Whenever you are looking to implement a new technology in your firm, you typically go through a few steps:

  1. Figure out what is out there in the marketplace – What products are available?
  2. Collect data about all of the technologies that may suit your use case
  3. Rigorously compare and analyse all the data
  4. Make a decision and go for it

There are some excellent content management tools out there for Revit now, so how can you choose? I went through a very comprehensive research analysis of a number of Revit CMS platforms, and I posted about the process here.

Then I caught up with Steve Germano over at Unifi to talk about the results. You can view (or just listen) to it here:

Feel free to comment here with your thoughts and we can keep the conversation going!

In this webinar, LHB’s Dan Stine walks through a proven workflow for collaboration and client engagement using Revizto. This presentation simulates a client meeting, highlighting ways Revitzo can be used to explore the model and capture client comments and requested changes. You can see how several Revizto features can be used collectively to demonstrate the design intent and react to client questions with minimal effort.

You can view it at:

Slightly over 6 months ago, I was approached by one of my associates over at Unifi with an idea. They wanted to engage in a detailed competitive research project focused on content management systems for Revit. I was pleased that they approached me, because I obviously love Revit and I also love helping people to improve the whole ecosystem of software tools that surround Revit and BIM. In fact, I often provide too many suggestions to software companies I think 🙂

In this case, I was particularly interested in the topic as well. Having used Revit now for around 10 years, I had started to observe a trend in how Revit gets implemented into firms. Typically, they:

  1. Buy some Revit licenses
  2. Teach their people to use Revit
  3. Look at ways to standardize their use of Revit, perhaps through standards and template files
  4. Try to maximize the impact and benefit of BIM through some vertical products, such as Enscape
  5. Start thinking about how to deal with the many gigabytes of ‘content’ they have now gathered and that is sitting on the file server in their office…

Having seen this over and over again, I knew that evaluating, choosing, and setting up a Revit content management system is no easy task, yet it is a hugely important one. It is something that often gets neglected for too long, and results in many wasted hours as people go blindly looking for ‘that family’. As you know, I willingly share time-saving knowledge, tips and workflows here and via Twitter, so this competitive research project really ticked a lot of boxes for me. I would be able to:

  • do a deep analysis of content management products for Revit
  • observe the strengths and weaknesses of each
  • be better informed and able to assist people who often ask me about Revit content management
  • provide some feedback to Unifi about how their product and offering could perhaps be improved (and as I said above, this is something I often do for free)

In this particular case, I knew that there would be a lot of time involved. I was going to have to obtain, install, test, benchmark, and document a whole lot of information about various Revit content management systems. As a father of three, a technology blogger, and someone who works almost daily for different companies delivering various projects, time is extremely hard to come by. So I felt it was quite appropriate in this instance to be commissioned by Unifi to perform this research task. I had never been part of a commissioned, competitive research project before, so I knew there may be some challenges. However, given the amount of time that would be involved, I would only be able to do a proper and thorough job if I was reimbursed for the time I would need to dedicate to it.

You might say that being commissioned for the task introduced some bias, but I’ll tell you why that cannot be true. Unifi wanted to know how to improve their product, they basically wanted to know what could be improved so that they could remain competitive with their competitors. For me to somehow do a biased job would have been way off-base. I needed to be honest, and brutally so. I had to show the Unifi people if and how their competitors were stronger than they were. I admire the fact that Unifi undertook this whole project. Evidently, they wanted to make sure their product was the best it could be. Personally, I would have an avid listener, someone who would be happy to hear all of those software ideas that I come up with!

So I accepted this project as a commissioned, competitive research task. I would record my results and provide a number of comprehensive deliverables back to Unifi. How would I go about this job? There were a few logical steps:

  • establish the list of products that would be researched
  • obtain the products
  • install them onto a test workstation
  • evaluate the features available in the product and fill out a detailed comparison matrix
  • perform benchmarks to establish speed, performance, and capability of each product
  • use some large sample content datasets to really put the products through an intensive test to check for problems that may occur with huge content libraries

Looking at the above steps, you can see how much time would be involved. But I also thought it would be a good idea to involve the developers of the competing products in the research. I thought that if I could be better informed about the other products, my research output would be more complete and accurate. And I still think that this was the right approach. I spoke to some of the competing companies and described the fact that that I was doing a detailed research project and would like to discuss their product with them. Most of them knew me as a blogger and technology professional, and so they were pleased to meet and discuss their content management product.

