Publish your own 3D+ RPCs!

Quite a while in the making, we’ve launched a new RPC Creator service that supports the creation of what we refer to as 3D+ RPCs. A 3D+ RPC means the RPC contains both texture and underlying geometry data. You’ve been experiencing 3D+ RPCs in the form of the RPC Automobiles we’ve been publishing for many years. More recently we began partnering with companies like AXYZ Design to publish their incredible people models as 3D+ RPCs. This new RPC Creator service is still in beta and can be found at labs.archvision.com.

Now you can convert your own geometric models into RPCs ready to place in your favorite modeling/visualization app such as Revit!

In order to make your own 3D+ RPCs using the new service you need to supply 3 essential pieces of information 1) geometry in the .obj format, 2) a master texture as a .jpg or .png, and 3) a 124 x 98 pixel preview image. That’s all you need. Upload each to the service and you’re handed back an RPC file in less than a minute.

Why?

In the early days of ArchVision we were in the visualization services business. One of the lessons I learned was that if you’re going for realism, the best visualizations were the ones with an inordinate amount of “detail”. For interior visualizations it was a very “inward” challenge in providing all the “stuff” other than the building itself that were needed to make the scene come alive and look “real”. For exterior scenes it was the opposite; you’d model the hell out of your building but when it came to visualizing it creating the “rest of the world” around it became a headache. Enter RPCs. RPC People were a great addition to those interiors. RPC Trees were great for creating a boundary for that exterior world (or hiding mediocre architecture 🙂 ) and RPC Automobiles helped fill those parking lots.

RPCs have some unique characteristics that have made them a popular way to add entourage and other “stuff” to your designs and improving your visualizations.

1) Convenient – with an RPC you never get a “missing texture” warning. All of the data required to render are included in the .rpc file.

2) Fast – RPCs can be optimized to carry just the right amount of geometry and texture data to make your visualizations standout without bogging down your model. In some implementation such as 3dsMax, textures contained within RPCs dynamically scale themselves when loaded which optimizes the memory footprint required to load those RPCs (ie. you can efficiently stuff more into your scene)

3) Temporal – Context matters but has always been difficult in content creation. With the new 3D+ RPC Creator service you can designate separate geometry (referred to as the “Icon”) which is placed in the model and “swapped” out at render time with the full Mesh contained in the RPC. Internally we refer to these as the “Preview Mesh” and the “Render Mesh”. This dynamic swapping of data helps optimize what you see and when you see it and challenges the “one model suits all needs” mindset of content creation. This can be especially important in workflows like Revit > Visualization where the underlying model is important for one purpose (eg. documentation) but not well suited for another (eg. visualization)

4) Versatile – RPCs are supported by the world’s leading modeling and visualization platforms: Revit, 3dsMax, Autocad, Civil3D, SketchUp, FormZ, Modo, Rhino, Photoshop and more. Publish your content as an RPC and it’s ready-to-use on any of those platforms.

We look forward to hearing your feedback and seeing your results. You can even share your RPCs with the rest of the community in Stash!

Randall

Meet Jan Kokol of IMAGO Design

user-spotlight_jan2017_jan_kokolJan Kokol, Ph.D., is leading his design and visualization company IMAGO Design and working as a design consultant for major design firms. In this collection of renderings from Kokol, the 3D images were modeled in Rhinoceros, then ArchVision RPCs were placed and rendered in 3ds Max with V-Ray. Post production was handled in Photoshop.

Though the software is powerful, Kokol says his biggest asset is sheer passion for his projects and continuing to learn new skills.

“I would say that it is important to love what you do,” said the Slovenia-born, Austria-based designer. “Always be very critical with your own work and do not hesitate to put in an extra amount of work in your project, if you believe it is going to look better.”

ovg_foyer1

Designed by Jan Kokol, here is a lobby space for OVG Real Estate on the M1 Berlin project.

Kokol encourages others to invest in learning and improving in technical knowledge, particularly in the 3D community where “there is so much technical knowledge shared.”

IMAGO Design is a computer graphics and design production studio specializing in architectural design, product development, visualizations, web design, illustrations and interactive environments. These are ideal settings for ArchVision RPC entourage to shine, and Kokol has done just that.

cafe_final_1_deliver_2_send_sun

Designed by Jan Kokol, here is the café view for OVG Real Estate on the M1 Berlin project.

