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.

Dashboard 2.1 Adds Viewport Mode and Channel Filters

A new version (2.1.5) of Dashboard has just released that includes a couple of significant features we think you’ll enjoy.  You can download the latest installer at https://archvision.com/dashboard/download.
 
Viewport
 
Viewport for Dashboard is a new 3D viewing mode that lets you preview your RPCs in full 3D.  For 2D motion RPCs (2.5D) it will also let you scrub through the animation sequence with a simple time slider.
 
Viewport_mode
 
Besides being a great new RPC preview tool Viewport for Dashboard can drastically improve your work flow for using RPCs in Photoshop.  If the name Viewport sounds familiar it might be because you’ve been using the RPC Viewport plug-in for Photoshop.  That plug-in allows you to open and view RPCs directly in Photoshop, choose a viewing angle, and open the chosen view onto a new layer.  Sounds ok but for anybody whose used the tool to place lots of RPCs the process can be tedious.  When you use the Viewport plug-in directly in Photoshop it has to close each time in order to place the content on a new layer meaning you have to go back into the menu to initiate it each time.  Viewport for Dashboard replaces that workflow.
 
Now when you preview an RPC directly in Dashboard using the new Viewport viewing mode you can choose your viewing angle and click the Render button.  A small thumbnail will appear just below the Render button that you can then drag & drop directly into Photoshop.  If you’re using Photoshop CS5 or above the new rendered view of your RPC will be placed on a new layer as a Smart Object that you can scale and place within your scene.
 
We think you’ll find this new work-flow to be a huge time saver when using your RPCs in Photoshop.  Hopefully you’ll love us for it rather than cursing us for not having it sooner!
 
Filters
 
We’re continuing to roll in expanded features to the core of Dashboard.  With this new release you’ll see the addition of Filters at the bottom of the browser.  
 
Filters_1
 
The idea is to take meta data associated with content and use it as a Tag Cloud.  That Tag Cloud can then be used to filter content being viewed in each Channel.  For example, if you click on the People Channel and open the Filters panel you’ll see all of the Tags currently associated with the content in that Channel.  The Tag Cloud will by default sort by Popularity of the tag but you can also choose to display them alphabetically.  Clicking on one of the Tags will filter the content within that Channel to show only those RPCs that have that Tag.  Pretty simple.  Choose an additional tag from the cloud and you’re performing a boolean “and” search.  Clicking on “female” and “sitting” will show you only the RPCs of sitting females. There’s also a new “local only” option on the Filter bar that lets you choose to see only content that resides locally (ie. already downloaded).

 
Give it a try! It can be a huge time saver.  We believe the concept of filtering rather than explicit searches provides you with an alternative quick way to drill down to just the right content in an intuitive, visual interface.  

The (near) Future of RPC – Custom Content

Several members of our team traveled to Las Vegas week before last for Autodesk University 2013. In conjunction with the developer meetings and user events we held our own private gathering with a couple dozen ArchVision customers. During that event we gave everyone an update of the latest commercially available products as well as a preview of some things we’ve been working on. We brought a little bit of Kentucky with us hosting a bourbon tasting event at the Emeril Lagasse restaurant Table 10. Everyone seemed to enjoy the bourbon and the company. The official story is everyone behaved themselves. But not everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!

RPC_creatorWe’re weeks away from beginning to release a new RPC creation tool. I say “beginning to release” because we plan to slow-roll this out to select alpha/beta testers in January. As those in attendance at the “Bourbon Club” event in Vegas witnessed first hand, it’s really cool! RPC Creator will be integrated tightly with Dashboard. You can drag and drop any 32-bit PNG or TIF image onto the RPC Creator tool within Dashboard and we’ll automagically create an RPC of that image for you, complete with a custom icon and preview. All you need to do is give it a Name and a Height so it will scale properly in your scene. A few seconds later you can begin dragging and dropping that RPC into Revit, 3ds Max or Autocad!

If you’re like most you have quite a collection of both commercially available imagery as well as your own custom images painstakingly matted out in Photoshop or some other image editing tool. With the new RPC Creator tool you’ll be able to convert each of those images into a fully functioning RPC in seconds. We think one of the most valuable aspects of the RPC platform is the ability to get image-based data into an application like Revit or 3ds Max with the least amount of effort. As a native image/texture you’d have to create geometry in your scene, add the image as a texture to a material, assign the material, figure out how to get that geometry to always face your camera, etc. Many, many steps and depending on the application, maybe impossible to do (does Revit even have a “look at” feature???). As an RPC, drag and drop it into your scene with no additional steps.

Another feature of Dashboard that will be rolling out in conjunction with the RPC Creator will be the ability to add Tags to any RPC. These tags are then search-able making it easy to find the content you’re looking for. We’re also making those tags “universal” meaning if you’ve added a tag to an RPC, everyone else in the world using that RPC benefits by being able to search on that tag. We think this will have an incredibly powerful network effect on the way content is searched and managed within Dashboard. The beauty of this universal tagging approach to content is that you didn’t have to share the content itself for the tags to be inherited. Without getting into too much detail, imagine that you purchased a commercially available library of image-based content that you want to convert to RPC. There are likely thousands of others around the world who did the same thing. If you add a tag to a piece of content that tag will automatically associate itself with an instance of that content anywhere it is seen by Dashboard! Think of it as crowd-sourcing of tags. Small, incrementally valuable pieces of information aggregate with the content. The community builds value around their assets. We think it will be a win-win for everyone.

We’re excited about getting this in your hands and working feverishly to finish up some of the final details. If you have a lot of 32-bit imagery and you’d like to be one of our RPC Creator betas, let us know. Talk to you soon.

Randall

Live Webinar Tomorrow: Discover What’s New with ArchVision RPC and Revit

Live Webinar 11-20-2013

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

ArchVision Dashboard Configuration 101

Team ArchVision has been working to make RPCs easier to use than ever before. We’ve moved the licensing to the cloud and put path configuration right at your fingertips.

I have created two easy-to-follow videos that show you how to configure paths in ArchVision Dashboard and configure RPC Plug-ins to connect to it.

First, lets start with path configuration.

Next, let me show you how to configure the RPC Plug-in to connect to the Dashboard

Piece of cake. So what are you waiting for? Get your ArchVision Dashboard here.

Help documentation is available here: help.archvision.com
Support is available here: support.archvision.com

Updates Server Upgraded to Accommodate More Features

Over the past few weeks your Dashboard may have prompted you with the message “AV.02.007 cannot connect to updates.archvision.com.” Increased user traffic resulted in connection time outs. To address this we have re-engineered a new server to accommodate the increased traffic, as well as, provide users faster access to downloads. Users should now only experience this error message when their Internet Security product (firewall) is preventing their Dashboard from connecting to ArchVision’s Updates Server. We appreciate your support during the upgrade process.

Error Message AV.02.007

Error Message AV.02.007

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