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3D Symbol Changes it Orientation!



Can someone kindly explain to me why a 3d symbol would change its insertion orientation based on the view being used when the symbol is inserted? I've attached a video showing the same 3d symbol being inserted incorrectly when placed in the drawing from a front view, and correctly (rotated 90 degrees about the x axis) when inserted from an isometric view.


This feels like a bug to me, but I'm sure there's more to it than that.






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Hi Jonathan,


Happy New Year!


Thanks for taking some time to look at the video. It would appear that the shifting of the active plane is what's causing this. It's just something I've not had much experience dealing with and strikes me as unexpected behavior. Firstly, I though that only planar (2D) objects could be aligned to the screen. Clearly that's not a factor here, so I've misunderstood that. Perhaps I'm confusing a "screen aligned object" with one that's drawn on the "screen plane?" I was doing some reading on this thread



and at least I'm not the only one confused by the "Screen Aligned Plane" 


I'm also curious about some other behavior I've observed while experimenting. If I begin a drawing in normal perspective view and place a 3d symbol, the active plane is "Screen Aligned," and can only be "Screen Aligned" or "Automatic" however after I place the first symbol and zoom in or out, the active plane switches to "Layer Plane" and the 3D symbol rotated 90 CW about the X axis and its orientation matches the orientation as drawn in the symbol's 3D definition. I'm sure this is working as designed, I just can't understand why it would be designed to work this way!  In other words, when placing a 3D only symbol into a drawing, why isn't the symbol's default behavior to orient itself in the drawing relative to its own 3D orientation? 


Actually, that's the wrong question, because the symbol does place itself into the drawing with the "correct" orientation when placed from a top/plan view. It's only when trying to place the symbol into the drawing from a front elevation (when the drawing's Active Plane becomes "Screen Aligned") that I sigh to myself silently, think about grabbing another beer out of the fridge and just drawing this whole thing up on a cocktail napkin.


I suppose the real question is, "Why does the 'Screen Aligned' Active Plane mode exist, and when would anyone want this kind of behavior?"


I've attached a video showing the Active Plane shifting after zooming in and back out again. It's hard to tell, but around 13 seconds when the active plane shifts, I'm zooming out and then back in again. I don't know...seems weird...






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11 hours ago, joelhufford said:

I suppose the real question is, "Why does the 'Screen Aligned' Active Plane mode exist, and when would anyone want this kind of behavior?"


The existence and extensive (wrong) usage of "Screen Plane" is a great problem in VW for

someone 3D thinking like me.


The real (valid) usage of a "Screen Plane" for objects is only "Annotations" that point to the user in

a 3D environment like a Perspektive.

@digitalmechanicsdoes work in 3D walkthrough mode only, like in real world, and provides a lot

of 2D annotations to his 3D parts (very impressing btw) that will this way always point to the viewer.


Everywhere else where "Screen Plane" is used or even mandatory,

like 2D modifiers geometry in Slabs, 2D Symbols, VP crops or annotation space and such,

It must be just a standard 2D Plane, like XY with a Z of 0.00, to ensure flatness and orientation of

2D Objects.

In this case just the "Screen" has to be oriented perpendicular to that 2D XY Plane

and NOT vice versa !

Edited by zoomer
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"I don't know what Screen Aligned is, so that's still freaking me out"


That's exactly how I feel! I know it's been months since asking this question, and I'm sorry to have abandoned it, but I wanted to come back to say that video does do a great job of illustrating why VW has both the Automatic and Layer Plane functionality and when you know where to use each, I think they can both be very powerful tools. When you showed the plumb bob orienting itself perpendicularly to the bullseye in Automatic Plane mode, I think it did the best job of explaining how what I was seeing was most likely a "Works as Designed" phenomenon. In automatic mode, VW treats the highlighted planar face as the "ground plane" and orients symbols with respect to that "ground plane" my shape, like your plumb bob was perpendicular to the actual ground plane when it was first drawn, so again, when in automatic mode, the symbol orients itself to be perpendicular to the target planar surface.


If that's really what's going on here, then at least now that I know, it can be worked around, but it does strike me (for us anyway) that every time we create a drawing in Vectorworks, our X, Y and Z axis are always the same. Top is top, front is front, side is side and I feel like it would be nice if symbols could be told to respect a global orientation when being placed.


Certainly not something that would make it to the top of the wish list.


Also I'd like to say I've watched several of your tutorials / youtube videos and think they're all incredible helpful and your drawings look awesome.


Thanks again,



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