In General

When navigating a model in real-time is not practical, or you want a pre-scripted path that aligns with your talking points, then creating a video is the solution. For example, I recently worked in my firm’s booth in the exhibit hall at a regional conference to promote our design services. We have a large flat screen television, on a floor stand, which was used to play a continuously looped Enscape-generated video (straight off a USB drive plugged directly into the TV). This eye-catching medium proved to be very engaging and prompted several questions, thus serving its purpose to engage attendees in a meaningful conversation about the work we do.

This article will cover the powerful video creation features and workflows found within the Enscape plugin. Enscape has a great, recently improved workflow for developing a video. I will be using Autodesk Revit, but the way in which this functionality was implemented into Enscape allows it to work the same in SketchUp and Rhino as well. If you’re not an Enscape user yet, sign up for the free trial.

Speaking of Revit, Autodesk has officially released Revit 2019, and Enscape is there on day one with support. In fact, this article was written while using Revit 2019. If you are interested in learning more about the new features, be sure to see this author’s annual article on AECbytes; What’s New in Revit 2019?.

 

The Big Picture

The overall process is very simple: you compose a view in Enscape and then use the Add Keyframe command to define the start point. You continue this process along the path you would like the video to follow.

Enscape’s Video Commands

Enscape’s Video Commands

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Enscape Keyframes and Path

The path and keyframes are visible within Enscape, as shown here. The video follows this path and morphs between each keyframe. For example, notice the view direction arrow added at each keyframe. Enscape will smoothly transition between #1 and #2 and then again between #2 and #3.

To finish the “big picture” overview: once the path is defined the video may be previewed in Enscape using the Preview Video command. If everything looks good, then use the Export Video command to make an MP4 which can be hosted online or shared.

 

Editing the Path

The path may need to be modified to adjust the view direction or avoid colliding with objects in the scene. Enscape makes this easy by allowing us to select keyframes and then visually adjust them. To do this, hover your cursor over a camera (i.e. a keyframe) until it turns green (see next image) and then click.Notice how the path has arrows on it, indicating the direction of travel. Once in the Keyframe Editor, you have several reference lines and controls as shown.

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Keyframe selected

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Selecting keyframe

Using the controls at the bottom of the screen, the Time of Day, Field of View, Depth of Field and Timestamp can be overridden from the current settings.

Edit keyframe controls

Additionally, the buttons on the right allow for the following changes:

  • Insert: Add a new keyframe on the path.
  • Apply: Save changes and leave the edit mode. (Enter)
  • Delete: Delete this keyframe. (Del)
  • Leave: Leave the edit mode without saving changes (Esc)

In this short video, I will show how keyframes can also be inserted graphically on a path just by clicking on it. I demonstrate how to add another keyframe between #2 and #3 so we look straight ahead longer after leaving keyframe #2. I also show how to adjust the camera height, so the video ends with a shot looking down on the kitchen. To do this simply click on the last keyframe/camera, make the view composition adjustments and then Apply the changes

An Enscape video path can also traverse floors as shown in the next two images. The process is the same: compose views along the path and add keyframes.

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Keyframe added mid-way up the stairs to better define path

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Video path traveling between floors

My first attempt at this path only had a keyframe at the top and bottom of the stair run. However, when smoothing the path between keyframes, the path curved too much between the bottom and top of the stairs. To correct this, I inserted another keyframe mid-stair to define the path as shown in the right image. Using these features, we have full control over the path and view direction.

Additional video editing features have been added to the new version 2.2.3. Now multiple keyframes on the same position (with different camera rotation or time of day) are introduced as well as explicit control over the timing. This means you switch between Enscape and your CAD software less frequently.

 

Save and Load a Path

If you want to use a path again in the future, you can save it using the Save Path command. The ability to define multiple paths within the same project is an especially beneficial feature. Save these files in the project folder on the network so the entire design team has access.

To completely remove the current path from Enscape, click the Remove All command.

The saved file is an XML file. If you edit this file, you will notice each keyframe has an X,Y,Z value for Position and LookAt. These numbers could be modified to make more precise adjustments along the path.

 

Preview Video

As you are developing the path, be sure to use the Preview Video feature to get a quick look at the overall path and resultant interpolation between keyframes. If there are problems, you can fix them prior to committing to the time it takes to encode the video to an MP4.

 

Export Settings

The quality of the video is dependent on the options specified in the Enscape Settings dialog,  shown below. There are a few important things to know:

    1. Resolution

Choose the video resolution in pixels. The maximum capture resolution is 8192×8192. This setting impacts the time needed to generate the video and the resultant file size. Note that most televisions and even high-end computers have a difficult time playing video higher than 1080p.

    1. Video
      • Compression Quality: A higher compression quality increases the file size but reduces compression artifacts in the video. The export time is unaffected by this setting.
      • Camera Speed: Defines camera flight speed along the path in meters per second
      • Movement: Defines camera movement
        • Constant: Constant velocity for the whole path
        • Smooth Start/stop: The camera starts slow, accelerates and then slows down again.
        • Shaky cam: Simulates vibrations and shakes as if a human would carry the camera
      • Frames Per Second (FPS): Takes proportionally longer to render, but a higher value yields a smoother video.
    2. Motion Blur

Turn off Motion Blur for higher quality videos.

    1. Rendering Quality

This setting determines how much work, in terms of ray bounces, should be done before exporting the frame at the settings specified on the Capture tab. Thus, the combination of render quality and capture settings can have a significant impact on the time required and quality of the final product.

The overall length of the video is determined by the Camera Speed setting: speed x path length. It does not matter where the keyframes are or how many there are.

 

Export Video

With the path defined and the settings adjusted, use the Export Video command to create an MP4. As already mentioned, this process can potentially take a significant amount of time. This is largely due to the video encoding process.

These files can be very large. I have created a few recently that were upwards of 2GB for a 20-minute 1080p video. However, the results are worth it!

Here are some examples of videos created in Enscape without the use of an additional video editing software:

 

Conclusion

In today’s busy and complex world, we need tools that are both powerful and easy to use. As you have seen, Enscape makes the whole process of developing and editing a video just that – easy. The ability to create multiple paths and save each one to be individually reloaded later increases efficiency. And, that this process works the same across multiple authoring tools (Revit, SketchUp and Rhino) is just ingenious in my opinion. We may not be able to agree on the best modeling tool, but Enscape is making it hard to not pick them as the go-to visualization solution for the office.

Videos are an effective tool for conveying design intent in our industry. For our clients, many of whom are spending millions of dollars, seeing a high-quality video can be comforting and affirming, because we can all relate to the natural sense of motion in our 3D world that videos afford. These videos can also become a powerful marketing tool for both the design firm and the client. We can use these videos to impress potential clients with our design and technological capabilities. Plus, clients can use the videos on their website or in their own presentations to engage shareholders, investors or their customers. Many readers probably already know all of this, but I wanted to make this closing statement to help bring out the strong value proposition Enscape has for our industry.

Dan Stine

Dan Stine
He is an Author, Blogger, Educator,
BIM Administrator and Wisconsin registered architect.
He works full-time at LHB – a 250 person full-service design firm.

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