Friday, July 13, 2012

CrazyBump Texture-Map Creation

If you've ever sat down to render anything, either with Photoshop or a proprietary engine within a modeling program, and wished for an easier way to create bump and normal maps, do we have the shortcut for you.

The program is called CrazyBump, and it uses the maths to create specular, bump, normal, displacement, and occlusion maps automatically from your original file.

Create your geometry in any platform that accepts normal/bump mapping. If you were wondering, SU does not support this, so don't ask.

Download, run, and open CrazyBump.  Use your own photograph, or copy an image from the internet.

Map it to the geometry, you're finished.  Render with your engine of choice, or use the multiply layer option in Photoshop with the overlays.

There's a free, 30 day evaluation period, but a personal copy is only $99.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

We love jet fighters, we love modernism...

...but maybe they shouldn't mix.

John Myers tell us this is a Oscar Niemeyer building, and it looks a lot like the Pal├ício do Planalto.

Either way, jet flyovers are awesome, and  modern architecture is always a favorite topic of discussion around our office...

...but putting the two in the same place doesn't always work out so well.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Thoughts on the MacBook Pro Retina for AEC use

Although I’m a little late to the Macbook Pro 2012 launch blog pig-pile, I thought I’d share some thoughts specifically aimed at the Macbook Pro Retina and its usefulness as an AEC workstation.

This post originally started off as a simple comment/response to Arch Daily’s article about the MacBook Pro Retina (found here: Somehow, it grew into something dramatically larger, so I’m posting it on the VDC blog instead.
Essentially, my concerns with the utility of the new MacBook Pro Retina as an AEC workstation are summarized by:

  1. Screen Size
  2. User replaceable components
  3. Death by dongle
  4. Final Thoughts

1: Screen size:
I have 20/20 vision, and I can't imagine using a 15.4" monitor for any length of time for AEC purposes, especially when 24" or 28" LCDs are $150-$300 and drastically reduce eye strain... pixel density is great, but expansive screen real estate is better… or you could get totally crazy and buy two 28” LCDs and go dual monitor.

2: User-replaceable components.
The 2nd generation (aka Unibody) MacBook Pro was a great step forward from a design esthetic and with regards to the easy replacement of internal components. For those a little fuzzy on ancient history, the 1st Gen MacBook Pro effectively retained the G4 PowerBook chassis.  The largest improvement from the 1st Gen to 2nd Gen was the ease of HDD replacement.  As a side note, second only to maxing out RAM, upgrading from a spinning drive to a SSD is easily the best upgrade for a laptop, if for the increased battery life alone.
Back to the MBP-R’s upgradability: Don’t listen to me, read this:

If you’re not interesting in reading the long article… let me explain… no there is too much, let me sum up #princessbride

  • The new MBP-R is the most non-upgradable laptop iFixIt has ever reviewed.
  • Need a new battery? Ship your laptop back to Apple.
  • Want to upgrade your RAM? Sell your laptop and buy a new one.
  • Crack your screen? Pawn off some internal organs.

For many of us who would either be purchasing a laptop for work (and then locked into a 2-3 year new computer cycle) or for home (locked into a new computer cycle tied to our paychecks), upgrading our computers is a critical intermediate step, and one that allows us to extend the useful life of our silicon and aluminum friends… 

Furthermore, anyone who’s gone through an intensive ISO certified Life Cycle Analysis (e.g. KieranTimberlake) knows extending the usable life is a great way to reduce overall environmental impact.

3: Death by Dongle:
This new MBP-R increases the number of dongles you’ll need to carry around.

  • Mini-Display Port & Thunderbolt ports are great for a small form-factor, bad for all the dongles you need to carry to a presentation… I’m sure no one’s ever forgotten their VGA dongle at home before a presentation or design review, right?
  • Now with the MBP-R, you also will need a dongle for Gigabit Ethernet. The lack of a built-in Ethernet port is a deal killer for a professional work environment, unless of course you love dongles.
  • In the MBP-R’s defense, it does have an HDMI port, but banking on an HDMI cable to be available for every presentation/review is an awful big gamble.