And then I made a mistake.

I should have started those meetings by saying that I had been commissioned by Unifi to do the research project. But I did not mention that fact. We had informative meetings each time, that helped me to get a better understanding of each product. But I can see now that I should have simply told them how the research project came about. I actually don’t think it would really have influenced the discussion a whole lot, because I still think it was in their interest to assist me in understanding their product. However, I do feel like I should have been transparent at the time. I would like to publicly apologize to those competing companies for not initially disclosing that I was commissioned to do the research.

This was a lesson learned for me, and one I won’t make again if I undertake a similar research project in the future.

I do not apologize for taking on the research project, because it was simply the best way that a task like this could be handled, and I do believe I was the right guy for the job. I understand that it is quite common for companies to engage 3rd party professionals to perform market research, but for me it was my first time. As stated above, my thought process was basically that:

  • I would receive some reimbursement for my research time, that
  • I knew the research output had to be complete and accurate and honest, and that
  • It would be beneficial to speak to the individual developers about their product.

Following the consultation phase and data gathering phase of the project, I had quite a substantial amount of data to work with! How would I filter through all of this and truly make it comparative?

To begin with I put a lot of information and notes into a detailed OneNote notebook. I then started an Excel document where I would store most of the comparative results. I had a few key worksheets where most of the raw data was stored:

The Matrix worksheet contained a whole lot of data, over 150 rows and 15 columns. I broke the testing and comparison up into some major categories:

Note: the UX2 value above refers to things like bugs or user interface problems, and in that case a higher score would be worse (more bugs).

For feature comparison, I used a weighting value and a formula. Here is a sample of some of those weighting values:

So, in the case above, I viewed Parameter Searching as more important (5) than Uniformat Filtering (2). These weighting values are based on my experience and my association with other BIM professionals.

From this point, I reviewed the capability of each product and used a Yes / No value to determine if a given product would ‘score’ for that feature:

If a product achieved a Yes value here, it would also obtain the Score for that Feature.

I used a set of PivotTables and Charts to break down and review that feature data.

I also performed some performance and speed benchmarks, and stored these in another worksheet:

Ultimately, this data was all collected and provided in combined form along with some Powerpoint slides. The slides cover topics like:

  • What is BIM Content?
  • What is Revit Content?
  • Why Content Management?
  • How is Content Managed?
  • How do I choose?

Along the way, we had to do a few interesting things. We were finding that the Australia internet speed was not really a good place to start with cloud benchmarking. So we obtained a cloud based virtual workstation that more closely reflected the type of internet speed you would experience in the USA, and I then had two sets of ‘cloud speed’ benchmark data, the Australian and the US versions.

An example of how some of my research was used may be seen in the recent new offering by Unifi. The research identified some differences in the pricing models of the various products, and this information assisted Unifi in the creation of an additional pricing model.

Where can you learn more about this research? A couple of weeks back I mentioned that the details and results of the competitive research project will be shared in a global webinar.

You can register to attend the webinar here.

In summary, I really enjoyed doing this research project and I think the results will be useful to Revit users and BIM Managers who are trying to evaluate different content management tools. It is true that they each do have certain strengths, so which will you choose?

 

 

PS. It is interesting to look back, to where almost a year ago I asked you all:

Recently I undertook a very detailed and intensive research project focused on BIM and Revit Content Management Systems. The results of that research will eventually become fully available… In fact it will be discussed in detail at an upcoming webinar (register here).

The research covered a range of product categories including Revit Integration and Management features. However, it also considered the cost and ROI of various content management systems. On a related note, I was very happy to hear that Unifi have now released  UNIFI Standard, a content management solution for firms with less than 30 design staff, offered at the very attractive $14/month. Basically, as a smaller firm you can still afford to access a lot of the awesome Unifi Content Management features, but there are service level differences that mean it makes more sense for larger firms to stick with UNIFI Enterprise.

