Enscape https://enscape3d.com Instant realtime Rendering plugin for Revit and SketchUp Fri, 21 Sep 2018 13:58:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 Best Practices for Emissive Materials in SketchUp https://enscape3d.com/best-practices-for-emissive-materials-in-sketchup/ https://enscape3d.com/best-practices-for-emissive-materials-in-sketchup/#respond Wed, 19 Sep 2018 09:39:45 +0000 https://enscape3d.com/?p=34321 The post Best Practices for Emissive Materials in SketchUp appeared first on Enscape.

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Best Practices for Emissive Materials in SketchUp

You may have seen my recent post about artificial light sources in SketchUp , in which I covered different techniques to realistically light your model. But there is another way of creating light in your projects: emissive materials. These self-illuminated materials emit light, but differently than artificial light sources, and can be used to create effects that you can’t achieve with artificial lights.

Making you material emissive turns it into a glowing light source, which you can assign to any shape and even add a texture to. This means you can be incredibly creative with emissive materials. They are often used on objects where some part should appear to glow, such as a television or computer screen, the brake lights of a car, or an exit sign. But you can also use them to create light in areas of your model where it might be impractical to use artificial lights: to create the effect of recessed ceiling lighting, for example.

It can be difficult to differentiate when to use emissive materials versus artificial lights; both have their benefits and drawbacks. Understanding when to use which type of light can take your project to the next level in terms of realism. In this post you’ll learn all about emissive materials, how to apply and adjust them using Enscape’s Material Editor in SketchUp, and their many different uses. This post show examples from SketchUp, but you can of course work with emissive materials in Revit, Rhino and ArchiCAD as well!

What Is an Emissive Material?

Emissive materials are self-illuminated materials, that is, materials that emit light across their surface. When an emissive material is used in a scene, it is rendered as a visible light source, and depending on the intensity you set, its glow can actually light up the surrounding area. The great advantage of emissive materials is that you can use them to create complex forms that glow; you can get really creative! Check out the picture below; I just created some shapes in SketchUp, and made the generic white material assigned to them emissive.

White material applied to simple geometry

The effect created by making the material emissive

Emissive materials belong to the global illumination calculation. Global illumination (GI) is an important element in the rendering of realistic scenes.  When light hits a surface, it does not simply end there, but bounces. With GI, these bounces result in an indirect light, which illuminates areas of your project that may not have artificial light or direct access to sunlight, like a long hallway or the corners of a room. Emissive materials are part of this GI calculation, meaning they emit indirect light. You won’t be able to use them to simulate a spotlight, but you can recreate the glow of a television screen, for example.

Let’s take a look at how you make a material emissive in SketchUp; with Enscape’s Material Editor, it just takes two clicks! First, open the Material Editor by clicking on the button in the Enscape ribbon, or by selecting Enscape Materials in the Enscape dropdown menu. Then use the native SketchUp pickup tool to select the material you would like to make emissive. This will allow you to adjust various settings relating to the material; to make it emissive, just check the box next to Self Illumination.

Check the Self Illumination box to make your material emissive

An emissive surface emitting white light and creating shadows

As you can see, the material surface emits a very bright light, which casts softer shadows. Emissive materials have one bounce less than artificial lights, which results in the light not being able to bounce around many corners. To change the brightness of the material, adjust the Luminance slider.

Tip
Global illumination is switched off in Enscape’s Draft Mode, so the light emitted by your emissive materials will no longer bounce. The surface will still be bright, as you can see in the image below, but the materials will no longer contribute to the overall lighting in your scene.

An emissive material contributing to the bounced light in the room

The same emissive material in draft mode

Tip
Emissive materials can be noisy and cause an effect known as fireflies. These types of surfaces cause artifacts commonly known as fireflies. If you encounter this effect, increase the size or decrease the brightness of your emissive surface. It is best to use emissive surfaces that are as large as possible to avoid noise.

What makes emissive materials so versatile is that you can illuminate both colors and textures. To apply a color to your emissive material, simply select a color from the drop down menu in the Enscape Materials Editor.

Emissive surface emitting a blue color

Match you color values for identical colors

Tip
To exactly match your material’s color to the color that is emitted as light, simply copy the color value out of the Advanced tab of the albedo color drop down menu into the same space in the emissive color menu.

Now check out what it looks like if you apply texture. For this example I have applied a wood floor as my texture, to emphasize the effect. It’s up to you whether to match the color of the light emitted to the color of the material itself. The generic white light that is emitted will still be slightly tinted to the color of the texture. If you would like the effect to be more intense, you can adjust the color of the light emitted, as I have done below.

Apply a texture and match the color

The texture applied to an emissive material with also glow

Emissive materials do have certain drawbacks. Occasionally, if the geometry you applied an emissive material to is not visible on screen, the light emitted by the surface may not contribute to the actual light level in the scene. For example, if you apply an emissive material to some geometry and then turn the camera so that it is no longer in view, the light being emitted by the surface might not show. If this occurs, try changing your camera perspective until part of the geometry is visible again, and the light will return.

How to Use Emissive Materials

One great way to use them to boost your scene’s realism is to apply them to digital screens. Have you ever looked at a rendered scene of a living room with a television, or an office full of computer monitors and felt there was something a little off? That’s because in real life, we are surrounded by glowing screens. Applying a low level emissive material can give your scene the authenticity it needs. Check out the living room below. It already looks pretty great, but the television and tablet appear a bit flat.

Select the texture on the screen using the pickup tool. You will see it in the albedo section of the Enscape Materials Editor. Just enable Self Illumination, and the screen will glow. Play around with the brightness; you probably won’t need it to be so bright that it contributes to the overall light level of the room – just bright enough to give off a visible glow. Depending on the situation, you can adjust the color of the light emitted to match. Above I did this with the television, but left the tablet with the default white light. Get creative!

A comfortable living room scene

Check out that reflection on the coffee table!

Another way to apply emissive materials to enhance the authenticity of your scene is to apply them to small glowing elements we see every day. One of my favorite new ways to use emissive materials is to enhance car models. The car below is meant to be idling in the main drive, but none of its lights are illuminated, detracting from the realness of the scene. Illuminate a few materials, and it looks like it could drive away before your eyes.

Tip
Use emissive materials in combination with artificial lights. Enscape doesn't render the actual source of artificial light, just the result: you won't see the point the light originates from, but you will see the light hitting part of your scene. Make the geometry inside the light fixture emissive to achieve a realistic lighting effect, without any post-production.

Just a little touch of light…

can make your scene much more authentic!

Emissive materials are also perfect when you want to create a lighting effect similar to an LED light, or for lighting up areas that are tricky to get to with artificial lights. Take for example recessed ceiling lighting, or LED lights that are installed along the tops of cabinets. These types of lights are seen both in residential houses and in office buildings or stores.

Achieving this effect with artificial lights can be time consuming, and might not give you the result you are looking for. Instead, try using emissive materials. It’s usually quick and easy, because the geometry already exists. Just apply an emissive material to the right spot, and it will give the effect of an LED light rail installed in a recessed space.

Tip
Emissive materials, along with any applied colors or textures, will be visible in reflections, unlike other types of indirect light. However, it is not possible to guarantee 100% accuracy in reflections; the more geometry that is involved, the less likely it is that the reflections will be accurate, for performance reasons. So if reflections are an important part of your scene, keep it simple.

Emissive Versus Artificial

So what is it important to consider when weighing emissive materials against artificial lights? Oftentimes it is not entirely clear which type of light might be the best for your situation. Take a look at the table below for a quick overview.

Emissive Artificial light
Shape and Size Illuminate every possible surface and shape Restricted to certain types and sizes (Spot, sphere, rectangle, disk, linear)
Light Potentially noisy, especially if powerful and small Almost noise free
Shadows Rather blurry Sharper
Bounce light Needs one indirect bounce to be visible at all Directly visible, therefore have one indirect bounce more than emissive
Customization Change the color and apply a texture to illuminate Only color can be changed
Performance Cause less performance strain than artificial lights Many artificial light sources can impact your real-time performance
Visibility Light can appear to turn off if the camera does not see the source Light is always visible, even if the camera is not facing the source
Light Level Adjustments Must be individually dimmed or brightened Can be collectively turned on and off via the Enscape Setting menu
Source Emits light, and shows where the light is emitted from Emits light, but shows no visible source

Size and Shape: Emissive materials can be applied to any size or shape of geometry. There is basically no limit to your creativity! Artificial lights, on the other hand, have pre-defined shapes and sizes.

Light: Diffuse light is potentially very noisy, especially if the emissive surface is small and bright. In these situations, it’s a better idea to use an area or point light, as artificial lights are virtually noise free.

Shadows: The light emitted by self-illuminated materials casts fuzzier, very blurry shadows. If you are looking for sharp, clean differentiations between light and dark, you might try a spot light instead.

Bounce light: The light given off by emissive materials has one bounce less than artificial lights. This results in the light not being able to bounce around many corners. Artificial lights bounce one time more and are therefore generally brighter.

Customization: You can apply a color to your artificial lights if you want to create a certain atmosphere or effect. However, emissive materials allow you to illuminate not only a color, but also an applied texture, leaving no limit on your creativity.

Performance: Placing many artificial light sources in your project can impact your performance, even if you have a top of the line graphics card. Using emissive materials to replace artificial light sources can improve your performance if you find your project lagging.

Visibility: It can be the case that the light from emissive materials seems to turn off when the source is not directly visible to the camera. You might find that if the light source is behind the camera, the emitted light will disappear as well. The light cast by artificial lights is always visible.

Light Level Adjustments: You can adjust the individual brightness of you artificial lights, but if you want them to be collectively brighter, or turn them all off, you can do this using the Light Brightness slider in the Advanced tab of the Enscape Settings menu. This setting does not affect emissive materials: if you want to dim or turn them off, you’ll need to adjust each material’s settings individually.

Source: Emissive materials emit light and show where the light is being emitted from; their light source is visible. With artificial lights, you will only see the light emitted, but not the source of that light in the form of a point or shape.

Rendering by Enscape Forum User Tas_1985

Conclusion

Emissive materials have numerous benefits, and can transform your project in terms of realism. They are easy to apply, and even easier to customize. Using emissive materials to make your screens glow and to achieve the effect of LED lighting is an easy way to add interesting elements to your project that draw the eye and spark the imagination. In terms of client presentations, it’s not simply about showing the project: it’s about creating and presenting a surrounding they could actually see themselves in. And with emissive materials, creating this world doesn’t have to take forever.

Finding the right combination and balance of emissive materials and artificial lights can be the difference between peaking your client’s interest, and making their dream project a reality. It’s important to know when to best use which type of light to achieve the effect you are going for. Take the time to carefully consider which light will serve you best, and you’ll end up blowing them away.

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How VR Can Help Architects Make Better Design Decisions https://enscape3d.com/how-vr-can-help-architects-make-better-design-decisions/ https://enscape3d.com/how-vr-can-help-architects-make-better-design-decisions/#respond Tue, 11 Sep 2018 07:39:43 +0000 https://enscape3d.com/?p=33777 The post How VR Can Help Architects Make Better Design Decisions appeared first on Enscape.

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How VR Can Help Architects Make Better Design Decisions

Enscape makes virtual reality rendering easier than ever before.

