Taming The Content Beast

with_the_lions_1Content is an insatiable beast. Demands are ever changing. As with most things, what worked yesterday is replaced by something that provides more value today.

At ArchVision we think of content in terms of flow, not something that’s static. While we continue to add new RPCs to your subscription plan we realize it is never enough. Though we try, it’s an impossible task to satisfy the thousands of unique needs of our customers across the globe.

Make

In order to best service and satisfy those varied needs we began investing in opening up the RPC Platform to encourage others to participate. We’ve always encouraged support for RPC content in the leading applications. The success of RPC begins and ends with broad support in what we call the “host” applications; the software you find critical to your daily workflow. Today you can use RPC content in 3ds Max, Autocad, Revit, Microstation, Rhino, FormZ, Modo, Photoshop and with the leading rendering solutions like V-Ray and Accurender. There’s rumor something might be in the works for SketchUp as well. Check out labs.archvision.com for more info.

Support for RPC in the host apps doesn’t quell the content appetite. We had to open RPC to anyone who wanted to take advantage of the tightly integrated workflow. We started this process several years ago by moving to a subscription business model. This allowed us to truly think of RPC content as a never ending flow available to subscribers and to look for others who may have content that could be delivered most effectively via RPC.

Last year we released a new and improved RPC Creator tool integrated with the ArchVision Dashboard. RPC Creator lets anyone drag and drop a PNG or TIFF formatted image onto Dashboard and instantly create an RPC. That ease of creating RPCs has brought thousands of new RPCs into existence over the past year.

As part of this initiative we were pleased to announce our first RPC Publishing partner, 3dRender, and the availability of their popular Pro-Viz People textures in the RPC format. We’ll be announcing additional partners in the coming months.

So now that we’ve got you making RPCs what’s the next logical step?

Share

Stash!We believe many of you will be willing to share the RPCs you’ve been making with the new RPC Creator tool. If every matted PNG or TIFF image could be converted to RPC it’s more likely you’ll be able to find just the right content to satisfy your needs.

So we’ve started an experiment we call Stash!. Stash! is a repository of RPCs you’ve created and offered to share with the community of RPC users around the world. It’s not fancy (yet) but gets the job done. All you need to do is hit the “Submit to Stash!” button and upload your Custom RPC. We’ll test the RPC and post your submission to Stash! to share with everyone.

If you haven’t visited Stash! you should check out some of the content your colleagues have contributed and add them to your collection. Better yet, if you’ve made something you think others would enjoy make your own contribution to Stash!

Randall

Why Architects Hate Entourage

Most arch visualization folks hate entourage. They hate seeing people in their renderings. They hate that they have to try to reproduce the world “around” their structures. They hate anything that breaks the realm of photorealism. They hate having to painstakingly place individual people in their scenes. They hate that the model of car they personally drive isn’t readily available to drop into their model. Haters gonna hate.

But you know who loves entourage? Clients! They love seeing their mall parking lot full of cars (customers!). They love seeing rows of semi trucks docked behind their warehouse (customers!). They love seeing life brimming in their restaurants, concert halls, sports venues and retail shops (customers!). We can talk about how entourage helps communicate scale; blah, blah, blah. In the end, customers want to feel great about their new project. Anything you can do to convey warm, happy thoughts about how well the project is going to be received transmits those happy thoughts. Architectural entourage can help.

In late 2013 I wrote a post titled Rendering vs Presentation that outlined our view of the changing visualization workflow in the design industry. The democratization of visualization is changing who is creating the communication work-product, what tools they’re using, and the usefulness in various parts of the design/customer-interaction process. No longer is visualization relegated to “that guy in the corner” who is the only one with the tenacity (read crazy enough) to master the tools used to create photorealistic renderings. Rather, visuals generated from 3D models are being used to convey design intent in presentations at key points throughout the design process.  A new generation or two of new hires joining the workforce with 3D skills combined with less costly software solutions translates into  value understood by practitioner and client alike.

