In my article on lap siding and baked on shadows, I discussed creating an image-based Surface. Starting with a photo, I walked through the steps required to get a nice looking model in the 3D Window, and a strong starting point for developing renderings throughout the life of a project. The basic process went like this: image -> ARCHICAD -> Surface Settings for Internal Engine/OpenGL -> CineRender. But what happens if you create a cool Surface natively in ARCHICAD with all the functionality of CineRender and want to show that same detail in the 3D Window? Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as clicking Update Internal Settings (from CineRender). While the option to match the CineRender Settings from the Internal Settings works well enough, the CineRender Settings are too complex to work in the reverse. This is a bit like why it’s easy for ARCHICAD to absorb models from other programs, but those programs have trouble taking all the data from our models. It’s simple to add low complexity into a high complexity environment. But doing the reverse will inevitably result in loss of quality.

With Surfaces in ARCHICAD, the primary issue of getting data from CineRender to the Internal Engine/OpenGL is explained by this warning from the helpcenter article for Match Settings with CineRender Surfaces:

Note: Because the Internal/OpenGL engine uses relatively few parameters, the effect of this command may be minimal. In particular, the parameters of procedural surfaces (in CineRender) cannot be replicated in Internal/OpenGL.

What that means is if you use all the options in the CineRender settings to create something like a cool wood, tile, or stone pattern, you can’t just click a button and have that show up in the 3D Window. Which is definitely disappointing. As I’ve been discussing in so many recent posts, automation and aggregated benefits are the crux of increased ARCHICAD usage. We want to be able to put effort into one area of our work and see benefits in multiple places. Investing time into CineRender settings for Surfaces but then having nothing to show for that outside of renderings is disappointing and counterproductive. Why spend time to develop those parameters if the model you look at the majority of the time doesn’t reflect those changes? Fortunately there’s a solution. I wish it were more automated, but it’s not. Nevertheless, it’s simple to do and the hard parts are something you want to do anyways.

From CineRender to the 3D Window

As with my previous post, I had a surface in mind that I wanted to create. Unfortunately I couldn’t just import it into ARCHICAD like I did with the lap siding. There was too much detail and variation in the pattern for me to create an acceptable repeating image file from the photo. This problem was exacerbated by the shadows, which limited the area on the elevation that could be used (since I had to stick with either full shadow or full sun areas). Here’s what I was looking to reproduce:

I can't steal this for my model

To start, I’m going to ignore the hardware. I think the screws are great, but beyond the scope of what I should be doing. I’ll mention how I would create them at the end of this exploration, as I’m sure I’ll want them in my renderings if that’s part of our final aesthetic for the addition we are designing (we being me and Cary Westerbeck of westerbeck | architecture).