For more information about the UNIFI solutions, check out the media release here, and to learn more about the webinar have a look at this page.

Key details on the new offering:

  • name: UNIFI Standard
  • for firms with less than 30 design staff.
  • licensing model is named user – each person is assigned a license
  • price is $14/user/month
  • there are service level differences between Standard and Enterprise (level of support, customer/account management, onboarding services, SSO integration) although both products have access to the same content management features.

UNIFI Enterprise remains for firms who need more than 30 licenses and it will have two licensing models – active users or open/concurrent licenses.  The pricing will be dependent on what type of license and how many are needed.

We live in an age of robotics, drones and automation. And those things can be interesting in their own right. But when it comes to Architecture, some technologies seem to replace warmth and light with cold industrialism. Happily, Enscape is not one of those technologies. Whenever I use Enscape, I feel this effortless artistry at my fingertips. It takes the most basic of ideas and makes them more real, adding depth and light and excitement. Yes, I know that Enscape is essentially an addin, a piece of software that consumes models and renders them in real time. But it is executed so well, that it makes it seem like so much more. And in fact, it really does legitimately enhance the quality of work that you can produce rapidly within your own office.

I have posted about Enscape before in this full review, and in this post about Enscape 1.9. The question is: What does Enscape version 2.0 bring to the table?

One of the most significant enhancements in Enscape 2.0 is an improvement to the lighting engine, a feature that results in more Realistic Lighting. There has been additional thought and development work given to things like indirect lighting, behaviour of reflections, and overall realism.  You will likely notice this difference if you open a model you used on previous versions of Enscape and try it with Enscape 2.0.

Realistic Lighting

There is also a really nice new Grass material that looks great and is very easy to use. Along with this, better trees, plants, and other improved RPC replacements have been added.

Improved Navigation Methods:

  • Hit the M key at any time to activate a mini map:

  • Also, you can now Right-click on element to orbit around that element.

Performance and Hardware

I was warned that Enscape 2.0 introduce a higher demand on GPU performance due to better visual quality. This may make it necessary to go one step left on the performance slider (e.g. high instead of Ultra) to get the same result and speed than in an older version. Lighting calculation starts at medium and will be quite demanding. “LOW” should be renamed to draft mode because that is what it is. If there are no artificial lights in the project, this is good for a quick walkthrough. My main workstation is a Metabox with a 980GTX graphics card, and I did notice some slowdown when setting Rendering Quality to Ultra. You may have to experiment with your own machine, depending on how good your graphics card is. Just turn the quality slider down a bit to get to the performance that you need.

Also, I have it on good authority that better Performance will be available in a hotfix soon.

Complete List of New Features in Enscape 2.0 for Revit and Sketchup

Here is a complete list of new features and changes made in development of version 2:

  • Design tweaks for SketchUp lights window
  • Option to disable grass
  • Replace the ugliest trees
  • Change light icon for Sketchup
  • Implement better realtime DOF (depth of field) method
  • Support artificial lights
  • Use new icons
  • better rendering quality
  • Don’t replace 3D+ RPCs with imposters
  • Mini Map
  • Compass
  • Orbiting global AABB
  • Support Skatter Plug-in
  • Adapt API for Revit 2018
  • Independent resolution for panorama & video
  • Sketchup: Export billboards
  • Setting to control the lensflare
  • Decouple roughness from alpha
  • Cancel video/pano/screenshot with ESC
  • Contrails
  • Grass rendering

Official Links

Enscape 2.0 has now shipped, you can read the official post here.

The 2.0 update release video is here:

You can get version 2.0 from this page.  It is a 177mb download, and it supports Revit 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018.

If you are getting into Enscape, the community forum is well worth a look.

