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FabK

Your opinion on greatly needed improvement in Spotlight.

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Hi everyone,

 

I am a French lighting designer, have been in the industry for 30 years and I would like to share with you my thoughts  about increasingly urgent improvements I feel needed in the rendering options of Spotlight.

 

Vectorworks Spotlight is a great tool for all lighting professionals to organize their work and design plans with all the necessary information for the technical departments in charge of the installation. The latter can very easily take up the plan realized by the designer and add their specific information, allowing the whole chain to work within a single document.
The interconnectivity with Lightwright or the addition of a program such as Vision has provided us with the most advanced tools on the market and provides designers as well as technical services with a complete and powerful platform.

Nevertheless, I noticed that if the technical tools offered by Vectorworks Spotlight are extremely powerful and relevant, it is not the same for the design tools which for many of them are simply unusable.

Until now, the need to create luminous renderings was very limited simply because theatres and set designers did not provide 3D drawings. The entire work was done exclusively in 2D and Vectorworks Spotlight fulfilled its mission.

Today, almost all theatres provide a 3D model of their stage and a growing number of set designers are providing a 3D model of their project. These two recent changes have opened up new possibilities that have prompted me to use rendering functions of Vectorworks Spotlight and Renderworks. I then very quickly faced many inconsistencies that cumulatively made the function of light of the projectors simply unusable.
I resolved today to use simple lights and not the fixtures that I hang to illuminate my scenes and make my renderings.

This circumvention of the difficulties encountered is doubly penalizing. First of all, it requires a significant and time-consuming additional effort while the tool is there to facilitate our work. Secondly, lighting equipment are extremely sophisticated devices with adjustments that are not available in simple lights (shutters and gobos are a good simple examples). With this technique, the renderings are therefore not as precise and textured as they should be.
It seems to me today urgent, while the presentation of rendering of lights is more and more required, that Vectorworks Spotlight improves not from a technical but an artistic approach, In order to offer designers a relevant tool, allowing them to faithfully represent their work.

Here are the difficulties I have encountered on a standard production that can includes several hundred fixtures:

1- Focus Points:
Adjusting a light according to the impact of a centre point is only the first step in the adjustment process. We start by positioning the light in relation to what Spotlight calls point focus (the position of an actor or a chair in the decoration for example), but once the projector is positioned in the desired position, it is then adjusted depending on its impact on the ground and the manner in which the designer wishes to treat the surrounding light.
In Spotlight, only this first step is possible, then it is impossible to adjust the position without moving the focus point and therefore all the projectors associated with it. It is therefore necessary to create a focal point per projector to correctly adjust the lights this way, which makes this function very cumbersome and unnecessary since there already exists a "function" field in the information window of the unit which makes it possible to insert a focus note.
In addition, the trial and error process imposed by not seeing where the light is taken makes the process incredibly tedious. The movement of the beam does not occur in real time when the focus point is moved and there is no possibility of moving this focus point or the adjustment of the light by its Horiz / Vert coordinates as is done with a none theatrical light. Moreover, this method is the only one that truly corresponds to the way things are done. In reality, we have a technician who goes up focusing the light and we observe the beam that moves to guide it and give our instructions.
Finally, knowing that some moving lights can have ten different focus points, one can easily end up with several thousand focus points which makes the plan totally unreadable and the function unusable.

2-Shutters:
The adjustment of the shutters requires  careful adjustment which can only be done by visualizing the manipulation. Again, the trial and error method that Spotlight imposes by not show real-time movement makes setting virtually impossible. Focusing a shutter should take only a few seconds, in fact it takes several minutes to do it accurately in Spotlight. Knowing that there are 4 shutters per lamp and that there are several hundred lights that themselves can have a number of focuses, it is clear that this part quickly becomes a nightmare. Adding to this that the shutters do not appear in OpenGL and that it is necessary to render after each attempt, and it becomes clear how one quickly abandons the function.

3- The Gobos:
In Spotlight, it is impossible to adjust the focal length on the gobo. The result is that all gobos appear as a sharp image. In reality, very few gobos are set sharp and not having access to this function makes the image rendered totally absurd.
The angle option of the gobo also requires working by trial and error, which once again increases the time needed to adjust.
Finally, the gobos are not visible in OpenGL, which imposes as for the shutters to render with each setting.
Again, the constraints make the function totally unusable.