Not long ago, creating a virtual reality rendering of a building was a long, arduous process. Architecture firms had to enlist the help of programmers to create the environments with special software usually used by video game designers. The process would take weeks. By the time the renderings were finished, they would often be out-of-date because the design process had since moved on.

Enter Enscape. Founders Moritz Luck and Thomas Schander wanted to find a way to take VR rendering for architects and make it faster. “We looked at the market and there was nothing there,” Luck says. So they began developing their own software, rolling out a beta version in 2015.

Their product didn’t just make virtual reality faster, though. It made it instantaneous. Enscape is designed to work as an extension of common modeling programs Autodesk Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, and ArchiCAD. Users click one button and, in a few seconds, can see a three-dimensional virtual reality rendering of their designs. “You don’t have to learn a new program,” Luck says. “It’s easy. And it looks good.”

Rendering: Courtesy of Overland Partners

This helps designers communicate better with customers, who probably don’t have much experience looking at floorplans. Luck says it’s especially useful in helping customers envision large, open, multistory spaces like atriums and lobbies. “In 3D, you can grasp it.”

Clever Collaboration

But more than communicating with clients, Enscape helps designers communicate better with one another. Even looking at the same exact blueprints, it’s not uncommon for designers to come away with different mental images. Enscape removes the ambiguity.

San Antonio, Texas–based design firm Overland Partners had worked with other VR before but found the process long and difficult. Then Overland’s Director of Technology Daniel Carpio and BIM Manager Steve Fong stumbled across Enscape. They were impressed but skeptical at first of the company’s claims of real-time renderings, so they downloaded a demo. “We could not believe what we were seeing,” Carpio says. “It was doing everything it said and more.”

The software has changed the way Overland works. “If you go into our office now, everybody has two monitors,” says Overland Principal Bob Shemwell. One will show a design in Revit, while the other will feature an Enscape rendering of that design. “It would be impossible to walk through the office and not see somebody working on Enscape.”

Rendering: Courtesy of Overland Partners

Bringing Design to Life

The renderings really come alive, however, when connected with a virtual reality headset. Not long ago, Shemwell and Ben Rosas, Overland designer, were in a hotel lounge in Florida, gearing up for a presentation on a botanical garden Overland is designing. Rosas was tweaking the renderings as Shemwell wore a headset, offering him feedback. Then a line began to form. “The next thing you know we have the hotel desk clerk and a line of random people we didn’t know that we are walking through the model,” Shemwell says. “It’s technology, but, ultimately, it’s about people.”

Enscape’s ease of use and quality renderings are quickly making the software an industry standard. The program is now used by many of the world’s top architecture firms and the company is growing so fast they’ve had to find new office space. Luck says they hired an architect to design the new space, an old-school guy who was skeptical about the whole 3D thing. Then, as plans were being finalized, the architect realized there was a huge column smack in the middle of the room. “In 3D, it would have been clear from the start,” Luck laughs.

These are five things you can do using Enscape.

The Process

  1. Using geolocation, the program allows users to adjust the time of day and year to see how sunlight comes through windows. It’s even possible to factor in shadows from other buildings. It’s not as precise as other methods but provides a quick and easy-to-understand reference. “That’s something you can very easily see in VR that’s very hard to tell in a floorplan in 2D,” Luck says.
  2. Enscape releases new versions of its software every three months, often with new features voted on by users on the company’s online forum. Based on this feedback, Luck says the company hopes to roll out virtual reality renderings for smartphones, tablets, and internet browsers. Enscape also plans to allow users to alter design elements from within the virtual reality environment.
  3. Using Enscape, architects can spot problems in their plans that wouldn’t otherwise be evident. On a recent project, Overland designers and engineers switched to an Enscape VR session and noticed a duct was poking through a wall. The problem was not evident in Revit, but in VR the error was as plain as day.
  4. Although the firm still uses physical models and sketches when presenting projects to customers or other stakeholders, Overland has started to incorporate virtual reality into its promotional materials. At one recent meeting with city leaders, the company used Enscape to create QR codes linked to 360 panoramas of a nearby building so everyone could see how the soon-to-be-built structure would look from various vantage points. The firm plans to place QR codes on fencing surrounding the construction site, so passersby can see what’s coming and get excited.
  5. Many users view Enscape renderings on a computer screen but, for a really immersive experience, virtual reality headsets are the way to go. “You have to curate the experience for the client so they don’t feel like they’re going to look foolish,” Shemwell says. When clients feel comfortable, the payoffs are great. Carpio says, “When they take the headset off, there is a sense of euphoria and joy. They finally have a clear understanding of the reality of their project.”

Rendering: Courtesy of Overland Partners

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Tips for Interior Design https://enscape3d.com/tips-for-interior-design/ https://enscape3d.com/tips-for-interior-design/#respond Thu, 06 Sep 2018 08:16:05 +0000 https://enscape3d.com/?p=32729 Tips for Interior Design   As I am the author of the only Revit textbook focused on Interior Design, Interior Design Using Autodesk Revit 2019 , one could say the topic is near and dear to my heart! In this article I would like to share several tips and some tricks anyone can use to […]

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Tips for Interior Design

 

As I am the author of the only Revit textbook focused on Interior Design, Interior Design Using Autodesk Revit 2019 , one could say the topic is near and dear to my heart! In this article I would like to share several tips and some tricks anyone can use to create amazing interior graphics.

To emphasize how easy Enscape is to use, I created a custom design using a sample project, just for this article. The design effort and graphics all took about 8 hours to create. Using competing contemporary software and workflows, the rendering effort alone would likely take this same amount of time, including static post-production efforts.

By the way, some elements in the design were manufacturer-created and downloaded or borrowed from another project, and other elements are completely custom. I created the bookcase and rolling library ladder and downloaded several elements from BIMobject .

While not meant to be a dramatization, we will discuss a few ways to go from the descriptive image on the left to the emotive one to its right. Considering lighting, materials and entourage, to name a few fundamental elements, goes a long way in creating amazing, dynamic and easy to update graphics while fully engaging in the design process.

Comparison between two renders; descriptive (left) and emotive (right)

 

The big picture

Let’s take a moment to review and understand our featured image, which depicts a high-end publisher’s office. We are in a spacious urban location with an exposed structural slab, mechanical systems and floating ceiling above. The space is encompassed by a large expanse of glazing, which lets in a lot of daylight. Even with plentiful daylight, there is still an electric lighting need, for work tasks and accents. Sample inventory is featured in an expansive custom bookcase complete with a rolling ladder. Finally, several darker materials help to balance the massive amounts of daylighting and set the atmosphere desired by the client, which were revealed through several visual-listening meetings and correspondence.

Highly developed final render

 

With the goals of the project in mind, we want to emphasize the needs of the project and client while not letting the software or technology slow us down, or worse, dictate the outcome.

Turn on the lights

Good lighting cannot be overemphasized. As such, I am excited to be presenting later this year on professional lighting design at the AIA-Minnesota Convention 2018 in Minneapolis. I also presented on this topic at the world’s largest conference on architectural lighting; Lightfair 2018 in Chicago. Architects and interior designers have some amazing tools with which to design, study and analyze both daylight and electric lighting.

A good interior lighting solution is not always easy to depict in a computer-generated illustration. Too often, lighting is underwhelming or faked in architectural renderings. But, with a physically-based rendering engine such as Enscape, we can get closer to reality without needing to add fake or hidden area lights and make time consuming post-production edits in Photoshop (or a similar image editing program). When using the techniques mentioned here and in the next section on materials, quality lighting helps set to overall tone of the scene. And, if the image seems off, it just might mean the lighting design needs to be reconsidered, not that the rendering needs superficial adjustments.

Tip
It is worth noting that the electric/artificial lights are always on in Enscape. However, in some cases the brightness of the daylight washes them out.

 

The image below shows our Revit scene with the Light Source sub-category turned on to reveal all sources of artificial lighting. I prefer to use accurate photometric light sources (IES files) whenever possible. They are not only used by Enscape, but also by professional lighting analysis tools like ElumTools to do point-by-point illuminance calculations. However, sometimes they are not available for a specific luminaire or do not produce the expected results, in which case the built-in Revit light sources can be used. Our sample project uses photometry for the two pendent lights and Revit’s ‘spot light’ for the rest.

Light sources exposed in the Revit view

 

The following image is missing several lighting elements which are part of the design. Thus, the image is not as dynamic or lively. Missing, as well, are hot spots on the bookcases and visible light sources from those same fixtures. A quick search online revealed several ready-to-use Revit families; this included the family file (RFA file), a type catalog (TXT file) and, in some cases, photometry data (IES file). The type catalog is saved in the same folder as the family file, and when the family is loaded (via Revit’s Load Family command) we are presented with all the predefined options for that specific model, such as standard lengths, luminous flux and power requirements.

Example of missing light fixtures

 

For the family I decided to use, I also modified the family for two things: to add a visible light source and include a void so the face-based family cuts the surface it is placed on (see two images below). Some light sources can have ‘emit light from source’ checked, and this spot light from point cannot. So, I created a self-illuminating material and painted it on the inside housing (I made the shade an orange color so it would be clear what was painted).

6_lighting-04

Revit light fixture family

Tips for Interior Design

Material with self-illumination

 

The difference may be subtle but can be clearly seen in the follow images: in one you see the light source and the other you do not. In both cases we benefit from the light emitted from the fixture. Notice, the color temperature of the light is also defined via Revit’s Initial Color parameter, with the value being measured in kelvin (e.g. 3000k).

8_lights-05

Light source not visible

9_lights-06

Light source visible

 

Develop materials

Materials should be developed for the project and not to fit the lighting scheme or rendering engine. Let’s not let technology dictate our design! To that end, use the advanced materials in Revit 2019, create your own or develop similar quality materials using Enscape’s Material Editor. In the Revit 2019 material editor, notice there are four images used to define albedo, roughness, bump and reflections.

10_material-01

Advanced Revit material

11_material-02

Advanced material settings

 

To see the level of realism added, you can compare the texture with the traditional Generic Revit material shader. It’s a world of difference in Enscape. It is the same texture and scale but lacking the roughness, bump and reflection definition.

Material orientation is also important in the creation of a natural feeling graphic. The default orientation of the wood grain, for example, may not be ideal in all cases. For instance, the panels between the lower and upper bookcases may look best if the grain is rotated ninety degrees – compare the two images below.

13_wood-grain-01

Default material orientation

14_wood-grain-02

Modified material orientation

 

In Revit, it may not always be obvious how to rotate a material, especially when there is no model pattern applied to the objects surface. But that is the key: apply a model pattern, tab to select it and rotate it. When a model pattern is rotated, the texture is also rotated. Once positioned, the model pattern can be changed with another which has a large spacing, so it does not appear in construction drawings (but you cannot remove the model pattern, as the texture will reset).

15_wood-grain-03_w-arrow

Model pattern can be selected and rotated

16_wood-grain-04_w-arrow

Model pattern applied to material

 

Entourage, entourage, entourage

Architecture is for people, and people help define scale in an architectural presentation. Adding them in Revit is easy, especially if you have the ArchVision subscription, create custom RPC’s or own some of the AXYZ premium content. In the image below, I used one AXYZ (on right), one custom 3D (me, on the left) and one custom 2D RPC (my friend Jon Rose at the desk). Not only are they easy to add in Revit, compared to post-processing in Photoshop, you can capture any number of angles (like the two extra ones shown here).

