In times past, I had this dream that Revit would be the sole answer to every single architectural and modelling question. Due to the proliferation of excellent addins and addons, I now realise that Revit is positioning itself as the operating system of the BIM environment. It has a solid parametric, data and intelligence engine, which can be extended in many ways through the expansive API. One area in which Revit has sometimes wavered is in pure visualization, particularly of the real-time and photorealistic variety. Using RPC and Realistic display modes within Revit can achieve a certain result, but here are some questions:

  • Is using an additional presentation package, like Lumion, worth it?
  • Will it result in a better visual result?
  • Will the performance be acceptable?

I received a review copy of Lumion 5.3, and tested it using Revit 2015 Update 7. As usual, I have reviewed the software, but at the same time I am sharing practical tips and guidance on how to get up and running with Revit and Lumion.

To start with, let’s consider whether Lumion can really add value to your current design and development pipeline. You may be thinking “I don’t have a clue how to make a fly-through animation“, but that is where Lumion lives. It makes it easy for you to take your BIM geometry, and put it into a real, living environment. In a sense, it is a ‘complete’ visual presentation package, as it includes things like environments, backgrounds, materials, weather effects, water, entourage, vehicles, people, trees, landscape, furniture, terrain modelling, and it is all in a package that allows you to modify, manipulate and tweak basically everything in real-time. It has a clean UI and extremely fast rendering capability. For output and deliverables, you can easily export still images or rendered videos of the scenes that you have composed.

You might be thinking “I don’t have time to learn yet another modelling tool“, but if you spend any time at all in post production software like Photoshop, 3ds Max, After Effects or something similar, then Lumion does not represent a steep learning curve. The interface is relatively unobtrusive and simple to understand. The Lumion addin allows for building models to be exported from Revit, but it also allows models to be updated and reloaded into the Lumion scene. As one person put it, “Use Lumion and Revit together and you will enjoy the synergy.”

You can check out a very concise ‘getting started’ style video here:

To put it simply, when you pair a powerful and parametric building design tool like Revit, with a free-flowing, smooth, flexible presentation software like Lumion, you have a very formidable design and presentation pipeline at your disposal. So, let’s learn a bit more about Lumion…

This remainder of the review has been divided into the following 5 sections:

  1. Download, Installation and Deployment
  2. Workflow (BIM friendliness)
  3. Performance
  4. Quality of Output
  5. Real-world applications and Case Studies

Download, Installation and Deployment:
Installing the Main application

  1. You will receive an activation email, with a unique download link
  2. Download and run the ‘download manager’
  3. Copy the activation code from your email to the download
  4. It will now automatically download Lumion, usually to your Downloads folder (about 4.94gb)
  5. You should copy the installation .exe and .bin files to some safe location – these are what you will use to install Lumion on other PCs
  6. The installer should run automatically – all you need to do is set the install path
  7. Start Menu – Run Lumion 5.3
  8. Agree to the Licence Agreement
  9. Lumion will now run some benchmarks and initialize itself
  10. Once the next screen appears, you will get a ‘system speed’ rating
  11. Note: I was expecting to see a Revit addin automatically installed… but I have since realised that this is an additional step… see below.

 

Installing the Revit addin

  1. You can get the Revit addin from: 1) the Lumion website http://lumion3d.com/revit-to-lumion-bridge, or 2) Autodesk Exchange – Lumion Collada Exporter
    (The version I installed was 1.4.4)
  2. Running this addin will export a DAE file, which can then be imported to Lumion

Licensing
Here are a few notes on how the Lumion license works:

  • The installer is specific for your Lumion License.
  • You can copy the Lumion installer to other computers or your network drive.
  • You may install Lumion on multiple machines.
  • When you start Lumion your license is flagged as in use.
  • When you quit Lumion your license is flagged as free
  • You need an internet connection in order to run Lumion

System requirements
Current hardware list here, minimum details copied below

  • OS: 64-bit Windows Vista, 7 or 8
  • CPU: A CPU with at least 6,000 PassMark points. Click here to see the PassMark list.
  • System memory: 4GB (for simple scenes)
  • Graphics card: A card with minimum 2,000 PassMark points and at least 2GB dedicated memory.
  • Click here to see the PassMark list.
  • Examples of cards with about 2,000 PassMark points: GeForce GTX 745, Quadro K4000M, GeForce GTX 570M or faster.
  • Harddrive: 20GB of disk space
  • Using Lumion and Lumion Pro via Remote Desktop or similar virtual desktop solutions is not supported.
  • Lumion and Lumion Pro require an internet connection.

Workflow (BIM friendliness)
There are a number of ways to move data from Revit to Lumion, such as using DAE format via Exporter, or FBX via built-in export. The dedicated DAE exporter addin from Revit is the recommended method.