RPCs translate well in virtual reality scenes like the ones that Kokol created below. The VR movies were done with V-Ray and 3ds Max, too, and then rendered as 360 degree spherical images.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9et220L568

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8C570Y8V-TE&t=13s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CQvyedvwQs&t=5s

Kokol studied Architecture at the Technical University Graz, the Faculdade de Arquitectura Lisboa, the Chiba-Dai University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, GSD. Prior to starting his own company, Kokol was working for diverse international architecture firms such as GĂĽnther Domenig, Miralles Tagliabue, Opersis/Zaha Hadid and UNStudio.

Kokol can be reached at imagodesign.at or office@imagodesign.at.

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Want to see your firm featured? Share your project with us. Contact us at marketing@archvision.com.

2016 in Review – 2017 Preview

I try to spend some time at the end of each year reflecting on what we’ve accomplished but more importantly thinking about what we should be working on moving forward. 2016 was an eventful year for ArchVision. We celebrated our 25th year in business in August. No small feat as those of you that run your own businesses can attest. It was probably equal doses of foresight, naivety, stubbornness and love of the industry that carried us this far.

If you followed ArchVision over the years you probably witnessed us going through numerous transition periods with our products. 2015 and ’16 were years where you may not have perceived a lot of activity with our existing products but behind the scenes it was just the opposite. We introduced a new product in September called AVAIL, a new approach to enterprise content management that is sweeping across the AEC industry. Released commercially in late August, AVAIL has been in development for more than 3 years and has it’s origins in the ArchVision Dashboard product. In late 2015 we introduced a new content product called Detail Warehouse that is destined to change the way the AEC industry thinks about BIM content. Throughout the past year we augmented the RPC subscription content collection with hundreds of new RPC Automobiles and we have been laying some groundwork to dramatically increase the volume, quality and variety of RPC formatted content, ready to drag & drop into your next project.

avail_logo_rgb-02

I’m not sure if AVAIL is a result of that foresight or naivety I mentioned but we seem to have struck a chord. Thanks to everyone who helped during the beta period as we couldn’t have done it without you. AVAIL is solving what we now refer to as that 40 year old Windows file folder problem we’ve all become numb to. If you haven’t seen AVAIL in action check out the AVAIL YouTube channel. There are a couple of overview videos for managing visualization assets or specifically how AVAIL can be used to manage Revit content. You can try AVAIL for yourself (I suggest watching the video(s) first so you have an idea of what it is designed to do) by visiting getavail.com and downloading a fully functioning install. The only limit is how many Channels you can create and how much content you can index. It’s designed to let you get your feet wet with your own content. AVAIL comes alive once you see and start organizing your own assets.

detail_warehouse_horiz_cropped

Detail Warehouse is the world’s largest commercial repository of native-built Revit drafting views encompassing 50 sub-categories of door, roof, window and foundation details. Designed to be a starting point for building your own internal detail library, what you currently see in Detail Warehouse is just the beginning. In 2016 we continued to augment the subscription with additional detail components such as Wood Screws and Sleeve Anchors as well as new AISC Steel Shapes. 2017 promises to bring new categories of not only details but oft-used families and components. We’re also working to more tightly integrate the delivery and management of Detail Warehouse with AVAIL so watch for updates early in 2017.

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Last but certainly not least is the RPC platform. We introduced a new partnership with AXYZ Design for photorealistic people content delivered as 3D+ RPCs. If you haven’t previewed and sampled these collections you owe it to yourself to take a look as they’re a spectacular way to liven up your renderings. In the past couple of months we were also pleased to announce the addition of 3 new rendering and visualization applications to the RPC family. It has been the year-of-Revit as Enscape, Revizto and V-Ray for Revit all have released RPC support in their latest releases.

While we’re continuing to augment and deliver the world’s most comprehensive collection of architectural entourage we’ve also been busy laying the groundwork for some exciting new ways you’ll be able to leverage the RPC platform. The current RPC Creator tool in Dashboard lets you convert any 2D TIFF or PNG image into an RPC, ready to use in your preferred modeling and and visualization applications. Get ready, we’re about to open up the ability to create your own 3D+ RPCs! We’re working to broaden your ability to create your own RPCs from existing models. Without getting into too much detail you’ll be able to convert most any 3d model into an RPC.

As an example consider the airplane in the image below. It started as a SketchUp model on 3D Warehouse, textures were “baked” in 3dsMax, exported along with the geometry and converted to RPC. The resulting RPC was then placed in Revit and rendered using Enscape. All within minutes! We’ll be launching the new RPC Creator capability as a web service accessible at labs.archvision.com soon so watch your inbox for details.

airplane

Thanks to everyone for your continued support. We couldn’t work on such fun projects without you! Looking forward to helping each of you in 2017.

