Tuesday, July 04, 2006



In this issue:
Speeding up rendering
Class options vs. Layer options
Setting the height of objects

Would any of you turn out in early December for an evening of roof editing only? The Seattle Vectorworks User Group usually skips December and November due to the busy holiday time opting instead to meet sometime during the third week of January. There are, however, enough people interested in learning more about the roof tools--how to set up, then edit, roofs--that I would come out in December if you are interested.
If you would like to attend a roof-only SVUG meeting on December 1st,Wednesday night, 6:00-8:00 PM, e-mail me at tomgreggs@mindspring.com. I will only be confirming the date (for this meeting only) to those that e-mail me in reply to this post.
Our last get-together in October was a good one considering we met during the seventh game of the Red Sox, Yankees duel. Ivan Hass, who teaches VW at the Wood Construction Center, took a turn at the podium and talked about the power of using Classes in organizing drawings. I tried his ideas out this week when I put a spiral stair into a drawing. I've never used the Circular Stair tool before (VW Architect) but it works well. I also placed a light above the stair hoping to better show it through a side window as I developed the 3D views. But I found that every time I rendered the model, the time to render was considerably longer than before. So I made a new class and named it Spiral Stair and turned it invisible. I moved the stair into this class using the Object Info Palette. Now I can render those scenes where stair visibility is less important at much faster speeds.
Classes are also a boon when you place objects on top of one another and find that they create a conflict. An example would be two wall types, say a concrete foundation wall and a short stud wall. They tend to grab at one another and form unintended joints. If I create a class for each one, then move those walls to their separate class, I can edit them independently and keep them behaving properly.
Consider this exercise of creating a partial daylight basement story set 3'-6" into the ground. The The basement walls will be made up of 8" thick concrete for the lower, in-ground half and 4" wide studs for the upper. On the mode bar under Class make custom classes for each kind of wall and call one Wall-Conc. and the other Wall-Stud. Go to the menu bar to Organize/Layer Option and select Active Only or Gray Others. Select your new Wall-Conc. class and draw the concrete portion of wall there and the stud wall, aligned above, on the Wall-Stud class. Let them both be 8' tall (∆ Z) and have 0" for the base level (Bot.Z). Insert a 3' wide door into the stud wall. Cut the stud wall 3" off the sides of the door such that the total door and wall combo is 3'-6" wide (drawn a line across the wall and use the Trim tool). Keep all the wall segments intact. Transfer the cut markers to the foundation wall via the Object Info palette and cut that wall. Delete the cut foundation segment.
Shorten all stud walls by 4' (∆Z or Delta Z), except the door wall which we'll leave at 8', and raise the bottom height of the shortened walls (Bot. Z) by 4'. Go to the foundation wall class that you have created and select those walls and shorten by 4'. You should be able to return to the Class default of Show/Snap/Modify Others and see your new basement wall composite of foundation and cripple wall showing a door that extends to the basement level free of conflict with the adjoining foundation walls.
Some points to make:
•Layer Options is not the same as Layer Visibility (Visible, Invisible, Gray) but are often used in tandem.
•Return your Class Options setting to Show/Snap/ Modify Others. Too often, after changing these options I find that parts of my drawing have disappeared or what is there cannot be snapped to or changed. There is no virus, you simply have to review Class Options and you will find, in setting it back to Show/Snap/Modify Others, that the missing items return. If you have ghosts in your machine, this is were they will likely surface. If the above fix doesn't work, check Class visibility to see if one of them has been made invisible.
•Note that the default setting in Layers Options should be anything but Show/Snap/Modify Others. Imagine that you were working away with several layers visible but you didn’t know that Show/Snap/Modify Others was turned on. You might accidentally reach down to another layer and move or even delete important information. Instead, set the Layer Option on the menu bar at Show/Snap Others thus turning off the Modify option.
•When drawing one object atop another, where each is on a different layer or class, Show/Snap Others is better than Gray Others since you can reach down to the other class object and snap your new line or wall to that object's exact corner. Loci are also great markers to place on corners and then move up or down using the Object Info palette.
•If you are just dipping your toe into 3D, try this exercise at the end of a day when you need a change of pace from production drawing. Try out the Artistic rendering options if you have the new VW 11 or experiment with lighting and take your model just a little further on.
•Lastly, when creating these new 3D elements, you may feel they are in the way of your 2D drawing, showing solid when you wish to show a dotted line instead. In this case I move these objects to a layer that can contain all 3D items that don't show well on the 2D page. I often have a layer called Floor Planes where I will place the 3D floors, any extrusions or object made with Extrude Along Path. Belly bands, drip caps or outriggers can be moved there as well as foundation walls though I almost always leave live stud walls on my 2D working drawing layers. To convert the foundation walls to lines, select them and use Tool/Convert Copy To Lines. Send the new lines to your 2D working drawing layer.

At our October meeting we also talked about setting the height of objects. Do you make use of the Bot. Z and Delta Z input boxes found on the Layers Setup dialog box when you set your floors or layer levels? This is probably the conventional method but I confess that I like using the Object Info palette to set my objects. This is in part because I work from one story, usually the Main Story and then go up or down with many stops in between for odd Layers that aren’t so easily set up in advance. I develop my layer height typically well after I create the layer. The Object Info palette thus seems more fluid to me as the place to set heights.
Ivan and Jack McKean use the Layers Setup screen to set the major levels of their drawings and that gives them one advantage: if you are placing lots of furnishings, they will snap to the Bot. Z height of that layer. In my case, If I insert a commode into a basement, I have to set the Bot. Z of the toilet in the Object Info Palette if I want to see that toilet in a 3D view. But since I tend to show more exterior and less interior in my drawings, I haven’t felt the pinch of having to set the Bot. Z for every little stick of furniture. Set up your layer heights whichever works best for you.
Some thoughts:
•When you go below your 0" level, you have to note the height with a negative sign.
•You can do addition, subtraction and multiplication right in the Object Info palette data input boxes.
If we make a floor or a surface of some kind with a 10" thickness and we set the top of the floor to 0", the bottom of the floor will be -10". If we place a wall beneath that floor, the wall’s Bot. Z will be -8'-0" plus the floor thickness. Instead of adding in your head the total height of the wall and the total height of the floor, you can type in the math and hit return and VW will properly set the wall elevation. But don’t use the 'plus' key if you are going below your 0" level. Type into the Object Info palette for the floor+wall combo: -8' - 10". That is an equation that sends you downward just as 8' + 10" sends you upward.
Hang in there with Classes. You will benefit once you get familiar through regular use.

Final thoughts:
•For those that do interior design, check out this great plugin for Vectorworks called InteriorCAD (interiorcad.com). This program allows you to do cabinets, shelving, closets and so much more. They have a fine pdf file that takes you through the various options. But you simply draw a polygon to define the outside perimeter of your object and then set about inputting the various elements. Download the demo, load it into your plugins folder and then use the Workspace Editor to move it to one of your palettes. Works with VW 10.5 as of this writing.
•Apologies to those of you who use VW for purposes other than architectural. Some day I will know this program well enough to write or teach more evenly.

Expect an e-mail in early January announcing our next general SVUG meeting.


Tom Greggs

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