4-Fixture names in the light window:
In the light window, each of the fixture is assigned a strange name such as 1000.1.1.0.0 that one cannot modify as it is for a simple light in the property window.
Once our 300 projectors are hung, needless to say that it is simply impossible to find oneself and one loses patience when one has to turn on 30 fixtures before finding the right one. The light can be selected by clicking on it, but that requires changing the view to comfortably access it. Again, it becomes very tedious.

5-Projection:
Many shows today uses projection which, in opera, theatre, musical or dance, is in the vast majority of cases made by very large scale video projector. Vectorworks Spotlight offers only the possibility to project on a screen which makes it impossible to project on the set. Moreover, the screens option have predefined or limited sizes, which again make it impossible to illustrate a rear-projection on a large cyclorama.

All the points mentioned above are related (a projector must be adjusted, can have shutters and gobos, and must be easily accessible in the middle of hundreds of others). It is therefore at each step that the user is confronted to the incoherence fo the software making all functions unusable.
When I see the features and viewing options available, I feel that Spotlight was designed for people installing stands at trade shows or for small presentations that require a few projectors to light a speaker, project the company logo, and a screen to show a power point presentation. We are far from the very advanced and complex functions specific to large scale productions that Vectorworks offers in the other aspect of the design and planning process. There is a glaring discrepancy between the engineering functions and the visualization.

Here are some suggestions I can would make to help:

1-Focus points:
A focus point could be identical to a palette on lighting board. That is, the setting of one or more fixtures at a given point but not necessarily all centred on that point. To do this, it would require to offer the Horiz / Vert setting for the lighting fixtures that are available on the traditional lights. Assigning a focus point to a light would focus that light on the focus point as it does today, but then the designer would manually position it precisely where he wishes to focus it.
The light can ultimately be very far from its focus point, it does not matter. For example, if I created a Focus Point « DS  Back Light », I could put 20 lamps on it and make a straight back light from SL to SR. It does not matter that their beams are not concentric because they have a general function that together forms this « DS  Back Light ». I would then have 1 focus point instead of 20 and that would exactly match the way I work in real-life.

2-Shutters + 3-Gobos:
Shutters and gobos can only exist if they can be adjusted visually. The gobos and shutters must also appear in OpenGL and be adjusted by a cursor with visualization in real time. This is the only way to make the function usable.

4-Fixture name in the light window:
Fixture should automatically be assigned their circuit numbers by name, simply because that is how we name them. The possibility of classifying them by position would help to find them better. If this automatic allocation is not possible, they should at least be able to be named manually.

5-Projection:
The design of a specific tool to project an image, allowing to choose its lens and then to visualize the scene from the lens in order to create masks which can then be assigned to the projected object becomes urgent.

Finally, I would add that because of the specificity of our business, the limit of 8 lights lit in OpenGL very quickly reaches its limits again requiring time consuming rendering.
Working only in Renderworks is unthinkable, yet it is what we are forced to do to use the functions of Spotlight. If OpenGL does not allow certain renderings, it is necessary to develop a similar viewing mode, fast, allowing to visualize everything and sufficiently realistic to be able to light a scene without any bad surprise during rendering.

 

I hope you find this topic interesting, and useful, and I am looking forward to your insight.


Fabrice

 

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Dear FabK

 

Your post is very relevant and I agree wholeheartedly with all of what you suggest. I feel concerned that the emphasis of VW Spotlight is gearing more towards rendering for events and that a lot of effort is going into making Vision more powerful as a pre-programming tool. However VW is a powerful rendering tool in itself and I have started sharing highly detailed renderings with  directors and choreographers, some of whom find this new form of collaboration revelatory. I long for a way to use Spotlight as a more fluid rendering tool and am ever hopeful that we will see a significant leap forward to Spotlight which I think has stagnated a little in recent years.

 

A few workarounds to think about in the meantime.

 

Focussing Gobos and Shutters: If you turn on your light and render the view in OpenGL with shadows enabled, the 3d texture of the light symbol will block the beam and no light can be seen. I have for some time now put all the 3d portion of my symbols in a separate class. If you edit that 3d class to have no fill, then refresh the instruments, you will see the rendered light as it is focussed on the focus point. This includes shutters and gobos. A good quick fix for VW to do for 2018 would be to add a PREVIEW button to the Edit Lighting Device Shutter and Light Information tabs.

