developing. He said: “Tools change, but design never does. I think the future is going to be that the software does the difficult stuff for you behind the scenes while you get on with the creative work.”

Find out more on QuarkXPress for teachersand students by calling our education team on 03332 409 333 or emailing learning@Jigsaw24.comFor more news on technology in Education, follow @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter and ‘Like’ Jigsaw Education’s Facebook page.

NVIDIA’s 3D Vision glasses

NVIDIA’s 3D Vision glasses

We recently managed to get our hands on a couple of pairs of these glasses and the associated hardware to use in our demonstrations at BVE. Having wanted to see them for quite some time, I was excited about seeing them in action.

Seeing an image in 3D on the screen requires each one of your eyes to see a slightly different image, there are several different ways to achieve this. Most systems use passive glasses; these take the form of either the coloured anaglyph glasses (which require no special display technology) or clear polarised glasses (requiring a matching polarised display).

Regardless of the technology used, the theory is the same: the glasses and display work together to ensure that your left eye only sees the left image and your right eye only sees the right image. Your brain does the rest, fusing these two separate images into a 3D picture.

The NVIDIA glasses work on the same theory but achieve it in a slightly different way. They are based on active technology and are powered by a small battery. The glasses work wirelessly, although they are charged over USB. Each lens of the glasses contains a liquid crystal display similar to those used in old calculators and this display changes the lens from black to clear at a rate of 60 HZ (60 times a second). While this is happening, the display flicks from the left image to the right image at a rate of 120 HZ. This is synced with the glasses via an infra red emitter to ensure that when the left image is being shown the right eye is blanked out and vice versa.

To make all of this work, you will need the following equipment:

  • The NVIDIA 3D Vision starter kit, containing a pair of glasses and the infra red sync emitter.
  • A compatible NVIDIA graphics card with a DIN connector for the sync emitter. A Quadro is needed for pro applications such as Maya. A Geforce is needed for Games.
  • A display that is capable of displaying an image at 120HZ – the Samsung SyncMaster range is a good place to start.
  • Software that is capable of using active stereo. In games, this is taken care of by the Nvidia driver. With regard to pro apps, any app that supports Quad Buffered OpenGL will work.

So, enough of the technical stuff – what are these glasses like to use? I was lucky enough to test them extensively, using them both for gaming and within Autodesk’s Maya. I was very impressed with them, I had expected to see some flickering of the picture as it switched from the left to right images but, with each eye being displayed at nearly 3 times the frame rate required for smooth viewing, the picture was extremely smooth. The glasses do make the screen appear a little dimmer but this can be fixed easily by turning up the brightness a little.

The experience of getting the glasses to work with my professional applications was a smooth one also, and just required enabling stereoscopic support in the NVIDIA control panel. It is even possible to display 3D output from two different programs at the same time.

In summary, these glasses are ideal if you want to preview and edit stereoscopic content in programs like Maya, or view stereoscopic movies. Imagine being able to show your 3D film or game in full colour progressive 3D, or showing off your product or building designs to clients in full 3D. With most major modelling packages including 3ds Max Design, Maya, CINEMA 4D and others at least able to create stereoscopic content even if you can’t directly edit in 3D, these glasses offer a great way to show your work in an immersive way. Content can be exported from this software and played back using Nvidias stereoscopic player and you can even use them for a bit of gaming after work!

If you’re not sure about the best way to create or view stereoscopic content, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email 3D@Jigsaw24.com.

3D rendering – What’s more important: Memory, processor speed or access to storage?

3D rendering – What’s more important: Memory, processor speed or access to storage?

At Jigsaw we’re frequently asked by customers, “What’s the most important facet of a render farm – memory, processor speed or access to storage when it comes to 3D rendering?” Unfortunately this question doesn’t have a simple answer – the best way to explain is to use a metaphor:

In a restaurant’s takeaway delivery service, what is the key factor influencing our appraisal of the service? How quickly the chef prepares and cooks the food? The efficiency of the person taking orders over the phone? The time it takes the guy on his moped to deliver the food? How about the quality of the food?!

