Speeding up rendering at the University of Glamorgan

Speeding up rendering at the University of Glamorgan

The University of Glamorgan were looking for a solution to improve render times on their animation courses. We helped them set up a render farm that would allow quick, collaborative rendering and reduce their workstation downtime. We also provided them with all the animation and rendering software they would need to give their students experience using industry-standard applications.

Eliminating downtime

Before coming to us, the university were using localised computers (i.e. not networked to each other) when rendering animation students’ projects. Each render had to be done on these individual workstations and so, while one machine was busy rendering, it was out of action, and any further design work would have to wait until the process was complete. On top of that, Glamorgan were also using external hard drives for backup, as there was no central server to store files on. This made collaboration difficult and working from home virtually impossible.

Glamorgan needed a solution that could render jobs from an entire class at once, and free up workstations so that students could make the most of their time on campus. They were also looking for a truly collaborative environment that would let their students work together on joint projects, sharing files across a network.

Finding a render management solution

Peter Hodges, head of animation at Glamorgan, gave Jigsaw24 a call and arranged a consultation with our 3D specialist, Ben Kitching, and together they looked at options for the university. They decided that Qube! (a render farm management system) would be the best solution for cutting downtime and allowing collaborative working. Qube! is able to handle thousands of student projects at one time, and its multi-threaded Supervisor tool would make management of the system easy. It would also provide support for a wealth of modelling and animation software and came with a number of application pipelines, including Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya.

The university had also invested in a set of render nodes (computer clusters that form the render farm). These were sent to Jigsaw24 HQ for a system preflight, which involved our engineers making a carbon copy of the disk that could be deployed across all of the other render nodes. We then went onsite to check the farm was running as it should by submitting a number of test jobs.

Software and training

Ben suggested an exhaustive arsenal of exceptional modelling and animation software to complement Glamorgan’s new outfit. These included professional 3D tools such as Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya, Maxon’s CINEMA 4D and LightWave, and plug-in rendering tools like V-Ray and iray. Softimage, Boujou, ZBrush, SketchUp Pro, Brazil and Renderman were also included, so students could add greater detail and effects to characters and scenes. We even supplied Adobe Production Premium, Apple Final Cut Studio and Logic Studio for integrating animation into broadcast workflows.

As part of the installation, we went to the university to configure all the software and, while there were a few initial teething problems in arranging licences for the university, Ben soon ironed them out. He then provided training for the staff at a time that was convenient for them, as well as adding onsite and remote support to the package so we would always be on hand to solve any problems with the system.

Efficient, collaborative rendering

The whole solution has allowed for greater collaboration between VFX and animation students. With the help of Qube!, their new render farm can now be managed more easily and run more efficiently – the Integrated Charting feature lets staff create reports on frame times and CPU usage right on the GUI. Qube! has allowed Glamorgan to push through jobs faster, and to save all their work on a single, central server without being tied down to rendering times.

The students’ experience of working on the new farm will set them in good stead for getting a job once they graduate. The Autodesk software we provided is something everyone starting out in animation will benefit from experience using. And a few of the more specific apps, such as Brazil, will really make the students’ CVs stand out to potential employers, as they will have a wider knowledge of different animation techniques.

Commercial potential

Glamorgan have even thought about the commercial advantages of their render farm, and aim to get the system turning a profit to put back into the university. Their new setup is powerful enough for outside companies to hire for rendering, even while being used by students. As a Citrix Silver Partner, Jigsaw24 have been looking at virtualisation technology options at Glamorgan to give companies secure, collaborative access to the render farm, while also allowing their students to work from home and have access to their applications, shared storage and render farm.

For more information speeding up render times, get in touch with us on 03332 409 306 or email sales@Jigsaw24.com

How to get Google Earth working with AutoCAD 2012

How to get Google Earth working with AutoCAD 2012

AutoCAD 2011 had the great function of being compatible with the Google Earth Extension, but a problem with the installer means Autodesk’s new AutoCAD 2012 can’t be detected.

To fix this, and get Google Earth Extension compatability, follow these steps from the Autodesk Labs website:

1.   “Download the zip file from Autodesk Labs.

2.   Extract the appropriate MSI file (e.g. the 64-bit one) from the PublishDWGtoGE_32_64.zip file.

3.   Go to Windows Start > Run then CMD to launch the cmdline.

4.   Enter msiexec /a DwgPublishToGEX64Installer.msi

5.  The /a starts the installer but instead of the standard installer, it runs the network setup and allows you to extract files to a directory.

6.   Copy the these files to your install directory of your desired AutoCAD, e.g. AutoCAD 2012.

7.   Load the cuix file by doing the following:

–   Select “CUI” tool from the ‘Manage’ ribbon. Or, just type ‘cui’ on the command line.

–   Scroll down on the top half of the dialog until you find ‘Partial Customization Files’. Right-click and select ‘Load Partial’ and pick GoogleEarth.cui from the AutoCAD Roamable Root Folder folder.

–   Restart acad and you should have the Google Earth extension in the ribbon.

8.  Load AeccDWGToGE.arx file using APPLOAD command or arx/load or some other way. You might want to select it as one of the apps to load at start up in APPLOAD if you’re going to be using this often.”