 

Gobos: The gobo libraries in VW are rather low res and I often find that if I need to get a better gobo image then I will go back to the manufacturer's website and make my own texture. It is infuriating that one cannot experiment with changing focal lengths in Spotlight and I hope that a "soften" function will be available before too long. I tend to soften my gobo images in an image editor which works well, but is a further process which sometimes I could really do without.

 

Fixture Names: The visualisation palette will display the Purpose and Channel fields of your light. This is helpful but far from perfect. It would be much better if they could include the standard LW convention of Position followed by Unit number then by all means Channel and Purpose. Personally I geographically patch my shows so every channel number has a meaning (to me at least) so the channel info is fine for me. This is standard practice in the US and increasingly so here in the UK.

 

Projection: I totally agree that projection is poorly served in VW spotlight and although there is a very useful tool for projectors and screens it is rather too generic for use in a theatrical context when one often needs to show how projections map across complex surfaces. Of course one can make a fixture to pretend to be a projector and project a gobo texture which is certainly a good stop-gap, but a full scale plug-in is now required to deal with projection (with the ability to add masks and different lens types) as now it is becoming very standard to have complex projections in Theatre as well as Opera and Dance. A fixture library of projector types is also needed.

 

Just some thoughts. I am sure others will have plenty more!

 

Mark

 

 

Edited by markdd
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Hi Mark,

 

Thank you for your input and the tips.

 

These workarounds are very useful but I would much rather see Nemetschek address these issues that I consider very serious.  There is a major part of the software developed for designers that is not functional at the moment and it is becoming increasingly complicated to ignore the problem.

I really do not see myself going to photoshop everytime I want to use a gobo to make my own texture nor do I want to tweek the program to see my light coming out of the fixture.  This is what the program should do and that is the reason I bought it.

My workaround is to work in 2D for my plot and place lights set to spot where I need to light the scene. At least I can focus them properly and get a general look with key lights.  When I absolutely need a shutter, I create a volume that I place in from of the light and tweek it until I have the right shutter cut.  Sad indeed.

 

Fabrice

 

 

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On ‎7‎/‎24‎/‎2017 at 10:07 AM, FabK said:

5-Projection:
Many shows today uses projection which, in opera, theatre, musical or dance, is in the vast majority of cases made by very large scale video projector. Vectorworks Spotlight offers only the possibility to project on a screen which makes it impossible to project on the set. Moreover, the screens option have predefined or limited sizes, which again make it impossible to illustrate a rear-projection on a large cyclorama.

 

Fabrice -

 

You are correct; the video tools admittedly have their limitations.  No arguing that, at all.  But...

1)  Have you tried any of the several "...custom..." Aspect options?  You have several stock aspects as well as "all custom" options that will enable you to define any rectangular or round size.

2)  Have you seen Video Screen's/VS4-Projection's "Hide Screen" toggle?  While the tool is not actually projecting an image, you'll at least be able to see projector placement and cone lines.

3)  Have you tried the Blended Screen/VS4-Blended Screen tool?  That one creates models of flat and curved edge-blended screens (or, potentially, large cycloramas).

 

Regards -

 

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Dear Andrew,

 

You are correct, my comment on large cyc was irrelevant as the option exist to create a custom size screen.  Thanks for pointing this out. 

 

However, the rest is still very much true.  If removing the screen does not project the image I don't really see the point.   I would indeed see the cone lines and could see that I cover my set but I don't need Vectorworks for that really and that does not help me much in what I am missing.  In fact,  even if the image was projected when removing the screen, it would still not be of any use as long as I cannot add the necessary masks.  Has anybody EVER used front projection on a set without using masks? 

In my opinion, the VP should have a camera where the lens is, allowing the user to view the scene from the lens in 1 clic in the property window. Masks don't need to be made in Vectorwoks but those masks cannot be made without a picture from the lens.  There should also be an option in the property window to insert those masks in front of the media so I don't have to constantly go back to Photoshop or Final Cut everytime I want to test a file.