The Exporter addin (Revit to Lumion Bridge) works in orthographic 3D views and takes all visibility filters for the view into account. If you try to export from a Perspective view, the Lumion export addin will be disabled. However, in Revit 2015 R2 you can easily convert a Perspective 3D view into an orthographic or Parallel-3D View to allow export to proceed. Here’s how:

  1. Ensure that a Crop Region is applied and Visible, and the view is “unlocked”.
  2. Then, right-click on the View Cube and switch to Parallel-3D view, like this:

Then, run the exporter. The UI is relatively easy to follow:

I tested using ‘normal’ accuracy, and the file size result was like this:

You can then easily open or create a scene in Lumion, and then import the model you just exported from Revit:

Navigation
Once in Lumion, you can use the WASD keys to walk around, and QE keys to move up and down. If you hold the right mouse button and drag, this will change your view direction. Holding Shift will speed up your movement. It is quite a fluid navigation system. F1/F2/F3/F4 turns shadows on and off and makes other quality vs performance changes.

You can see other tips and keyboard shortcuts at:
LUMION 5: Quickstart Guide here forum.lumion3d.com/f-a-q/lumion-5-3-tips-tricks/
and
LUMION 5: Keyboard shortcuts

Placing models
It is easy to place models, just:

  1. Click the category (people, transport, landscape etc)
  2. Click Change Object to select desired model
  3. Click to place in the scene

 

 

To bring in external models, like DAE or FBX exported from Revit, use the Import models option.

Depending on how your model heights were configured in Revit, you may need to move your model downwards in Lumion. In my case, I had to move the model downwards in the Y-axis by about 150m (yes, Lumion understands the vertical to be the Y axis, not the Z):

To update the model, just re-export the DAE file from Revit. You can reload by: going to Import mode, selecting the spanner for ‘context’ menu, selecting your Model and then clicking on the blue circle, which will open up the context menu with the reload option:

It is interesting to note that even new objects (ie. newly added to the Revit model) that have a Revit material name matching a currently overridden material in Lumion, will then adopt that Lumion material when the import is reloaded. Nice!

There is a brief tutorial video on the Lumion to Revit workflow here:

Easy Architectural Visualization in 15 Minutes. from Lumion on Vimeo.

So, is Lumion able to do anything that Revit can’t do? In a word, yes. For example, it can handle things like sculpting large-scale terrain models very easily, as this demo shows:

Add to that: movie effects, ocean / water, the large model and material libraries, lighting effects, render quality, and the overall ability to transform a scene from a collection of polygons into something that more effectively represents the real world.

Performance
The Collada DAE export was very, very fast – under 1 minute for a 150mb Revit model. Accordingly, of all the file types that can be used to get data from Revit to Lumion, I would expect that the recommended and preferred method is via the DAE export in the free addin.

Quality of Output
Lumion is targeted at rapid, real-time, moving animations with models that may also be animated. So the result is usually something that looks very ‘alive’. Coming from an architectural background, you may initially be surprised at the overall ‘look’ of things and you might find it slightly cartoonish. However, I recommend that you give it a try and have a go at tweaking a few of the display settings.

It is very easy to create a flythrough or fly around animation. Just start the movie tool with the film icon, then create a number of keyframes as you would with other animation tools. Then, you can easily export to mp4.

Real-world applications and Case Studies
I tested using a medium rise model:

Once the model was imported, it was very easy to select entire materials and replace them with more appealing versions:

To delete models, you can remove them directly from the library and they will disappear from all scenes that they are currently placed in. However, you can also delete the model only in the scene you are currently working on, and it will remain available in the library for use in other scenes:

Customer Interviews
http://lumion3d.com/watg
http://lumion3d.com/aecom/
http://lumion3d.com/hks-inc-dallas-texas/
http://lumion3d.com/voa
http://lumion3d.com/clark-patterson-lee
http://lumion3d.com/bryantdesignstudios/
Chauviere from HKS said at one of the above links, “I don’t think many people know or appreciate the hard work behind optimizing 3D objects to low polygon count, and still have them look convincing. The amount of high-quality plants and 3D objects in the Lumion library that can be used is impressive.”

Children´s hospital with more than 15,000 plants and trees

Summary of Lumion 5.3
In review, let’s consider some of the questions raised at the beginning:

  • Q. Is using an additional presentation package, like Lumion, worth it?
    A. Yes, it would be very difficult for plain Revit to deliver the same speed, quality, and content
  • Q. Will it result in a better visual result?
    A. When it comes to real-time scene export, a Lumion visualization can be much more alive and animated than a Revit equivalent. You can also easily deliver your scene as a selection of high quality images, or as a rendered video.
  • Q. Will the performance be acceptable?
    A. Yes, provided you have a decent CPU and graphics card (refer to requirements above)

Summary of each section:

  1. Download, Installation and Deployment – 7/10, necessary to manually install addin
  2. Workflow (BIM friendliness) – 8/10, support for updating changed models
  3. Performance – 8/10, much improved in more recent versions and fast export to DAE
  4. Quality of Output – 9/10, smooth and appropriate for the visual style
  5. Real-world applications and Case Studies – 9/10,
    (see links above to see how companies are using Lumion)

My overall software score for Lumion 5.3 is 9/10. Its definitely worth a look if you do any kind of presentation work with 3D models!