Fully 3D Custom and professional RPC examples

 

In the image above, you can also see a reflection of the person on the television screen. And below, notice the shadow cast on the person and by the person; normally I would move the person or adjust the lighting, but to make this point I did not. All of this would take a lot of extra time in post-processing and if you are not a “Layers” expert in Photoshop, design changes are often avoided to limit the amount of rework required – especially if the vantage point or perspective changes.
There are many ways to create your own content; I discuss a few of them in this article about Custom RPC Content in Enscape .

Custom 2D RPC example with adjusted depth of field

 

View the composition

With all the concepts previously discussed in this article applied to your project, view composition is literally a joy. This is where all your thoughtful work pays off. It is very easy to get carried away with the number of views and combination of settings possible to create an array of provocative images! I find the best workflow is to compose a view in Escape and then save the view back to Revit, rather than trying to compose the view in Revit first.

Tip
Be sure to set the Enscape-created view to Fine for level of detail in Revit. Also, the cropped view created by Enscape may not have the same ‘field of view’ but the Enscape view will match the original view composition as long as the Enscape settings have not been changed.

 

View composed in Enscape and then saved back to Revit

 

Conclusion

The thoughtful use of lights, materials and model-based entourage can transform a descriptive image into an emotive graphic that will surely resonate with your clients and project stakeholders. Not to mention the freedom to improve the design without the worry of massive rework of your presentation materials.

Enscape empowers interior designers and architects to validate their design ideas as they design. It also facilitates a deeper sense of client comprehension. As I have mentioned in several previous posts, Enscape can produce amazing results with minimal energy. But with a little extra effort and understanding of the tools and techniques, the results can be simply breathtaking!

Hopefully this article has inspired you to take your architectural visualizations to the next level in significantly less time, now that it can be done with such ease in real-time!

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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Free resources for architectural projects https://enscape3d.com/free-resources-for-architectural-projects/ https://enscape3d.com/free-resources-for-architectural-projects/#respond Thu, 30 Aug 2018 12:06:34 +0000 https://enscape3d.com/?p=32288 Free resources for architectural projects   You’ve probably seen it before, that rendering that at first glance fools you into thinking it is a photograph of an actual room or building. Just by viewing your project in Enscape, you can achieve fantastic results, but how do you take your project to the next level, to […]

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Free resources for architectural projects

 

You’ve probably seen it before, that rendering that at first glance fools you into thinking it is a photograph of an actual room or building. Just by viewing your project in Enscape, you can achieve fantastic results, but how do you take your project to the next level, to amaze your clients with the authenticity and atmosphere of the scene? As beautiful as your building is, you’ll be hard pressed to inspire your client’s imagination if all the rooms are empty.

Choosing this content can be overwhelming, simply because there are so many different sources. And acquiring the content can get expensive, especially if you need a lot of it. But if you know where to look, the right elements don’t have to cost an arm and a leg – in fact, they don’t have to cost anything at all!

This blog post will summarize some of the best sources out there for free elements to add to your architectural project: from furniture and skyboxes to textures, and everything in between! Create an emotional experience for your clients without breaking the bank!

Overview about free resources for architectural projects:

1. Free Textures
2. Entourage and Accessories
3. 3D People
4. IES Lights
5. Trees and Vegetation
6. Skyboxes
7. Sound Files

 

1. Free Textures

The right textures can take your rendering from lifelike to astounding. And there are a lot of resources out there were you can find high quality, free textures that will take your model to the next level. Let’s take a look at some of my favorites.

Why textures are important to architectural design:

Let’s take a look at what these textures can do. The ground floor of this beautiful Revit project already catches the eye, but free textures can make it pop even more. I downloaded just four free textures from the above websites, a wood floor, a plaster texture, a wallpaper and some tiles, and quickly applied them. Take a look at the results: in just a few minutes, the project already looks much more inviting! Applying textures, in this case especially the wood floor texture, gives the room a more authentic feel. And the tile backsplash in the kitchen livens the scene up immediately.

1_textures_before

A living room and kitchen area without any applied textures.

2_textures_after

The same space with five textures applied to the walls and floor.

 

Where to find:

1. CC0 Textures   (Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD)
At the top of the list is CC0 Textures. All of the available textures and maps are licensed under the Creative Commons CC0 License, so you use them however you like, even commercially. The textures are available at high resolutions, many with sizes of up to 8192px, allowing for detailed surfaces.

2. 3D Textures   (Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD)
3D Textures is the website of João Paulo, a freelance designer and 3D artist from Portugal. He offers free seamless textures with diffuse, normal, displacement, occlusion, specularity and roughness maps. The quality is great, and you have the option to download all of the maps together in a ZIP file, or just download the one you need.

3. 3DXO   (Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD)
3DXO has around 600 free textures to choose from. Their website is incredibly easy to navigate: find what you are looking for through a keyword search, or browse their extensive categories list. With one click you can download a ZIP file containing diffuse, bump and specular maps.

4. Poliigon   (Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD) – Sign-Up Required
The vast majority of the textures at Poliigon.com are not available for free; in fact, they only have 54 textures available free of charge. However, the textures they do have are high quality, and spread across a wide range of categories. You need to register an account to download the free textures, but it’s relatively painless when you consider how nice the textures are.

5. Textures.com   (Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD) – Sign-Up Required
Textures.com has a huge selection of textures across a wide variety of categories. The only drawback here is that you have to register an account to download the textures, and you are restricted as to how many you can download per day. When you have registered your account, you receive 15 credits every 24 hours, and with these credits you can download small and medium sized images. Every night at midnight, your credit number resets itself to 15.

6. ArtchViz   (Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD) – Facebook Account Required
ArtchViz has around 200 textures available on their Facebook page for free download. They mainly have wood, marble, and flooring textures, but they are high quality, seamless images. Additionally, the company frequently updates it’s page with new textures. You do have to have to be logged in to a Facebook account to download the textures, but beyond that there is no additional sign-up required.

 

2. Entourage and Accessories

3D models, entourage elements and RPCs are invaluable for creating realistic renderings, and they will take your projects to the next level. This covers everything from plants to trees, knick-knacks, furniture, people, and everything in between. Your project will impress based on its architectural beauty alone, but when you add these extra elements, your clients will really be able to see themselves in the scenes!

Why entourage and accessories are important to architectural design:

Let’s use the above resources to keep developing our Revit model! It can take a little work to find the right elements to add to your space, but if you invest the time, you can enrich your model and your client’s experience immeasurably! In the below pictures, I have added some furniture to the model to make it more realistic.

Furniture already transforms the space, but what really elevate a scene are the little things that make up daily life, the glasses and books and vases that make a space look lived in: entourage. It is important to take a little time and care when placing your entourage. Try to skew and rotate the objects to make them look more natural; almost no one lives in a home that is always perfectly in order!

3_furniture_before

An empty architectural space becomes…

4_furniture_after

… a realistic living space decorated entirely with free models.

 

Where to find free entourage and accessories:

1. SketchUp 3D Warehouse   (SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD)
The SketchUp 3D Warehouse almost doesn’t need to be mentioned here, as it is already so well known. It houses an enormous library of free content, with varying quality. A lot of users complain that overall, the quality of the models in the Warehouse is not high enough, however I have had a lot of success by searching for collections, instead of models. I also wanted to emphasize for Rhino and ArchiCAD users, that you can download and use the models from the 3D Warehouse, too! Both Rhino and ArchiCAD support .skp files. You will find a little bit of everything here: furniture, cars, light fixtures and much more!

2. ArchiBase Planet   (SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD)
I have to say right at the beginning that archibaseplanet.com is not the most appealing website you will ever see, design-wise. However, this is something I can personally get over pretty quickly, as the amount of free, quality models is just amazing. Sure, there are a lot of banner ads, but the categories are easy to navigate and each category has hundreds of models to choose from. There’s almost 300 models in the fireplace category alone. Best of all, you don’t have to register to download the models!

3. Cgtrader   (Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD) – Sign-Up Required
Cgtrader.com is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, they have hundreds, maybe even thousands of lovely 3D models available for free. You have to register an account to download them, but after that you can choose from up to 10 different file formats and download the models with one click. On the other hand, you can’t filter out the paid models. If you search a category or keyword, you can check the box for “Free”, but you will still see models that require you to pay. For example, I searched for free plant models, and only 15 of the 30 shown options were actually free. But if you can get over this, you will find nice, high quality models!

4. pCon.box   (SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD)
This website is quite possibly one of my favorites on the list, simply because it is just a really slick tool. At box.pcon-solutions.com you will find brand-specific 3D models of mostly office furniture. You don’t have to sign-up an account to view and download the models. The very cool thing about pCon.box is that you can immediately view and adjust the model in a 3D modeling space. Not only that, but you can immediately customize your models to the fabric and materials you want to use. And, you can add multiple 3D models to the modeling space, arrange them how you would like, and export them as a group.

5. Bimobject   (Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD) – Sign-Up Required
If you are looking for manufacturer specific BIM models, look no further than bimobject.com. They have models from over 1000 brands, organized in a pretty smooth category system. You can navigate by object type, brand, or even file type. You do have to register an account to download anything, but this is a small price to pay for the amount of quality models made available. And even better, bimobject has apps available for SketchUp, Revit and ArchiCAD, which are free to download and use, so you don’t have to manually download the models from the website: you can drag and drop them right into your project!

6. Modlar   (Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD) – Sign-Up Required
Modlar.com is another website that provides manufacturer-specific 3D models, free of charge. You do have to register an account, or log in using your Google, Facebook or LinkedIn account. You can browse models by category, brand or project type (residential or commercial). What is particularly cool about Modlar is that you can save, or essentially bookmark, 3D models to download later. Not all models are available in all file types, so sometimes you have to search a bit to find what you are looking for; however, even if your desired model isn’t available for your CAD software, there are plenty of great alternatives.

7. RevitCity    (Revit) – Sign-Up Required
RevitCity.com is similar to the SketchUp 3D Warehouse, in that the content is user-generated, and therefore the quality can be hit or miss. On the other hand, the amount of content specifically for Revit is overwhelming, and there are some cool features, like being able to comment on models and start conversations with other users. You can also rate the models. To download, comment or rate, you have to register a free account.

 

3. 3D People

Adding 3D people to your scene can really be the icing on the cake, especially in still renderings. Your office might be perfectly decorated, but until there are workers milling about, the scene lacks that certain something. Take the scene from one your client likes, to one they can imagine themselves in. Finding quality 3D people can be challenging, so check out some of the sources below as a jumping off-point.

Why 3D People are important to architectural design:

One last step is to add some 3D people to the scene. I just quickly copied and pasted some characters out of the Enscape RPC sample project, and check out the results! Carefully consider which people models to add to your project. In the best case scenario, you want it to look like they are interacting with your scene, not just dropped into it. To maximize this effect, look for models that are naturally placed, for example, holding a phone or taking a step.

5_people_before

Placing RPCs turns this from an empty house…

6_people_after

… to a family affair.

 

Where to find free 3D people:

1. 3D Warehouse and Archibase Planet (SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD)
To repeat two of the websites named above, the SketchUp 3D Warehouse and Archibase Planet both have a number of people models available, though in both cases, you might have to search a bit until you find the right, high quality ones.

2. RenderPeople   (SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD)
Render people mainly offers paid 3D people, but have also made several test models available for download. They are available in a variety of file formats that will cover SketchUp, ArchiCAD and Rhino users.