Randall

File Systems, Revit & Folder Hell

No to File Folders

It seems everyone is looking for a way to manage their Revit content. It’s just the latest reminder that File Folders suck.  I doubt I’m the first person to so emphatically call it out 🙂 Stated more eloquently, the Windows File System doesn’t do a very good job of helping to organize content or make it easy to find.

 

According to Wikipedia…

In computing, a file system (or filesystem) is used to control how data is stored and retrieved. Without a file system, information placed in a storage area would be one large body of data with no way to tell where one piece of information stops and the next begins. By separating the data into individual pieces, and giving each piece a name, the information is easily separated and identified. Taking its name from the way paper-based information systems are named, each group of data is called a “file“. The structure and logic rules used to manage the groups of information and their names is called a “file system”.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the past few months.  As many of you know, ArchVision has been working on a content management solution we call AVAIL.  It takes me a while for things to gel and be able to clearly articulate things but it finally dawned on me that what we’ve been trying to conquer are the inherent limitations of file systems.  Anybody working on a “content management” solution is taking some approach to overcoming the limitations of those file systems.  Despite a lot of energy expelled to solve this problem, we’ve remained in Folder Hell for the better part of 40 plus years!

Many providers of content management solutions take on both storage and retrieval. Their solutions require you to stuff your content into a new database, move it around your network into some new abstracted file folder system or as of late, ask you to store it “in the cloud”.  The team at ArchVision is taking a different approach.

I’ll claim that the Windows File System is a dandy storage solution, it just sucks when you have to find something!  And you weren’t crazy when you put files where you put them.  It just seems that way when you come back months later looking for them. You wouldn’t have put them where you put them if it didn’t make sense at the time. Have solice.  You haven’t lost your mind, the context changed.  In a previous blog post “Local vs Cloud – A Limited Argument” I suggested that separating the tasks of storage from retrieval was one way of beginning to isolate the real problem.  With AVAIL we’ve done just that.  AVAIL “virtualizes” the files on your network freeing you to retrieve files without regard to how or where they are stored.  Once those files have been “freed” you then become freed to think about organizing and accessing them in new ways.

I mentioned in another post (Context Matters) that after interviewing dozens of customers we kept hearing a common practice of digging back into old project files to get content.  The content you’re looking for is more likely to be referenced and permanently wired in your brain in the context of that project than it is with some abstract “standards” library system.  That’s the challenge with retrieving content.  There’s always some spark or memory that is prominent in your mind when you begin thinking about or looking for a file.  When you’re forced to map what you’re thinking into that standards library it’s enough to make your head hurt.  Context does matter and a good content management solution should recognize that.

AVAIL lets you present content in any number of different contexts.  The files stay in one place on your network but can be presented in any number of ways designed to match the context be it some well known standard, a project name or number, or some other logical grouping(s) that make sense to you and your team.

I’m not sure there’s ever going to be a perfect solution.  It is complicated.  AVAIL is a big swing at the problem. Register for updates here – AVAIL.

DW_AVAIL_Panoply

 

Local vs Cloud – A Limited Argument

Local_vs_CloudI’ll claim that when you’re talking about content management “local vs cloud” is a limited argument. In a broad sense it’s analogous to saying “now that we have cars you don’t need to walk”. If you’re in the business of selling cars (or cloud services) that argument might make sense. For most of course, reality dictates that you need to manage content across “all” environments. Sometimes the cloud makes sense but, for the foreseeable future, you will also have content on your local network. Even the most popular cloud storage solutions like Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, One Drive, you name it, cache a copy of the content locally.

Valid arguments for storing content in the cloud include 1) a need for external teams to have access to content, 2) consolidating content in one location, 3) making content accessible via the Internet, 4) “outsourcing” IT/storage.

For most people local versus cloud is largely a storage decision. If you have teams needing to access that content in the field there is indeed some good arguments for cloud storage but if most of the content is accessed at the desktop the cloud doesn’t solve many of the real content management problems those users encounter daily.

Another way to think about the challenge is to think in terms of Storage and Retrieval. I’ll make another claim… with regards to content management, storage isn’t the real problem, it’s largely a retrieval problem and going to the cloud does nothing to solve it. The graphic above was used in a class we presented at RTC Europe in Budapest a couple of weeks ago. It illustrates the challenge not only of your own content being stored locally and in the cloud but of trying to manage cloud-based content from 3rd parties that is being downloaded and stored in the your local environment.

