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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Feel The Space - The Lumion 7 Review

Design is a funny thing. The word itself carries a certain weight, it is somehow deliberate and exciting at the same time. Yet, so often design is let down by the poor translation or communication of ideas. You may have an excellent 'design' in your mind, but displaying or presenting that to a client is an entirely different matter. Every designer faces the same challenge of communicating their design ideas in a thoroughly engaging way: whether the communication be to their clients, other stakeholders or even as part of their own internal design process.

This is a site about Revit, but this article is about discovering new possibilities, new ways to express your design, new ways to add context, realism and reality. It is also about a powerful piece of software called Lumion - a design communication tool that I personally use and have used for quite a few years. The combination of Revit and Lumion give architects a complete toolkit for modeling, understanding, sharing, adjusting and presenting their design.

So, what is Lumion? Recently, I was speaking to the Chief Operating Officer of Act-3D, (the parent company of Lumion), Roger Hammond. He told a me a very heartening story about the development of this piece of software...

Often we don’t immediately recognise the full potential of a new, beautiful idea. Roger describes that Lumion was initially designed to be a powerful presentation tool, but Architects soon discovered that it can also shift the way they design in very positive ways. He describes how a new user of Lumion can easily get comfortable with the basic concepts of the software, even those who are not 'technical' or especially comfortable with computers. Yet, once they start using Lumion, they get to grips with it easily and quickly learn to iterate design changes and brief clients more rapidly and smoothly. Lumion gives a certain realism and context to your design that can assist you to modify and improve the design internally, before it is even time to present it to anyone.

We often become so used to a way of working that we almost feel like there is no other way, or that perhaps we already have the best way. Yet, if that were true, innovation would not be a reality. Sometime, disruption is necessary. So if you have an established way of designing and communicating, take this opportunity to re-evaluate as I review Lumion.

The user interface itself is nice and clean and easy to read and understand. As someone used to complicated programs like Revit and AutoCAD, this is a welcome breath of fresh air to me. Rather than present you with an overwhelming and detailed set of buttons, Lumion allows you to progress your digital presentation in stages, from Building to Materials and Lighting and Presenting and so on.

Lumion - A User Interface For Designers
In this way, the development of your design and your presentation output can be very logical and layered. You can import your design from a variety of different programs and platforms (like Sketchup and ArchiCAD, not just Revit), and once imported you can add people, trees, and soft and hard landscaping. You can sculpt the site topography and add water and grass areas. Once you feel comfortable, you can dig deeper, modify lighting, adjust materials, add special effects, work on camera angles…

And finally, you can display your design in some truly simple yet beautiful and intuitive ways. The key thing is not to be afraid. You can't break things in Lumion, it is not a imposing or complicated environment. Navigation is straightforward, nothing is very complicated. As you use it, extra functionality will reveal itself. It is a tool that has been built for designers, and its development has been shaped by their feedback. Roger recalls that it is not uncommon for users to say that "Lumion has changed my business", and there are plenty of 'wow' moments. For example you can add the ocean to your scene with just one click...

We have experienced this realisation at Virtual Built. Recently, we have been demonstrating Virtual Reality tools to our clients. However, in some programs it can be difficult to populate a scene quickly and then output to a suitable VR platform. This is not the case in Lumion, as the included content means you can get up-and-running quickly. If you have a few basic building models, you can add site context and a few nice little details like a truck or a crane to create a site utilisation model, and then output to a number of different VR panoramic formats.

I have been using Lumion over a number of years and different versions, so I was excited to see the updates and new features available in Lumion 7. The major new features are listed below, and we will dig into each feature and uncover the new opportunities they present.

Lumion 7 New Features
OpenStreetMap (OSM) is an online resource that stores 3D building models along with map information like roads and water areas. In the past, I have used many methods to try to get a locality plan or model created, and it can be quite clunky and challenging. However, in Lumion 7, this is now completely automated. Using the OpenStreetMap import, in just a few minutes you can have a realistic map in Lumion to locate your building models, and it will even have adjacent 3D building models as well! It will automatically ‘cut out’ your own building model from the OSM data. The OSM function in Lumion 7 is still Beta functionality, but it can already be very useful to quickly add context or a background to your design.