 

The point I am trying to make here is that Vectorwoks has brilliantly fulfilled all its promises in the technical aspect but has poorly failed when it comes to visualisation.  Just about every tool supposed to allow me to light a scene for presentation has been ill designed and the result of the cumulative defects is that Spotlight does not allow me to light a scene in high quality using Renderwork unless I am willing to spend a ridiculous time on it and lose my sanity .

 

Fabrice

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Fabrice,

I absolutely agree with you and this is a drum I have been banging do the past seven years. Without going into a world of detail on each of your very valid points, I will say the following:

 

it seems that utilizing Vision to accomplish much of this would be a viable way to go for VW developers.  Vision renders in OpenGL in real time and allows for fixture focus, gobo focus color functions and shutter cuts with ease. It has been suggested that VW include a simple "console" function in spot light that allowed for pan/tilt, intensity, color, gobo, shutter control, etc. It should also include a "fan" feature for selected fixtures. It doesn't need to do anything more than that. 

 

To me, the question is how to take an image from Vision and render it in Renderworks. 

 

As to gobos, I spent a while creating a library of hard and soft edged patterns so I have quick access to a wide variety patterns. Creating new ones is pretty quick. Of course, having a focus feature would be much better. 

 

I would also also agree that a working projector would be a fantastic addition and has been suggested. Until then I have been muddling by with pattern projection to accomplish this. Not ideal but somewhat serviceable. 

 

I think it's reall a question of how much functionality the developers are willing to port from Cinema4D to VW. They, of course, would prefer for us all to purchase both VW and C4D. I understand that, but I already know my way around VW and it really does do pretty much everything I need it to do.We just need some better interface options and for VW to output my work in a more useful way. 

 

Dont get get me started on volumetric rendering.......

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Scott,

 

I am glad to read that I am not the only one to wish to have a fully functional software.

 

As many people, your give some useful tips which only underline the urgency for the developers to add the elementary features that are missing.  The option to make myself not just one soft version of a gobo but ten to have a full choice on how soft I want it is just ridiculous in a program specifically designed for lighting designers.  This is an elementary feature as are the possibility to see shutters and gobo in open GL and a proper projection tool. Imagine the heliodon tool fixed at 1pm January 1st and telling the architects that they need to rotate their building to get the proper position of the sun. It just makes no sense and shows a serious ignorance in our profession.

 

I have looked a bit more into the subject and realised that VISION offers all the control features that we miss.  You can focus with the arrow keys, control gobos, smoke level, shutters, everything with instant render. The know how is there, it is just a matter of a decision to offer it which is even more infuriating.

If the intend is to get us to buy VISION, it will never work.  We are designers, not programmers.  I personally have no clue on how to operate a console and no desire to learn.  A console is a very complex machine and you need a professional to operate it.  As a designer, I don't patch, I don't run cables, I don't set up network.  The only things I choose are the lights and their positions,  colours,  purposes and  channels. Once this is done, months later I pass on the VW file to the production and someone else does all of tech stuff . The other option would be to get the production to hire the programmer six months ahead to spend several weeks with me in my studio to operate a virtual board with the need to patch and set up the show as if it was all done when I am just studding my possibilities until I have found what I am looking for.  This is just impossible in my main trade of opera and theatre simply because I don't choose the programmer or the board, it is all house staff and equipment.  But even in the commercial projects, all of that would represent such a cost and additional work that it simply will never happen. 

 

Regarding Cinema4D, renderwork does a pretty good job and for my presentations, I don't need to achieve a PIXAR quality.  I might once I get to use Renderworks with all the missing features and want to go one step further but for now, I need the basics to make Renderwork my standard.

 

Fabrice 

 

 

 

 

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I am going to add a bit to my above post.  The issue for me, and for many designers, including the OP Fabrice, is the project pipeline and how we work with our clients.  In a nut shell, it works like this:  

 

1.)  Initial meetings with client, director, producer or whatever parties are required to get started on a project

 

2.)  Initial design which can be presented as still images, walk throughs, videos, or even VR.  In my case, these are almost always still images that are either sent out as multiple PDFs or perhaps strung together in a slide show.  occasionally I may do a walk-through, but there is seldom time for that.  These need to be high quality renders and, frankly, Renderworks is more than capable as it stands to do most of what we need.  It does it slowly, but it certainly works with no need for outputting to another platform for texturing or post processing or anything else.  My only real concern with Renderworks, which is beyond the scope of Fabrice's initial post is that the parent company does no allow access to suitable volumetric lighting effects even though the rendering engine is certainly capable of it.  That is a serious point of contention for me.  

