You are on page 1of 7

Friday26 September 2014

CPD 24 2014: Creating real-time 3D


visualisations
19 September 2014
This CPD module, sponsored by Unity Technologies, will discuss how real-time
visualisation engines can be used to communicate designs more effectively to clients and
stakeholders
How to take this module
UBMs CPD distance-learning programme is open to anyone seeking to
develop their knowledge and skills. Each module also offers members of
professional institutions an opportunity to earn between 30 and 90
minutes of credits towards their annual CPD requirement.
This article is accredited by the CPD Certification Service. To earn CPD
credits, read the article and then click the link below to complete your details and
answer the questions. You will receive your results instantly, and if all the questions are
correctly answered, you will be able to download your CPD certificate straight away.
CPD CREDITS: 30 MINUTES
DEADLINE: 31 OCTOBER 2014
This module is sponsored by
Unity Technologies
INTRODUCTION
Visualisation techniques are used on building projects to communicate designs and
construction information to clients, stakeholders, and other members of the project team.
The most commonly used techniques are static images (renderings, either photo-real or
schematic) and animated movies. An alternative is to use software programs that were
originally designed for computer game developers to create an interactive 3D model, which
allows the user to roam freely around a building or site, creating an immersive experience
with which the user can interact, much as they might in a game environment. Because the
visualisation is interactive, the developer can provide means for the user to influence the
environment for example, changing the sun/shadow position, switching between different
materials or design alternatives or opening doors, all in real-time.
Real-time interaction creates an incredibly powerful experience for the client or
stakeholder, enabling them to engage with the visualisation from every angle. Instead of a
prescribed view or route, real-time visualisation enables the client to interact with the model
in their own way and to choose which elements to focus on, literally bringing the project to
life. Architects can communicate their designs much more vividly, involving clients more
closely and enabling them to play a more positive part in the design process. In addition,
changes and updates to the model can be made easily, enabling feedback from the client
to be incorporated and shared within minutes. The software also enables real-time
rendering, saving time and money in comparison to traditional visualisation techniques.
This CPD will discuss how real-time visualisation engines can be used to communicate
designs more effectively to clients and stakeholders, focusing on the process of producing
and sharing applications and techniques for achieving best results.
Digital design agency NYYVE used Unity to create an award-winning visualisation of the
city of Ottawa, including a detailed 3D model of the Nuovo Condominiums development.
The building was placed in its true future site, allowing a 360 view of the neighbourhood
and surroundings, with both day and night versions
HOW REAL-TIME VISUALISATION ENGINES WORK
Real-time visualisation engines enable designers tocreate 3D models, animations, sounds
and materials, and use either predefined or custom scripts to make them interactive. A
script is a list of commands that are executed by a program without user interaction to
automate computing tasks. In real-time visualisations, these can be used to allow users to
open or shut doors, use lifts, and turn lights on or off, for example. A user interface can
also be included, providing on-screen buttons, text or sliders to help the user navigate their
way around.
While in the past such software was primarily used to create computer games, it is
increasingly used in sectors such as healthcare, defence and architecture. For example,
the Unity platform began life as a game engine, but is now used by organisations from
LEGO to NASA, and by building designers including Gensler, Fosters + Partners, Arup and
Capita.
Real-time visualisation engines can translate models into a range of formats that can be
used by different devices, allowing designers to develop for multiple platforms
simultaneously. For example, real-time visualisations can be published as standalone
applications for desktop computers or laptops, as console games for systems such as
PlayStation or Xbox or as apps for mobile devices and tablets, or they can be viewed
online via a web browser.
When produced correctly, interactive techniques can be as graphically compelling as pre-
rendered animations. They also provide more flexibility, allowing the incorporation of
design changes and the development of custom behaviour. For example, the developer
can provide the user with means to influence the environment, such as changing the
position of the sun and shadows, switching between different materials or design
alternatives or opening doors, all in real-time. The physics engine built into the platform
simulates the effect of the laws of physics, enabling objects to react to forces such as
gravity and to interact with each other: colliding, bouncing, sliding and falling.
NVYVE also created interiors of the Nuovo Condominiums development using Unity, to
enable potential buyers to step within their future home years before it was built
PRODUCING REAL-TIME VISUALISATIONS
Published computer games are created by large teams of professional developers. While it
is naive to assume that this can be achieved easily, even a small team with limited time
can produce compelling results.
There are typically two points in the design process where real-time visualisation is most
relevant:
Early on in the design, during exploration of the spatial layout of the project and a
rough concept can be shared with the building owner. Here, the focus would be on
walking around freely, with a basic facility layout.
For presentations, either as part of a competition, to sell the design, or as part of a
marketing effort to sell the facility to potential buyers. Here, the focus would be on
creating a more polished, vivid experience.
To create a real-time visualisation, the architect must first create a 3D model of the design,
preferably with textures assigned. This can be done using most CAD or BIM programmes,
such as ArchiCAD, Revit, SketchUp, AutoCAD or Rhino. However, the best results are
achieved with the use of additional animation software, such as Autodesk 3ds Max,
Cinema 4D Studio or Autodesk Maya, as an intermediate step. This is then loaded into the
real-time visualisation engine, and further refined to appear more realistic through the
addition of materials or lighting, for example. The model is displayed in real-time: the view
of the model is continuously refreshed, ideally at least 30 times per second. The result is
similar to a 3D computer game, where a player can walk around freely and interact with the
environment.
