Wednesday, April 11, 2012


3 or 4 days into my first hands-on explorations of 2013 and almost 2 weeks since I spent a long evening reading, listening and reflecting on the various official announcements & reviews.  As expected my reactions have been fluctuating fairly wildly.  Too early to make a balanced judgement.
The media day webcasts grabbed my attention more than the lists of new features.  Cloud services and synergies between Revit, 3dMax & Showcase.  These are significant shifts in emphasis that make a lot of sense to me. 

Previous experience suggests that the new features will grow on me as I start to use them.  So I've been playing with the new toys.


David Light made an interesting point about the new Ray Trace feature. Why do we need 3 ways of creating a rendered effect ? So I was a bit surprised to get an immediate "wow" effect first time I fired up Ray Trace. Maybe they should call it something else, like "real-time".

I realised during my studies of the Gherkin that rendered views should not be restricted to client presentations.  They offer much better depth cues than shaded views.  I've been using them a lot lately during design development.  Adding the ability to rotate the model in real-time is a revelation.    Even a slight change in viewing angle gives our brains a much better grasp of spatial relationships.  Right now it's sluggish but that will change, and even with the delayed response it's still something I want to take into design team workshops.

So maybe they should have retired "realistic" ?  Well not really.  First off it's much faster than ray-trace.  But crucially it has also expanded it's capabilities to show RPC objects as bitmaps.  For me realistic is now at its best in orthographic views, where you expect a semi-real graphic style.  Add in the new backgrounds available in sections / elevations and a whole new world opens up. 

I like the ability to control saturation etc via the new Photographic Exposure settings. Realistic views always tended to look a bit garish, but now you can tone them down with ease. Sepia Tone elevations perhaps ?

With so many combinations now available I couldn't resist throwing 4 different styles into a photo-editor and applying random masks. New opportunities for image processing.

I don't claim to be an expert yet. But I've been dabbling in the new rail extensions which can be sketch edited to produce a some interesting terminations.

For some reason, the sketch editing is a bit different from other tools.  For example you can't control distances by typing values into the temporary dimensions.  When forming a radius by sketching you need to specify a preset radius if you have an exact value in mind.  Nudging works fine though, and if you nudge the first piece of extension a new segment will form to extend the parent rail.  Strangely though, I had to press the right arrow to nudge down

There is another way to create radius transitions using the "Edit Rail Joins" button.  This also offers a way to set a default radius by Rail Type.  That's about as far as I got, but there's much more to play with and the promise of more to come over the next couple of releases.


I like the new component based stair tool, and the fact that it integrates with sketch-based stairs.  Nice to be able to type in a new width and number of risers for a run and get an immediate response.  But the first thing I wanted to know was how whether I could get the plan graphics to meet my expectations.  For me, the appearance of stairs in plan views has been a source of frustration for many years.

I'm happy to say that there are several significant improvements.  Double break lines, stair numbering, better arrows.  So I shouldn't complain, but of course I will.  Why are we still waiting for a 120 degree arrow for example ?  I don't think I'm the only architect who prefers this style of arrow.  Seems such a simple thing to ask. 

And while I'm at it, wouldn't it be nice to have some shortcuts to settings from drop-down lists.  Then you wouldn't have to abort what you are doing, know where to find the settings, create a new type and then start all over again.  Has to be much easier, especially for new users. 

There are many other cases where this idea could be applied.  For example: you are creating a rail and can't find the profile you want.  Why not offer a shortcut that opens the family library at the profiles folder ?  And what about a shortcut to "Type Properties" of profiles that do appear in the drop-down list, then you could duplicate/rename etc  on the fly.  Has to be a singificant time-saver.

Another example that comes to mind is View Titles.  I remember how confused I was about these when I first start using Revit.  Seemed crazy that you had to go to so many different places to customise one item.  Surely shortcuts could help here also.  Following the same principles you could load a new annotation family, or go to the type properties of one that alread appears in the drop down list. 

Even better if this then gave you the chance to jump straight into family editor to change the font or add a new visibility control.  Why do we keep having to abort a task half way and then scroll down the browser looking for a family that you just saw in a drop-down list ?

So far I've just scratched the surface, and there's some good stuff in there with the promise of much more to come.  Dave Baldacchinos' April Fools spoof captured very nicely the feeling we all have from time to time that the sheer size of Autodesk is slowing things down.  april first

 But I'm not too upset that the guys who own Revit also possess Maya, Showcase, Inventor, Robobat, Ecotect, Green Building Studio, Navis Works ...  There's a bigger picture here and cynicism aside, I'm OK with the broad-brush stragegizing that's going on up there (CloudMediaSocial, Synergies Between Products, Analysis & Simulation)  And the fact is that Autodesk have a long history of encouraging 3rd party involvement.  Big or small, we all have an important part to play in developing the BIM project.

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