Monday, November 24, 2008

TurboSquid Revit Marketplace

Well the folks at TurboSquid finally did it, they have launched a market dedicated to Revit families. If you have worked with Revit at a superficial level you will probably think of family libraries of one of the mysteries of the software. If you have been fortunate enough to have received some good training, you will probably know some of the basics of creating families and know how much time can be invested in creating a good Revit family.

On the heels of all of TurboSquid's success in the visualization space they are now launching a beta version of a combined visualization and BIM site for Revit. Some of the families are render ready, others are for quantity takeoffs and creating a Building Information Model.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Creating Revit Families

Lately, I have been getting into creating Revit families. It's mostly been driven by personal interest in Revit and the co-incidence that TurboSquid is developing a market place for Revit families. My long time friend Michele Bousquet has been working there and it seems like TurboSquid is going to branch out from static 3D models into this new generation of parametric Modeling meant for AEC and BIM.

Here are a few of my efforts. Getting into creating parametric families has not been as difficult as I had imagined.

I'm hoping to put together a short crash course soon for those who would like to get into this as well.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Tree Storm

Trees Plugins for 3ds Max. I have no idea how many of them are out there but there seems to be tons. There are the standard foliage objects, and the 2 plugins who have demo versions shipping In the box.

Typically the problem with foliage is the amount of geometry which it adds to a typical scene. Well Tree Storm is no exception, but rendering times do not seem to be adversely affected. After some experimentation I was able to place about 100 trees in an empty scene, and render it with mental ray on my test system in about 3 minutes.

Recently, some of my students in my CGSociety course introduced me to trees created by Onyx. So I contacted them and they were kind enough to send me a version which I could evaluate. Well at first I was not sure I liked them, but after closer inspection and examination they are working great.

At the heart of the program is the Adjust Polygons dialog which allows you to adjust the number of polygons that an individual tree will use. Those who are familiar with adjusting foliage in 3ds Max should not take long to get familiar with this dialog.

Now the trick to get mental ray to play nice with this plugin was to use instances extensively when cloning the trees. Take 3 or 4 unique trees, instance them, use rotation and scale to give some diversity and your memory requirements go down. Therefore more trees.

I think you'll agree the results look great.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Architectural Interior Space Rendering

I've been working on some courseware for Autodesk and just thought I'd post an image which I created for the project.

The space (Walls, Doors, etc.) was created in Revit and linked into 3ds Max 2009. Equipment and accessories were modeled in 3ds Max. Rendering used mental ray with ProMaterials and Arch & Design materials.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Cool Blog on mr and VRay

One of my friends and collegues pointed me recently to a rather cool blog site on mental ray and VRay rendering. Thought I would share this with my readers.

have fun and enjoy..


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Revit City

As I was seaching for some Revit families from manufacturers last week, I came across the Revit City web site. Now I had heard a bit about this site (both good and bad) and thought it would be a good time to look into what could be obtained from it. So here goes...

There was a lot of material on the site, and even though I have not had to use the CSI standards category for a while, the site had the same look and feel to it. Organized into familiar categories, I went looking for windows. Seems like you can never have enough window types in Revit.

There are some very interesting Revit families to create windows on the site, and I think its commendable that things have come this far with what is a free site fed by community members. The first image is an image of an impressive window with ornamental trim. It does though act more like a traditional AutoCAD block rather than a family. It has two sizes which you can't adjust though parameters, and only the depth of the window was adjustable, and that did not work 100% either.

A couple more examples of windows which again work fine when inserted into your project. But when you search for parameters to change or when you change them things do go ary.

I think that these attempts are good, and that if you take them as they are, (things you have obtained for free) they are great. Play with them on projects you are doing as tests for Revit. When you get into the serious projects you need professionally made families.

Next post, I'll have a look at the Anderson window families. Unitl then, cheers.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

SWEET...!!! - Sweets Online 3D Catalogue.

Well this is pretty cool, Sweets Catalogue has an online edition which features 60 manufacturer's products in a 3D collection which can be viewed using the Google Sketchup Viewer.