An experienced user can transfer a basic 3D model to create an interactive scene in a
matter of minutes, especially if there is a usable project template, with the basic interactivity
already pre-scripted. For larger projects, more effort is required, because models must be
optimised considerably to be usable in a real-time visualisation.
It is relatively easy to incorporate design changes, because extensive re-rendering is not
required as in traditional pre-rendered visualisations. With Unity, the original 3D model is
referenced as an asset within the real-time visualisation engine, which means that
subsequent changes to the design can be easily incorporated later on. It is also possible to
integrate the platform with other services, such as a project database, company server or
BIM model, to ensure that information is always up to date.
This virtual building was created for the Chartered Institute of Buildings exam programme
by digital design agency Makemedia. Students must identify areas of concern during a
virtual tour
SHARING THE VISUALISATION WITH OTHERS
While the resulting application can be run within the real-time visualisation engine itself,
this is not the recommended way to share it. Depending on the system used, it can be
published in multiple formats: a self-contained desktop application, an applet to be
embedded in a website or an app for a mobile device. It can then be run by the client on
their own computer or mobile device, through their web browser (with the installation of a
free browser plug-in). The developer can also use the application to record a screen move,
which can be integrated in presentations or shared online.
Real-time visualisations can require significant computer processing and storage power.
Unity runs on most up-to-date Windows or OSX computers and the programme installation
is several gigabytes. For a Windows installation, there is an application and accompanying
data folder, whereas for Apples OSX, it is delivered as an app bundle, like the majority of
Mac applications.
Interactive projects contain all models, textures and sounds, alongside temporary files to
facilitate publishing on multiple platforms, and so can grow considerably in size, ranging
from several megabytes to a few gigabytes for large models. When publishing the
application, optimisation and compression are used to minimise the file size. Typical small
projects can be optimised to less than 10MB, but more complete projects, with extensive
textures and environments can still be up to 1GB.
When basketball team the Sacramento Kings was planning a new arena, it wanted to help
stakeholders, fans and members of the community explore the project long before
construction started. This visualisation was built using Unity by digital design agency Arch
Visual
CONVERTING CAD AND BIM MODELS TO REAL-TIME
VISUALISATIONS
Open and extensible real-time visualisation engines, such as Unity, lend themselves well to
architectural applications. Courses or modules focusing on level development usually
apply fairly well in an architectural context, and experience of 3D polygonal modelling,
texturing, animation and visualisation is also helpful, as these game development
techniques apply directly to architectural visualisation.
There are several differences between CAD and BIM models and models used in real-time
visualisation engines. Designers should consider the following areas:
Geometry Game developers strip out all unseen geometry from a model, whereas
architectural modellers add in every possible geometry that is relevant to the
project. A good solution is to split up the model into modular pieces and use scripting
to show and hide these parts when required.
Lighting adding a simple light will make things visible, but the result is usually flat,
dull and unrealistic. For best results, there should be multiple light sources and
special attention paid to dark rooms and areas.
Textures many CAD and BIM models contain objects without any texture. In a real-
time environment, they look very flat and do not react well to light, or provide a
sufficient sense of scale for a gaming project. Ensure that every single geometric
element has a material with texture assigned, and that it is scaled correctly. This is
difficult to correct directly after conversion of the model.
Flipped normals every face in a model has a back and a front. CAD systems
usually display both, whereas rendering and visualisation systems, such as Unity,
hide the back faces so that they show up as missing geometry or holes in the model.
Ensure that the model is properly constructed with only front faces visible. This
problem is especially noticeable in CAD systems such as SketchUp and AutoCAD. In
BIM software, most elements are 3D volumes which are properly generated from the
beginning, so this is not usually a problem.
Scaling in regular visualisations, you dont notice the scale of the model in the end
result. However, in a real-time interactive environment, movements and interactions
take place on a real-world scale. It is therefore very important to ensure that the
model is imported at its real-world size. The model can be set to be used at 1:1 in the
import settings.
How to take this module
UBMs CPD distance-learning programme is open to anyone seeking to
develop their knowledge and skills. Each module also offers members of
professional institutions an opportunity to earn between 30 and 90
minutes of credits towards their annual CPD requirement.
This article is accredited by the CPD Certification Service. To earn CPD
credits, read the article and then click the link below to complete your details and
answer the questions. You will receive your results instantly, and if all the questions are
correctly answered, you will be able to download your CPD certificate straight away.
CPD CREDITS: 30 MINUTES
DEADLINE: 31 OCTOBER 2014
Privacy policy
Information you supply to UBM
Information Ltd may be used for publication and also to provide you with information
about our products or services in the form of direct marketing by email, telephone, fax or
post. Information may also be made available to third parties. UBM Information Ltd may
send updates about Building CPD and other relevant UBM products and services. By
providing your email address you consent to being contacted by email by UBM
Information Ltd or other third parties. If at any time you no longer wish to receive
anything from UBM Information Ltd or to have your data made available to third parties,
contact the Data Protection Coordinator, UBM Information Ltd, FREEPOST LON 15637,
Tonbridge, TN9 1BR, Freephone 0800 279 0357 or email ubmidpa@ubm.com. View our
Ads Powered with
0
Follow @buildingnews 51.1K followers
full privacy policy at www.building.co.uk/cpd
Marketplace Recommendations
LATEST CASE STUDIES
Desktop Site | Mobile Site
Owners and
Developers
Industries Solutions
from Newforma
Architecture Firm
Solutions
Project Management
0 Like
Reynaers
aluminium systems
for Paynes &
Borthwick site
Read More
Movable walls and
partitions at 155
Bishopsgate
Read More
Metal Technology
improves outlook at
City View offices
Read More