To get started with OSM in Lumion, just:
  1. Start Landscape mode (left side flyout menu) and turn the OSM switch ‘On’
    OpenStreetMap Switch
  2. Click the Longitude / Latitude area to bring up a searchable map
  3. Search for your location
    Location Search
  4. Set the import Range and press Download
Tip: hold Shift + Spacebar and use arrow keys to move quickly on large sites

Check out this page for more information on OpenStreetMap and Lumion.

New Features for Weathering
Building models sometimes appear 'flat' due to the way various platforms handle materials. However, in Lumion 7 you can now remove the coldness of computer-generated imagery by seeking out edges, roughness and other properties of natural materials to make them look like they’ve been around a while. or add weathering, ageing and transparency.

Foliage and Weathering
You can remove the coldness of computer-generated imagery by seeking out edges, roughness and other properties of natural materials to make them look like they’ve been around a while. My associate here at Virtual Built, Michael Clothier, recently used this to add realism to an important theatre building in Adelaide that is currently under construction.

You can also cover models with leaves or add weathering, ageing and transparency. Even transform any object into thousands of leaves or add ivy to a wall… These tools are implemented through the Material Editor, so the workflow is logical but the effect is quite impressive indeed.

Here are some examples:

Pool Villa

To get started with these tools:
  1. Enter the Material editor
  2. Select a object to change
  3. Set a Material from the Lumion Library, and double-click on it
  4. In the editing pane, you will find the tools on the right...

  5. Then, simply drag the sliders until you have the desired look and feel

Light strips

Sometimes, the available Lighting tools in presentation software can be quite limiting. Happily, in Lumion 7 you can now add light strips or area lighting, meaning you can go beyond simply 'spot lights'. I really enjoy adding these new lights, because as usual they can be edited with sliders, and you can view the effect in real-time... there is no need to wait for a lengthy rendering and then realise the lights were switched off :)

To get started with the new Light types, open the Object pane:

Then select the Area Lights tab:

Place the light and then modify the sliders until you have the desired effect:

You can use Lumion to share a navigable panorama to anyone who owns a smartphone. It is incredibly simple and powerful and is one of the features I hinted at earlier in the article. It is something that allows you to put your design on display in a new way, and get valuable client feedback and engagement. Then, you can quickly iterate the design and send them a new link.

We have used this to create sets of views for various stakeholders, but the key thing is really how easy and quick it is. You don’t have to print something or even save an image and find it on your hard disk. You can do all of this creation and sharing in just a few clicks. We have found it to be a real game-changer.

You can view a basic demo of the technology from one of my sandbox projects here.

There is no software program available that can automatically interpret a client's design brief, provide suitable visualisations, interpret client feedback, and iterate this process while learning at each step. A good Designer can do this. But with the right tools, parts of that process become much easier. As a designer, you will be able to interpret the brief and interpret client feedback. With Lumion, you can quickly and easily present your design, in context, and in a multitude of rich, realistic, immersive ways. By thus improving the way you communicate and iterate your designs, you designs themselves will improve. And your client satisfaction level will soar...

So I recommend that you give Lumion a try. And be ready to be surprised :)

You can also check out my previous reviews at:
Lumion 5
Lumion 6.3

Lumion 7 Webinar:

More information on the new features: https://lumion3d.com/what-s-new.html

Update Note: Lumion 7.0.1 has now been released, you can read more at this page

Guide 1: Using Lumion in Virtual Reality Workflows
Lumion VR
Lumion VR viewer is no longer supported, instead you can render static images for viewing on a variety of VR platforms. I will provide some notes on how you can do this below.

Using A Mobile App like PlainVR
Here's how:
  1. Render VR Panorama images (these will be 360 degree jpg files). You can use default 64mm eye to eye and 360 slices
  2. Upload those to a photo sharing service
  3. Get the direct HTTP image link
  4. Copy and paste that into the QR generator at http://vr.plainconcepts.com/ and click "Generate"
  5. Install PlainVR app on your phone or tablet
  6. Scan the QR code from the app

Photo: Virtual Built Pty Ltd using Lumion VR to PlainVR for builders in a Revit training session

Embedding VR to a Website with VR View
Google has kindly provided a web service for rendering images in VR, its called VR View. After creating your stereoscopic image, you can follow these steps to embed it into your site:
  1. Upload to a photosharing site (like imgur)
  2. Input code like this to your site:
  3. Publish and view on web browser or mobile device
Here is an example for you to look at...
    Note: in Blogger, after you add an ampersand character to the code, it converts it to some other characters. basically, you can't 'edit' after you input the code, if you publish it directly it won't replace to & and it works...

