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HELP - which 3d application???

Sofia Ames

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I work in a small architectural office with only Macs (osx) and VW10. My colleague is a diehard AutoCad man and wants us to get StudioPro or Viz to do our 3d work (we'll have to get a pc or virtual pc to do that). I suspect that VW10's built in 3d capabilities coupled with either Renderworks or Strata would be a better (and cheaper solution).

We do mostly small, high end residential projects and most of our clients do not want to pay for anything sophisticated in terms of presentation (since it's just for them), but we would like to be able to do some 3d work in order to help them visualize the project. In other words, we need something that is quick and easy to use.

I have gone through the existing threads, but there isn't really much of an indication of what people are using their applications for (ie for fancy presentations vs. quick 3d sketches).

Could anyone give me some suggestions, advice, experiences....Thanks!

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Three programs to look at. Nemetschek's own Renderworks, Artlantis by Abvent and Cinema 4D from Maxon.

All provide a plug in for export direct to each program. I've never used Renderworks.

Artlantis will also import dxf files so you can import Autocad stuff as well, but with the Vectorworks route you can also update VW files and do the same to the Artlantis file without loss of materials, light settings etc.

It's very easy to use. About a day to learn the controls.

It is only a rendering and animation program.

I have heard it's superior to Renderworks in it's results but having never used Renderworks I can't confirm it.

They also do CD's containing extra textures to load into Artlantis.

The big difference with Cinema is that it's also a modeling program as well. Also the lighting rendering etc. is far superior and many more controls and features than Artlantis, that's not to say Artlantis is bad. You can get the basic module of Cinema at a reasonable price, adding other features if you need them. One such module is Sketch and Toon which will give your renders a variety of looks including watercolour, marker, sketched etc.

Both have web sites with galleries showing samples of work done and demo programs are available. Demos will not include plug in as they are, like most demo copies, save/export disabled.

Also both, like Vectorworks, work on both Mac and PC if that's an issue.

If you purchase either of the above remember to order the "for Vectorworks" version to ensure the additional plug in is in the package.

All the best


[ 10-22-2004, 10:58 AM: Message edited by: alanmac ]

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Hi Sofia,

At the risk of not plugging VW (which I'm personally always doing) I think you should take a look at Sketch Up (http://www.sketchup.com/).

Your colleague is die-hard ACAD, so you're not going to be able to steer them from the ACAD interace. But trust me, I work in every program mentioned already in this thread, you don't want to get into the more complicated software unless clients are shelling out the cash.

Sketch Up is designed to be fast and artistic; perfect for small presentation. You can import from ACAD, so your colleague will be happy. Plus it's easy for just about anyone (inlcuding non-CAD people) to learn fast. It's MAC and PC; so everyone can play. Don't worry, it's not one of those "any idiot" programs designed for do-it-yourself use. It's made by 3d professionals with designers in mind.

I have friends who design for television and film, and they love the software. They can get flashy results or old school architectural sketch results very quickly. As I said, check out the web site. It's worth a look.

(. . . but I still love VectorWorks!. . . I swear!. . I'm drafting with it right now!)

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I agree with squirelboy71 in looking at Sketch Up. I must admit I overlooked that one, but have a client who uses it and loves it. It has it limitations, what program doesn't, but this may be ideal for your needs.

I was tending to think more along the lines that you already had everything created in Vectorworks and was looking to render this.

I've never used Sketch Up but have heard so many good things about it. So yes I would not argue with squirrelboy71's recommendation to look at it as well.

You won't get the possible level of render obtainable from the other programs from what I've seen, but what it does produce(and its not bad at all!!) may be just what you need. A full working demo available which I think is restricted by time in the program rather than features.

good luck


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Originally posted by Kaare Baekgaard:

Sofia don't listen to long discussions about different alternatives. It is really quite simple:

For a value-for-money solution only Vectorworks with Renderworks will do. It is not the most fanciful solution, but it is FAST, reliable, easy to use and more than good enough for your needs.