Entourage WorkshopOne of our goals in 2014 was to increase the usefulness of RPCs within Revit by providing users with the tools they need to customize the look and feel of the RPCs in their scenes. Entourage Workshop was born. Entourage Workshop is a Revit add-in that lets you create and apply Styles to RPC people and trees in your model. These Styles control the type of geometry and appearance (color, transparency and brightness) of the RPCs in your model allowing you to achieve photorealistic and non-photorealistic presentation results.

Entourage Workshop lets you create reusable Styles for achieving silhouettes of people or trees, control the model-view geometry of the RPCs in your scene including removal of the “base” and fine-tune the brightness of the RPCs to better match your scene in the various rendering modes.

There’s a love/hate relationship with entourage. We’ve heard thousands of stories over the years. The goal of RPC and Entourage Workshop is to help you learn to love entourage. Give your clients visuals, chocked-full of entourage, with your own personal Style. What’s not to love!

The Power of Universal Tags

We’ve been hard at work on the ability to easily convert 2D textures into RPC and now have a new Dashboard-integrated RPC Creator tool in widespread use. Converting your PNG and TIFF cutouts into RPC is as easy as dragging and dropping those alpha-masked images onto the Drop Zone within the RPC Creator. Add a Name and Height and an RPC is generated complete with a custom icon and preview. As an RPC you’ll find many advantages over the original PNG or TIFF format including automatic Sketchup-style “Face Me” capabilities within applications like 3ds Max, Revit and Autocad. For those of you who have gone through the process of trying to get your 2D cutouts to play nicely in those apps you know how many steps it takes to accomplish what should be a simple task. RPC makes that pain go away.

We’re also introducing the first of a series of organizational tools designed to make finding the right content easy. Accompanying the RPC Creator is a new Tag Editor. The Tag Editor lets you add Tags (metadata) to the RPCs you create. These Tags make content searchable within Dashboard. We’re also introducing a visual tag-cloud feature called Filters that presents the Tags that have been added to content in an easy-to-navigate visual interface. Click on a Tag or Tags and quickly filter to the content you need.

Filters

As we began working on these new features we thought about how best to help you organize and make use of your content. We made several observations:

Observation #1: Everyone knows tagging can be a powerful organizing tool but there’s one big problem… nobody wants to spend time tagging things.

Observation #2: A lot of the content you use is also being used by other people around the world.

So why not take advantage of the fact that the same content is in use across the globe and let Tags automatically follow the same content? With Dashboard we have the ability to do just that! We’re excited to introduce a concept we call Universal Tags. Here’s how it works. We don’t share your content. In fact, your content never has to leave your local environment for Universal Tags to work. We create a unique identifier for each piece of content and use that to track the Tags associated with the content. The effect is that when you introduce a piece of content into your own environment that has been viewed in Dashboard by someone else, we essentially get an up-vote  for common Tags that have been associated with that content. After a specified number of up-votes the Tags can be converted to public tags.  If no one has added tags or you’re the first to introduce the content to Dashboard you’ll have to add your own tags. It’s a powerful network effect, as tags are added by one person everyone benefits!

As you know, information is only as useful as it is accurate. So it’s up to you to add meaningful tags. The Tag Editor will let you remove Tags that you don’t find useful and we use those as votes as to the value of that Tag to others.  We also use this concept to automatically provide a Name and Height to RPCs during the RPC Creation process so assigning a descriptive name and accurate height helps everyone.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts on these new features.

ArchVision Heads to the Revit Technology Conference 2014 in Chicago, IL

rtc2014na_venue_00 (1)

One of the best conferences for BIM and Revit users, the Revit Technology Conference offers users and managers the opportunity to explore new and emerging technologies in the industry.

Industry leading speakers, consultants and trainers will be on hand to work with attendees to share best practices, teach new methodologies, and share tips and tricks. Stay current with the latest happenings at the conference, follow #rtcna2014 on Twitter.

Some of our favorite speakers and users will be on hand to share their firm’s BIM and Revit success stories:

Marcello Sgambelluri, one of last year’s top rated speaker will dig into Dynamo for Revit.