    Using Oculus with Lumion
    To do this:
    1. Render a 360 jpg file from Lumion then 
    2. View it in a panorama viewing app, such as Oculus Photos
    How To View On Oculus Rift on Vimeo

    Note: You can use a Oculus DK2 with an Xbox controller instead of an Oculus Remote. Typically use the A button to select what you are looking at.

    Guide 2: Layers
    Did you know you can easily move objects between layers?
    1. Activate Select mode
    2. Select Objects
    3. Activate the Target Layer
    4. Hover on the layer
    5. Use the up arrow that appears
    More info: https://forum.lumion3d.com/general-discussion/how-to-move-object-to-layer/

    Guide 3: Installation and Links
    If you would like to get started using Lumion, here are some steps to get you started quickly:

    Verify your computer
    Click here to see if your PC is suitable for Lumion
    Click here to see the general system requirements for Lumion.
    Click here to install the latest graphics card software and all available Windows updates.
    Get the download manager
    You will get a special email that lets you download the software...
    Lumion 7 Viewer will be released later. An update e-mail with download information will be sent as soon as the viewer is released
    Download Lumion
    Double-click on the Download Manager to run it.
    Follow the instructions to install Lumion. Click here if you have any problems.
    Register your license
    You can register your License Key to a forum account.
    You can now get technical support on the Lumion Support Forum
    Get started
    Congratulations! You are now ready to start Lumion for the first time.
    Click here to learn how to get the most out of Lumion.

    How To Allow Duplicate Detail Numbers on a Revit Sheet (and yes it is #BadRevit)

    Revit Wants you to have a unique Detail Number for each Viewport placed on a Sheet. This makes total sense, and allows you to trace from a Referencing View, through a View Tag (telling you which Sheet and Detail Number that View is on), and back again... The Viewport knows which Detail Number it is, and which Sheet is referenced from.

    Ok, that is What Revit Wants. And in fact, it doesn't allow you to have duplicate Detail Numbers,

    ... because that would be madness, right? Well, in some Architectural firms, they may have drafting standards which indicate something like this:
    1. We will reference Interior Elevations from our General Arrangement Floor Plan
    2. The View Tags will have letters a, b, c, d and so on for each Room
    3. These Interior Elevation views will be placed together on Sheets
    4. We will append the Room number to the Detail Number so that we can figure out which Elevation a is which...
    5. Meaning that there will be multiple Detail Numbers that could be the same on each Interior Elevation Sheet
    I'm not going to speak to the validity of this logic, but lets just say sometimes drafting standards from past ways of doing things don't mix so well with Revit. How do we work around this problem?

    I'm not so proud of this, but it is one of those hacks that just seems to work...
    1. Create the Viewport Title Tag with a Shared Parameter for the View Room Number, and the Detail number in one label together
    2. Use a special invisible character to make the Revit program think the Detail Number is different, when it appears exactly the same to human eyes... as I said this is bad Revit
    How do you do step 2? Just copy one of these characters from your Character Map and paste it after the Detail Number that Revit doesn't want you to have. So you type 'a', then press Ctrl+V to paste the special character in to the Detail Number parameter:

    This is the Unicode character U+200B: Zero Width Space.

    Ok, bring on the Comments :)

    Tuesday, December 6, 2016

    Workarounds for Sharing Colour Overrides From Navisworks to BIM 360 Glue

    Recently I had an issue sharing colour overrides from Navisworks to BIM 360 Glue. This has been ok for a while, but something broke. After some investigation, it turns out that one of the sub-Models in the Glue merged model was causing the problem.

    I typically convert IFCs using the Link method, which results in DirectShape objects. It seems that one of the Architectural files that I converted this way from ArchiCAD to Revit and then to BIM 360 Glue was stopping the colours from getting baked into the BIM 360 Shared View.

    To workaround this issue:
    1. Determine what problem model/s you have (possibly those converted from IFC)
    2. Open your Merged Model in Navisworks for BIM360
    3. Hide these problem models in Navisworks scene
    4. Run Appearance Profiler or otherwise apply colour overrides
    5. In the BIM 360 Shared Views pane, click New to make a new Shared View on BIM 360 Glue with the colours 'baked in'
    6. Go to Glue desktop app and confirm the colours are working
    7. Then, Unhide the problem model here...
    8. And then make a new view in the desktop app
    9. This new view should have all models you want showing, and the colour overrides working ok.