In a future post, I want to look at the large-model workflow from Infraworks to Lumion via FBX.
Other links, tips and resources

You can download the Lumion 5.3 demo for free at http://lumion3d.com/demo/

Note: customers who buy Lumion PRO receive the link to the Lumion viewer (together with their license code and the download manager)

Link to tutorials:
http://lumion3d.com/tutorials/

Important notice:
If you migrate your work from earlier Lumion versions take into account that the material system has been changed in Lumion 5. This requires you to re-apply the materials to your objects.

Developments of Lumion over the past 18 months leading up to Lumion 5.3:
http://lumion3d.com/lumion-4-0-update/
http://lumion3d.com/lumion-4-5/
http://lumion3d.com/new-in-lumion-5/
http://lumion3d.com/new-lumion-5-3/

Links to previous exporters:
Revit To Lumion Bridge
Revit To Lumion Bridge (v1.4.4) – for Autodesk Revit 2015.
Revit To Lumion Bridge (v1.4.4) – for Autodesk Revit 2014.

Legacy COLLADA exporter
Download Revit 2014 COLLADA exporter (v2.12).
Download Revit 2013 COLLADA exporter (v2.12).
Download Revit 2012 COLLADA exporter (v2.12).

Tips
If you select option “Skip Interior Details” then these Revit Categories are skipped:

  • Casework
  • CommunicationDevices
  • DataDevices
  • DuctTerminal
  • ElectricalEquipment
  • ElectricalFixtures
  • FireAlarmDevices
  • Furniture
  • FurnitureSystems
  • GenericModel
  • LightingDevices
  • LightingFixtures
  • MechanicalEquipment
  • NurseCallDevices
  • PlumbingFixtures
  • SecurityDevices
  • SpecialityEquipment
  • TelephoneDevices

How to delete objects?
You delete imported objects by using the Imported Objects Library.  It cannot be deleted from the Library if you have a scene open and using that object, so first clear and start a new empty scene.

Then in Build Mode click on Import button –> Change Import Object –> locate your object to delete and doubleclick the Rubbish bin.  That will permanently remove the object from the library and the files.
from here

Editorial note:
“In the interests of editorial disclosure, I would like to note that this review was completed with some financial consideration from the developers of Lumion.
Luke Johnson

Information related to older versions
I have been familiar with Lumion for some time.  A full scale Lumion review has been on my radar for a while, but like anything, it takes time to have a proper look at a piece of software.

My past experiences with Lumion had been hampered by less-than-stellar hardware.  You really do need a decent workstation to have a fluid and productive time with Lumion. In my case, my new workstation at Virtual Built has 64gb of RAM, a 6 core (12 hyperthreaded) processor, and a Quadro K4000 video card.

You can view release notes at:
http://lumion3d.com/lumion-4-0-release-notes

Older shortcuts page:
http://forum.lumion3d.com/f-a-q/lumion-4-tips-tricks-and-shortcuts/

I previously posted about Lumion at:
What Revit Wants: Real-time visualization with Lumion

You probably know that you can import a Viewpoint animation into a Scene animation in Navisworks, like this:

  1. Animation Ribbon – Animator
  2. Add Scene
  3. Right click on the Scene, Add Camera, From Current Viewpoint Animation

Ok, that’s fine. But what if you do some work on the Scene Animation, add keyframes, adjust pacing, and then you want to convert it back into a Viewpoint Animation? Here’s how you do it:

  1. Open Animator and get a Scene animation ready to press “Play”
  2. Animation Ribbon – Click the Record button 
  3. Click the Scene name, and the Play button will activate in Animator
  4. Press Play in Animator, and wait for your animation to complete
  5. Press Stop in the Ribbon
  6. Press the Record button again to toggle it “off”. Navisworks will now save the Animation into your Saved Viewpoints
  7. Delete any unnecessary Cuts etc

With this tip, you can now convert to and from a Scene and Viewpoint animations as needed. Viewpoint animations are a bit easier to put together, but it might be easier to adjust the pacing in the Animator. Obviously, the Animator has more power and control if you intend to actually animate objects in your scene.

On a related note…
I’ve come across a bit of a bug in Navisworks 2015 with Viewpoint animations and huge models (like 2gb huge). If you have a Home view with Hide/Required and Materials set, and all your Animation views have those options unticked, then you should be able to flick to your animation without losing your colours, right? Well, in some cases it seems to work, but in others it seems to reset the appearance whenever I switch to the animation, meaning I lose colour overrides.

I tried working around the color issue like this:

  1. Open project
  2. Make a new folder
  3. In the folder make a new animation
  4. Drag all of the views from previous animation to the new one
  5. Collapse the Animation
  6. Switch to a view with Hide/Required and Color applied (ie. Home view)
  7. Click on the new animation name (OK, doesn’t seem to reset colours)
  8. Expand and click a view (sometimes works, maybe, but can also fail)

Another workaround is to switch to your coloured Home view, save a 2013 version NWD and work in Navisworks 2013. Sometimes the downgrade bakes the colours into the elements, meaning you don’t lose them when you switch to and from the Viewpoint Animation.