(I am not a salesman for Nemetchek :-)

Tell me do you have first hand experience of the programs you are telling her to ignore?

All the solutions mentioned will also import dxf files, with the Autocad user in mind. Can Renderworks import dxf or dwg files?

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oh gosh, didn't mean to start a fight. I guess I wasn't clear, although my colleague is a ACAD diehard, he is in fact using VW in our office. He just keeps asking for things that are "as good as in ACAD." So when picking a 3d program, I wanted something that would be familiar to him in terms of its workings.

In my experience, when I do 3d work in VW, I have to redraw a good chunk of the relevant 2d stuff because it's not drawn in the same way as I would want it for 3d. So I'm not sure how important exporting from VW is (although we have no trouble exporting to dwg for our engineers etc.)

So I guess, I have 2 main choices:

1) I would do the 3d bit in VW and then export it to something else to render it (Renderworks, Strata..etc.)

2) I would do the 3d stuff in something like SketchUp or Strata and render it in the same program. (did i understand this correctly?)

One thing my colleague mentioned was that he would like to be able to do sunpath diagrams...ie show the path of the sun and corresponding cast shadows in/on the project through the day. Will all of these options do this? Any direct experience with this?

In the meantime I will download the SketchUp trial and have a go. Thanks.

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VectorWorks Architect with RenderWorks would be your best option.

Suggest you do a theoretical cost of ownership for the next 5 year period using historical data. You should include the costs of:

- initial purchase;

- upgrades;

- additional modules which may be necessary for functionality;

- additional libraries which may be required;

- training:

- support; and

- any hardware upgrades that may be necessary.

I am sure you will find that VectorWorks Architect with RenderWorks will come out well in front. An added bonus is you won't have to change to Wintel machines and the nightmare of managing a Windows environment

Whilst SketchUp looks like it might be good for design, having to go back and start again in another program for the design development and contract documentation phases would be frustrating and time consuming.

One of the big plus's of VectorWorks is it's integrated hybrid environment which allows you to work in 2D and 3D at the same time without compromising the output of either. Depending on your client's willingness to pay you can choose how far to take the 3D - if you want it can be not at all. You will still be able to do all of your work satisfactorily.

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  • Vectorworks, Inc Employee


Originally posted by Sofia Ames:

So I guess, I have 2 main choices:

1) I would do the 3d bit in VW and then export it to something else to render it (Renderworks, Strata..etc.)

Note that RenderWorks is not a separate program, it plugs into VectorWorks so you just get additional rendering options in the render list and additional resources for textures, image props, and the like.

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The other big advantage of VectorWorks with RenderWorks is that you are doing all of your work in one program.

This is a significant advantage over doing the model in one program and exporting to another for the rendering. Make a change and you have to re-export and do it all again. I've been there - it becomes time consuming ($) and boring!

It may be justifiable for high quality output where the client is paying you to do this. For the average user however this is not the case - you need to be able to do it quickly and easily as part of your normal workflow. VectorWorks Architect with RenderWorks allows you to do this.

There is also the added advantage of not having to purchase, upgrade and learn two separate programs.

Your decision should be made on the basis of fitness for purpose. Don't run with the sheep just because it is what everyone else is doing - make a clever decision.

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  • 1 month later...

It really depends on what you need. Renderworks' is ok, but it's kind of like a handyman - do-it-yourself tool. It good, but not 'the best'. It is easy to use, if you don't push it too much, and it can be incorporated into you cad software. OF course you can beat Viz or 3DS, as these are dedicated rendering packages. They do however take more time to learn, and can be more time consuming. I second Mike m oz - "Your decision should be made on the basis of fitness for purpose. Don't run with the sheep just because it is what everyone else is doing - make a clever decision."

Don't worry about starting a fight...I think everyone should be able to take criticsm in a mature and adult manner.

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If you didn't already realise and was being ironic I think mike was taking a bit of a swipe at our suggestions for the rendering program, but he inadvertantly, but you did not, come up with the right frame of mind.