Paul Aubin, the well known author will be presenting topics that served partly as inspiration for his recent Renaissance Revit book.

Aaron Maller. @Twiceroadsfool. Revitforum.org. One the industry’s most well respected bloggers.

Jeffery Pinheiro (aka “The Revit Kid” Blog) is going to walk us through going from Revit to Max to Vray.

What about ArchVision?
ArchVision’s team will demonstrate some new features while there, including the latest version of Viewport. This version of Viewport offers real time previews for RPCs and the ability to drag & drop rendered views directly into any application that supports alpha masked images. No RPC Plug-in is needed. We’re excited to show it off!

It’s a great line up!

LHB Minneapolis Office Renderings Submitted for LEED® CI Platinum

Gathering Space,  LHB, Inc, Minneapolis

Gathering Space, LHB, Inc, Minneapolis

LHB is dedicated to being environmentally responsible, reducing long term operating costs, and improving the quality of life for their clients. This is true even when they are their own clients. LHB is pursuing LEED® CI Platinum certification for their Minneapolis office.

In this project, RPC Content helps communicate the size and the new collaborative environment the Minneapolis LHB offices offer. The design features of the space, such as overhead fabric ductwork and LED lighting, are part of an effort to gain Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) Platinum designation for commercial interiors from the U.S. Green Building Council.

We always enjoy seeing customer projects and how they utilize RPC Content. In this project, renderings were completed in Revit. ArchVision RPC Content was ‘ghosted’ in Photoshop and then merged into the Revit scene for final output. Project design by Bruce Cornwall, models by Nick Vreeland, and renderings by Daniel Stine.

For tutorials on RPC lighting and techniques, please visit our help site. To see how to place RPC Content into Revit scenes, view our video tutorials. Get started using RPC Content, download ArchVision Dashboard here.

Meeting Spaces Final 03

Meeting Space, LHB, Inc, Minneapolis

LHB ranked as one of the top engineering and architectural firms in the nation by Engineering News-Record (ENR), Architectural Record, and as a 2013 Hot Firm by ZweigWhite.

LHB ranked No. 381, up from No. 463 two years ago, in the ENR Top 500 Design Firms List. In addition, LHB placed No. 249 on Architectural Record’s Top 300 Architecture Firms List, and No. 45 on The Zweig Letter Hot Firm List.

Phone Booth Final 01

Phone Booth, LHB, Inc, Minneapolis

Want to see your firm featured?

Share your project with us. Contact us at dfife@archvision.com

Rendering vs Presentation

Images courtesy of Steven Shell (http://scshell.wordpress.com/)

For years we considered RPC a “rendering” tool, designed to help create photorealistic imagery quickly and easily.  Photorealism was at the core of our DNA.  How deep? The “P” in RPC stands for “Photorealistic” (RPC = Rich Photorealistic Content)! Our ongoing observations of how imagery is created has led us to a broader definition of where and how our products are (or could be) used.  Many more people are creating “Presentations” as opposed to “Renderings”.  What’s the difference?  I think it has less to do with the technical definition than it does the workflow.  In the early days of design visualization someone created a 3D model and then created “renderings” in specialized software like 3dsMax where materials and lighting were painstakingly added to produce an image.  The workflow looked something like 2D Cad > 3D Model > Materials > Lighting > Rendering  where multiple specialists generally assumed roles along that process to produce visuals and the person creating the design was generally not the person creating the renderings.

I’ll claim the traditional world of design visualization changed when Sketchup was introduced.  Sketchup wasn’t about rendering, it was about modeling and for the first time (Another claim… the magic was the the push/pull feature – http://www.google.com/patents/US6628279) 3d modeling became accessible to every designer no matter the level of cad/graphics proficiency.  I can remember being at various tradeshows when Sketchup was first introduced and witnessing older architects (who had largely skipped CAD) almost giddy with excitement because they now had a tool that wasn’t intimidating or downright scary to use.  That’s software magic and anyone who was around Brad Schell and the @Last Software team in those early days knows exactly what I’m talking about.  I know for ArchVision it was a bit of a paradigm challenge as we worked to understand how RPC could and should play in this new world of design “modeling”.  There wasn’t a traditional “rendering” process to interface with.  We punted on trying to make RPC function directly inside Sketchup, recognizing the technical advantage of RPC at the time was in the “rendering” pipeline and not in this new world that was a hybrid of both modeling and visualization.  With the ongoing success of Revit we’ve changed our tune.  What we now think of as “Presentation” is here to stay and we believe will continue to be the dominant form of design visualization in the future.