 

3.)  Major or minor adjustments are made to the design to accommodate the requests of client, director,  producer, the budget or any other stimulus.  This alone is reason enough to want to stay inside one application.  If I need to make revisions, I need to make them with no concerns about what I then have to "re-do" in another application such as Cinema 4D.  There is often no time for that.   

 

It is important to note that, at least in my case, items 1 through 3 often happen very quickly.  I am currently on a project that I am designing (a televised awards show)  for which I was only contacted two weeks ago and the event loads-in in four days from now.  From the point I started conceptualizing the project to a first set of multiple renderings was two days.  I did eight revisions yesterday, each with two final quality renders over the course of three hours.  For me there just is no time to mess around with exporting into another program simply to have the full use of the functionality that is currently locked up in the VW rendering engine.  In the past ten years I have no idea how many projects I have designed, but there has only been one that had significant enough lead time to involve other rendering options.  

 

4.) Once the final design is approved, the drawings are then cleaned up for the fabrication shops, and the production staff/vendors.  This is where VW really shines as the resulting plan views, sections, elevations and isometrics tend to look great.  

 

5.) At that point, and only at that point, do we get into pre-visualization whether that is something I do or someone else, assuming the project calls for it.  

 

So herein lies the frustration with the Vision/VW relationship and is exactly what Fabrice is pointing to:  

 

The functionality for most of what is requested is currently available through Vision. For all of us, we need a simple way to add some lights, turn them on, do the various things that designers do with them, and then focus them (without going through the time consuming process of adding focus points) and WITHOUT having to address them, assign them to a universe, then fax through all of that and trouble shoot issues, so that we can present beautiful images that we can SELL to clients. Once the SELLING is done, then we can get into all the cool Vision functionality for pre-visualization but certainly NOT before. Having some simple method of getting at the core concepts of Vision to "set the scene" and then porting that back into VW would solve nearly all of the issues Fabrice is noting.  We don't have to hang an entire lighting plot; we just need enough lights to sell the idea and that might be 20 or it might be 200.  To add to what Fabrice has said, I need the volumetric qualities of OPEN GL Vision with the realistic textures and reflections of Renderworks as volumetric lighting effects are a big part of almost all of my projects and what we have now is laughable.    

 

I understand that the parent company needs to sell software.  My frustration is that we are already spending a pretty hefty chunk of change on VW and most of us can design what we need to design within it's framework without the need to use another program.  The functionality of Vision is already there, the rendering engine is already there.  If we could just have access to what already exists, there would be a lot of users that would be very, very happy.  To get through the first three steps of the process, the steps that actually sell a project, we need some limited access to Vision functionality.  For a lot of users, that is the only amount of Vision functionality they would ever need.  If we are going to do legitimate pre-vis, then we would certainly need to purchase Vision.  (I was a very early adopter if Vision by the way)  We also need a bit more control over light objects which the rendering engine clearly can do, it's just that VW users are not given access to that functionality.  

 

So that is my position in a verbose nutshell.  

 

One other side item to add and Fabrice touched on this as well:  I often add standard light objects to illuminate parts of my models.  I do this for a few reasons, including, not needing to see the source lighting fixture and finding it much quicker to focus, and often easier to adjust other parameters as well.  What would be great is if there was some way to "name" those elements so you know which one is which in the Visualization Palette.  Currently the 1.00.11.1.0 or whatever is just not helpful.  Currently I just class the daylights (possible pun intended) out of all those items so I can turn things on and off, but the Vis Palette would be extremely useful.   

 

Oh, and a real projector......  (love the idea of a camera viewport built into it)

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I agree with everything stated above. Especially as a designer of scenery who also does lit renderings of designs, I need just a little bit more control over lighting without needing to delve into something like Vision (since I'm not programming) or Cinema4D.

 

6 hours ago, scottmoore said:

What would be great is if there was some way to "name" those elements so you know which one is which in the Visualization Palette.  Currently the 1.00.11.1.0 or whatever is just not helpful.