    This is one of the most exciting new addins to appear for visualizing your Revit model. It is simple to use, powerful and intuitive, and I recommend you try it out.

    Go ahead and click here to Download it now

    Use coupon code whatrevitwants to receive 30% off

    EDIT added video by Greg Demchak:
     

    Follow these steps after clicking the above link:
    1) Scroll down to ColorByNumber trial and add to cart

     
    2) Checkout

     3) Place Order

     4) Download file

    5) Install the file and open Revit

    6) Click on the Color button on the Addins ribbon

    7) Put in your email and the license key that you were emailed during checkout process

    Here is a quick how-to on using it:

    1. Open a 3D View and open ColorByNumber
    2. Switch to the Colors tab and click on the New icon. This will make a new Colour Scheme. 
    3. Give the new scheme a name.
    4. Select a Category and a Parameter
    5. A list of all available values in the project will appear, with some preset colours
    6. Click Apply

    These colours are now applied to your view. The colours will be visible in all display modes in 2014: Wireframe, Hidden Line, Shaded, Consistent Colors, Realistic and even Raytrace. Its easy, functional and overall very impressive…

    Switching to the Schemes tab will now show this new scheme as an option. If we switch to a completely different Revit project, we can instantly re-use this scheme in the other project. We don’t have to transfer the scheme or anything.

    Just when you were thinking how great this all is, there is a humble little button at the bottom of the main ColorByNumber dialog – Isolate. This will isolate the coloured objects, making it very easy to navigation and view your Revit model based on Category, Parameters and values.

    Let’s try another example: colour all Walls by their Structural Material. In about 8 clicks, it is done.

    So, who is Greg Demchak, you may be wondering? Well, he was this guy:

    so you can see why he knows a thing or two about Revit and UI design 🙂

    Some dot points:

    • A schedule is a good tabular view of the model data… With ColorByNumber, we make accessing information easy and visual, which can lead you to new insights on your model
    • quickly select and isolate elements by their parameter values–something you can’t do with Revit out of the box. 
    • user research found that ColorByNumber is on the order of 100 times faster than using built-in Revit tools that accomplish similar results.

    Some other links:
    How to Use ColorByNumber with Revit | BIMrayBIMray

    What’s Next? | BIMrayBIMray

    ColorByNumber “free 30 day trial” version now supports multiple users. | BIMrayBIMray

    Helping search: this post is about Color By Number, otherwise known as ColorByNumber 

      After receiving and using my SpacePilot Pro, I can honestly start with a simple:

      Wow.

      Have you ever wondered:

      1. Is the SPP difficult to setup and start using?
      2. Is the SPP compatible with my modelling software of choice?
      3. Revit and the SPP – is it worth it?
      4. Should I buy one?

      If you have, then read on…

      The SpacePilot Pro is the top-of-the-range 3D navigation peripheral offered by 3Dconnexion (formed in 2001 by Logitech).  Other products include the SpaceMouse Pro, SpaceExplorer, SpaceNavigator for Notebooks and the SpaceNavigator.

      There are three main parts to this review – you can find them by scrolling to the big underlined headings:

      • The Revit Part
      • The Other Part
      • The Summary

      Unboxing and First Impressions
      I was quite excited to unbox and start using it.  I really wanted to put it through its paces properly, in multiple 3D tools and in Windows 7 in general, before passing judgement.  So, I took my time… I wanted to make sure that I didn’t just fall in love with the ‘idea’ – I wanted to try it in a number of different practical scenarios.

      I opened the box and had a little play with the joystick.  3Dconnexion calls it “6DoF” – it means it has six degrees of movement.  X and Y panning, X and Y roll, pull Up and push Down, and Twist anticlockwise and clockwise.  Here’s a short vid:

      The general feel and build quality is very good.  It is a heavy, solid, well built unit.

      At this point, I also read the Feature Guide.  The image below shows the primary functions of the device:

      Connection and Setup
      After connecting the device Windows 7 64-bit tried to find drivers on Windows Update, but, as expected, it couldn’t.  So I popped in the installation CD.  The Setup program prompted me to check for updates on the 3dconnexion website.  The /checkupdates link that Setup opened appeared to be broken (or perhaps some incompatibility with Firefox), so I installed drivers using this page.  These were the files I downloaded – drivers (3DxSoftware64SPP_v3-16-2_r1356 at 154mb) and a release notes PDF.

      Once drivers were downloaded, I ran the exe.  Choosing Custom allowed me to see all of the software plugins that were going to be installed, such as AutoCAD, Inventor and 3dsMax.  The setup program then prompted me to install the Autodesk 3dconnexion hotfix for AutoCAD 2013.  I downloaded the hotfix while the setup program continued to run.  After setup was completed, I opened AutoCAD to check if I had installed SP1 already (as this was a requirement for the hotfix).  SP1 was installed, so I installed the hotfix by replacing the acvmtools.crx in my AutoCAD 2013 folder.