3. Human Alloy   (SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD) – Sign-Up Required
Human Alloy also offers mainly paid content, but they have made a couple of their models available free of charge in a variety of file formats. You do have to sign up for a free account.

4. RPC Content for Revit (Revit)
If you are looking for free, high quality RPC content for Revit, specifically for 3D people, you might be looking for a while. There are few free resources that reach the quality of Archvision. You can, however, try out a free RPC Entourage Starter Pack if you don’t already have an Archvision subscription. Additionally, there are several human models that are shipped with Revit which look great in Enscape; check out Dan Stine’s previous blog post about this. Or, if you are feeling creative, you can follow Dan’s instructions here and create your own RPC content. Maybe the quickest way to add RPCs to your Revit model is to use our free RPC test project. It has a selection of ten 3D people to choose from.

 

4. IES Lights

Adding IES light profiles to your fixtures is a subtle but effective way to make your model even more authentic. IES stands for Illuminating Engineering Society, which created a file format to transfer photometric data via the internet. Today the format is widely used by lighting manufacturers. The great thing about IES lights is that they represent realistic light emission patterns based on manufacturer specifications; it’s the digital version of a real world light. This means that if you know which lighting product you are going to use for a project, you can check whether there is an IES profile available for that product, and give your model a huge dose of reality. IES light files are created and made available by many major lighting manufacturers and can usually be downloaded from their website at no cost. IES files can be used in any of the CAD programs supported by Enscape.

Why IES Lights are important to architectural design:

Here is what our developing model looks like in the evening and at night with some added IES lights. I don’t have to tell you that the biggest difference is that you can now actually see the model after the sun has gone down. But much more importantly, carefully placing your lights adds accuracy to your scene. If you are designing a new home for a client, they won’t just want to know what it will look like during the day. Using IES profiles, you can give them an accurate picture of the atmosphere in their new home at any given time.

7_lights_before

Your room can’t make an impression in the dark.

8_lights_after

IES light profiles let your model shine at any time of day.

 

Where to find free IES lights:

1. Phillips   (Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD)
Obviously one of the leaders in the lighting industry is Phillips, who have developed an extremely handy and extensive database of IES profiles. You can access them all for free using their Philips Photometric Database. If you know which product you are using, you can search for that specific IES profile. However, what is so great about the tool is that you can search by light fixture, and see which lighting options are available for that fixture. Once you have selected your product, you can download the IES profile directly to your computer.

2. American Electric Lighting   (Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD)
America Electric Lighting joined the Acuity Lighting Group in 2001, and you can find IES profiles for their products on their website. They offer well over 1000 IES profiles. You can either find the specific profile you are looking for and just download that file, or download a ZIP archive of all available files.

3. Lithonia   (Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD)
Lithonia is another member of the Acuity Lighting Group, and also provides lighting for everything from commercial buildings to residential projects. Just like American Electric Lighting, Lithonia lets you download individual files, or their whole archive as a ZIP file.

4. Erco   (Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD)
The German company ERCO is one of the leaders in the field of architectural lighting using LED technology. On their website, you can search their product catalog and download ZIP files containing IES profiles for entire product families.

5. LA Lighting   (Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD)
LA Lighting is a great resource for commercial and industrial lighting. Browse their extensive catalog, and then download the corresponding light profiles for over 200 light fixtures directly from their website.

 

5. Trees and Vegetation

Trees and vegetation are important to ground your scene in reality, inside and out. Whether it is placing potted plants in the lobby of an office building, or adding trees to the exterior of your model, vegetation makes your scenes more dynamic and authentic. We are so used to seeing nature elements in our everyday lives that it is immediately apparent when they are missing from a rendering. Take a look at some of the websites below and find the plants that are just right for you.

Why trees and vegetation are important to architectural design:

As you can see in our model below, adding tree and vegetation especially to the outside of your model can make all the difference. It’s rare to see a house without some form of landscaping in the real world, which is why our model looks so stark without any plants by taking the time and adding some of the models from the Enscape RPC test project, I can give the model a welcoming yard that makes the rendered image much more dynamic.

9_trees_before

Without trees, this scene is rather stark…

10_trees_after

… but, add a little vegetation, and it really blooms!

 

Where to find free trees and vegetation:

1. SketchUp 3D Warehouse   (SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD)
Obviously there are hundreds of vegetation models in the 3D Warehouse, but I wanted to emphasize those by user SkapeUp. He originally posted in the Enscape Forum in 2017 that he had made some plants specifically for use in Enscape, and they really look great! He now has nearly 100 2D and 3D vegetation models available.

2. Cgtrader   (Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD) – Sign-Up Required
Cgtrader was also already mentioned in the section about entourage, but I wanted to repeat it below because it has some really nice vegetation models, especially houseplants. Once again, you have to search a bit to find your desired file type, but with close to 1000 free models available, there’s something for everyone.

3. SketchUp Texture Club   (SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD) – Sign-Up Required
SketchUp Texture Club also has a nice selection of free textures and entourage, but I wanted to specifically mention their vegetation collections. They have six collections available for download, with a wide array of variety. There is a really nice palm tree collection, and a collection that has some bare trees, if you are going for a more wintery effect. You do have to sign up to download the models, but by doing this you will also get access to their free textures, so it’s worth a look.

4. Polantis    (Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD) – Sign-Up Required
Polantis has over 100 trees available for download in many different file formats. What is so great about the vegetation available at Polantis is that most of the models available are for specific types of trees. So if you are looking for a baobab tree, a California buckeye, or a maidenhair tree, look no further than Polantis. The drawback is that you have to register an account to download the models, and you can only download three models a day, so you’ll need to practice patience.

5. Enscape RPC Test Project   (Revit)
The easiest way to add vegetation to your Revit model is to use our free RPC test project. Just copy and paste the trees and plants you like directly into your model. There are nearly 100 models to choose from in a variety of sizes, colors, and types. No sign up required!

 

6. Skyboxes

If you want to vary the background in your model, the easiest way to do this is to use a skybox in Enscape. You can load it right into your model via the Atmosphere tab of the Settings menu: Skybox as a background. Skyboxes loaded into Enscape must be either in Longitude/Latitude (panorama) or cross format. For more information, check out our Knowledgebase article on this topic.

Why Skyboxes are important to architectural design:

Take a look at our model with two different skyboxes applied; just that little adjustment changes the atmosphere completely! The generic Enscape sky is a nice backdrop by itself, but if you have a specific location in mind for the building, using a skybox can transport your client there with one click. Even if you are not aiming to represent a specific location, you can use skyboxes to lend a certain atmosphere to the rendering. Use a forest skybox for a more intimate, rustic feeling, or any residential street to ground the scene in reality.

11_skybox_before

Use the Enscape sky for a more universal look…

12_skybox_after

… or add a skybox to place your model in a specific location!

 

Where to find free skyboxes:

1. Enscape Backgrounds   (Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD)
You can download a collection of 12 skyboxes directly from our website. They are HDR backgrounds in cross format, which can immediately be loaded into Enscape.

2. Textures.com   (Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD)
Textures.com doesn’t just have a lot of high quality textures, they also have HDR panoramas available. They have a nice selection available, though with your daily free credits, you are only able to download the smallest image size.

3. Texturify   (Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD)
On Texturify you’ll find both sky background and environment panoramas. The environment panoramas are great if you want to set up a scene to make it look like your building is situated along a city street, or a more exotic location. You can download high quality panoramas without registering and with just one click.

4. HDRI Haven   (Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD)
HDRI Havenis one of my favorite resources for free high quality panoramas. They have everything from urban backgrounds to countryside scenes. All of the panoramas are free and available in varying qualities, from 1K to 16K.

3. sIBL Archive   (Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD)
The sIBL Archive has upwards of 100 free high quality panoramas available for immediate download. You don’t need to register an account, just choose your panorama and with one click download a ZIP file containing varying resolutions of the image.

6. Make Your Own!
If you didn’t find a skybox from one of these sources, or if you are going for that extra level of realism, consider making your skybox! Enscape supports Skybox image files (*.hdr, *.bmp, *.jpg, *jpeg, *png, *tif, *.tiff, *.tga) either in cross or panoramic (Longitude/Latitude) format. Panoramic skyboxes should have a resolution ratio close to 2:1. You can, for example, take a panorama of the site where your future building is to be situated to show your client exactly what the view from their future office will look like.

 

7. Sound Files

The elements discussed above are all great for still renderings, but sound sources are the way to really make your model pop during a real-time walkthrough. In Revit and SketchUp, you can add a sound source to your model in just three clicks, and immediately boost the authenticity of the scene. Add crown noises to a shopping mall, conversation to a restaurant, or make music come out of a record player in the living room. You can use any MP3 or WAV file for your sound source, but most people probably don’t have an MP3 of rain sounds or a crowded room. Luckily, there are great websites out there where you can find just such sounds for free.

Why sound files are important to present architectural design:

Placing an Enscape sound source takes just a few clicks, and takes the live walk-through of your model to the next level. Learn more about placing sound sources here in our dedicated Knowledgebase article. During your live walk-through you will then be able to create the exact atmosphere you are looking for. Add the sound of soft rain to create an intimate space, or footsteps to enhance your crowded shopping center, or airplanes flying overhead your future airport terminal. If you are viewing the model in VR, you might even forget that the project hasn’t been built yet!

Where to find free sound files:

1. FreeSoundEffects.com   (Revit, SketchUp)
This website has both free and paid sound effects, but their free ones are definitely worth a look. You don’t have to register an account, and can choose between MP3 and WAV formats. They have a lot of specialized sound effects you might have difficulties finding on other site, like office sounds or airplanes passing overhead.

2. SoundBible   (Revit, SketchUp)
SoundBible.com is another site with a lot of variety. You don’t have to register to download the files, which are all available in MP3 and WAV formats. You can preview the sound directly on the site, and they upload new files every week. You’re sure to find what you’re looking for here.

3. freesound   (Revit, SketchUp) – Sign-Up Required
At freesound.org, you can download hundreds of sounds for free; they have all been released under Creative Commons licenses. If you are not sure what you are looking for, you can browse by keyword or tags. There’s a little something for everyone, from city street recordings to sounds of crickets chirping in a meadow. All the files are free, though you do have to register an account to download anything.

 

8. Manage your resources

13_manage2

Manage your resources effectively!

One thing to keep in mind before you begin to browse through the websites we have summarized above is how to manage all of the files you will end up downloading. Between testing out materials, and seeing which chair looks best at the kitchen table you picked out, you can end up with a lot of files floating around on your computer. Here’s some tips on how to organize your resources so they don’t end up lost in your Downloads folder.

First, decide which elements you need for your project. Depending on the effect you are going for, you might not need to add all of the elements discussed above. Next, create a resource folder list to house all of your files. You can think of it as your personal library. Expand this collection even further with each project you work on. With a nicely organized list, you’ll never have to search through your Downloads or Documents folder again; all of your free resources will be right at your fingertips!

 

Conclusion

Refining and enhancing your model with the five elements discussed above can make all the difference between a happy client and an amazed one. After all, you don’t simply want them to like your model – you want them to see themselves in it. Adding some furniture and decorations, 3D people and the right background will make your clients think they are looking at a picture of the finished product. And this wow-effect doesn’t have to be expensive: in fact, as you have seen, it doesn’t have to cost a penny! Elevate your project with these resources, and improve your time-management by organizing them effectively.