 

One small note which might be helpful - VW will insert the contents of the "Channel" and "Purpose" parameters from the Light Device's OIP into the name, before the numbers, which can help with naming and organizing your lights.

 

To illustrate, I just typed in the words 'channel' and 'purpose' into the respective fields:

598defac2feb8_ScreenShot2017-08-11at10_52_34AM.png.5d6d765a5bb035ba8e235ab768b578cb.png

 

I personally just use the Purpose field to name Lighting Devices.

 

Also, since I don't create lighting plots and don't need most of the Lighting Device parameters that are available, I simplified the OIP by going to File<Document Settings<Spotlight Preferences<Lighting Device Parameters and adjusting to my liking:

 

598df2e581d55_ScreenShot2017-08-11at11_09_21AM.png.98049a05adb971aa1a28f75e23d5f98c.png      598df2e4a1d9a_ScreenShot2017-08-11at11_08_30AM.png.a632f836b196f531c2287170087d15ed.png

Edited by Andy Broomell

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Just gonna jump in here and say that Vision is definitely NOT the tool to be looking at for renders.

IMHO it's very much still under construction and has many quirks which are crazy-making (I'm looking at you shutter package).

 

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Andy,

thank you for posting. The more people we can get on board with these concepts the better. As to the "channel" and "purpose" comment, much appreciated and I am aware of that when using instruments designed to work with Spotlight. I do that as well. What I am talking about is using lighting objects such as point sources (for ambient light) and more likely spotlight lighting objects. This avoids the need for focus points and for actually having to render a fixture. 

 

Mjm, I totally agree that Vision is not up to speed for photo-realistic rendering.  Having the ability to use a streamlined version of Vision with a simple, on board console to effectively "light" a scene and then going back into renderworks to render it is what I was thinking. Also, to confuse the issue, it would be nice to be able to utilize Vision's superior atmospheric effects (light beams starting at the size of the fixture apperature and following the law of squares as opposed to the embarrasing volumetrics we have now) and still use renderworks. Since Vision uses OpenGL, that will probably never happen so I am holding out to see if the developers will allow us, even for an additional fee, to have similar control over the volumetrics in the current rendering engine that is already available in C4D

 

The point if all of this is that all this functionality already exists. We know how to draw in VW.  Can we just have access to the control????  I would pay extra for that. 

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11 hours ago, scottmoore said:

What would be great is if there was some way to "name" those elements so you know which one is which in the Visualization Palette.  Currently the 1.00.11.1.0 or whatever is just not helpful.

 

1 hour ago, scottmoore said:

As to the "channel" and "purpose" comment, much appreciated and I am aware of that when using instruments designed to work with Spotlight. I do that as well. What I am talking about is using lighting objects such as point sources (for ambient light) and more likely spotlight lighting objects. This avoids the need for focus points and for actually having to render a fixture. 

 

Between the channel/purpose naming system for Spotlight Lighting Devices and being able to name Renderworks Lights via the "name" field at the bottom of the OIP (or at the top of the Data tab in older versions), everything in the Visualization palette should be name-able, unless I'm missing something.

 

I use a mix of Renderworks Lights and Spotlight Lighting Devices as well... Usually Renderworks Lights mainly, with Spotlight Lighting Devices being reserved for working with gobos, for using Focus Points (when convenient), or for when ellipsoidal beam angles are needed.

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Tangential thought: It's an odd thing to teach to students - the shortcomings of the various lighting objects and all the workarounds.... and how there are two different flavors of lights (Renderworks Lights vs Spotlight Devices) and how Spotlight Devices actually have Renderworks Lights "inside" of them but you don't actually have access to all of the Renderworks Light's parameters (unless you happen to know that when you right click the light in the Visualization Palette and select "Edit" it takes you to the embedded Renderworks Light). Et cetera, et cetera.

 

Vectorworks newcomers are quick to point out how convoluted it can be, and they're not wrong. Once you learn the idiosyncrasies of how VW thinks, THEN you can start creating beautiful renderings.

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Andy,

I completely agree. 

 

Also, after 20 years or so in MiniCad and VW I don't think I ever realized I could name a RW light object. Thanks for that. 

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