      Finally, I allowed setup to launch the proprietary 3DxWare program.  Oh, and I took the plastic cover off my SPP LCD screen 🙂 

      First tasks
      I ran the Trainer software and it was certainly an eye opener.  While I could immediately see the potential and I could grasp how the device worked, I wouldn’t say that I was especially confident with it upon first use.  In fact, I played the placement game and I was informed that it “wasn’t the fastest time” the game master had seen 🙂

      Next, I ran the Viewer and tried the 4 different control modes using the Menu button – Object, Camera, Target Camera and Helicopter mode.  I wonder which will be most useful in Revit?

      I tried using Design Review at this early stage, and I struggled a little bit, but I thought “give it some time”.  I have a feeling this is to do with Design Review forcing the placement of the cameras to be outside the building envelope.

      Now (drumroll please), on to …
      The Revit Part

      The device worked straight away (no configuration necessary).  I was pleased to see it Pan and Zoom in 2D views (Plans, Sections, Elevations etc) very easily and intuitively.  Switching to 3D, I couldn’t figure out how to Zoom.  I tested the shortcuts to Top/Bottom, Front/Back, Right/Left and they all worked nicely.  Sometimes I had to press Top and then Left or Right to show proper respect for gravity.  I could get Iso1 to work, but Iso2 did not.

      It turns out that the Zoom problem was me… I found that you had to put one finger on the side of the dial nearest the LCD, and your thumb on the other side, to effectively use the push/pull motion to zoom.  It will take some practice – don’t expect to wow your colleagues if you have just bought it and plugged it in!  In fact, controlling the push/pull zoom on the device may be your biggest challenge – move slowly, and feel the resistance in the device.  Skip down to “Having Problems with the SPP and Revit?” to learn more.

      The default shortcuts for Revit are not too bad, mainly to do with view styles (but I will talk more about customization and shortcuts later).  Interestingly, a VirtualNumPad is provided, so you can enter numbers using the mouse without taking your hands off either your standard mouse or your 3D mouse.

      Of the Navigation Setting Keys, the Pan and Zoom key and the Rotation key essentially toggle (you always have to have one of them on, or both).  In Revit, you will commonly turn the Rotation key on and off (because you can’t really ‘Tilt’ a view in Revit anyway).

      The overall Revit Experience
      Using the SPP with Revit is very enjoyable.  It gives you a new, tactile way to experience and visualise your building.  You can really get inside the model, look around, and check things out.  However, to truly increase your productivity, you are going to have to take some time: time to get used to the controls, time to set up shortcuts to your liking, time to see how the SPP reacts under different conditions.

      One of the biggest limiting factors is your general computer and display hardware.  If it is poor, then your experience will likely be choppy (check out the Supporting Hardware section below).

      Specific Revit Tasks
      I tested the SPP in the following Revit tasks:

      1. Family creation
      2. Conceptual massing / modelling
      3. Building modelling
      4. Building navigation and visualisation

      Revit Tips
      The single biggest tip is this – in Revit 2013 you can only switch between Object, Walk and Fly modes in a Perspective 3D view.  And only in 3D views will you see the little 3Dconnexion gizmo in the Navigation bar, which allows you to set the mode (between Object, Walk and Fly):

      You can also set shortcuts (in Revit) to these modes and map them to buttons (in the SPP utility):

      When using Walk mode, I recommend that you turn Dominant Axis off (top right hand button on the SPP).

      In a 3D ortho view, it will help to use a Section Box if you are working with a large site or sparse 3D objects – it can be difficult to control if the extents of the model objects are geographically distant from one another, but a Section Box mitigates this problem.

      Other tips:
      Use your normal mouse to select objects as you visualize your building.  This will set the Pivot (centre of rotation) that the SPP will use.  Otherwise, you may find your building flying off over your shoulder.  Interestingly, the “pivot” in Revit get set to the selected object – but then that Pivot setting will persist even after objects are de-selected.

      You can also use the Center Tool option to place the pivot / orbit point with a left-click of your “normal” mouse:

      You should probably turn the Dominant Axis switch on, at least to start with.  Its a bit more forgiving.

      You can use the Esc key on the SPP to stop commands or unselect objects in Revit as you navigate the model.  You can (obviously) also use Ctrl button on the SPP to select multiple objects.

      Having Problems with the SPP and Revit?
      If you run into trouble, there are a few steps to take:

      1. Don’t panic!
      2. Click the Fit button
      3. Try the Top / Left / Right buttons
      4. Map a button to Rezero.  If things go a little wacky, hit Rezero then close and re-open the 3D view.
      5. Use the ZoomToAwesome shortcut described below to quickly zoom the selected object

      If you are struggling with the Zoom speed (like things are moving too close or too far away), then go into the SPP settings in Revit (by clicking the Menu button on the SPP), and turn the Zoom Speed all the way down, like this:

      You may need to play with this setting to get it just right.