Fitness for purpose for my needs is to produce the best I can within a realistic time frame and from a realisticly priced program. Having gone the Artlantis route, which was granted, not as easy as the Renderworks one in process, it did produce better results, but I still felt these could be better.

Cinema offers the same ease of export as Artlantis, a no brainer as far as I'm concerned, but the potential of far better renders from a much more capable program.

It's not as if its what everybody uses it to justify the remark, and its rising popularity is due to the excellent qualities of the program which is why its being suggested more and more, and after all the original post asked for our suggestions and advice.

I can live with the remark that Cinema is not really easy to use if that is a criticsm brought up, but it's not bad either. Would not want to pull the wool over anybodys eyes ;~)

From what I've seen for what its aimed as Sketch up is also excellent. I may get it if funds allow myself.

Be seeing ewe.

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What I was having a dig at was the implied suggestion in Sofia Ames' original post that to be bona fide one had to use Studio Pro or Viz, and that those of us who choose to do otherwise are Phillistines.

There are many ways of doing things, and we need to make decisions on our needs not on what others think we should do. ie. fitness for purpose.

Most of us in the VW community will have had the experience of being criticised by AutoCAD users because we dare to be different. Choosing AutoCAD because it is 'the supposed industry standard' is not always the wisest choice.

Hence the imploring to not be a sheep and follow the masses. No insult to anyone was intended, and I apologise if anyone did take this the wrong way.

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I worked in an architectural office using AutoCad with 3D Studio Viz creating 3D models and rendering them for clients and presentations, but we found as you have suggested, that the clients were just not willing to pay for this work. Now I have my own firm and use VectorWorks with RenderWorks to create the same type of documents for high-end residential projects and with not nearly the same kind of price tag attached. This allows me to work in 3D the way I enjoy working and the client benefits in seeing their project in any rendered perspective view they wish without having to spend a fortune on design fees. You can check out my website if you want to see if this kind of imagery is what you have in mind.

VectorWorks with RenderWorks would be my recommendation!


Samuelson Timberframe Design

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Hi Sofia,

Could you show us an example of what you're expecting from a render solution? I have the feeling we're all stabbing in the dark here. RenderWorks will do the trick, as will Art.Lantis and CINEMA 4D. But the choice will depend on the output quality you need.

I have to agree that you cannot compare 3dviz or 3dmax with either RenderWorks or Art.Lantis. The only direct competitor here would be CINEMA 4D. But I also agree that in most cases 3dviz and certainly 3dmax is just overkill. So again, it depends on the output quality you want.

B.T.W.: I have the feeling that the ACAD guy at your office needs some kind of VW training. Asking things that "are as good as in ACAD" suggest that he doesn't (yet) really understand how VW works.

Kind regards,


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Hi Sophia, i have been working with VW and rederworks and it works very good for my work and client. I have a small firm and they are satisfied when seeing their project develop before their eyes. I have exported to cinema 4D. Maxxon but i could not yet do a decent presentation. although on its own it has a better resolution and is an animation program.

Exporting dxf is possible, but you need to do some home work.Renderworks can do the Job; see http://www.dynamicsystem.aw/Architect.html

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  • 2 weeks later...

As was already stated, Renderworks would be your best bet in terms of money and learning speed since it works direclty in VW, and is designed in the same workflow as vectorworks. cinema would be your next option, offering a lot more control over your render and lights and such but would cost more andtake a slightly longer time to learn.

For a dedicated 3D application with good rendering though, cinema would be your bestbet as well in terms of speed and quality for its price. Only two renderers I'd even recommend over cinema's, and they both cost over 3 times the price not including the applications needed for them, and have very steep learning curves and no bridge to from VW directly as cinema does.

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Originally posted by kaiskai:

Only two renderers I'd even recommend over cinema's, and they both cost over 3 times the price not including the applications needed for them, and have very steep learning curves and no bridge to from VW directly as cinema does.

hmmm... Mental Ray and Renderman? Or would one of those be Splutterfish'es ofspring?


BaRa [Wink]

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