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EAlexander

Tutorial: Elevations and Sections from 3D for Film & TV

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Hi,
 

I recently did a few classes on working with 3D in Vectorworks for Film and TV.  I recorded a follow up tutorial on elevations and sections as a reference for the participants and I thought maybe others could benefit from this.  It's recorded in VW 2018, but I think if you have 2015 or higher, the techniques should all be the same.  Probably even earlier versions too.

 

This workflow came out of a lot of discussion and trial & error at NYU when I taught there.  We were finding that having viewports for all our views and sections was too much of a strain on the processors (even with saved cache) and on a big show made the files hard to use - especially on smaller computers and laptops.  It makes for some more work, especially with revisions, but once you get the workflow down - it is very fast.  I've been working this way for years on shows like the Super Bowl Half Time show and the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

 

Feel free to ask questions, and of course, comments and critique are always welcome.  I've taught a lot of Vectorworks classes, but this is my first tutorial, so take it easy :)

 

-evan

 

 

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Thanks for sharing Evan. Its really interesting to see other people's workflows. Your tutorial is very good too. Very clear and easy to follow.

 

I can't really imagine giving up connected sheet layer viewports myself. That would be stepping back to my manual workflow pre-VW 2008. There's so much margin for error by having to update everything manually when the design evolves and changes. I'd be curious to see what type of files you were having trouble with. I've done a lot of shows now with the 3d model / sheet layer viewport workflow and my viewports almost always have both a foreground render (hidden line) and a background layer for shading (Custom Renderworks or OpenGL). Certainly updating the sheet layer viewports can take some computer time, but its time that I can use working on something else. I'm also working on older hardware - a mid-2012 Retina MacBook Pro and I'm drawing projects of a similar scale to you - Olympic Ceremonies, Calgary Stampede, Stratford Festival.

 

I would encourage you to submit your troublesome files to NV. They may be good examples to show what needs to be addressed in development to speed up the connected sheet layer viewport workflow.

 

Thanks again for the insight into your process.

 

Kevin

 

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Thanks Kevin - the tutorial was fun to do and I think I'll do more.  I should have mentioned that my teaching is aimed at folks who have never done 3D before, young set designers just starting out, or older hand drafters, trying to get into VW 3d for the first time.  I think I'm going to focus on some quick tips for getting started and up to speed.

 

As for the workflow - I agree with your thoughts.  I should revisit the viewport based workflow again.  Most of what I do is locked up behind NDAs it's hard to share.  Most of what gets build is also going to become the master model in Cinema4D for (tight) renders, so all the little details are there and that adds up fast in geo counts, but I'm sure you deal with this too.  Curious to see how you can handle those larger models and keep the plates working.  Maybe we could do a screen share sometime on an off day and compare notes.

 

Attached are a few shots from Last nights JC Superstar scaffold system.  This model strained everyone else's computers when I shared it - especially when you add in the crumbling scenery, truss and rigging, LX, and the Foy rigs. I often get DWGs from tent and staging companies with all the cross braces and turnbuckles and those are just killer.  Perhaps I should be looking more at referencing to lighten the load, but I worry about issues with that for the amount of sharing and passing around the drawings have to do.

 

Admittedly, I am a bit stuck in my ways and don't like changing workflows :)   But you have peaked my interest enough to do some experiments.  Thanks!

 

 

JCSL_eaSCAFF_01.jpg

JCSL_eaSCAFF_02.jpg

Edited by EAlexander
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Nice tutorial Evan!    I really enjoy seeing others perspectives and solutions to problems.   I hope you do more!   I'd love to get your take on your VW to C4D workflow,  texturing, lighting etc.   

 

Funny enough, I was watching JC Superstar Sunday Night and was envisioning the person who modeled/drew that.  And of course,  you had a hand in it.  :-)    I also just saw your new renders of it.   Those look like they have Corona Renderer all over them and they look awesome!        Great work man!   Now,  if you'll excuse me,  I need to go practice,  or find a new career  ;-) 

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Thanks Wes - I appreciate it.  Yes - all the renders are Cinema and Corona renderer.  It's quickly become my favorite render engine.

 

How do you lay out your elevations and show plates?  Are you doing viewports for everything?

 

I'd love to know how @Andy Broomell organizes his drawings too?

 

e.

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Hi, If you can get your hands on a HTC Vive unit you can easily export your model into a free program called Unity 3D and walk around in Virtual Reality.

If you are teaching younger starters in the game i think VR will be the norm later and this will get them ahead of the game.