      Revit Shortcuts and Customization
      If you want to make the most of the SPP, you should use the plethora of buttons on the device to speed up common tasks.  I made a few awesome shortcuts.  One of these does three things with one click = Temporary Isolate – AutoSectionBox – Zoom to Fit.  Simply select an object, then press one button, and all this happens!  On my system, it looks like:

      I also set a shortcut to remove the section box and Reset the Temporary Isolate.  (Note – autosectionbox only works in 3d ortho views).

      I followed the lead on Wikihelp help video and made a custom shortcut that does two things – Show Workplane, and then Set Workplane.  I mapped this to the centre shortcut (number 5) on the SPP.

      Do you remember Zoom to Awesome?  Well, we can make a shortcut to Zoom To the selected object with the SPP:

      I set the Alt button on the SPP to be used as a Tab press – its very close to the main dial on the SPP… and in Revit, we are always tabbing.

      For prolific Revit keyboard shortcut users (like me):

      • Don’t forget that you can right-click your normal mouse to access a list of Recent Commands – that way you can keep your two hands on their respective mice
      • I had already mapped most of my keyboard shortcuts (in Revit) to be under my left hand (near the ASDF keys) on a standard keyboard.  This way, its only a short ‘jump’ from the SPP to the LH side of the keyboard…(if you are right handed, that is).

      My main Revit shortcuts look like this:

      Revit Wishlist
      My main item on the Revit wishlist would be the ability to use Walk mode in a 3D orthographic view.  As most of our actual modelling work gets done in an orthographic view (primarily because Revit doesn’t let us do things in a perspective camera view), then it just makes sense for the SPP to allow the more intuitive Walk mode in ortho / isometric 3D views.

      I corresponded with 3Dconnexion’s Director of Global Marketing on this issue, and he notified me that “the 3D mouse integration (in Revit) is handled by Autodesk. We can make requests but in the past it’s proven more effective for Autodesk’s actual customers to make them”.  So, in some ways it is back on us (as users) to notify the Factory of what we want, perhaps by using this form and asking for Walk Mode in 3D orthographic views.

      Supporting Hardware
      I tested this on a PC running a Core i7 975 XE at 3.4ghz, with 12 gb of RAM – not a bad system.  Initially, I tested using a Nvidia Quadro FX 580.  This video card is getting a bit old now, and it showed (in fact, I generally ran it with Graphics Acceleration and Antialiasing turned off in Revit, for stability reasons).  The SPP causes you to want to smoothly rotate and zoom your model in a natural, gestural fashion – but if your graphics hardware can’t keep up, the experience is a bit choppy and laggy.

      Thankfully, I upgraded to a Gigabyte GTX 660Ti WF2 Edition, and it completely changed my experience with the SPP and Revit.  Even with this high end card, however, I had to steer clear of Ambient Shadows and Realistic shading if I wanted to keep things smooth.  Anti-aliasing was no problem…

      Note on Revit 2014 and the SPP
      I anticipate that day-to-day use of the SPP with Revit 2014 will be more pleasing, due to the Graphics hardware performance tweaks that are present in the new version.  Things should be a bit more ‘fluid’ than in 2013…

      The Other Part
      AutoCAD Tips
      You will probably want to disable rotation when using AutoCAD for architectural purposes (plans / sections etc).

      Design Review Tips
      You can’t really use Walk mode in ADR 2013, but you can approximate it by using a mixture of the Full Navigation or Tour Building Wheels and your ‘standard’ mouse, and turning off Rotation on the SPP.  You can now look with one mouse, and pan and zoom with the SPP.  A true Walk mode would be better, however.

      3ds Max Design 2013 x64
      There is nice integration between the SPP and 3ds Max.  Pressing the Menu button allows you to switch viewing modes easily.

      Device Specifics – LCD
      The LCD was initially very handy for viewing and opening emails.  Just press the home button (little rectangle with gears) then use arrow keys and OK.

      Serial Number
      Your SPP serial number is on the USB cable.

      Weird things
      I found that my PC’s keyboard or numpad would occasionally seem not to respond – it wasn’t really a big issue.

      After switching between a few apps, the controller got ‘lost’.  It would not function in any programs (though the LCD screen would still work).  To fix this, I forcibly closed the 3dxsrv.exe process and then opened 3DxWare from the Start menu.  I then had to close the 3DxWare tray application (!) and close and reopen Revit. This seems like a driver issue.  This only happened once.

      On another occasion, everything seemed to be ok, but nothing was happening when I moved the SPP.  In this case, I closed 3DxWare from the tray, then restarted it from the Start menu, and finally closed and reopened a Revit document.