  1. This isn’t technically step one, but since all my images show it, I’ll start here. Create a wall and then align the camera to be facing it. If you use the Parallel Project Settings (right click in the 3D Window and select 3D Projection Settings), you can align the camera and sun to both face the wall. This will give you a flat image with no shadows, both things you want.Straight on no shadows
  2. Now you can edit your Surface. Presumably you have created a dummy Surface or are starting from an existing Surface. If not, create a new Surface (and then assign it to your placed Wall).Our Surface is lame in the 3D window
  3. Once you have your Wall and Surface, it’s time to develop the Surface in the CineRender Settings. For my example, I’m trying to recreate the existing tiled wood siding. To do this I started with a wood CineRender Surface from the catalog that gave me approximately the correct wood color and grain. I tweaked it a bit and then added Tiles under the Diffusion dropdown. I selected the Pattern I wanted (Brick 1) and then fiddled with the settings until it looked good. There’s probably a lot of advice on the helpcenter and the forum, so I won’t go into detail on what I did (let’s just say it rhymes with trial and error). The best advice I can give is explore the settings and don’t aim for perfection right away. Get to the point where making simple Diffusion and Color based textures are easy for you to do. Then slowly expand from there. My example texture uses only a fraction of the options available to me. But you know what? My collaborators and clients are going to be blown away by the model and rendering anyways.Cinerender has some awesome options
  4. Now that you have the CineRender Settings where you want them, you can check the 3D Window and confirm the problem that is driving this blog post: the 3D Window is showing none of your hard work. In my example it’s just the same dull orange square.Our Surface is ready for Rendering
  5. However, if you open the PhotoRendering Settings and check out the preview, you can see that the renderings are going to look great.Looks good in the Rendering but garbage in the 3D window
  6. Which means it’s time to create a rendering. Don’t worry about marqueeing off the area you want. You’ll crop this image in a photo editing software. That’ll be easier than trying to marquee the 3D model perfectly before rendering. You could set the size of the wall to the size of your repeating pattern and then align the texture properly, but that is a lot more work than just cropping once you’ve created the image file.We now have a JPEG
  7. From here it’s the same process from my previous post, except that you don’t need to end with matching the CineRender settings to the Internal Settings. Before you add the image to ARCHICAD, you might want to fuss with saturation, contraction, tint, exposure, etc. in a photo editing software. Your choice. It depends on if there’s a need, or if you suffer from perfectionism and are bothered by something. As the goal is a 3D window that reflects the work you’re doing for your renderings, I wouldn’t overdo it. You still want the bulk of your time spent developing the Surface’s CineRender settings.Our Final Surface
  8. Here’s the point where it’d be easy to add the hardware as seen in the original photograph. You could add them to the cropped image and then replace the CineRender settings with the new image file that contains the hardware (or other feature you added outside of ARCHICAD). This process would then be exactly what I described in the lap siding post. As I’ve mentioned before, I prefer to work in ARCHICAD. So as part of the prep work for this post, I created the screws by placing the image of the siding on the floor plan, drawing the screws with the Fill Tool, then taking a screen capture of the result. I then used that image as the image to be placed into my Surface. Someone more talented with Photoshop or GIMP would just manipulate the original image in one of those programs, but I’m faster and happier mis-using ARCHICAD. Of course there are other ways to create the hardware, like modeling them with little circular beams that you can easily array on the elevation at the last minute… Existing Wood with Hardware
  9. Finally, don’t forget batch processing. If you develop a number of Surfaces in the CineRender Settings, set up multiple walls—one per Surface. Render them all at once. You’ll still need to manually add the resulting data to each Surface, but you can create one rendering that you can then crop into all your different images for importing, rather than having to do rendering after rendering and juggle multiple images that need cropping.

The proof is in the 3D Window

The whole process of creating textures for both renderings and 3D views is all about design. We needed this data in ARCHICAD; it’s an important (existing) condition we need to be able to respond to.The more we put into ARCHICAD, the more we can rely on ARCHICAD to be our primary design tool. Material palette data is now always part of my existing documentation—not just something saved in photos, but embedded into the model. The colors, materials, and their locations are just as important as the dimensions of the house, the size of the windows, or anything else we’d traditionally document with our antiquated CAD mindset. The gray panels, the tiled wood siding, the natural wood of the porch, and the wonderfully awesome bright green of the front door: all of these materials were recently chosen by the client and will remain.There’s no excuse not to have them in the model.

If we were intending to reclad the house, I wouldn’t bother doing this because our first move would be to remove the siding. In that case, I’d want to avoid all this because it’s unnecessary work; it’s noise and distraction. It’s the same reason that, in the rendering at the start of this article, the garage is bright red and modeled to a lower level of detail than the rest of the house. The garage is absolutely getting knocked down. We just need its massing for before and after images, plus it’s footprint for the demolition plan.

The 3D Window with hardware

A final note: My hope is to prod you a bit further down the path. These techniques are just the beginning. There’s a lot about Surface creation that I didn’t cover. For this project, I also created a new fill pattern and linked that to my Surface so that my 2D elevations matched the 3D. I have a whole bunch to say about fills and I’ll try to write those posts in the first half of 2016. More importantly than associating cover Fills, there is so much more depth in what kind of Surfaces we can create with the CineRender options. We’ll also try to talk about that more too, but if you are impatient for me to share, check out the helpcenter or pester GRAPHISOFT to do some webinars on the topic. Zoltan Toth gave a two-part talk about CineRender at the 2015 GRAPHISOFT North America BIM Conference and those of us who were there are still trying to digest everything we learned.

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1 Comment

  1. Eric Bobrow

    Nicely done Jared as always.

    One of the limitations of texture maps is that the surface shows repetitive patterns based on the size of the sample you work with. One can see this quite clearly in the final image above.

    One way to reduce this effect is to create a much bigger sample image, so the repetitions are less noticeable. Using Photoshop or a similar image editing program, rework the bigger sample to add some noise, carefully placed brush or cloning strokes, or overlay another pattern (a subtle wash of light and dark mixed with some random grain can work nicely). This will make the repetitions less obvious, perhaps even difficult to spot without concentrated effort.

    Given that RAM and graphics card memory now have huge capacities, limitations of sample size are pretty much unnecessary. This can be a very effective and quick way to take your approach one step further.


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