I need to give credit to my friend Steven Shell, who I met at the RTC Conference (http://www.rtcevents.com) this past summer, for pushing me to think about this a bit more.  Steven does some incredible “presentation” and rendering work natively within Revit.  You should check out his website (http://www.scshell.com/) and blog (http://scshell.wordpress.com/) to see some of his work.  Steven is also a great teacher so if you get a chance to sit in on one of his classes don’t miss it!  He’ll be passing on some of his wisdom at Autodesk University later this month – https://events.au.autodesk.com/connect/speakerDetail.ww?PERSON_ID=31B2FC96BD614DDB34740336273DBBC2.  Steven is an architect who uses Revit to create great communication tools to share with his clients.  No external renderer, no Photoshop.  Pure presentation techniques from within Revit.

What used to be a multi-step (and often multi-disciplined) approach to creating visualizations of a design are now emanating from a single-step process; building a model.  All of the tools, previously part of a linear production line process for producing a rendering, are now “built-in” and the visuals are quickly becoming a byproduct of the modeling process.  This is leading ArchVision to look for opportunities to extend RPC to accommodate these new workflows.  Watch for new enhancements to the way RPC works in Revit in the coming months.  We’re adding the ability to display silhouetted views of RPCs within Revit as an alternative to the default photorealistic views.  Next up will be the ability to assign and manage varying geometric representations of content.  All of these enhancements acknowledge that design visualization is evolving and becoming more accessible.  Great news for the design industry!

Dashboard… ArchVision’s 3rd Epoch

Hard to believe but RPC recently celebrated it’s 15th birthday!  The original 3D Studio RPC plug-in and a whopping 32 pieces of RPC content were introduced to the world at the AEC Systems tradeshow [Booth 631] in Chicago in June of 1998.  The “ArchSoft RealPeople Plug-in” with Casual People Vol 1 was $399.  Business People Vol 1 was another $199.  How things have changed!

Over the years ArchVision’s RPC products moved beyond a relatively simple 3D Studio plug-in and a handful of content libraries to plug-in or native RPC support for over a dozen design/rendering platforms, several thousand RPCs produced by ArchVision and tens of thousands of custom RPCs created by our users.  In hindsight I can break the past 15 years into two major epochs.  The first was one of easing RPC integration with our partner’s software products and continued growth and supply of RPC content.  By 2005 ArchVision had produced and released over 100 content collections and supporting over a dozen rendering applications including most industry standard Autodesk, Bentley and Adobe products.  A customer purchasing all of our products would find a sticker shock of nearly $30,000 at checkout!

Beginning in 2005 we began making major investments in our back-end infrastructure; setting the stage to move to a subscription-based licensing model.  January 2007 brought the start of RPCs second epoch, RPC All Access.  RPC All Access took what was previously $30,000 of software and made it all available for $499 per year!  A huge value proposition for our customers and a dramatic change in how we thought about our products and business model.

DashboardThe launch and iterative release of our Dashboard product over the past couple of years is ushering in our latest epoch in delivering relevant design visualization and content management solutions.  Our goal is to remain current with changes in our customers evolving production environments and continue to provide value.  We have found ourselves serving not only full-time visualization artists using products like 3ds Max but also many architects creating visuals directly inside products like Revit.  We see this as a challenge to move beyond “Rendering” to that of helping create “Presentations”.  We’re excited about ArchVision Dashboard as it is setting the stage for a bevy of new features and services to help in this transition.  Following is a rundown of the latest RPC features enabled by Dashboard and a sneak peek at features we have in the pipeline.