So here is our finished model, before and after! In just seven easy steps, and using completely free elements, we took it from ordinary to extraordinary!

14_final_before

A beautiful, but empty architectural space is transformed into…

15_final_after

… a vibrant, lived-in house!

 

The websites I have discussed above are great places to start, but do some exploring of your own, too! There are so many free resources out there that it is impossible to feature them all on one blog post. And, we’d love to expand this list and feature more sites in the future, so if you have some personal favorites that were missing from this list, feel free to share them with us at support@enscape3d.com. All of the websites on this list offer free files, but many of them only exist because of user donations, so if there is a site you particularly value, consider giving back by making a small donation!

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Best Practices: Albedo in Architectural Design https://enscape3d.com/best-practices-albedo-in-architectural-design/ https://enscape3d.com/best-practices-albedo-in-architectural-design/#respond Thu, 16 Aug 2018 06:00:32 +0000 https://enscape3d.com/?p=32192 Best Practices: Manage Your Albedo in Enscape   A rendering technique nearly perfected in the gaming world is the understanding and application of Albedo to their materials. The result is a consistent, more realistic effect throughout all your images and projects.   It is fruitful to continue to develop your skills professionally. This is true […]

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Best Practices: Manage Your Albedo in Enscape

 

A rendering technique nearly perfected in the gaming world is the understanding and application of Albedo to their materials. The result is a consistent, more realistic effect throughout all your images and projects.
 
It is fruitful to continue to develop your skills professionally. This is true in any profession, but even more so in the AEC space, given the complexity of the built environment: materials, costs, science, health, environment, art, efficiency, human comfort and much more. There are small things that can be done to make the results even more appealing and realistic. Albedo is one of them.
 
It’s important to know the meaning behind the colors if you want to create consistent renderings. For example, the brightness relation of concrete, paper and snow can be easily mixed up and lead to implausible images. It becomes obvious for vegetation if you use unrealistic greens. Using albedo reference images or tables ensures that your materials are physically correct and if you’re still unhappy with the result, it might be a better idea to change the lighting conditions.
 

The big picture

Let’s start with a high-level overview of what this somewhat uncommon thing called albedo is.
 

Albedo definition
“The fraction of incident light or radiation reflected by a surface or body, commonly expressed as a percentage.” From Wiktionary

  • Albedo, where “ALB” is from the Latin “Albus” which means white.
  • Albedo is to be distinguished from reflectivity, which refers to one specific wavelength (monochromatic radiation).
  • The amount of light reflected back from a surface, defined by a value between 0.00 and 1.00.

 

Albedo is similar to, but not exactly the same as, luminance which measures the brightness of light reflected off a surface. It is scaled by the materials albedo – a darker surface reflects less light, hence causing less luminance. We use the terms luminance and illuminance in lighting design along with specific surface reflectance values.

For albedo, the amount of light reflected depends on the surface. For example, fresh asphalt is very dark and reflects little light; 0.04 (RGB 59-59-59). At the other end of the spectrum we have fresh snow which is a light color and reflects a lot of light; 0.80 – 0.90 (RGB 243-243-243).

Going briefly back to the comparison with lighting design and surface reflectance: some material manufacturers publish surface reflectance values for their products. For example, USG makes ceiling products in North America and have published Light Reflectance – a listing of the surface reflectance values for their products. Here, you will notice the ceiling components are mostly white and have a high light reflectance value between 0.81 – 0.89.

Example surface reflectance values for USG ceiling systems

 

The fundamental principal is the same between albedo and reflectance/luminance, in that darker colors result in a lower number (less reflective) and higher numbers indicate lighter colors (more reflective).

 

The Albedo Challenge

Why does the concept of albedo matter in architectural visualization? Let’s take a look at a simple office rendering, comparing a bad and good image in terms of albedo.

Looking at the first image below, something just doesn’t look right. It is not believable nor realistic. We know what the image represents – it’s an office space. But can you tell what’s wrong? The whites are too white, the grass is too dark and the mousepad is solid black.

Now compare this with the albedo-corrected image. The whites are softer, the grass is natural and even the mouse pad looks better. When the proper albedo is applied, the combination of all elements will look more realistic from any view and lighting condition. We no longer need to compensate for a poor rendering engine by using full whites/blacks and other tricks. We can now focus on the physical environment and its measured attributes.

3_office-bad

Unrealistic image due to wrong albedo

4_office-good

More realistic image due to correct albedo

 

Reference Charts

Scientists have measured and documented the albedo of many materials. And, by the way, astronomers measure albedo of planets and asteroids to help understand surface composition. Gaming developers have done a great job of applying those results in the development of Physically Based Shader (PBS) materials to increase the level or realism and consistency in their game environments. We can and should do the same in architecture!

Here is one simple list of albedo values for a few materials spread out across the full spectrum between 0.00 and 1.00. The links provided below offer more detailed charts.

MaterialAlbedoRGB
 
Charcoal0.0450-50-50
Fresh asphalt0.0459-59-59
Worn asphalt0.1291-91-91
Bare soil0.1785-61-49
Green grass0.25123-130-78
Sand0.40177-168-132
New concrete0.55192-191-187
Ocean Ice0.5–0.7148-148-148
Fresh snow0.80–0.90243-243-243

 

Enscape rendered image depicting the base-range of the full albedo spectrum

 

I highly recommend you read what some of the gaming designers have written. Marcos Borregales published a nice reference on his blog Technical Art Adventures here: PBR – Albedo Cheat Sheet.

Unity offers this interesting document on representing dark materials, Materials authoring guidelines 1: dark dielectric materials (PDF). This document starts with the following introduction: “With the large adoption of Physically Based Shading, game materials parameters changed and replaced diffuse color with Albedo. This parameter represents the characteristic color of an object, and is independent from the lighting conditions. It can be measured and a lot of documents have appeared online, giving reference values for Albedo. Most of them recommend using a range of albedo comprised between 50 and 243 (in 8 bit sRGB).

 
Finally, for reference material, if you really want to get into the “weeds” on this topic you should also read these two posts by Sébastien Lagarde:
DONTNOD Physically based rendering chart for Unreal Engine 4
Feeding a physically based shading model

One last comment on these charts is that they are listed in various formats, such as 0-1, RGB, sRGB and a three-digit number representing the RGB average. If they provide a color swatch, I will sometimes use Photoshop’s color picker tool to sample the RGB value for entry into Revit or SketchUp.

 

Enscape and Albedo

Enscape encourages designers to consider the proper albedo to generate more consistent and realistic imagery. Thus, this blog post! You will even see the term used within Enscape’s Material Editor in SketchUp as shown in the image below. In this context, albedo refers to the main texture or color, from which the albedo value can be derived and compared to the “standards” charts previously mentioned.

Enscape Material Editor with Albedo Settings in SketchUp

 

Grass example in Revit

A good example, using a regular challenge introduced by a default Revit material used by many, is grass. The image below contrasts the two default Revit-provided grass materials, left and right, with a custom material using a standard albedo in the center. The second image below is the raster image shipped with Revit for grass. It is easy to see how this texture is way to dark to represent the average grass in a rendering.

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Comparing grass in Revit

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Default Revit grass texture

 

Here are two building renderings, first with the default grass and the other with the preferred albedo. In the first image the grass is just too dark. A common reaction, in the past, might have been to adjust ambient lighting to compensate. But doing so changes the rest of the image. Some might have done post processing in a raster editing program, such as Photoshop, to edit just the grassy areas. However, this was time consuming and reflections are nearly impossible to change.

In the second image, with corrected albedo for grass, the overall image feels more natural. Notice even the grass visible through the building does a better job of fulfilling the design intent compared to the first image, which leaves the backside of the building looking dark and even stormy.

I will admit that the grass is still not perfect in this image. This is an academic example using a solid color for Enscape to sample. In the near future, I have some exciting tips to share about making grass more natural looking through randomness of color within the extents of the grassy areas.

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Wrong albedo – grass too dark

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Corrected albedo – grass more realistic

 

Conclusion

Albedo might seem like an insignificant setting, but in fact it has a big impact on the believability of your renders. The game industry understood this and applies albedo consistently to achieve realistic effects. We can and should do the same in architecture!

It can be a challenge finding an albedo standard for all materials we use. But, with a firm understanding of the concept and application of the basics, we can make some assumptions which will result in beautiful images which will impress our clients and peers. Please check the tables and links in this article – save them to your bookmarks to find them easily.
 

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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Best Practices: Lighting in SketchUp https://enscape3d.com/best-practices-lighting-in-sketchup/ https://enscape3d.com/best-practices-lighting-in-sketchup/#respond Thu, 09 Aug 2018 11:00:24 +0000 https://enscape3d.com/?p=31862 Best Practices: Lighting in SketchUp   How do you elevate your model, and create an experience the viewer will never forget? Lighting is crucial to creating not only realistic scenes, but also to leaving a lasting impression and conveying a certain feeling. All lights are not equal, and it is not surprising that many users […]

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Best Practices: Lighting in SketchUp

 

Introduction

How do you elevate your model, and create an experience the viewer will never forget? Lighting is crucial to creating not only realistic scenes, but also to leaving a lasting impression and conveying a certain feeling. All lights are not equal, and it is not surprising that many users are in the dark about which light best suits their needs. This post will provide an overview of the lighting options available via the Enscape Objects window in SketchUp: spot light, sphere light, rectangular light, disk light and linear light.

The aim is to provide you with useful information and helpful tips to take your scenes to the next level. For a more focused, but equally illuminating discussion of lighting techniques in SketchUp, take a look at Dan Stine’s blog post on the topic. He recently also wrote a similar post for Revit users. Let’s get started!

 

Types of Lights in SketchUp

There are five different lights you can add via this window:

Once you successfully add a light to your project, you will be able to fine-tune various settings for the individual lights in this window. In addition to lights, this window also allows you to add sound sources and proxies to your model.

Let’s take a closer look at the five different lights you can add in SketchUp. All of the lights can be placed with the easy 2-Click System; even if you’ve never placed an Enscape light before, you can learn in seconds! It is important to note that while Enscape has a good performance impact in relation to lights, real-time rendering can’t process an unlimited number of light sources. How smoothly your project runs comes down to a combination of your hardware, the size of your project, and the number of lights. The number and intensity of your light sources will impact the performance greatly, especially if the lights overlap.

 

Spot light

A spot light is fairly self-explanatory; it functions similarly to a spot light in real life and provides a very direct source of light. A spot light is a cone of light which emits light from a single point in one direction (Image 1). By changing how wide the cone angle is, you can control how much of your scene is actually illuminated. The width of the cone can also determine whether the light is hard or soft.
Practical uses for spot lights include store displays, desk lamps, street lights or stage lighting. They can also be used in a scene to create dramatic lighting effects, as they are useful for creating an obvious falloff from light to dark.

Placing a Spot Light

To add a spot light, select it in the Enscape Objects window. I’m going to place a spot light in my project to add a bit of drama to a rooftop terrace. There is already geometry in place representing light fixtures along the edge of the roof.

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1. Light cone of a spot light

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2. Placed spot light and Objects window with adjustable settings

 

A spot light can be placed with four clicks: two to determine the endpoint and two to determine the direction of the light cone . Click once to place the endpoint of your light. You can then decide whether to slide the light along a certain axis. Do so and click again to affix the light source. On the third click, you will have the opportunity to determine the point you want to illuminate. Adjust to the desired point and click one last time.