After installing the Sketchup Viewer, you download .skp file to your local drive and view them or use them in a building model.

Models range from Windows and Doors to Fridges and Stoves.

It's a great start to be able to view manufacturers products online in 3D. Revit offers even more possibilities. Revit families are the equivalent these 3d elements in the sketchup catalogue but with so much more. Imagine being able to import a model from a manufacturer, and being able to generate a high quality render in Revit's new mental ray engine. Pretty pictures aside, when you populate a building project in Revit with a manufacturer's products you can generate quantity takeoffs from the Revit project into easy to use schedules.

In order to make this the most useful all manufacturers need to get onboard with producing Revit libraries. So an entire project can be populated with information direct from the manufacurer. Sweets would be a great leader in this effort.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

HDRI Images

More and more people are asking questions about HDRI images. HDRI or High Dynamic Range Images are photographic files which are capable of storing information at different exposures. Whenever you have reflections and /or want to use an image to light a scene in 3ds Max HRDI will improve the quality of your scene.

I'm no expert in taking these images, but I know it can be complicated, so I did stumble across the other day an excellent image database. Like many model sites this site contains many HDRI images which you can purchase for a fee.

A sample image is provided free.

Have a look, I think you will like it.


Friday, June 27, 2008

CGSociety Arch Viz Course

In May of this year I started an Architectural Visualization course with CGSociety ( This beginner / intermediate course is delivered online to students interested in learning architectural visualization with 3ds Max and mental ray. The class closes this July 13th, and is has been a long ride, what with preparing all my classes and keeping up with student work. It has been interesting to me to see this type of format of online course, as I have had several experiences with delivering online (or distance) learning before.

There are so many forms of online learning, that the mind does truly boggle. when you include distance learning and what is referred to as blended learning the methods of creating a course increase exponentially. Used to be, get a classroom, get an instructor, bring in students, conduct class. Simple, but often extremely expensive.

I've always contended that the best form of learning happens, when you have that problem while you work. You lean back in your chair and ask your buddy sitting next to you, "hey, Amer, how do you do that thingy with the gizmo?" and get a quick explanation. You try it, maybe show it to your bud again, get a thumbs up, maybe a few tweaks etc. What happened there? Just-in-time learning? A teachable moment? Direct knowledge transfer from master to apprentice? Coaching? People teaching each other? Answer: probably all of the above...

I figure the more learning online can approach the above ideal learning scenarios the better. One of the things I really like about the CGSociety course has been the ability of students to ask me questions directly, they occasionally send me files which they are having problems with and I'll try to deconstruct and fix them, letting them know how I did it.

By far the best thing about the class has been the interaction between the students. Each student gets a work thread every week, where they post images of things they are doing. Everyone else can see their work, my responses, and post comments as well. These threads are so active that sometimes there are 5-6 posts before I even get to see the original student's post. Students at intermediate levels are brings a vast amount of knowledge to the course. Many are expert in other software, and want to learn 3ds Max. It humbles me to see all the knowledge in my class. All the better for the students though, it is like there are 10 teachers instead of just one.

I heard it once said tht the best university is one which has a library and a coffee shop. Well I guess CGSociety has accomplished just that. Cheers to them.

When the course wraps up I'll see if I can get some of my students work posted


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Revit 2009 to 3ds Max 2009 Curriculum

One of the projects which I had the pleasure to work on recently, was for the Autodesk Media and Entertainment division's education department. The project entailed writing a short tutorial on the process involved in rendering a Revit 3D model in 3ds Max.

Now it's been several releases since you have been able to take a Revit Model, export it to DWG, and then Link / Import it into 3ds Max. In 2009, a new method of exporting and importing has been introduced using an FBX file.

The greatest advantage in using FBX is the amount of information which is now transfered from Revit to 3ds Max. Revit 2009 now has the mental ray rendering engine incorporated within it, and when you start the rendering procss in Revit, by assigning lights and materials, this information then gets transfered to 3ds Max....!!! ............SWEET............!!!

Through FBX, Revit metadata also gets transfered. Like the Revit Family, Category and Level. which you can use in 3ds Max to organize your models.