      If your controller doesn’t show a blue ring, it won’t work.  Unless you have turned off the LED in the settings, but why would you 🙂

      Sometimes the view would ‘flip upside down’ in Revit and it was difficult to find the Top again (it seemed that even the ViewCube was flipped somehow).  It looked a bit like this:

      Inverted view – press FIT to fix

      On one occasion, I was running in a big etransmit in another instance of Revit, and it kept stealing focus.  This did not play well with the SPP.

      Tested Software and Operating Systems (this list will be progressively updated)
      Software that I used with the SPP:
      Win7 64-bit
      Design Review 2013 — works ok
      Revit 2013 (update 2) — see above
      VEO (version 1.5.1) — did not work
      meshmixer 08 — did not work
      Google Earth 7.0.3.8542 — did not work
      AutoCAD 2012 — works nicely
      Inventor Fusion 2012 — works nicely (Object, Walk, Fly and 2D modes all available)
      Hosted Revit 2014 (Citrix Receiver) — did not work (possibly a Citrix config issue)
      Adobe Reader X — worked intermittently
      Adobe Acrobat XI — did not work

      Autodesk 3ds Max Design 2013 64-bit — works nicely

      Win8 64-bit

      AutoCAD Mechanical
      AutoCAD Electrical
      Autodesk Alias Design 2014 — works nicely
      Sketchbook Designer 2014 — did not work

      Most of the above results can be verified on the Supported Software page.

      Note: where software is marked as did not work above, this likely means that 3Dconnexion has not yet added a plugin for that piece of software to the SPP drivers.

      The Summary
      In the competitive AEC, CAD and BIM fields, each individual and company needs to establish a point of difference in order to establish their reputation and prove their inherent worth.  For most of us, our point of difference is our unique experience and breadth of knowledge.  However, experience needs to be paired with suitable tools – in technical terms, this means good quality PC hardware, and reliable input devices.

      The SpacePilot Pro can give you an edge, a competitive advantage that differentiates you from your colleagues.

      What about our questions from the start of the review?  Here are the answers:

      1. Is the SPP difficult to setup and start using?
        No, it’s easy.
      2. Is the SPP compatible with my modelling software of choice?
        Most likely, but you can check to make sure.
      3. Revit and the SPP – is it worth it?
        I think so – once you have set shortcuts and become used to the device, it is an enjoyable and productive way to interact with Revit.
      4. Should I buy one?
        Depends… do you want to have an edge that differentiates you from your colleagues? 🙂

      How can you buy one?
      Head over to http://www.3dconnexion.com/ and use the Buy links to Locate a Reseller, view Online Resellers, or buy in the 3Dconnexion shop.



      Further reading
      3Dconnexion 3D Mouse – WikiHelp
      “Walk and Fly modes can only be used in a perspective projection (a camera view). Use Object mode to navigate an orthographic view, such as the default 3D view.”

      In Fly mode “The orientation and height of the current view is not maintained.”

      Revit: Revit 2012 – 3d mice – 3Dconnexion support
      “I fired up Revit 2012; the first thing you notice is that an additional icon is included within the navigation bar.”

      Revit Architecture 2012 and the SpacePilot PRO | ClubRevit

      Using the 3DConnexion SpacePilot Pro in Revit Products – WikiHelp (video by Tom Vollaro)
      This video shows a cool tip – you can set multiple keyboard shortcuts to occur one after the other and map that to a SPP shortcut key.  In the example, Tom turns Workplane Visibility on and then starts the Set Workplane command all with one button press!

      AEC Magazine – 3DConnexion SpaceMouse in Revit 2012
      ” those who do not use a great deal of keyboard shortcuts to drive Revit will see even more benefit from the device than those that do.”

      58741-Extend Your 3D Mouse Use into Revit 2012 and Beyond

      Case Study – Jay Zallan

      SpacePilot™ Pro from 3Dconnexion

      3D Mouse Navigation: A Better Way to Design
      So What’s It Like When You Don’t Use a 3D Mouse?
      We meet some pretty passionate 3D mouse users. Sometimes, they’re even more passionate about what it’s like working without one.
      “It’s like driving a stick-shift transmission for the first time,” says Jonathan Landeros. “I have to remember which keys are used for navigation, and I have to make sure to move my hand to that icon or hotkey. Without my 3D mouse, navigation isn’t quite as clean and smooth.”

      3D Connexion – What we found. – Autodesk Discussion Groups
      This link includes comments on the driver development for 3Dconnexion devices, as well as one company’s experience with Support.

      A bit of history and dialogue
      I received my SpacePilot Pro back on 19 March 2013, as my Twitter followers would know:

      While I was testing, there was some interest generated in a product review:

       

       

      via Chad Smith on Youtube:

      Chad Smith13:24

      So, how are you finding it?
      I have a Space Navigator and find it a little sluggish with Revit projects, but Revit Family creation is pretty cool. It works really well with Inventor too. Basically, anything which is small component size.


      Have you tried Showcase yet?