Tip
It is important not to place any of your light sources directly on the surface of your geometry, but just before it. If you set it directly on the surface, the light could become obscured by the geometry. This is why the 2-Click System is so efficient. In two clicks you can define the endpoint and ensure the light source is in front of the geometry, and in another two, set the angle and range. You can also use the Left, Up and Right arrow keys between the first and second clicks to set a specific axis direction.

 

You will see the light represented as geometry in SketchUp (Image 2). As soon as you have placed the spot light, you will be able to edit two settings in the Enscape Objects window: Luminous Intensity and Beam Angle. The Luminous Intensity slider allows you to adjust the brightness and maximal range of the light, measured in candelas. The Beam Angle slider controls the width of the beam, in degrees. If you have an IES profile you would like to use, you can load it via the Enscape Objects window by clicking Load IES profile.
Check out what our spot light looks like on the roof (Image 3). Kind of lonely, right?

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3. Single spot light

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4. Four spot lights placed using Copy/Paste

 

Tip
A great tip for all light sources is that you can copy and paste them, adding efficiency to your workflow. For instance, continuing the example from above, one spot light does not light up the scene effectively, and there is geometry existing for four lamps across the front edge of the roof. Instead of placing each spot light individually, just select the light you have already placed and copy it, using CTRL-C or the Copy option in the Edit menu. Paste the copy in using CTRL-V or the Paste option in the Edit menu.

 

Copying ensures that lights that should look the same have identical settings, without any extra effort (Image 4). You can also group your light geometry together with the components or fixtures they are placed in. This way, you can quickly place lamps that already contain a light source. Just select the elements while holding the Shift key, then right click on one of them and select Make Group.

 

Sphere light

Let’s take a look at the sphere light next. In its default state, the Enscape sphere light is a point light, which sends light out from a single point in space, equally in all directions. In this way, the effect it gives is similar to a common incandescent light bulb. Sphere lights are useful not only because they can simulate light sources like light bulbs or candles, but also because they can be used to light areas with a gentle falloff in all directions.

Placing a Sphere Light

Most sphere lights can be placed with just two clicks. The scene below doesn’t currently contain any light sources (Image 5). But say I want to place a sphere light into the lamp next to the couch, so that the room will be illuminated even if I change the time of day to night.

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5. Empty light fixture in SketchUp

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6. Placed sphere light at night

 

Click Sphere in the Enscape Objects window. Click once to place the endpoint of your light, then click again to place the light (Image 7). You will now see the light source geometry in the lamp (Image 8).

9_endpoint

7. Placing the endpoint of a sphere light

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8. Sphere light geometry

 

When you have placed the geometry, you will again be able to edit the luminous intensity, to avoid being blinded by the light. With the sphere light you also have the option of adjusting the Light Source Radius slider. This controls the size of the source in meters, though this is only visible in reflections.

Tip
Lights are always on in Enscape, however, during the day it may appear as if some of them have turned off. This is actually not the case; the intensity of the sunlight simply crushes all other emitting lights. A solution for this is to greatly turn up the luminous intensity of the sources you want to be able to see during the daytime.

 

Now that the sphere light has been placed, the lamp will appear to be on at night in Enscape, as you can see above (Image 6). The sphere light effectively mimics how this type of lamp would light a room in reality.

 

Rectangular and disk lights

Next up are two similar lights: the rectangular and disk lights. These are area lights; this means that they do not emit light from one, infinitely small point in space, like the spot or point light. Instead, they emit light across their surfaces uniformly, resulting quite literally in an entire area of light. Because an area light emits from across its entire surface, it tends to produce light that is softer and more subtle than other lights. It produces a diffuse light with softer, less dramatic shadows (Image 9).

Because of this, an area light has ample uses. Perhaps the most tangible use case example of an area light is to create a florescent light fixture, like the ones you find in any office building. Similar practical applications include light banks, backlit panels, and florescent tube lights, but they can also be used for more atmospheric lighting, for instance light shining in through a window.

11_arealightgentle

9. One rectangular area light illuminating a dining room

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10. Light beam of a rectangular light

 

Placing a Rectangular or Disk Light

Because these two lights are so similar, I will mainly refer to the rectangular light in the below examples. The only difference between the two is the shape of the beam.

You can place the rectangular light using the same 2-Click system described above for spot lights. The beam, however, looks different from a spot light. Check it out below. As you can see below, both ends of the beam are rectangular, and the face from which the light emits covers a much bigger area than a spot light, which ends in a single point (Image 10).

Placing the rectangular light allows you to adjust three settings in the Enscape Objects window (Image 11). The first is Luminous Power, which controls the brightness and range of the light; it is measured in lumens. Additionally, you can define the Length and the Width of the light source in meters via the Objects window. The maximum size for a rectangular light is 3 meters by 3 meters.

Tip
After a light source has been placed, you can always return to editing it by simply double clicking on the geometry. When you do this, the light beam will be visible, as will various aids to help you adjust the size and direction of the beam. To exit this editing mode, simply press the ESC key. If you are in the middle of editing the position or size and realize you have made a mistake, the ESC key will cancel the edit and return the light source to its previous setting. You can also use the Undo and Redo functions in SketchUp, and any changes you make are immediately transferred to Enscape.

 

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11. Rectangular light window

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12. Editing a placed rectangular light

 

Let’s take a closer look at the controls you have in regards to editing your lights after placing them. Double clicking on the light will enable the edit mode (Image 12).

By clicking any of the red squares located along the edges of the rectangle (1), you are able to adjust the width or length of the area light, just like in the Enscape Objects window. The advantage of doing it by hand is that you have the ability to match the size of the light exactly to the light fixture you want to place it in, especially if you don’t know the measurement of the fixture in meters.

Clicking the middle red square (2) will allow you to move the face of the light source around, if you decide it should be placed a little differently. You can also move any of the lights by selecting it and clicking Move Light in the Enscape Objects window. You can adjust the angle of the beam by clicking the square at the end of it (3). Clicking the magenta square (4) will allow you to rotate the face of the light source.

Tip
You also have the option of using the native SketchUp tools to rotate or move your light source.

 

So what else can you use rectangular lights for, other than the practical uses of filling light fixtures? Obviously it is worthwhile to light your model meticulously, so that when you are showing it to a client, you are prepared for any eventuality. The client might want to see what the house looks like at night, and if you haven’t added lights, there won’t be anything to see.

But even with Enscape’s easy 2-Click system, it can take some dedicated time to light a model, especially if it is very large. Area lights are perfect if you want to take a quick screenshot of your model at night, but don’t have the time to add too many lights.

Take a look at our model below (Image 13). It currently only has the lights we added on the roof and in the living room. It’s pretty hard to see anything at all.

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13. Exterior view at night

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14. Exterior view at night with four area lights

 

Now take a look at this second screenshot (Image 14). In this one, I have added four rectangular lights, one each in the bedrooms and kitchen. Looks a lot better, right? And it took no time at all to get this image ready to screenshot.

Tip
What if you want to turn your lights off? While this is probably not necessary in most cases, there are a couple of different tricks to turn your lights off. Perhaps you want to take a screenshot that emphasizes one particular room, but you obviously don’t want to undo all of your hard work. If you want to turn all of the light sources off, you can set the Light Brightness in the Advanced tab of your Enscape Settings to 0%. If you want to turn of individual lights, you can do this by hiding the geometry or the assigned layer.

 
 

Linear Light

The fourth light in Enscape’s arsenal is the linear light. It resembles a fluorescent tube in shape and can only be scaled in length, which can be adjusted in the Enscape Objects window or by editing the source itself (Image 15 and 16). Again, you can also set the luminous intensity of a linear light.

17_linear-geometry

15. Geometry of a linear light

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16. Adjustable settings for a linear light

 

Placing a Linear Light

The linear light can be placed with two clicks, like the sphere light. After you place it initially, you can define the length and rotate it to fit the scene. The placement of your linear light will affect where the light shines: the shadows along the length are soft, while the shadows on each end of the light are somewhat more focused. Below I have placed a linear light in our SketchUp model to show you what I mean (Image 17 and 18). Most of the light is emitted along the length, rather than from the ends of the light.

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17. A long linear light

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18. Light emitted by a linear light

 

Tip
You can now color any of your lights in SketchUp by using the paint bucket tool. Simply select the paint bucket tool, choose your color in the Materials tray, and click on the light to color it . This also works if you paint a component or group that contains a light source. The possibilities with this are endless!

 

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19. Colored linear lights in SketchUp

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20. Rendered view of Image 19

 

Here I’ve added some linear lights to the pond in our model for a glowing effect (Image 19 and 20). You can use this feature to achieve a more decorative effect, like the one above, but also to add realism to your model. If you are trying to match your 3D model to a real-life lighting concept, you can use the paint bucket tool to mimic the crisp white of an LED lamp, or the yellowish glow of an incandescent bulb.

Tip
Depending on what you effect you are trying to achieve with your lighting, you might find that emissive materials suit your purpose better. This is a completely different approach than placing light sources. While you can always make a material emissive by adding the keyword “emissive” to the material name, a more effective way is through the Enscape Materials Editor. Simply select your material in SketchUp and open the Material Editor through the Enscape ribbon.

 

You can then check the box next to Self-Illumination to make the material emissive. Use the Luminance slider to adjust the emission intensity; the maximum intensity is 100,000 candelas. You can also assign a color to the material.
Check back to the blog soon to see a dedicated blog post on emissive materials!

 

Conclusion

You can implement and combine the Enscape lights I have presented in limitless ways to take your model to the next level. Whether you are shooting for extreme realism or dramatic scenes, light is one of the easiest ways to achieve your goal. Place a few, quick sources to light up the rooms in your model for a screenshot. Or, take the time to develop dedicated lighting for each room; this will wow your client during a walk-through presentation. Your models are already stunning by themselves, but adding lights elevates the experience for the viewer.

The best part is that integrating lighting into your workflow doesn’t have to be complicated, if you follow the tips you have learned in this post. In fact, you probably knew how to do all of these things already, before reading the post. Now just apply that to your Enscape lights! Place your lights just in front of your geometry with the quick 2-Click system. Duplicate identical lights quickly by copying and pasting them. Double click a light to edit it immediately, and use the ESC key to abandon changes if you make a mistake. If you prefer, you can use the native SketchUp tools to rotate or move your lights. And, don’t forget to add some color with the paint bucket tool!

However, don’t take my word for it: to test out Enscape lights yourself, just download our 14 day free trial here. I’m sure you will find it enlightening!

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Enscape Version 2.3 released https://enscape3d.com/enscape-version-2-3-released/ https://enscape3d.com/enscape-version-2-3-released/#respond Tue, 26 Jun 2018 14:10:10 +0000 https://enscape3d.com/?p=30072 The post Enscape Version 2.3 released appeared first on Enscape.

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Enscape 2.3

Today we would like to introduce you to Enscape Version 2.3, which is even more exciting to use, for both architects and designers. Besides the noticeable improvements to be found in the VR performance, this latest version also brings new functionality to help optimize your workflow.

With Enscape 2.3 you can now create even better renderings.
And you have more time to do the real design work!