Obviously, there is no one clear answer. We haven’t considered the different types of food on offer, the distance it needs to be delivered, the number of inbound order calls, or even if the guy taking the calls has to write them by hand or has an automated electronic system. We don’t know how many grills the restaurant has, how long it takes to cook each dish, or if there is a pattern for ordering. It becomes very clear that the answer is usually “It depends,” and the conditions that it depends on are nothing if not dynamic.

To relate this to 3D rendering, simply replace “chef” with “processor”, the person taking orders with “memory” and the delivery guy with “shared storage”. Now you have a render farm scenario.

Just like the example of the takeaway restaurant, in order to get a specific answer to the question about your 3D render farm, your query itself needs to be much more specific.

The question should be “what’s the most important element in a render farmrunning ABC 3D application,” not simply “what’s the most important element in a 3D render farm.” After all, one chef could churn out edible dishes every few minutes while another could be doing no better than one every 10 minutes because he works more methodically and presents dishes of a higher standard.

The answer lies in recognising and measuring what the key bottlenecks are when performing your job:

How long does it take to render a given jog unit (e.g.10 frames) on a given processor with your 3D software application of choice?

–   What is the volume of data going into the image and how long does its take to retrieve this data from the drive?

–   How reliant on memory speed is the rendered frames’ delivery?

–   What is the time frame on delivering your frames to a designated drive?

Once these have been answered for one system (processor/memory chip/shared drive) we can start to think about the render farm as a whole. What starts happening to our render performance if we add more processors, memory storage or speed? Or in terms of our takeaway analogy, what happens if we add more people to take orders, more chefs to cook the food, or more people on the phones to take more orders and to prioritise jobs?

We have to be careful at this stage to try to keep all parts of the farm balanced. For example, you don’t want to be in a situation where all jobs are coming in too quickly for processors to handle but, on the flip-side, we don’t want jobs being processed so fast that the storage can’t read and write frames fast enough.

If we look at this sensibly, we’ve already established roughly how long it will take each processor to get its next set of instructions, render 10 frames and then save them to a location. Using these figures, we can estimate capacities and rates, allowing us to work out the best way to spend our money.

Conclusion

Render farms are usually CPU bound, processing large amounts of work compared to the data coming in, so fast I/O is often a good thing. A large cache can also be beneficial, depending on the size of the frames being rendered.

With data transfer rates at the speed they are, it’s unlikely that SAN speed will be the first bottleneck but this is very dependent on the size of the render farm. For example, there will become a point where there will be too many nodes rendering in parallel, resulting in the processors waiting on the storage. At this stage, things start to depend on how big the image is, how long it takes to render a frame, and if frame completions are synchronised.

Visit Jigsaw24, or feel free to call 03332 409 306 or email sales@Jigsaw24.com with any CAD-related questions.

Rendering in Revit Architecture 2009 with Mental Ray

Rendering in Revit Architecture 2009 with Mental Ray

With the new release of Revit Architecture 2009 came a lot of excitement, due largely to the inclusion of Mental Images’ Mental Ray in place of AccuRender for the Revit rendering engine. But how does Mental Ray perform in Revit, and what exactly does it add to your workflow.

As an avid 3ds Max user, I was keen to address the question or how Revit’s Mental Ray compares to that of the one in 3ds Max. So, I did a little testing and can safely say that, in my opinion, it fares very well; it has all the Pro Materials from 3ds Max (so the setting up of objects for rendering is very straight-forward), lights are a breeze, and all the photometric or IES light data contained in your Revit Light will be used in rendering calculations in Revit.

The Mental Ray interface is a lot more streamlined compared to the Max version, with simpler controls and a more user-friendly, less menu-intensive feel. Although this does restrict some of the finer settings available in 3ds Max, it makes picking up and producing good quality images – even for the complete beginner – very simple. As a general rule of thumb I’d say that Mental Ray in Revit achieves about 80% of the image quality in 20% of the time you’d expect from 3ds Max.

