Friday, November 07, 2008

Convert to Lines #31

Serving the Seattle VectorWorks Users Group and Northwest VectorWorks users.

An archive of past newsletters can be found at
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In this issue:
•NNA coming to demo Version ‘09
• Early word on 2009
• Animation continued
•Misc. cautions, misc. resources
•Adjusting preferences for printing
•More free advice

Greetings VectorWorks users! Join us Thursday, November 13th, 6:30 to 8:30 PM for the first User Group meeting of the season. We’re going look at using Stack Layers in Vw 2008 to view and edit, light and set perspective views. We’ll also want to share your ideas with the group and help with any questions you might have. I’ll have several 3D renderings to share of the planned remodel of the Wood Construction Center facility. 

Our meeting will take place at the Seattle Central Community College Wood Construction Center lecture hall. The hall is located at 2310 S. Lane St. (intersection of 23rd Avenue South and South Lane Street). Parking is available in the gated lot off South King Street, just one block south of Jackson Street. The lecture hall is the building directly adjacent to the parking lot at its south side. Walk up the wooden side-ramp to the second door.


Finally back! Sorry for the long delay in writing but I’ve been waiting for a couple of things to happen. One was that the Vw’s update was about to arrive (Vw is the new shorthand) and I was expecting to bring it loaded on the laptop to our next meeting. That hasn’t happened--something about NNA not being able to ship my particular grade until quite late in the product cycle. I’m still waiting. The other reason, apart from outright entropy, was that NNA has been planning a Seattle tour to show off version 2009 and I was hoping to relay that date. I can say that Thursday, December 11th is currently being contemplated--tentatively contemplated--with the event site located in downtown Seattle. I WILL send out notice as soon as they determine their schedule. 


Meanwhile, Tech Board and List Serv comments have been very positive about the new version. The change to a better modeling kernel--Parasolid by Siemens PLM--may be the biggest advance. We should have far better ability to create objects in Vw ‘09, that in ‘08 and below. For instance, creating a handrail which follows an offset stairwell downward was not possible prior to this upgrade. 

Siemens is a huge company with 5.5 million seats and 51,000 customers using various brands of their software. 
Here is a URL to Parasolid if you’d like more info:

For Version ‘09, 60% of their kernel has been imported into Vw with the following 40% planned for inclusion in 2010. Walls will benefit as we’ll be able to create shapes that can then be subtracted giving us unique sills, for instance. Improved snapping has gotten raves. Another advancement that caught my eye was that we can now snap to points within imported PDF’s. Thus you can bring in a survey, place it on a reference layer and trust that the corner you’re snapping down to will provide an accurate reading. Having this option, versus problematic DXF files, could make using imported files much simpler.

 Take a look at the NNA website tutorials for ‘09 if you haven’t already.  There’s a lot to explore and ponder. 


In the last Convert to Lines #30, I talked about making flyaround animations. One of the important parts of the discussion left out was how to create a more circular orbit around your model. You may have found that your flyaround took a boomerang route instead of a round one. To fix this, follow my guide in #30 up to the beginning of the last paragraph. After creating a perspective view of your model as described (enclosed in picture frame), click-select the whole frame and ungroup. Then drag-select just the model and not the frame or any ground volume if you can avoid it. With this central mass selected, go to Model>Create Animation. Orbit Point should be on by default. Select Animation Options and click on Selection. (If Selection is grayed out, you have nothing selected within the picture frame.)  The rotate amount should be 360 degrees.  To test, run for 5 seconds and see if your flyaround is behaving. If so, render your model for the final orbit. Once rendered, set a fly time of 45 seconds which seems a reasonable viewing period. Note that your model will render based on its relative screen zoom. Zoomed out, you’ll get a small model and zoomed in, a bigger one. Larger images will cause rendering times to increase.

It’s a little more work to generate a perspective view versus the ease of creating a simple isometric style, but once you’ve gotten used to seeing your model in this more realistic state, you aren’t likely to settle for less.