Drag & Drop

Support for RPC with Revit goes all the way back to Revit 3, prior to Autodesk’s acquisition of the platform.  Most recently, Autodesk chose RPC as the native tree/plant solution for Revit.  Revit users will find a good selection of tree and plants shipping with the product.  Getting additional RPCs outside of what shipped with the product was another matter.   As I’m sure many of you are painfully aware, getting an RPC from All Access into Revit was over 20 steps!  We found that unacceptable and went to work on making that a one-step process from Dashboard.  Now users can drag & drop any RPC from Dashboard directly into their Revit (2013 and above) model.  You can also Drag & Drop directly into 3ds Max and Autocad from Dashboard.

Channels

Dashboard_ChannelsOne of the primary goals of Dashboard is to provide improved ways to organize and search your content.  Channels are one of our first organizing tools.  We think of Channels as the first order of organization designed for visual browsing.  Clicking on a Channel within Dashboard filters specific content that has been tagged to that channel.  Dashboard supports what is called a “many-to-many” relationship between content and Channels.  For example, you may find the same Oak Tree RPC in the Trees Channel as well as the Revit Channel.  Channels represent different ways of organizing all of your content into logical groupings.  A future update of Dashboard will allow you to create your own Channels and organize content in new ways.

Search

Search is one of the easiest ways to find content.  In order for search to be effective the content being searched must carry the appropriate “tags” or “metadata” relevant to that piece of content.  With Dashboard we’ve made all content search-able by their tags.

Beacon

updates_1A great feature of Dashboard is the ability to monitor the applications you have installed that support RPC and help you keep RPC Plug-ins and related software installed and up-to-date.  We call the service that enables this feature “Beacon”.  Beacon keeps track of the current versions of software that are available and alerts you within Dashboard of any updates that are available. One click within Dashboard is all it takes to keep plug-ins up-to-date.

User-based Licensing-in-the-Cloud

Over the past year we’ve been working to move from a machine-based licensing model to a user-based licensing-in-the-cloud model.  There are several reasons for this move.  First, it fits better with the way our customers use our products.  They aren’t always working from one machine, sometimes moving between offices and from work to home.  With Dashboard you can log in from anywhere automatically retrieving your license.  This move to cloud-based licensing is also necessary for us to play well with the next generation of our partner’s products and services such as Autodesk RaaS.

Enterprise Deployment

We’re listening!  Many customers have dozens or even hundreds of users within their organization and admittedly, we haven’t made it very easy to deploy our solutions across an enterprise.  We’re working to change that.  Watch for a new “headless” Dashboard release for servers and easily deployable MSIs before year’s end.  We’re also building a new Admin panel inside of Dashboard where you’ll be able to see and manage licenses and content across your organization.  After that we plan to tackle centralized path management.  See, I said we’re listening!

RaaS (Rendering as a Service)

Autodesk launched it’s first labs experiment called Neon for rendering Revit models as a cloud service in 2010.  After native support for RPC was introduced in Revit and the RaaS service became official last year, our respective teams went to work on making sure all RPC Content will render in the service.  We’re about there!  Watch for full RPC-RaaS support beyond the native content that ships with Revit soon.

RPC Creator

We’ve had RPC Creator tools available for most of the 15 year history of RPC and you’ve created thousands of your own custom RPCs!  Soon you’ll be able to drop any 32-bit PNG, TIF or TGA image onto Dashboard and convert it to RPC!  This will allow you to take all of your commercial entourage libraries like those from Imagecels or Dosch Design or your own custom collection and convert them to RPC.  As RPC they become infinitely easier to use in any RPC-enabled application such as Revit or 3ds Max.  Dashboard will even automatically generate the preview images and icons for the RPC.  All you have to do is give the RPC a name and specify it’s real-world height.  No more building geometry, creating materials, adding textures, making objects ‘look-at’ cameras, blah, blah blah.  Just drag & drop and RPC takes care of the rest!

Entourage Workshop

Entourage silhouetting within Revit… that’s all we’ll say for now!

Randall Stevens

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