Through this improvement in Revit rendering technology, Autodesk appears to be recommending to designers to take their models and renderings as far as possible in Revit, and when ready transfer to 3ds Max for final renderings. Unfortunately, one of the things which is lacking at the moment is a complete resource of Revit components and families. Rendering elements like furniture and speciality Revit families like windows and doors typically are built from scratch by companies adopting Revit. This makes for a long and expensive implementation of the software.

Some help is available, as in the Revit content site,

Much more is needed.

Allways looking foward to better tools.

Catching up on the Blog

Well folks it has been a while since I wrote, so catchup time. What have I been up to I'll get into a few posts in the next few days. As allways there are some really cool developments in Architecture, 3D Visualization, and the BIM industry. I'll separate these posts so they all don't merge into one massive post.

Well I'm ready to write so here we go...


Monday, February 18, 2008

Penn State U. Presentation

Last weekend I was invited to deliver a presentation to Architecture students at Penn State University. My presentation centered around the workflow from Revit to 3ds Max.

If you would like to download part of my presentation click on the link below:

This video was produced with Camtasia, and requires the tscc video codec available on the Techsmith website. If you require more info on downloading this video codec click on the link below.

More videos are available see the following posts from months gone by:

New Tip and Trick from Jamie Cardoso

About final gather

When saving the fg file at a small image size (IE 400x200 pixels), you should ensure that the image ratio and the camera view are locked. Prior to creating the final big size renders (IE 2500x1250 pixels).

In addition, is prudent to first save the fg files in one computer only; preferably in one's local drive. Once the files are saved, you should then place (copy & paste) the saved the fg files in the network where other machines can find it. The same procedure should be applied to animations.

Note that, once the fg files are saved, any further changes to the lights, fg settings, objects and some material settings such as displacement values, self illumination values and glows, may result in having to delete and resave the fg files.

To delete, simply uncheck the Read Only (freeze) function, followed by clicking the X button to the right once or twice. Save the fg file again.

Any changes other than the ones mentioned earlier won't need the fg to be resaved (IE most material settings etc).

Myth about Final Gather files

A number of people believe that the secret behind achieving great renders lies in the fg and gi settings. This couldn't be further from the truth.

The fg settings are essential to produce renders and eliminate light bouncing artifacts. However there are only 3 factors that will significantly improve your renders:

1- The final Image sampling will ultimately change the look of your final image (IE from draft to high end).

2-A strategic use of lights and its colours (IE the placement of lights in areas of the scene where there is going to be an apparent definition between bright and dark areas, otherwise known as depth. Also, highlights in the scene and a wise choice of light colours).There are numerous architecture books focusing mainly in photography that you can use as reference for lighting.

3-Good choice of materials. With mental ray, most of the default shader settings are set to draft. If you have a good understanding these settings and utilize them accordingly, you will obtain superb results. Having objects with correct scale and realistic effects will also contribute to outstanding renders (IE correct bump values, right amount of glossiness; accurate shading and bitmap tiling etc).

In our book, Realistic Architectural Visualization with 3ds Max and mental ray, we have used relatively high fg settings in order to achieve satisfactory results. Generally keeping the fg settings as draft should be enough to render great images. I normally only change the following settings:

Rays per FG Point to 150: Note that higher values will dramatically increase the render times and Initial FG Point Density function can solve most fg problems.

Interpolate Over Num. FG Points to 80 as this won't affect much the fg process render times

Diffuse Bounces to 1/2 if there are any fg artifacts, simply increase the Initial FG Point Density to 3 or 4. Note that higher values will increase the fg process render times dramatically.

The ambient occlusion normally occurs in areas that are not directly lit by light. Most Hollywood CG studios use it also for directly lit areas as it adds an extra depth of reality to the renders. To do so, simply apply the ambient/Reflective Occlusion (base) parameters to the diffuse slot of your pre applied arch design shader.

If you previously had a bitmap applied to the diffuse slot, simply click the bitmap slot inside bitmap parameters.

Double click the ambient/Reflective Occlusion (base) parameters from the material/map browser. The replace map dialog box should appear, choose to keep the old map as sub-map.