 

See link to forum post below

 

 

Edited by Alan Woodwell

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Agreeing with Kevin here,

I couldn't imagine working on a show without the flexibility of sheet layer viewports.  That way the viewports are "live" and only need to be updated to reflect the current status of the model.  Move some annotations and dimensions around and you are done.  I've found that, especially now with OpenGl as a rendering option, very complex things can be rendered to sheet layers (curtains used to be the real culprit).  I do agree though, that getting staging gear makes me groan.  

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Ha - now I feel like the old guy on his lawn yelling at the kids to turn down that rock n roll noise....

 

I'm trying out all live viewports on my current project.  It's not a huge set but a retail product, so the load is pretty light.  I admit, it is really nice having everything update and making sheets with options is a lot easier.  I'm using final quality renderworks as the background render and hidden line as the foreground, with the sheet layer set to 200 dpi and it seems a nice balanced look - especially with Ambient Occlusion turned on.  Curious to try it on a really large project next.

 

e.

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Another shortcut is to rasterize your ambient occlusion render and underlay it under your 2d linework.  I always find that live viewports are too slow to annotate at a comfortable speed. 

 

I really wish VW had a function like rhino's make 2D (although I believe something similar can be achieved with design layer viewports? never tried)  

 

Live viewports are a powerful tool but I've yet to see an implementation that really works quickly enough to be functional unless you are just roughing in openings using BIM objects instead of real 3D shapes.  Even most rhino users limit their use of real 3d viewports for drafting because 1) its hard to pick lines 2) its easier to adjust details orthographically

Edited by B Cox

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This is from a rendered viewport, hidden line front and a "bleached white model" rendering style in front.  You can see the reference plan below.  

image.thumb.png.6ae2ae34a4d818001cc7967d780bc2dc.png

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1 hour ago, B Cox said:

Another shortcut is to rasterize your ambient occlusion render and underlay it under your 2d linework.  I always find that live viewports are too slow to annotate at a comfortable speed. 

 

I really wish VW had a function like rhino's make 2D (although I believe something similar can be achieved with design layer viewports? never tried)  

 

Live viewports are a powerful tool but I've yet to see an implementation that really works quickly enough to be functional unless you are just roughing in openings using BIM objects instead of real 3D shapes.  Even most rhino users limit their use of real 3d viewports for drafting because 1) its hard to pick lines 2) its easier to adjust details orthographically

 

@B Cox- rasterizing is an interesting idea - never tried that out.   I too have found lots of live viewports traditionally slow to work with in bulk - hence the convert to lines method I show in the tutorial.  Does Rhinos 'Make2D' function create a hidden line render of sorts?  And is that still connected to the original geometry i.e. does it update with revisions?

 

I think what folks are trying to get away from is the idea that there are multiple steps to make elevations for each unit and then redoing those views for revisions.  I do it so often and so fast that I don't even think about it any more, but I'm always curious to learn more - especially if it makes us more efficient. 

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1 hour ago, grant_PD said:

This is from a rendered viewport, hidden line front and a "bleached white model" rendering style in front.  You can see the reference plan below.  

image.thumb.png.6ae2ae34a4d818001cc7967d780bc2dc.png

 

Thanks Grant - I looked around your website - lots of nice drafting in there!  In the example you show - I agree - live viewports all the way.  However - that is just one view of one wall.  What my training clients are coming to me with is a plate that has 5 walls on it and each wall has a plan, side, front elevations, one or two sections per wall and then some full scale details here and there.  So one 36x42 plate could have 20 viewports per plate.  On large shows or movies - there could be 10 of those plates in the overall packet.

 

So what I'm trying to figure out is which is better - waiting for all those viewports to update and populate through the drawing - or using the convert to line method and putting the extra time into that process.  There is certainly less room for error with live viewports - so maybe it comes down to hardware power.

 

I don't think there is an overall right answer, and it is great to see different workflows and points of view.  Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this tread so far.

 

e.

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Hi Evan,

The process gets you any amount of details, sections, etc that you want from the model. Essentially we are doing the same thing as you but instead of "creating the line render" we are letting VW do the rendering for you of that same model view.  I can cut sections and do blow up details of any part of the wall and it will all update when the model changes.  If you want I can send you the full drafting packet from the above to look over, and the file to comb over.  

 

Been a fan of your renders for quite a while!  

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Grant - Thank you!

 

That would be great - I would love to take a look at how you set up that file and see how the viewports run on my various computers.  I can promise the utmost confidentiality and won't share it with anyone else.  design.alexander at g mail dot com

 

How can I return the favor?  Maybe we can nerd out over screen share about cinema rendering technique sometime or?  Let me know - I know everyones time is a commodity.

 

e.