Getting into the interface

The render dialogue is easy to find and is represented by a teapot icon in the bottom toolbar when in your perspective view.

Once the dialogue window has loaded, first impressions are very good: endless drop downs and menus within menus are defiantly a thing of the past, with all options sensibly labelled making for quick and easy adjustments.

Even without going under the hood or into any of the custom quality settingsgood quality renders can quickly be achieved by simply choosing from the listed pre-sets on this screen.

The Quality pre-sets (i.e. those dictating how good your image will look) include options for draft, low, medium, high and best. From what I’ve seen and played with I don’t think you’d want to be showing customers renders with anything less than the medium setting. The draft and low settings are great, though, for quick test renders, making sure that your lighting is correct and ensuring that the overall composition of your image is right before waiting for the higher quality renders.

A nice feature from this dialogue is the ‘region’ tick box, which allows you to specifically render a user-defined area of your scene. This is an excellent time-saver when assigning materials to your design because it allows you to quickly produce renders with the ‘best’ quality setting in order to see how objects are going to look textured without having to wait for your whole image to render.

Looking under the hood of the Quality settings takes you to a customisable screen for tweaking your settings. Again, hats off to Autodesk: these options areextremely easy to use, with a nice interface explaining what each option does and a simple slider adjustment to make any changes. If I had one complaint it would be that it’s too easy to make changes! There have been a couple of times when I’ve become ‘slider happy’, maxing out all the settings but then realising that I’m going to have to wait a week for the image to render.

For those of you familiar with Mental Ray in 3ds Max and Viz, all the usual options for Anti-aliasingReflectionsShadows etc. are here, so if you know what you’re doing then you can play to your heart’s content. For the average user, though, I think the ‘high’ and ‘best’ options will provide more than enough realism without having to worry about these settings.

As briefly mentioned earlier, Revit Architecture 2009 now includes the Mental Ray Pro-Materials. For those unaware, the Pro-Material library was officially introduced with 3ds Max 2009 and provides fast access to pre-set materials that are ready for rendering in Mental Ray. Again the user interface is spot on, with easy-to-use modification options and thumbnails depicting how the material will look when rendered, thus giving you the best possible insight to how your objects will look. The Pro-Material library is extensive and really does make texturing a design very quick and simple.

– Materials Library (below)

– Render Appearance Library (below)

The realism in any render is usually down to two factors: light and shadows. It’s incredible how a 3D-looking scene can be made photorealistic with the effective use of lights and subtle inclusion of shadows. As we’ve discussed, setting up lights for rendering is extremely straightforward; all Revit Light data is available to the Mental Ray engine, so if you are using photometric or IES data the lights in your scene can be visualised as they would be in the real world. Again, lighting settings are pre-set driven in Revit 2009 with 6 available options; 3 for exterior lighting and 3 for interior. Below, we’ve depicted the lighting of a simple room with a large curtain wall and a floor lamp to show the effect of the different pre-sets.

Exterior: Sun only

Exterior: Sun and Artificial

Exterior: Artificial only

Interior: Sun only

Interior: Sun and Artificial

Interior: Artificial only

All of these work very well, and once again the pre-sets reduce the learning curve needed to get good quality renders.

Summary

The industry feedback we at Jigsaw have received so far is very good, and I’m personally very impressed with the Mental Ray inclusion. Customers I have spoken to have all been blown away with the ease and quality with which renders can be set up. One firm has even said that they no longer need to outsource their visualisation but instead can save the money and get all their images produced from Revit in-house!

I think it’s great that Autodesk is extending its traditional media and entertainment products into the architectural space. As we all know, average 3D renders are no longer cutting it with customers, so in order to get those bid-winning presentations technology from the film, TV and game industries needs to be utilised. At a time when a growing number of dedicated visualisation firms are being set up, Autodesk’s introduction of Mental Ray into Revit has opened up to its customers the possibility of good quality, in-house visualisation. Who could ask for more?!

Visit Jigsaw24 for a range of professional CAD solutions, and call 03332 409 306 or email CAD@jigsaw24.com if you have any related question.