There should be quite a few settings, but simply focus on the first 5 of them. When working with real size models, I normally use the following settings: (assuming that you are using meters as the unit system)

Samples=45 note that this won't increase the render time much
Bright=diffuse original colour (It is the slot where the diffuse bitmaps or shaders are applied to. If there are no bitmaps or shaders to be applied)
Dark=black colour
Max Distance=0.2

I only use it on every non transparent object.

Note that shaders such as satined metal from arch & design won't enable any bitmap/shader used in its diffuse colour slot. To enable it simply go to the arch & design main template and pan down to general maps parameters, and check the diffuse color function to enable it. In addition, go back up to the diffuse color swatch, copy by right clicking on it, click on the slot. In the ambient/Reflective Occlusion (base) parameters, paste it onto the bright colour swatch

Valuable Tips:

1-Metal shader: At times you may need to darken its original color diffuse swatch when working in relatively bright scenes.

2-By default most arch & design shader settings are set to draft. For best results without compromising the rendering times, simply:

a) uncheck the fast (interpolate) function

b) Change the interpolation grid density to 1(same as rendering)

3-Another method to help prevent loss of memory while rendering, is to increase the memory limit to about 2000

4-At present, direct 3d driver set up, works best with 3ds max 9 or higher, as oppose to any other driver. Users often experience memory, rendering and viewport display problems, when not using the adequate driver set up. To choose the driver, simply go to: main toolbar and click customize. On the dropdown list choose preferences; the dialog box choose pop up. To change the current driver set up simply click on the Revert from ... button.

5-When using mental ray, it is wise to apply the UVW modifier on objects that have shaders containing bitmaps. (IE Satin Varnished Wood; Glossy Varnished Wood; Rough Concrete; Polished Concrete; Glazed Ceramic; Glazed Ceramic Tiles; Masonry; Leather and Brushed Metal) Otherwise, you may encounter some UVW error messages when rendering.

6-At times when working in very bright or dark scenes, use the curve and/or RGB values to correct, brighten or darken materials.

7- You can also use the RGB and curve values as light sources, however you need to have at least one real light source in the scene, even if its multiplier value is only 0.5.

It is often easier to use the RGB and curve values without the exposure controls. This is due to the fact that, exposure controls evens out bright and dark areas of the scene.

In the image below, the coned shaped geometry and other objects had their bitmaps used as light sources to light up the scene. High RGB and curve values were used to achieve the right intensity of brightness and colour. The objects used as light sources had their physical properties set to: not cast shadows, not to receive shadows, not visible to camera, and not be visible to reflection/refraction.

8-The Glass (Thin Geometry) shader should be used mainly on straight surfaces, to avoid artifacts.

9-When using Glass (Physical) shader on surfaces that are not straight (IE revolving doors, spheres etc), its surface may render black at times. To correct this, simply change its diffuse colour swatch to a brighter colour.

10- When Network rendering, keep the backburner files as simple as possible to prevent rendering errors.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Tips and Q+A with Jamie Cardoso


My co-author on the book: Realistic Architectural Visualiztion with 3ds max and mental ray, Jamie Cardoso, has sent me a number of tips and a Q+A, that we thought might be nice to post on this blog. So you should see a number of new posts in the next few minutes, I hope you like them.

Roger C.

Grainy Quality to mr Renders

Q + A With Jamie Cardoso: Grainy Quality to mr Renders

Question: I bought your book Realistic Arch. Vis. And have gone through the first interior room tutorial. I’ve been trying to learn Mental Ray for a year now, but one thing I can’t figure out is why the renders of your files have this strange grainy quality to them. I’ve never produced a render with this using my own files, and I can’t figure out what it is about your settings which could be causing this. Can you please advise?

Jamie: This is to do with the fact that the render is at a small output size and also when the light's radius values are very high. This artifact happens with every high end rendering engine. Moreover, it frequently happens in enclosed scenes where lights (more than one) are bouncing across far too many objects.