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43 minutes ago, EAlexander said:

 

@B Cox- rasterizing is an interesting idea - never tried that out.   I too have found lots of live viewports traditionally slow to work with in bulk - hence the convert to lines method I show in the tutorial.  Does Rhinos 'Make2D' function create a hidden line render of sorts?  And is that still connected to the original geometry i.e. does it update with revisions?

 

I think what folks are trying to get away from is the idea that there are multiple steps to make elevations for each unit and then redoing those views for revisions.  I do it so often and so fast that I don't even think about it any more, but I'm always curious to learn more - especially if it makes us more efficient. 

 

Rhino just makes 2d lines projected onto a flat plane.  A lot like Sketchup's Export to DWG.  You can use it with perspective or parallel projections.  It does not live link.  VW kind of does a live link like you've already described but somehow it just churns and churns if you are doing anything bigger than a 3 wall set.

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2 hours ago, B Cox said:

I really wish VW had a function like rhino's make 2D (although I believe something similar can be achieved with design layer viewports? never tried)  

Take a look at the video I posted - Convert Copy to Lines is exactly that function you are talking about from Rhino.  You can just watch the first few minutes and see what I'm doing there.

 

e.

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Hi, Have you tried turning down the DPI of your sheet layers to see if it speeds up your rendering time, do this just for working and turn back up when rendering the final??

001.PNG

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29 minutes ago, Alan Woodwell said:

Hi, Have you tried turning down the DPI of your sheet layers to see if it speeds up your rendering time, do this just for working and turn back up when rendering the final??

001.PNG

Hi Alan - thanks!  yes, I work at low DPI and then crank it up for final publishing usually.

 

Thanks for the VR tip too - I'm exploring that soon in Cinema 4D for another project.  Currently I push my VWX model to Sketchfab for client review.

 

e.

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@EAlexander Hi, if you need any help with VR i have been through the learning process and getting the model from VW to Unity and walk around in VR is a matter of less than 5 min. Now that i have a template file that i use. I can simply flick a model into Unity have a look, keep working in VW and re-export it and back into VR again. Its real simple. (He says after many hours of learning the process)

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5 hours ago, grant_PD said:

Been a fan of your renders for quite a while!  

 

Same here, Evan - I've had your website bookmarked in the 'aspirational' category for a while now :D

 

 

Thank you for sharing your tutorial video above. Well-explained, and I think the techniques it outlines are ones that all draftspersons should know. While I use individual aspects of that workflow here and there, for the most part I agree with Kevin & Grant and have embraced the live-viewport-looking-at-the-3D-model approach when it comes to drafting:

 

On 3/30/2018 at 5:35 PM, Kevin McAllister said:

I can't really imagine giving up connected sheet layer viewports myself. [...] There's so much margin for error by having to update everything manually when the design evolves and changes. [...] Certainly updating the sheet layer viewports can take some computer time, but its time that I can use working on something else.

 

11 hours ago, grant_PD said:

I couldn't imagine working on a show without the flexibility of sheet layer viewports.  That way the viewports are "live" and only need to be updated to reflect the current status of the model.

 

^^These pretty much encapsulate my thoughts. I take viewports directly from the 3D geometry whenever I can (with some exceptions outlined later). Reasons include:

  • Revisions. There are always revisions. Always. Just hit update; it's built in to the workflow. I can also go from initial rough drafting to final detailed drafting pretty seamlessly.
  • Less room for error. If any piece of information exists in two unconnected spots I'm bound to forget about it at some point and make an error. I try to never have unconnected duplicate information if I can help it.
  • Speed. This also ties in to the two previous points. I can alter one element in a 3D model, and 10 different viewports can receive that updated information with little effort on my part. And if it takes a moment to update I can go grab a cup of tea :-)
  • Foreground/Background render. Depending on the design I sometimes utilize the ability to add shading to elevations like Kevin and Grant have mentioned, which is built into the viewport method. You can even pull full textures to create a paint/finish elevations.

 

The notion about the computer getting bogged down with live viewports is interesting to me. Updating a Hidden Line viewport can certainly take a beat, but isn't it the same calculation as if you use Convert to Lines? Of course one thing to note is that a Section Viewport has its own "3D Conversion Resolution" setting, while Convert to Lines utilizes the quality setting from Vectorworks Preferences [I tend to keep both at High]. If these are not the same, it's certainly possible that the viewport method may seem slower... But otherwise the calculation speed is the same in either approach, right? And the frequency would be the same, since you only update a viewport if geometry changes, and likewise only go through the manual conversion process again if the geometry changes. So it seems to me like the computer processing aspect would be equal between the two approaches, but I may very well be missing something :).