Final Thoughts… The other Mid 2012 MacBook Pro
Don't get me wrong -- Apple designs a beautiful product, this new MacBook included, but I’d be far more interested in the much less heralded non-Retina MacBook Pro which also features the new screaming fast Ivy Bridge processor, but unlike the Retina edition, has upgradable components, removable battery and a dedicated Ethernet port.

…Or, if you’re feeling counter-cultural, you could get a Dell Precision Mobile Workstation like the M4600 or M6600.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Scouting for BIM

Architecture Merit Badge
For the past couple weeks, John Myers and I had the great opportunity to help out a local Scout troop working on earning the Architecture Merit Badge.

As we are both Eagle Scouts, Myers and I were happy for the chance to give back while sharing some of our experiences. We gave several presentations about the traditional role of architects within the AEC industry, and highlighted how BIM and IPD are shaking things up and changing the industry while creating many new opportunities.

As part of the merit badge requirements, we also helped the scouts measure the classroom, and then we introduced them to Revit. With a little coaching, they were able to produce plans, sections, elevations, 3D axons, and renderings of the room. I admit we overshot a little: only a simple floor plan was required, but why settle for that when you can have the room fully documented in half the time?

One of the best things about helping was seeing the excitement the scouts had for what we were showing them (like Studio 804, and DDBC), and how quickly they were able to pick up the basics of a program like Revit.

Looking forward to our next opportunity to help. Do a good turn daily!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Spring BIMForum: VDC Deliverables

If you haven't already received the email notifications about the call for presentation and theme for the upcoming BIMForum, consider yourself informed!

Check it out here:

(PS: The graphic above was created by the WRO Gilbane VDC folks!)

The Spring BIMForum will be held on April 25-26 in San Antonio, Texas
Theme: VDC DeliverablesThe Spring BIMForum will focus on the ways that the VDC deliverables are used to solve specific problems i.e,  how they saved a project time or money, enabled better decisions, enhanced quality, improved the project schedule, eliminated information drop-off between parties, enhanced communication or collaboration, or had other meaningful impact to the design, construction or operation of the building.
Examples of VDC Deliverables that will be explored:
Problem: The owner wanted the building to face a certain direction.  The building was located in a high-solar radiation environment (like the desert) and the heat load on the building would have doubled the mechanical engineer’s cooling requirements.
Solution: The project team was able to use various BIM tools to illustrate the thermal loading, weather station data, shadow studies and computational fluid dynamics to dramatically explain the orientation’s impact on the building envelope performance.
Problem: The fast-track construction project requires the construction manager to buyout the millwork package with an immense amount of offsite prefabrication.  Some of the millwork is book-matched (grain matched) and has tolerances of a 1/16”.  The construction manager needs to guarantee the dimensions of the substrate (drywall) for the prefabricated millwork install to go smoothly and meet the project schedule.
Solution: The CM used laser scanning to capture the exact as-built dimensions of the walls the millwork was to be applied to and by using industrial manufacturing software, create an automatic discrepancy report so that the drywall and millwork trade contractors could coordinate a solution prior to the millwork arriving on-site.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

VDC @ ASU Polytechnic Student Rec Center: Gilbane Card Trick

Last week the Gilbane VDC folks participated in the "Card Trick" (or collaborative pull scheduling session) at the ASU Polytechnic Student Rec Center Project.  We took the opportunity to establish some critical VDC milestones, such as coordinated model sign-off dates, deadlines and durations for virtual mockups as well as general model view to understand sequencing of depressed slab areas for structural sequencing.

We also used the model to work collaboratively with Architect and trade contractors to resolve some issues so quickly the RFIs never even made it out the door... instead we ended up with a confirming RFI keeping our fast-paced fabrication modeling/shop drawing process right on track.

A lunch-time panorama of the room.

When you've got a 15'x20' screen, you can quite literally get into the model...

David J. (Gilbane VDC Engineer) drives Navisworks, TDI explains their approach

The team writing up some schedule activities.

It's a busy looking board, and we're only 4 hours into the process!

Tony P. (Gilbane General Super) back-checks schedule logic.
In the background David J. & TDI continue to discuss their plan.