Some Tips

  • Try using White Mode with Outlines and Architectural Two-Point Perspective
  • Also try only using about 5% of Outline slider to see how it makes detail stand out

A Story

Recently, I was working as Construction BIM Manager on a significant health project.  We worked on the coordination of a very complicated operating theatre fitout with very limited area for services. Architectural elements had been modeled for coordination purposes only, but definitely not for presentation.  I was asked to try and quickly produce some images for a media release, and I immediately thought of Enscape. Would it be able to produce something convincing, even though we had no real entourage or materials applied? Below is the result achieved in just a few minutes:

I enjoyed using the white mode as it meant I did not have to spend a lot of time putting materials into the model.  To see how this looks with grass and trees, I used similar settings on the sample commercial Architectural Revit project. The image has so much life and range, and it required almost no work at all to produce:

Conclusion

With Version 2.0, Enscape has taken a big step towards exceptional visual quality and realism. Both the Revit and SketchUp versions are updated so no matter which program you currently use, the new features are now available. I hope you enjoy trying out the new version!

I’m excited to share this release with you, because it has some amazing improvements. Here are my top 3 new features:

  1. Visibility control of Linked Models. Basically, you can now turn individual models on and off like you would in Glue or Navisworks, and you can override colours! Those colour overrides can be saved into a viewpoint or issue. This is a massive enhancement.
  2. Phases Support like Revit. There are some really nice visual effects possible, now that Revizto can show you Existing and subsequent phases, along with various phase filters. This opens up a range of new possibilities for sharing and discussing work in and around existing buildings. You can now ‘markup’ a demolition phase directly in the model, and assign issues to get items resolved quicker.
  3. Clickable Links on Sheets. For sheets you export from Revit, you can now immediately jump to the related views by using the view symbol hyperlink, just like you would in Revit.

As you can see, the integration with Revit is getting tighter. This means Revizto is now even stronger for fully in-house review workflows, like model review and drawing markup within an Architectural firm. Of course, Revizto remains my favourite way to handle coordination for large multi-discipline teams, whether that be design coordination or services coordination tasks.

This image shows how you use the new Objects dialog to select ‘Links’ and then override the colours and visibility of each linked model:

What’s new in Revizto 4.4 release:
– Ability to color code links, categories and levels. New “Objects” dialog.
Visibility control of linked models and individual objects.
Phases support from Revit.
– Tag management system for the Issue Tracker.
– Clickable links on sheets.
– Console app for getting XLS reports from the Issue Tracker.
– Ability to attach new file formats to issues. The complete list of supported formats: pdf, txt, csv, xls, xlsx, doc, docx, jpg, png.
– Interface improvement. 3D tab: reconfigured toolbar.
– Brand new installer. Minor updates will come through as patches, containing only the differences and therefore being much less in size.
– Rhino support (direct plugin in Rhino).

Here is a direct link to the release build, or you can download from here:

https://storage.googleapis.com/builds.revizto.com/MSI/Revizto(x64)-4.4.39337.msi

Here is the release video, which goes over the new features:

While I’m at it, here are the resources from my BILT session on Revizto, which included a preview of 4.4:

BILTANZ2017 Revizto Handout

BILTANZ2017 Revizto Presentation

BILTANZ2017 Keynote Presentation

Good Revit Content management does not come immediately or without forethought. Unifi are giving you another chance to review some best-practice content management principles at an upcoming webinar. It should be very interesting to hear about some of the productivity and functionality improvements that are becoming available to allow you to manage your BIM content more effectively.


Update:


Register at this link

Here are some of the things that will be discussed:

  • Hidden power of saved searches
  • Batch tag editing
  • Batch Inserting
  • Schedule / Details / System families support
  • “Clone” wars – Cloning or copying content from 3rd parties
  • Multi-format support sneak peek!
  • Customize your UNIFI experience
  • Stump the pros – trying to do something unique with UNIFI? ask away and they will answer your questions live…

You can send in a suggestion at support@unifilabs.com

More about Unifi at this link

Sometimes you will want to duplicate a Revizto project, perhaps for archive or testing purposes, or to re-share it with a new team. This post shows you how to do it quickly and properly.

Here’s how:

  1. Start Revizto
  2. Load Full Cache by clicking Edit, then the yellow hamburger:
  3. Double-click to Open the Project
  4. Click Project and Save As
  5. Give it a new name
  6. If you want it to be a cloud project, you now need to Sync it to the cloud now. Currently it is just stored on your machine and the issue ids will not have populated. Just press Share, and then hit the Upload button at the bottom of that screen

That’s it, you now have a full copy of all 2D, 3D and issue information from the original Revizto project. You will have to invite new users to this project if you want them to be able to collaborate. Your existing project and users will be unaffected.