 

 

On 4/4/2018 at 6:20 AM, EAlexander said:

I'd love to know how @Andy Broomell organizes his drawings too?

 

Primarily with live viewports, but then the next question is 'where' the viewports are looking, which depends on the circumstances of the design. A few possibilities:

  1. Viewports are looking directly at the Design Layer(s) where the design was built and resides. Pretty straightforward... but doesn't work perfectly with all types of designs. This is most suitable for interior designs, box sets, tv shows with lots of walls, etc. But it's not great for, let's say, a musical with lots of individual scenic units, in which case I might do the next following:
  2. Each unit within the set is a Symbol that resides initially on one Design Layer within the overall design, and then additionally on a separate Design Layer used only for drafting purposes. On this separate layer it's easy to make viewports of all the different orthographic views you need because you don't have to worry about any of the other scenic elements occluding it. You also don't care about where the unit is on stage, since you only move the one symbol around on your master design layer, but just leave the other symbol at 0,0 on your 'draft' layer. You'll probably find a version of this approach in Grant's files since I think I learned it from him :-)
  3. Some combination of both. Depending on the design it might be hard to separate walls into discrete units/symbols as method 2 would require, so the walls might be best drafted via method 1, pulling straight from the master design layer. But then other elements in the same set I'll draft with method 2 where I'll place a Symbol instance on a separate design layer for the conveniences it allows. I flip back and forth between both methods often.
  4. A viewport might also look at a 'drafting' design layer where I've drawn out some schematic purely in 2D (or sometimes derived 2D geometry from the 3D model exactly as outlined in the tutorial video above).

 

Conversely, there are a few reasons I can think of to use the "Convert to Lines" method over the "Live Viewport" method. The obvious disadvantage to the Viewport method is that you can't select any of the geometry directly, which can sometimes be problematic:

  • You can't always get the desired granular control over visual attributes when using live viewports. Depending on the design and how picky you want to be about having proper, lineweight-y drafting (which I fully support), it's sometimes necessary to convert to pure 2D so you can do what you need to. Yes, with viewports you can overlay thicker lines in Annotations, and you can change the lineweights of the 3D objects to influence the lineweights in the viewport, but this isn't always enough.
  • A client or vendor may need 2D-only viewport-less vector geometry. I've worked with scene shops who (for various reasons) need to be able to select any and all elements directly, such as lines, section profiles, etc., which you can't do in a viewport.  [They may also need my geometry to exist on Design Layers so that they can work on top of it, overlaying their own technical drawings, for example.] In these cases I lay out my sheets entirely on Design Layers, side-by-side (see image below). This is the true old-fashioned way in VW and involves publishing Saved Views. It still works thankfully, though there are other caveats I won't get into.
  • The nature of the object being drafted doesn't lend itself well to 3D, in which case I'll go as far as I can in 3D, do the Convert to Lines process, then continue working in 2D.

Here's a quick screenshot of an example where some of the above factors were in play, so everything is laid out on a Design Layer:

 

5ac6de7289fdc_ScreenShot2018-04-05at7_41_20PM.thumb.png.37ebd6b2b960c4c96302808e66da84b0.png

 

In fact I really enjoyed laying it out this way because when it came to dimensioning and annotating I could freely pan around and jump between any view seamlessly. No clicking in and out of Annotations constantly. I could drag a drop a note from one view onto another, and it was lovely. 

 

But it's becoming more and more rare that I employ this approach.

 

 

In general I think it's best to be familiar with all possible workflows so you can choose what works best for the particular circumstances of a project, which as we know in the entertainment industry can vary wildly and quickly. Whenever the choice comes down to my own personal preference, the advantages of speed and consistency make live viewports the winner.

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5 hours ago, Alan Woodwell said:

Hi, Have you tried turning down the DPI of your sheet layers to see if it speeds up your rendering time, do this just for working and turn back up when rendering the final??

 

As far as I'm aware the DPI doesn't affect vector geometry, right? I believe Evan's post was primarily dealing with creating vector elevations rather than renderings.

 

But I agree that if you're dealing with anything raster it's important to pay attention to this.

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@Andy Broomell - Thank you very much for the kind words and the careful and thoughtful post.  That ship drafting is amazing - and looks great.

 

I am doing the same kind of thing where the model lives on the master model layers a but hen gets duplicated to "elevation" layers to slice up into the viewports.  This seems to work well and lots of times I need to distribute the model without that stuff in there - so it's easy and tidy to purge it out before sending.

 

RE: DPI -my understanding is that section viewports and, of course, viewports with render styles are being "rendered" by the engine - so DPI comes into play there for sure.

 

Thanks again for you insights - really like your drafting style.

 

e.

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