At ArchVision we’re working on some unique solutions to the retrieval problem. We have a new content management platform named AVAIL that is attacking content retrieval in new ways and tackling the reality of managing content in a “blended” environment. I’ve blogged about how important we think context is to accessing content and how AVAIL is addressing some of those problems. If you’d like to keep track of our progress you can continue to follow this blog but you may also want to sign up for AVAIL notifications at avail.archvision.com. If you are planning to be at AU in Las Vegas in a couple of weeks be sure to stop by our booth #1213 for a sneak peek.

Context Matters

What makes you different?

What makes you different?

As ArchVision began contemplating entering the crowded content management market we spent a lot of time trying to identify what was missing. We have dabbled in content management over the years as we attempted to provide solutions to manage our RPC subscription content and provide customers with easy ways of managing thousands of pieces of content. We learned a lot over the years and developed some philosophies to build on.

While at RTC 2013 as I looked around the exhibit hall I half-jokingly started saying “we’re going to be the 159th company with a content management solution!”. You start to question what makes you think you’re different. Why hasn’t this problem been solved? I think the answer probably lies in the fact that it’s hard to get people to change their habits and that’s what most solution providers have offered. In regards to change I often say “of course it’s hard, it’s biological. We’re wired for stability, not change”. An exercise in futility would be to bank on convincing people that a new process will be better.

We started asking anyone that would indulge more questions about how they manage content and kept hearing a couple of things over and over. When asked how they manage their centralized libraries of content there was 100% unanimity. Heads would inevitably lower and voices soften as if embarrassed by their answer. The dark chorus was in unison on their reliance and contempt of Windows file folders. We had more than a hunch that would be the answer. After asking the first couple of dozen times and hearing the same answer from teams that ranged in size from a handful to thousands we knew there was an opportunity to try to help solve a big problem.

back_crop

Windows file folders make for a terrible database. I think everyone can testify that digging through directory trees to try to find something can be a frustrating experience. When added up would you want to know how much time you waste each year digging? A couple of minutes here, ten minutes there, no occurrence is painful enough to cause a revolution but in aggregate the pain is real. It’s the classic “death by a million cuts”. With Windows file folders, each individual file is relegated to a single location or worse, copies have to be made if you want the same thing accessible in different locations. Why do we do this?

We also had a suspicion (I’m painfully aware of my own habits) that many people also “keep their own local stash” apart from the central repositories. When asked how much of that went on in their operations that reality was also confirmed . But perhaps more interestingly, we began hearing another theme. When you need something, particularly AEC-related content, you’re likely to try to dig back through an old project file to find it rather than fight the Windows folders someone spent an inordinate amount of time organizing. “Hey Bob, what was that project where we used x” or “Kim, do you remember if we used x in project y?”. And then off you go, a new scavenger hunt. Sound familiar? The archived project file served as a better database than the central file folders!

Parsing these hundreds of conversations led us to identify what we think is at the core of efficiently getting to content. Context matters. Duh! It’s how people think. We’re frustrated with Windows file folders because it forces us to try to think in unnatural ways. We dig back into archived projects for nuggets of gold because the initial project context was a well-defined path and the first thing that entered our brain when those synapses started firing. If you enjoy learning about this kind of thing you should read Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow. It helps explain not only how people think but why our brains are wired that way. Here’s the short version… the brain is an amazingly complex organ, biologically wired for efficiency. Given this understanding we think the way we go about organizing and accessing content needs to change.

foldersWindows File Folders Do Serve A Purpose

The reality is that Windows file folder can work… for the person who created them. That’s why everyone else (sans the person who created them) gets frustrated with central repositories. It’s also why everyone keeps their own stash. It fits “their” context, at least until it doesn’t. Those file folders can work as a logical way to store content. All those files have to be named something and physically go somewhere don’t they! The trick is to separate the problems. Divide and conquer. Treat the storage problem separately from the retrieval problem. This led us down a new path.

AVAIL

With all of this newfound knowledge we set out to attack the problem in a new way. #159 will be different! We established these primary criteria for a solution…

1. Don’t disrupt current work flows. It’s futile to start there. Rather, augment what’s already going on.
2. Don’t require anyone to move their existing content (ie. you can leave it in those awkward Windows file folders). Admittedly this was probably driven initially by a desire to position opposite all of the “store it in the cloud” offerings that are popping up daily, but in reality it’s about separating the storage problem from the retrieval problem. Who cares where the content lives as long as your users can get to it easily. Moving content “to the cloud” doesn’t solve the context/retrieval problem.
3. Provide the end users with a visually driven, context-sensitive way of finding content.
4. Be content agnostic. There are any number of important types of files that need to be centralized, organized and retrieved.