Enscape 2.3

Overview of new features and settings

ArchiCAD Support

You can now install Enscape for ArchiCAD and make use of all the known functions for Real-Time Rendering and virtual reality. Your materials, lights, etc. are instantly recognized and are automatically updated whenever you change them.

VIDEO PATH

Creating a video path has never been easier in the AEC industry when using Enscape. Simply insert and edit keyframes, adjust Time of Day, Field of View or the camera movement.

Read more

SCREENSHOTS IN VR

At any point during a walkthrough you can capture phenomenal scenes from your project whilst in virtual reality. Once captured, high-quality screenshots will be rendered as a batch once VR mode has been exited.

Read more

Standalone

Enscape’s standalone export feature enables your visualisations to run on your customer’s computer, without them having to install additional architectural software. Set rendering quality or virtual reality with just one click.

Read more

Adjustable Water

With the enhanced water settings you can make your projects even more engaging. Decide whether you want quiet or turbulent water; adjust the water color to better compliment to your project

Read more

Further Improvements

  • Rendering quality of reflections has been improved (sharper during movement)
  • Integrated Minimap in the Virtual Reality menu
  • Smoother shadow transitions during time-lapse videos
  • Export uncompressed video for post-production
  • New materials in Revit and Revit 2019 now supported
  • Proxies in SketchUp now reload automatically
  • TGA textures are now supported in SketchUp’s material editor
  • Area lights are now available in SketchUp (Line, Rectangular, Disc)
  • Improved grass rendering
  • Transparent Textures now supported in Rhino
  • Save Enscape views to Rhino
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Easy to use

No additional software needs to be learned – simply install the Enscape plugin and walk through your projects with only one click.

Presentation Icon
Easy Presentations

Present your project in different phases of the workflow. Use the Enscape plugin together with Revit or an exported standalone file of your project.

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Fast Rendering

No long waiting times until your visualization is finished. Enscape renders your project within seconds and generates on average 50 images per second.

No Cloud Icon
No Cloud

Uploading data to the cloud is not needed. With the direct integration into Revit, SketchUp, Rhino and ArchiCAD Enscape gets all the data directly from Revit.

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Real-Time Feedback

With the live link between Enscape and Revit, all changes that you do in Revit, SketchUp, Rhino and ArchiCAD are immediately visible in Enscape. Explore every adjustment right away.

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Virtual Reality

Together with the Oculus Rift you can virtually walk through your project in Enscape. Experience your work as it was already built.

Try all new Features with a Free 14 Day Trial

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Best Practices: Video Creation in Enscape https://enscape3d.com/best-practices-video-creation-in-revit-2019/ https://enscape3d.com/best-practices-video-creation-in-revit-2019/#respond Tue, 26 Jun 2018 13:52:23 +0000 https://enscape3d.com/?p=28313 Best Practices: Video Creation in Enscape 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 […]

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Best Practices: Video Creation in Enscape

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, Rhino and ArchiCAD as well. If you’re not an Enscape user yet, sign up for the free trial.

 

The Big Picture

The overall process is very simple: First, in your design software, Toggle Video Editor and then compose a view in Enscape. Click Add Keyframe to define the start point. You can then continue this process along the path you would like the video to follow. 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.

Enscape’s Video Commands | Enscape Keyframes and Path

 

In the editor shown below you can add your different keyframes (step “A”). In addition to morphing the view direction, keyframes allow other options such as time of day (step “B”). The duration between keyframes can be adjusted by setting an explicit timestamp.

Enscape’s Video and Keyframe Editors

 

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.

 

Video Editor - Creating the Path

A video is created by following a camera path, and defining this path has never been easier in the AEC industry when using Enscape. To begin the process, within Revit, SketchUp, Rhino or ArchiCAD, click the Toggle Video Editor command. This will activate the Video Editor UI within Enscape—see image below. Next, while in Enscape, simply compose a view and click the Add Keyframe button (or “K” on the keyboard). This adds a keyframe, represented as a triangle on the Timeline. Continue composing views and adding keyframes along the desired path until it is adequately defined to travel around objects, corners and up and down stairs. Finally, use the Preview command to get an in-app preview of the animation in real-time.

The Video Editor also has options to delete all keyframes and to control camera movement; Shaky camera and Easing in/out. I like the latter option, which starts and finishes the video at a nice slower speed along the camera path. The Shaky camera option simulates the natural movement noticeable when recording a video with a handheld camcorder, which might be used for an informal presentation.
Tip: Be sure to save your path before closing Enscape, otherwise it will be lost.

Enscape’s Video Editor

 

Keyframe Editor - 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. This process can be started within the 3D view or via the Timeline in the Video Editor. In the 3D view, hover your cursor over a camera (i.e. a keyframe) until it turns green (see next image) and then click. Notice how the camera path has arrows on it, indicating the direction of travel. Once in the Keyframe Editor, you have several reference lines and controls, as shown next. A keyframe can also be accessed/edited by clicking on the triangles on the Timeline (see image above again).

05_selecting-a-keyframe

Selecting a Keyframe

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Editing a Keyframe

 

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.

 

Using the controls in the Keyframe Editor, the Time of Day, Field of View, Depth of Field and Timestamp can be overridden from the current settings. For example, if the last keyframe is selected and the timestamp is adjusted, the duration of the entire video is adjusted. Or, if the time of day is adjusted in at least two keyframes, it will morph between these views.

Edit Keyframe Editor

 

Here is what each of the buttons on the right do:

Append: Add a new keyframe on the path.
Apply: Save changes without leaving the edit mode (Edit mode can be left by pressing Enter)
Delete: Delete this keyframe. (Del)
Leave: Leave the edit mode without saving changes (Esc)

 

08_keyframe-shows-options-applied

Keyframe shows options applied

 

When a keyframe option has been overridden, a graphic appears next to each one as a reminder. In the example below, three of the four override options have been applied to this keyframe; field of view, time of day and timestamp.

Field of View(move slider across picture)

Time of Day(move slider across picture)

Depth of Field(move slider across picture)

Quick feature overview:

Field of view defines what is visible at a particular position and orientation in space. Chose the angle of the area captured through the camera to influence the atmosphere of your scene.

Set the time of day by choosing the desired hour of day in the editor; the lighting will be changed accordingly. Enhance your project by fine-tuning where the daylight falls in every scene.

Depth of field determines the focal point in your video. You can either use the center of the screen as an automatic focus or set a target distance. Use this feature to increase emphasis on a specific part of the scene. Have a look at more of Enscape’s features right here.

 

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.

09_video-path-traveling-between-floors

Video Path traveling between Floors

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Keyframe added mid-way up the Stairs to better define Path

 

My first attempt at this path only had a keyframe at the top and bottom of the stair run. However, when smoothing/morphing 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.
The video path editing features allow multiple keyframes on the same position (with different camera rotation or time of day) 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 in the primary design application; Revit, SketchUp, Rhino or ArchiCAD. 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.

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.

 

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. This setting impacts the time needed to generate the video and the resultant file size. If you chose a 1080p resolution, Enscape will render a video with 1920 x 1080 pixels. Note that most televisions and even high-end computers have a difficult time playing video higher than 1080p.

2. 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.
• TIP: Setting this all the way to the right, at Lossless, only allows individual image files to be exported. A Maximum or lower setting will create an MP4 when the video is exported.
Frames Per Second (FPS): Takes proportionally longer to render, but a higher value yields a smoother video.

3. Motion Blur

This setting can be deactivated if rapid camera movements result in a blurred image.

4. Rendering Quality

This setting controls the lighting and reflection quality of Enscape. Higher values yield more photorealistic results, though this increases the render time per frame. Thus, the combination of render quality and capture settings can have a significant impact on the time required and quality of the final product.

Keep in mind, the overall length of the video is determined automatically or by the Timestamp animation feature in the Keyframe Editor as described above. 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 dependent on your settings (see above), but also determined by the computing power of your hardware. A fast graphics card will improve export times significantly.
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, ArchiCAD 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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Best Practices: Water in Architectural Design https://enscape3d.com/best-practice-for-water-in-architectural-design/ https://enscape3d.com/best-practice-for-water-in-architectural-design/#respond Tue, 26 Jun 2018 13:51:05 +0000 https://enscape3d.com/?p=29690 Best Practices for Water in Architectural Design Architectural visualization can often incorporate water, whether as an integral feature like a swimming pool, or as an indirect detail, such as an adjacent lake. In either case, this amazing element can help set the tone or mood of a graphic, when implemented correctly. This article will discuss […]

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Best Practices for Water in Architectural Design

Architectural visualization can often incorporate water, whether as an integral feature like a swimming pool, or as an indirect detail, such as an adjacent lake. In either case, this amazing element can help set the tone or mood of a graphic, when implemented correctly.

This article will discuss the ways in which Enscape can deliver a stunning result in real-time! Whether for a static image replete with reflections and refracted light, or a livelier video of turbulence on the water’s surface, the result is sure to please any viewer.

 

 

Water Material Settings in Revit

Revit has a built-in water material. This means things like transparency and refraction are not adjustable options, due to the material properties being based on real-world physical properties. The various built-in options are listed below.

 

Water Types:
• Swimming Pool
• Generic Reflecting Pool
• Generic Stream/River
• Generic Pond /Lake
• Generic Sea/Ocean

Water Colors:
• Tropical
• Algae/Green
• Murky/Brown
• Custom

Water Wave Height:
• Value between 0.0 – 5.0

Tint:
• RGB color

01_revit-water-materials-rendering-1-e1529671200833

Water with tropical color

 

Various combinations of these settings will produce unique results. In the image below are four examples, featuring from left to right: Swimming Pool, Stream/River + Murky/Brown, Lake/Pond, and Sea/Ocean + Tropical. Combine the water settings to match the real-world condition you wish to depict. For example, an ocean-front property would naturally have the Sea/Ocean water type selected. However, the designer could choose any setting they want for dramatic effect when appropriate.

It is interesting to note that even though the Wave Height setting is the same for each of the images below, except the first one, the reflections are all different. Whenever Enscape renders water on the screen, it randomizes the water’s surface, resulting in a natural look.

 

Compare Water Types, from left to right: Pool, Murky River, Lake and Tropical Ocean

 

Lake and Tropical Ocean

When working within Revit, the water material is a physically-based material with water-specific settings, as described above. Additionally, all Revit materials have an overriding Tint option. The Tint setting can be used to make water look as if a colored dye has been added; think the Chicago River on St. Patrick’s Day in the USA. The RGB color can manually specify the additional absorption by particles or dirt in the water, where white equals clear water with it’s natural, slightly blue absorption properties.

 

Tint Water Color | Red Tint Applied to Water Material

 

The following image shows how the wave height, or its turbulence, can be controlled. Here we have the two extremes, one near zero, and another at 50%: 0.0, 0.50, 2.5 and 5.0. It is possible to have multiple wave heights within the same project by creating additional materials. This way it is possible to represent a glass of still water on the dining room and then a more active adjacent body of water, such as a river or lake, in the same project.

 

Compare Turbulence Values: 0.0, 0.5, 2.5 and 5.0

 

School Pool Example

Seeing the results in the context of real-world projects is perhaps the most compelling way to appreciate water in architectural design. The following video is a high school swimming pool. The water is set to a low wave height of 0.5, to give it just enough turbulence to liven up the water’s surface with light and reflections. The video also depicts the natural movement of the water when navigating a model on screen or as recorded in the MP4 video.