If you’d prefer a more professional, foolproof approach, check out OzCad’s AnimationWorks. Look at all of the sample QT movies as each one is a unique example of what’s possible.
Jonathan Pickup, in his issue 0809 covers walkthrough and flyaround animation. His description, while quite good, covers isometric model viewing, not perspective. 

It should be said that having a module one step up from Fundamentals--Architect for instance, plus Renderworks--is the base setup for these modeling discussions.


Some misc. gotcha’s: 
•If you set your model to Oblique view, OpenGL will not render with this particular representation selected.
•If you intend to import plants into your model, don’t name a Layer or Class “Plant” as this will cause any import of plant libraries to be blocked.
•When exporting an image of your model to a jpg format (File>Export>Export Image File), I find that I am prevented from increasing my dots per inch in the Resolution box which, on my Mac, typically reads as 72 px/in. If you look in the lower right corner of this dialog box, you’ll notice, at least in Vw 2008, that the default setting is for JPEG 2000.
Note that if you change this setting to JPEG Image or PNG or another, you ARE able to increase the dpi in the Resolution box. Set dpi somewhere between 150  and 300, depending on your printer’s abilities, you ability to wait for rendering to finish, and the expected quality of the final printout. 

Some misc. FREE models:
•Duravit does not have an online download option but you can order their free CD which has DXF models of their products. Scroll down the page to the Spec Manual to order:
•Mr-Cad is worth checking out. Mostly a pay-per-model site, they have some free models plus textures. 3ds Format.

Adjusting printing resolution in Vw is confusing since settings seem to be all over the place. For instance, dpi settings can be set, under File>Document Settings, Document Preferences. But after creating a sheet layer, you’ll find dpi can be set there as well. Click on a sheet, then hit the Edit button found on either the Navigation palette or the Organization palette. 

Which is more important? Do we need both? To find out, I took one of my fully textured models, rendered in Custom Renderworks, and tried setting dpi’s in both locations. I found that the best place to set dpi was on sheet layers, not in the Documents Pref’s. Printing on a Brother 5280DW laser printer, (capable of 1200 x 1200 dpi), I saw much crisper output when sheets were set to 300 dpi, with the Prefs panel set to 72, than I did when the Prefs panel was at 300 dpi and sheet layers were back at 72 dpi. 

My advice, if you are using sheet layers, is to set your dpi there and ignore the Document Preference panel unless someone out there can give me a reasoned argument against this. One last observation: when the sheet dpi was set high, there was a marked improvement in the image on my Mac notebook screen (OS 10.5.4) 

Play around with dpi to see what setting between 150 dpi and 300 works for you--assuming your printer can handle more that 150 dpi. 

Note all of this assumes you are printing FROM within VectorWorks and not creating a JPEG or some other image file which would then be printed through another application. If you are more interested in exporting and manipulating rendered files in an image processor like Photoshop, then read my suggestion above under Gotcha’s.


Some free advice. Well, everything here is free so what’s the deal? Only that you may be slowing down in your business, what with the economy and all, and that brings, along with less money, lots of stress. One of the ways to take control of a less than ideal environment is to train up to gain new skills. We always want to do this when we’re busy, so why not now when we’re slow? If I’ve described you, and you are working in 2D, I suggest blocking out some time to design something in 3D, something really, really simple, such that your investment is manageable and the reward-to-labor ratio high. 

You have options for designing in 3D, outside of VectorWorks, as you no doubt know. I’d just like to say that the pay-back, in designing from the beginning in VectorWorks, in 3D, is that you’ll have all your work in one file. Thus small changes, such as property line setback adjustments or stud wall thickness changes, can be managed in a more holistic approach. It was Aristotle who said “The whole is more than the sum of its parts”. Yes, you can get good-looking 3D at the beginning of your modeling process using other software. But starting and ending the file in Vw means that you have a much shorter distance to travel to make adjustments, to check relationships within the model, and to provide accurate, finished drawings, than with a “sum of parts” approach. 

That’s a wrap. Hope to see you this coming Thursday.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am very thrilled you wrote that =D

-My Regards,