Read the article in full and download the Google Earth Extension driver file from the Autodesk Labs website.

Visit Jigsaw24 for more information on Autodesk AutoCAD 2012, call 03332 409 306 or email CAD@Jigsaw24.com.

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 CAD@Jigsaw24.com. Do you agree with Ryan’s top five? Post us your favourite 2012 features below.

Fixing transparent columns in Revit

Fixing transparent columns in Revit

Those clever boffins at the Revit Clinic have another quick fix for your Revit Architecture workflow. This time, they solve the problem of having transparent columns in your detail callouts.

From the Revit Clinic:

“Let’s say you have the following scenario of a wall and column:

ColumnCallouts_01

You add a Floor Plan Callout, which results in what you expected:

ColumnCallouts_02

And then a Detail Callout, where the results are not what you were expecting:

ColumnCallouts_03

So why does the column appear to be transparent in the Detail callout?

The reason for this is that, when unjoined, the wall and column occupy the same physical space. You do not see this display in your Floor Plan and Floor Plan Callout because of the “show family pre-cut in plan views” parameter of the column family.

This parameter determines whether the column displays based on the cut plane specified in the project’s view or within the family. Keeping this parameter checked results in columns that always display the same regardless of the project view’s settings. More information on this can be found in the Specifying How a Structural Column Displays in Plan View document in the Help menu.

So when this parameter is checked, you are not seeing the ‘real’ relationship between the elements in your Floor Plan and Plan callout – you are seeing a representation of the column based on the cut plane in the family.

To further clarify, if you edit the column family, go to Family Category and Parameters and clear this checkbox, you’ll see the that column displays with the same sort of transparent appearance in all views, not just the detail.

ColumnCallouts_04

The way Detail Callouts are generated internally is different from true ‘plan’ views and they do not use this parameter, so they show consistently based on the cut plane of the project regardless of whether it is checked or not.

The ways to approach this would be to join the wall and column where applicable (so their geometry no longer overlaps) or to use a Floor Plan callout when needed instead.”

Read the full article at the Revit Clinic.

For more expert Autodesk Revit advice, call our CAD team 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.

Finding referring views in Revit

Finding referring views in Revit

Anyone who’s just kicking off their BIM workflow would do well to take a look at Autodesk’s Revit Clinic. The site’s packed with tips and troubleshooting tricks, such as this quick workaround for those of you who keep receiving ‘could not find referring object’ errors.

Problem 1: Viewport selected

If you receive this message when you hover over the viewport and right click ‘find referring views’, try right clicking on ‘activate view’ first. Once the view is activated, right click on ‘find referring view’ and you should get the ‘go to view’ dialogue.

Problem 2: Hidden tag instances

You’ll also get this message if every instance of a particular tag is hidden in every view. TO see whether this is the problem, open a view the tag should appear in, then toggle ‘reveal hidden elements’ to see if you can find the tag.

If  that reveals the tag, you should be sorted – right clicking ‘find referring views’ in the activated sheet elevation view, it should return all the views in which you’ve unhidden the tag.

See the original post.

For more information on Autodesk Revit, give our CAD team a call 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.

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 .ac.uk) 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 sales@Jigsaw24.com. 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

Enjoy!

For more information on improving your 3D workflow, call our team on 03332 409 306 or email sales@Jigsaw24.com. To receive the latest 3D news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or Like’ our Facebook page.

 

 

Virtual moviemaking

Virtual moviemaking

Pre-Vis workflow Between Maya and NLE Applications

Maya 2011 introduces a large number of new features. Among those are tools for camera sequencing. These tools are designed to help you to sync an EDL (Edit Decision List) from NLEs such as Final Cut Pro or Avid Media Composer directly with your Maya scene. This workflow can help you to follow a storyboard created in one of these NLEs all without switching out of Maya.

Final Cut Pro is the de facto standard for digital storyboarding, the process of roughing out a story layout and camera shots using conceptual art and draft assets. In the past artists would either have had to have this project open in their NLE or re-create the storyboard on their Maya timeline for reference when creating the CG elements of the story.

Import storyboards

Maya can now import storyboard data in XML or Avid AAF formats directly to the Maya timeline. XML is supported by Final Cut Pro and Premiere Pro CS5 so along with AAF means storyboards created in Apple, Adobe and Avid software can be imported.

When importing these files Maya will interpret the storyboard information and depending on exactly what information is there can create a Maya camera linked to each shot, add each shot to Maya’s timeline and even set up an image plane on each camera containing the conceptual artwork.

Lay out scenes easily

Having all of this information inside Maya will help CG artists to quickly and easily lay out their CG scenes to match the director’s creative vision. Finally Maya can re-export and EDL using updated shot information and draft CG images for review.

These features really streamline the workflow for anyone doing digital storyboarding and help artists and directors to achieve their creative vision more efficiently.

For more technical information on implementing this or other workflows, feel free to get in contact with our technical team on 03332 409 306, email sales@Jigsaw24.com or take a look at our full broadcast range. To receive the latest 3D news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or Like’ our Facebook page.