    On a related note, you may have seen this warning:
    View in model is still processing and some items may not be overridden
    It seems that this might put your Glue merged model in a dirty state? Try deleting all views with this message before trying to create Shared Views from Navisworks with colour overrides.

    Thursday, December 1, 2016

    Download Enscape Alpha Version with Vive VR Support

    Latest Alpha version of Enscape now has Vive support, as per the alpha release notes.

    Here's how you get it:
    1. Go and register first at http://enscape3d.com/
    2. Then go to the Download page (link removed, but you can get it after registering): Download - Enscape™
    3. At the bottom of the page, click I want to test the Enscape Alpha! 
    4. Download and install

    Note: this version also allows rendering of stereoscopic imagery, such as for Google Cardboard.

    Wednesday, November 30, 2016

    How To Display Multiple Instances of a Single Linked Revit Model In Different Ways

    In Revit, each Link is bound to both a Type and an Instance. So you can have one Link 'Type' - relating to a single RVT file that is linked into the project. But it can be placed multiple times in the project, thus having multiple instances. In workshared projects, the Type and the Instance can belong to different Worksets.

    Did you know you can use Linked Views to display two identical copies of the same linked model in different ways?

    To add control, you should create 3 worksets - 1 for the Type, and 1 for each Instance, as shown below:

    Then, set up two different Linked Views in that linked model. In this particular case, I want to use a model converted from ArchiCAD to a single Revit file. But I want to be able to separately load and display the Site objects, and the Building objects. So I have an Link Instance for each, and linked views for each. The whole rig can be seen in the image below.

    Using the worksets, I can separately Load / Unload each Instance (closing a Workset unloads any Link instances on that Workset from memory). And using the Linked Views and Overrides for the Instance, I can display each instance as I like. I can also load both instances and show both in a 'combined' view.

    Final note: Link Instances can be located in different positions in the Host model, and they can have different Shared Coordinates. Using the methods above, you have a lot of flexibility to be able to use a single linked Revit model in many different ways...

    One Way To Work Quickly With Large Federated Revit Models

    A federated Revit model is a model containing many Revit links, and they can be quite slow to work with. There are a few steps you can take to speed things up, and one of them is creating a set of fast view types and a related view template.

    Here's how:
    1. Make a View Template called "No Model" and untick all the Model categories in that Template
    2. Make a set of View Types called "Fast Plan", "Fast Section" and so on
    3. Set the View Template for those Types to the "No Model" template you created

    Now, when cutting sections or making new floor plans using these 'fast' view types, the view will generate quickly without any model elements. Then, you can decide if you want to switch view templates / types to something more useful for coordination or documentation.

    Friday, November 25, 2016

    Reset Navisworks to Default Settings

    If you have a Navisworks crashing or Navisworks not starting up problem, you might try resetting Navisworks settings.

    Here's how:
    1. Open Windows Explorer
    2. Type %appdata% in the address bar
    3. Rename the relevant Navisworks folder here with a .bak extension
    4. Start Navisworks

    Note: You can actually get to the options from the start menu, even if Navis won't launch...

    There are other places that Navis may stash some settings. You may also want to check out:

    Upgrading Corrupt or Problem Models in Revit, and How to Fix Spot Elevation Not Detecting Linked Element

    Ok, two unrelated issues here, but both are along the lines of "weird stuff that happens in Revit that can be fixed but doesn't always make sense". If you use Revit long enough, you will certainly come across issues like this...

    Firstly, certain Electrical penetration families were not tagging for height when using Spot elevations. These elements were in a model, which was linked into another model. The fix? Super weird one. Try turning on Lighting Fixtures in your View (in the host model). Then, those spot elevations worked… Even though the penetration family was a Generic Model with Nested Mechanical Equipment inside a link file. I'm thinking this one was either an upgrade error, or perhaps the families had some earlier history as a Lighting Fixture?!?

    Secondly, I came across a Structural Consultant Design Model in Revit 2015 that doesn't want to upgrade to Revit 2016. This is due to some corruption inside various families. Here are a few things to try... along with the ultimate solution.

    1) Try opening the model in the newer version of Revit with Detach and Audit ticked, and choose Specify from the Worksets dialog dropdown. If the Opening Worksets dialog appears, Close all the Worksets and press OK. Then, Detach and preserve worksets. You should see the Model Upgrade progress dialog.

    This fails with the following error:
    The file cannot be opened. There are too many elements missing in it. Please contact Autodesk Support.