      Like Shades of Grey, I’m relatively excited about Showcase:
      One of my brightest hopes for Revit 2013 is Showcase, which is a totally separate application.  Could this finally be the viewer that works ?  I’ve tried Design Review & Navis Works Freedom,  Quicktime FBX plugin, Tekla Bimsight … People are doing clever things with Game Engines, but I need a quick and easy way of bringing a lightweight export from the model into meetings.  
      via
      Shades of Grey: BROAD BRUSH & FINE DETAIL

      Evidently, you need a pretty decent system to make everything smooth, as Neil Thompson says
      @jrostar it eats ram more than revit on full render.

      A few links:
      Suites Workflow Manager – WikiHelp

      Revit Workflows in the Autodesk Building Design Suite – WikiHelp

      Installation notes:

      I really tried to get Showcase working without installing the whole Building Design Suite, but I haven’t figured it out yet! Here are some of the steps I tried:

      1. Install Revit, Showcase and Max (separate downloads, not from BDS media)
      2. Activate all products using a Suite license
      3. Extract the folder WorkflowInstaller from your extracted Suite archive – Content subfolder.
      4. Close all Autodesk programs
      5. Run the file AutodeskBuildingDesignSuiteWorkflows.msi from the appropriate subfolder (x64 or x86)
      6. Open Revit – Suite Workflows still not visible 🙁

      Direct download Showcase 2013 (use this method):
      http://trial.autodesk.com/SWDLDDLM/2013/SHOWCASE/ESD/Autodesk_Showcase_2013_Multilingual_Win_64bit.exe

      Direct download 3dsMaxDesign 2013 (use this method):
      http://trial.autodesk.com/SWDLDDLM/2013/MAXDES/ESD/Autodesk_3ds_Max_Design_2013_EFGKJS_Win_64bit.exe
      http://trial.autodesk.com/SWDLDDLM/2013/MAXDES/ESD/Autodesk_3ds_Max_Design_2013_EFGKJS_Win_32bit.exe

      AutoCAD Design Suite Standard 2013
      http://trial.autodesk.com/SWDLDDLM/2013/DSSTD/ESD/AutoCAD_Design_Suite_Standard_2013_English_Win_32bit.part1.exe
      http://trial.autodesk.com/SWDLDDLM/2013/DSSTD/ESD/AutoCAD_Design_Suite_Standard_2013_English_Win_32bit.part2.rar

      Some notes about Workflows:

      Need to install 3dsMax to make it work:
      Revit Workflows in the Autodesk Building Design Suite – WikiHelp

      Install Workflows – WikiHelp
      BDSP 2013extContentWorkflowInstallerx64
      “C:ProgramDataAutodeskWorkflowsProducts.xml”

      What is Autodesk DirectConnect? – WikiHelp

      I have previously posted about the future of real-time visualization tools.  Lumion appears to be developing a bit of a following.  Have you used it?  How did you implement it?

      If you haven’t seen what it does before, there is a set of videos at this link:
      Revit Landscape – Urban Design: Lumion 3D

      Promo video:

      If you want to see a project go from Revit to Lumion (also this thread):

      A free version for non-commercial use is available from this page.  The free version will apparently be updated to version 2 in January 2012 (only a few days of that month to go…)

      The company line:
      Lumion® is a real-time 3D visualization tool for architects, urban planners and designers.
      It’s perfectly suited for creating videos, still renderings and live demonstrations with a quick turnaround.
      Lumion offers excellent graphics in combination with a fast and efficient workflow, saving you time, effort and money.
      It is in fact so easy to create awesome still renderings and videos with Lumion® that it almost feels like cheating.

      There has been a lot of talk recently about real time rendering, about using game engines as visualization tools on BIM platforms, and generally about making an awesome 3D development environment that allows for instant and immersive presentation of the building model.

      I don’t think that this environment exists quite yet – either the tools are too game oriented, or they are too building oriented.  We don’t have one tool that just hits all of the sweet spots.  But one day … one day I think we will.

      Can you picture a day when work and play will be somewhat synonymous?  When the software you are using to design a building will allow instant visualization?  It will allow you to fully apply real environments, real weather, real materials – and see the effects in real time.  Navigation will be intuitive, first person, and fast.

      There are a few tools and technologies that are getting there.  Below I have provided some links that talk about Unity 3D, Twinmotion and Showcase.  To be brutally honest, I have Showcase installed but I balk at the prospect of learning and implementing another tool – I want it to BE Revit.  Built in.  Don’t increase the amount of software in my ecosystem – reduce it.  Please.

      I assume that the same goes for Revit, but passing by 3ds Max instead of Cinema4D.
      http://archvirtual.com/2011/11/15/archicad-to-unity3d-and-more-about-revit-to-unity3d/

      http://www.slideshare.net/stefanboeykens/using-3d-design-software-bim-and-game-engines-for-architectural-historical-reconstruction

      Various real time visuals:
      http://insidethefactory.typepad.com/my_weblog/2011/11/realtime-rendering.html

       Image from http://www.flashscope.com/blog/unity-3d-new-dimension-for-game-development/