Archvision have a new beta 3D RPC creator service available. You can upload a 3D file and the service will generate a 3D RPC. Place this in the correct location, and you can use that RPC directly in Revit.

Prepare an obj file following these steps.

  1. Just head over to http://labs.archvision.com/ and login with your Archvision account details.
  2. Then you should be able to access the ‘Creator’ at https://creator.archvision.com/
  3. Hit Create RPC
  4. Fill out the fields and hit Create

There are a few more steps from here, but I will refer you to this page that will give you more details.

Basically, you will need to consider the detail and quality of your content, as well as its purpose. Do I have highly detailed content that I want to render? The above will likely be quicker than modelling in vanilla Revit family geometry, and the result will be lightweight. However, aside from overall size it will be more difficult to handle any kind of parametric modification of the content.

Enscape is continuing to develop new and amazing ways to quickly visualise and present your Revit model… and now, your Sketchup models too. I will cover both of these below…

1) A quick look at the Enscape Sketchup Extension
Sketchup is still a solid workhorse in a lot of firms, as it is almost too easy to use. Some architects immediately feel comfortable using Sketchup, where Revit has a bit of a steeper learning curve. Personally, I hope to see more designers moving into Revit for early concept design with massing or adaptive components or Dynamo, but in the meantime there are plenty of people out there building really nice models in Sketchup. Which is why Enscape is releasing this Extension, I suppose!

After installing the Enscape extension for Sketchup (you can see some tips on how to do this at the end of the post), you will probably want to immediately start tweaking settings. As with Revit, you can have the Sketchup window, Enscape window, and Enscape settings all open and ‘live’ at the same time. For some reason, Enscape started with maximum bloom and extremely warm colour temperature, but after tweaking that a bit it started to look really nice as usual:

As Sketchup models are quite light compared to Revit, I was able to run on Ultra settings and the experience was smooth (helps to have a Metabox in this situation of course). Overall, the Experience of using the Extension for Sketchup is almost identical to the Revit plugin implementation, which is great.

You can achieve a really interesting result just by playing with the time of day and the sky orb brightness:

Which leads me to the new features..

2) Enscape 1.9 Platform Updates and Updates for Revit
One of the biggest updates in this latest version is that now Revit Decals are supported. As you probably know, a Revit Decal is basically a flat item that gets stuck onto a flat surface like a Wall. From there, you can pick an image and set the size. Now that Enscape supports this, it is much easier to do things like customised signage, and it can be done very quickly and photorealistically. Previously, I had a challenging workaround through custom RPC, but the support of Decals should make this process much easier for flat elements.

Enscape now also has Oculus Touch support, along with a handy heads-up display when you look at the controls in VR:

Further, more support for Glass and Glazing materials has been added. Essentially, Enscape is working to support every applicable material property from Revit, which is great.

A couple of other things:

  • you can set the frames per second on exported video
  • you can ‘move’ the clouds to really get your scene looking just right
  • you can modify the brightness of Sun, Moon and Stars. It is seriously impressive to set the time to night, and then boost the stars right up. It is quite beautiful 🙂

More details on the 1.9 release:
https://enscape3d.com/version-1-9/

Preview releases for Revit and Sketchup addins are available at:
https://enscape3d.com/preview

You can download Enscape at:
https://enscape3d.com/downloads/

The extensions page is at:
https://extensions.sketchup.com/en/content/enscape-rendering-sketchup

Here is a video that summarises the updates in 1.9:

Check out this video of the Sketchup plugin in action:

Sketchup Installation 
Here is how you can manually the install Enscape Plugin for Sketchup:
1) Download the .rbz file (currently from the Preview / Alpha page). I’m currently using
enscape-1.9.0.403-g355786d.rbz

2) Go to the Extension Manager in Sketchup

3) Choose Install Extension and pick the rbz file

 

4) Accept the prompts

 

5) You might have to restart Sketchup. Then you should be able to start Enscape from the Extensions menu:

You can read my previous detailed review of Enscape here:
Learn How To Completely Revolutionize Your Revit Presentation Capability In This Enscape Review