Here’s how AVAIL works. First, we let you create Channels for accessing content. The concept of a Channel in AVAIL is the primary way of beginning to provide proper context for content. You can create any number of Channels and each Channel can contain any combination of content.

Secondly, want to build two or more Channels that contain some of the same content? You can, and without making copies of the file(s). AVAIL doesn’t move content around, it’s indexed. That’s how we begin separating where the content is “stored” from how it is “consumed”. The index provides flexibility on the front end. It let’s you get to content from multiple entry points (Channels) and is the key to providing unlimited contextual entry points to the same piece of content.

Thirdly, provide a visual way to drill down to the content you need. AVAIL does this with a new tag-driven filtering technology we call Panoply. Panoply provides the ability to create contextually sensitive arrangements of tags per Channel. As you click on Tags in the Filters panel of a Channel you are essentially expressing intent, a direction. Tags that are irrelevant based on your choices disappear. It’s a dynamic contextual path of sorts. It’s one of those things you have to experience to fully appreciate its effectiveness. A massive amount of meta-data can be encoded as Tags and arranged for logical context in AVAIL. You can parse through thousands of files to get to just the right content in a handful of clicks. Need to see the same content in a different context? The same content can live in a different Channel with filtering designed to fit the new context.

DW_AVAIL_Panoply

We think we’re onto something and working hard to fulfill the promise. The first place you can experience AVAIL and the new Panoply approach to filtering is in the recently released Detail Warehouse product. AVAIL is providing the interface for managing a library of over 27,500 native-built Revit Drafting Views. We’ll also be showing off AVAIL at a couple of events before the end of the year. Look for us at the RTC Europe (booth# 18) event in Budapest, Hungary at the end of October and soon after at Autodesk University (booth# 1213) the first week of December in Las Vegas, NV USA. If you can’t catch us at any of those event you can sign up for updates at avail.archvision.com.

DETAIL WAREHOUSE, AVAIL & PANOPLY

0014668DETAIL WAREHOUSE

ArchVision has just released a new content subscription service called DETAIL WAREHOUSE. The DETAIL WAREHOUSE provides access to over 27,500 native Revit Drafting Views designed to kick-start or supplement your in-house Revit standards library. The collection is comprised of foundation, door, window and roof details representing 50 sub-categories of construction details. In addition, you’ll also have access to nearly 1000 Revit Components.

The goal of DETAIL WAREHOUSE is to provide you with an efficient starting point and ongoing complement to your own internal library. For only $499 per year you can access the entire reference library drawing on what you need, when you need it. Learn more at DETAIL WAREHOUSE.

AVAIL

DW_AVAIL_ChannelsBesides offering the most extensive collection of Revit Drafting Views available anywhere, access to the DETAIL WAREHOUSE is provided via ArchVision’s innovative new content management platform called AVAIL. Through AVAIL, DETAIL WAREHOUSE subscribers can access foundation, door, window and roof “Channels” and search and download content closely matching their needs. A Properties Panel presents high-resolution previews of each Drafting View. AVAIL let’s users browse or search the content in a Channel but also offers an innovative new way to find content we call “Panoply”.

PANOPLY

As you can imagine the terms and tags used to describe the construction details found in DETAIL WAREHOUSE can be complex making traditional search necessarily complicated. AVAIL solves that problem using our proprietary filtering technology called “Panoply”. At the core of Panoply is a concept we refer to as “contextual filtering”; allowing you to narrow the content being displayed in each Channel based on a pre-curated sets of relevant tags. As tags are selected Panoply reduces the relevant selection set providing you with a “dynamic path” of sorts for locating content.

Panoply is something you have to experience to appreciate. With just a few button clicks you can filter through thousands of pieces of content. AVAIL, with it’s integrated Panoply technology, is being developed to provide you with a robust solution for managing, publishing, and accessing content on your network in a user-friendly way. I refer to it as making content “human” again. No more archaic filename abbreviations or ridiculous file folder structures to stand in between you and the content you need. The centralized content on your network will be liberated, no longer the victim of traditional Windows file folders. We’ll be talking more about AVAIL and Panoply in the coming weeks.

If you’d like to learn more about AVAIL and be notified when updates are available visit avail.archvision.com.

DW_AVAIL_Panoply

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