 

 

Before moving on, make a note of the lighting on the water’s surface as well as the increased transparency for deeper water. Also, most of the materials in this model have been updated with Revit 2019’s new advanced materials. Also, keep an eye out for the reflections that appear on the narrow multi-colored floor tiles in the video.

 

Natural Example

Combine Enscape’s realistic water and grass features to achieve dramatic scenes in non-architectural works. The following model is 100% Revit and Enscape without any post production. This project was created in just a few hours, as an example of a park restoration project planned together with a landscape architect. The four images below are the same, except with various wave height values applied. This image uses RPC’s, Megascan content, SketchUp’s 3D Warehouse content and one of Enscape’s built-in skyboxes. Also, the sun rays are emphasized by an increased fog setting from the Enscape Settings menu. As you can see, the results are simply astounding:

 

06_river-02_wave0.00_rendering-water-setting

Wave Height Setting: 0.0

07_river-02_wave0.50_rendering-water-setting

Wave Height Setting: 0.5

08_river-02_wave2.50_rendering-water-setting

Wave Height Setting: 2.5

09_river-02_wave5.00_rendering-water-setting

Wave Height Setting: 5.0

                                             

SketchUp Example

When working in SketchUp, the Enscape Materials dialog also supports various controls used to represent water similar to the examples already shown. This sample project, used to create the image below, was created using various downloaded components from 3D Warehouse followed by making a few adjustments to those materials.

 

Water Material Settings in SketchUp | Nice Scene with Water Elements in SketchUp

 

 

Conclusion

Water is an amazing element in architectural design. With the right combination of water type, color, wave height and turbulence, you can not only create more realistic renderings but also control the mood of your scenes much more effectively.

With surprisingly little effort, and even less time to process (think real-time,) a Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, or ArchiCAD model can truly come alive with water elements, even in a still image. Oh, and wait until you see this water in VR – simply amazing!

 

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.

The post Best Practices: Water in Architectural Design appeared first on Enscape.

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Best Practices: How to use executables for presentation https://enscape3d.com/best-practice-how-to-use-executables-for-presentation/ https://enscape3d.com/best-practice-how-to-use-executables-for-presentation/#respond Tue, 26 Jun 2018 13:50:56 +0000 https://enscape3d.com/?p=29679 Best Practices: How to use executables for presentation Perhaps the most important part of an architect’s process is presenting a design to the client. This is what all your hard work is leading up to, and a good presentation can make or break your client’s approval. But 2D plans don’t exactly paint a picture in […]

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Best Practices: How to use executables for presentation

Perhaps the most important part of an architect’s process is presenting a design to the client. This is what all your hard work is leading up to, and a good presentation can make or break your client’s approval. But 2D plans don’t exactly paint a picture in the mind, your CAD software is lost on your client, and you don’t want to overwhelm with too many static renderings.

What you do want is to offer your client an effortless, yet unforgettable experience, which allows them to focus on the details that are important to them. This is just what Enscape’s standalone export (executable) offers: complexity without complication.

One little file offers endless possibilities. The standalone can be used as the basis for a formal presentation, or sent during the design process for quick evaluations. It allows you to catch problems earlier by communicating the design to the client more often. There is no software to learn and the client can open the standalone on their own hardware, as it does not require an Enscape subscription to run. These benefits and many more will be covered in this post.

 

The Basics

It couldn’t be easier to export a standalone model of your Enscape simulation. It takes just two clicks: one to start Enscape, and one to export the model. All of the fine-tuned settings you had active prior to exporting will be included in the standalone. After this, the possibilities are endless. You can keep the file for your own records, or send it to a client for evaluation.

 

How to export a standalone file in the Enscape menu

 

The beauty of standalone files is how easy they are to run. The machine on which the client wants to view the model must meet Enscape’s system requirements, however, no additional software of any kind is needed! The EXE provides the same experience and quality that Enscape does, but does not require Enscape, Revit, SketchUp, ArchiCAD or Rhino to run. This is what makes the standalones such an excellent tool for client interaction. And the Enscape controls are incredibly intuitive; all instructions are listed right on the screen.

 

The Features

Upon opening the standalone, you will find that it has an integrated settings menu which allows to adjust the standalone like never before. These are limited to necessary, yet useful functions, and are incredibly simple to adjust. Of course, any settings you had active prior to exporting the model will also be active in the EXE. The adjustable settings offer you and your client the ability to spontaneously view the model under different conditions in a way simply not possible with static renderings. Let take a closer look at all the available settings.

 

You can easily pin and unpin the Settings menu in the standalone file

 

The tab to open the Settings menu is located on the left side of the screen, about one third of the way down. When it is hidden, you will only see a translucent bar. Hover your pointer over the tab, and it will automatically expand. If you click the pin icon, the menu will stay open while you move around. Click the icon again, and the menu will close.

In this menu you can turn virtual reality, light view and white mode on and off, and adjust the rendering quality and the thickness of the outlines.

 

Virtual Reality

Like so many things in Enscape, it only takes one click to enable Virtual Reality in the standalone. The machine that the model is being viewed on must fulfill Enscape’s virtual reality system requirements. Enscape currently supports the following head mounted displays: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Windows Mixed Reality Headsets such as the Samsung Odyssey. The software needed to run Enscape with the individual headsets (Steam, Steam VR, Oculus runtime) is also required to run the standalone in VR. But as soon as this is set up, you can enable virtual reality and allow your client to explore the project like never before!

Virtual reality with just one click – also in the standalone

 

Virtual reality in the EXE looks exactly the same as running VR natively in Enscape. After setting up your hardware and enabling VR, you will be able to navigate the Virtual Reality Settings menu, which allows you to turn white mode on and off, adjust the thickness of the outlines and set the time of day, all from inside VR. Additionally, you can access your favorite views and turn the minimap on and off. Enscape also supports taking screenshots while in VR. You can either take a snapshot of your current view, or frame up a screenshot using a virtual camera. Screenshots are queued and rendered upon leaving virtual reality. Giving your clients the opportunity to view the model in virtual reality creates a commanding and distinctive moment they will never forget.

 

Rendering Quality

This is now one of the most useful adjustable settings: You can define the rendering quality from within the standalone, and change it freely. The same four options are available as in the native Enscape:

 

You can choose the best rendering quality for the given hardware equipment

 

This is a powerful setting, especially in relation to client interaction. Enscape has certain system requirements necessary to run, and client machines don’t always have top tier graphics cards, as they simply don’t need them. This is often an issue that does not arise until the client tries to open the file. With this new setting, there is no need to export a new EXE file; the client can simply adjust the rendering quality to find which setting allows them to run Enscape fluently.

Adjusting the rendering quality can go a long way towards viewing the Enscape model on machines that might not be meant for running such a demanding program. This feature is also especially useful for early stages in the project when high quality graphics are secondary. You can also use this feature in conjunction with virtual reality. Toggle the slider to find the quality that works best with your headset and hardware. This allows you to spontaneously switch to virtual reality, without having to switch machines.

 

Light View, White Mode and Outlines

Enabling white mode will display your model void of any materials. Depending on where you are in the design process, you might want the client to simply focus on the architectural forms of your project, and not worry about colors and materials just yet. This is what white mode is perfect for. It displays a work in progress clearly as an unfinished model, rendering everything with a uniform white color. Try combining white mode with heavy outlines for a stylized, graphic look. Adjust the thickness of your outlines in white mode or normal mode via the Outlines slider.

 

You can enable white mode from within the standalone and adjust outlines.

 

If you’d like to show your client a light analysis of the model, you can do this by enabling light view. This option will display how many lux are falling onto each surface. Enable light view and adjust the time of day to see how your model interacts with the light at any given time. The time of day feature is unchanged in the new version of the standalone, however, in combination with the new features, changing the time of day can drastically affect how your client sees the project. Simply hold the shift key while clicking the right mouse button, and keep an eye on the bottom right corner of the screen; you will see a clock that shows the exact time.

 

Favorite Views

On the right side of the standalone screen, you will find the Favorite Views menu. It can be opened in the same way as the Settings menu: by hovering your pointer over the translucent tab. This feature simplifies moving around your model, and makes it easy for your client to find certain views. Clicking on the thumbnail preview will smoothly transport you to that location in the model. The animated transitions allow you to keep an overview of your location within the project as a whole. A double click will transport you directly to the desired spot.

 

Defined views will be automatically included as thumbnail images.

 

The views you wish to include in your standalone must be designated before it is exported. But, again, this only takes one click. Simply decide which views you would like to include and mark them as favorites by clicking the star next to their name in the Enscape view drop down menu.

When you have done this, these views will be automatically included as thumbnail images in the expandable sidebar menu. Please note that while the Setting menu is always included, the Views menu only appears if views have been designated prior to export. You can either click on the thumbnails, or use the Page Up and Page Down keys to switch views, even when the menu is not open. The possibilities for client presentations with this menu are endless. The views are exported with your time of day settings in Enscape, so you could for instance save different variants of the same view to quickly show one area in your model in different lighting situations.

 

Presentation and Documentation

The most straightforward application of the standalone export is for presentations. In a formal client meeting, the standalone simplifies your presentation down to the most salient features, delivered in a stunning display. You can use it to avoid overwhelming the client with your CAD software; streamline your delivery by only having one window open. During formal presentations, you can use the favorite views to choreograph your proposal, only showing the client the preselected views you want them to see. Alternatively, you can explore the whole project in the standalone, and leave yourself room for spontaneity in your pitch.

Between formal presentations, standalones are a straightforward way to give your client updates on changes or developments inside the model. Simply send your client the EXE file, and allow them the freedom to explore the model at their leisure. This is constructive for both sides, because it allows you to catch problems earlier by communicating the design to the client more frequently.

Documentation also becomes effortless through EXE exports. It is the simplest way to track changes in your project, and be able to access earlier versions for comparison. Enhance your workflow by periodically saving your model, enabling you to revert to it for reference without having to search through your CAD program. Leave your client with an unmistakable record of your work, even after the project is completed. Here you can check the other available export options.

 

Customization

Any settings you have active prior to exporting are included in the EXE – and this includes your customization features. You can define your own loading screen, overlay image, window icon and caption text. In the standalone, the overlay image and loading screen are particularly effective.

 

Insert the logo to cultivate your company’s corporate identity

 

Use the overlay image feature to add an image to your screen. This could be your company logo, or the name of the working architect. Use a personalized image for the loading screen. The customization settings are a great way to bring your standalone in line with your corporate identity.

Both features can be easily defined in the Customization tab of the Enscape Settings menu. Simply select an image by clicking the folder icon. If you decide you want to remove any of the customization features, simply uncheck the box next to the feature.

 

Conclusion

Now that you have spent some time getting to know the standalone and all of its features, you have perhaps already seen how this tool can benefit you personally. Document your design process without interrupting your workflow by saving standalones along the way. Send your client more frequent updates, and offer them a way to better understand their project. Engage your clients more fully during meetings by breaking away from typical presentation displays. In short, make the design process easier for you and your client.

The beauty of Enscape has always been its simplicity, and the standalone is no different. Just a few clicks, and your clients can explore their project in a way simply not possible with static renderings. Without software to install or programs to learn, they can focus on what is important: your design. And you can offer this opportunity in less than a minute; a small EXE with vast potential, a world of possibilities in one click.

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