    2) Next steps are more detailed and resulted in a successful upgrade:

        1. Open in 2015, with Audit and Detach, no Worksets open
        2. Save As
        3. Open in 2016, with Audit and Detach, no Worksets open
            a. Delete families when prompted (as you can see, it is one problem Rebar family)

            c. Ok to mass errors:
            e. Click to resolve Join errors

        4. Save As
        5. Setup starting view...

    And here are some model tidy-up steps that I did, just #GoodRevit with some Dynamo:
        6. Make these worksets:
            a. Hide-CADs
            b. Hide-Topo
            c. Link-Control
        7. Move DWGs to workset by:
            a. Getting Ids in Dynamo
            c. Group
            d. Change Workset
            e. Set workset invisible
        8. Move Topo to workset and set invisible
        9. Acquire Coordinates from Control Model
            a. Copy / paste control model from current ST file to this upgraded one
            b. Link neutral coordinate file
                i. Acquire
            c. Then acquire from BMGR control file
            d. Save
    Finally, sharing with team:
        10. Save to Box
        11. Open in Fed
        12. Glue

    Massive Paint.NET Plugins Pack for Download

    Paint.NET is an excellent free photo and picture editing software, probably the closest you can come to Photoshop for free (without learning gimp and that big open source world). The 'megalo' pack includes 800+ effects plugins for Paint.NET, its definitely worth checking out...

    Make sure you have up to date AV software before downloading anything...

    You may also want to install the plugin browser from here.

    Home page:
    Paint.NET Plugins Pack - Megalo Effects & FileTypes V26

    Tuesday, November 22, 2016

    Enable Text Message Relay for Skype To Send Text Messages from Your PC and Download MMS as Files

    If you have a Windows 10 Mobile phone, and Windows 10 PC, the Skype Preview app updates allow text message relay and sync to be enabled with two easy steps:

    1) On the Windows Phone: 
    • Messaging - Settings, change the Default messaging app to Skype Preview.
    • Skype Preview - Settings - SMS, turn SMS Backup and Sync to Enable, and 
    • set to Download messages from - Any time

    2) On the Windows 10 PC:
    • Skype Preview - Settings - ensure SMS sync enabled and
    • set to Download messages from - Any time 

    Once all of this is connected and syncing ok, you can easily send text from the Skype Preview app on your PC.

    Also, you can browse to the location of downloaded Multimedia messages (MMS), such as picture or video messages. They will be in a folder location like this:

    Best Practices for Box Sync if You Have Long Scanning Times

    Box.com and Box Sync are part of a really robust ecosystem for managing large files and large folder structures. We have found them to be very reliable overall, even when working with large BIM files and datasets.

    However, there is one interesting 'catch' to how Box Sync works. I received this advice from Box Support after making a feature request:

    So, at this point, any change in your local mirror of a Box folder will trigger a re-scan. I have around 270000 files amounting to 741 GB syncing to Box. This means the scanning time is quite long and I guess sometimes it doesn't even get out of that loop until I stop touching those files.

    The quickest workaround is to use the web app to upload / download if you have a requirement to do something quickly.

    I will consider other ways to work around this issue. Any ideas out there? And don't tell me I shouldn't be syncing so much :)

    Friday, November 18, 2016

    How to Disable to the Revit IFC Importer in Navisworks

    Starting in Navisworks 2017 Update 1, Navis started using the Revit IFC importer. Not everyone likes this, so just go into your Options - File Readers - IFC and untick Revit_IFC if you want the old reader back:

    Wednesday, November 16, 2016

    Change Notification Settings By Project and Overlay Any PDF in Revizto 4.2

    Revizto 4.2 has been released, with some nice enhancements including:
    • Ability to overlay any PDF onto 3D
    • Significantly improved Clash visualization
    • Export of sheets from Revit in Vector format, now with linked models
    • ArchVision RPC support
    • Improved email notification settings for the Issue Tracker.
    Here is the overview video:

    And if you want to modify notification settings, follow these steps:
    1. Login to Revizto portal at https://revizto.com/en/user/login
    2. Click your profile menu and "Notifications"

    3. Set global settings here, or switch to  "Project settings" to modify by project

    4. Click the menu beside a project, and then you can disable with "No notifications", or modify at project level with "Custom Settings"

    5. Then modify the settings at project level and press Save
    Another nice update... Revizto continues to develop great features and assist us in new and better ways of working.