There are 2 ways of by passing this:

1-To keep it at a small render size and get rid of the graininess, one should increase the U & V mr light samples (under area light parameters) to a point where there are no more grains (the value of 10 should be enough). This process will require some test renders, and it will increase the render times dramatically. By the way, this subject is mentioned in the book, at the end of the interior daylight tutorial.

2-The most common option amongst Hollywood film companies and 3D visualizers, is to render at higher resolution (IE 2500 pixels and above), and later decrease its original output size (IE 800 pixels) in photoshop etc, for web or e-mail purposes. Higher resolution renders are normally used for movies, publishing or marketing purposes. By the way, the big size render tutorial of the book cover image is also covered in the book.

When going through this tutorial, as mentioned in the book: save first the fg file by checking the read/write file function and clicking render at draft sampling settings (IE box filter; samples per pixel minim. 1/4 maxim. 4), the render size should not be higher than 500 pixels . Once rendered, the fg should be saved by then. The next step is to keep the read/write file function checked and also check the read only (fg freeze) this time around to ensure that the fg process will be bypassed. Finally set the final render output size to 2500 pixels or higher followed by also increasing the Sampling settings (IE gauss or mitchell filter type, samples per pixel min. 1 max. 16 or 64).

In both options, the rendering times will increase considerably however; the 2nd option is more reliable and professional.

Distributed Bucket Rendering, Windows Firewall Updates

Tips from Jamie Cardoso #1: Distributed Bucket Rendering, Windows Firewall Updates

For distributed bucket rendering, Windows firewall updates are now blocking the mental ray distributed bucket rendering system for max 9 and 2008

(IE raysat_3dsMax2008_32.bat;raysat_3dsMax2008_32.exe;raysat_3dsMax2008_32server.exe).

All the above for max 9 and 2008 need to be included in windows firewall exceptions list. To do so, simply go to: control panel + security center + windows firewall + in the exceptions list, simply add (program...) the list of raysat files for max 9 and 2008,one at the time. By the way, the raysat files can be found in: C:\Program Files\Autodesk\3ds Max 9 and/or 2008\mentalray\satellite.

Distributed Bucket Rendering

Tips from Jamie Cardoso #3: Distributed Bucket Rendering

IP addresses are more reliable and recommended by hollywood movie companies and visualization companies however, depending on the way one's network is set up, one may need to type the computer's name instead in order to make it function.

Big Marketing Images

Tips from Jamie Cardoso #3: Big Marketing Images

When rendering images bigger than 4000 pixels (marketing) with mental ray in one computer only, make sure that one uses the network render instead of distributed bucket rendering as mental ray may not render them. (depending on your machine's specs) To bypass this, simply send the file as net render and choose (check) split scan lines. Once that is checked, define the strips setup (pop up dialog box). I normally keep the settings as default and only change the overlap to 1 and check the delete the temporary images upon completion function, however one can choose the settings that best suits their computers.

Arch & Design shaders

Tips from Jamie Cardoso #4: Arch & Design shaders

I normally use customized materials, but for those who use default arch & design materials:

When applying shaders such as satin varnished wood shader and etc, one should be careful when network rendering. The satin varnished wood shader normally generates temporary bitmap/s( IE finishes.flooring.wood.plank.beech.jpg) in a localdrive. When sending the 3ds max to net render across another machine/s, the other machine/s may not have this file, which will subsequently generate errors in backburner. Even the backburner's include maps. function doesn't work at times.

The most reliable way of re-pathing any missing maps is to first use the archive tool to archive the file (IE file + archive..). This tool will also collect all the maps in your 3ds max scene. Thereafter one should use the asset tracking tool to re-direct all the missing files to the area where your archived files are. If there are any unused paths in the asset tracking dialog, simply strip them with strip path tool. Do not use the the include maps function from backburner.

By the way, to configure paths with the asset tracking, simply select any path from the asset tracking dialog box list, and right click. A pop up menu should appear. One can choose to either browse... or strip from the pop up menu. When browsing for a file, ensure that the map is found, selected and opened...or it won't reconfigure the path on the asset tracking. To access the asset tracking tool, simply go to file, on the drop down list, choose asset tracking.