V-Ray 3: The New SketchUp Extension Your Architecture Firm Needs

SketchUp bills itself as the 3D modeling software that allows you to “get good fast,” but even when you have some experience with the tool, it’s still possible to get bogged down by time-consuming processes and modeling problems. Fortunately, there are hundreds of SketchUp extensions designed to help you streamline your workflow and create better 3D models.

V-Ray 3 for SketchUp is the most popular tool in the SketchUp Extension Warehouse, and it’s not hard to see why. Released in March 2017, this professional rendering tool lets architects and designers create photorealistic models and detailed 3D scenes quickly and easily. Below, we take a look at some of the best features of the fully redesigned V-Ray 3.

Highlights of V-Ray 3 for SketchUp

Intuitive User Interface

The simplified user interface of V-Ray 3 for SketchUp is designed to let new users jump right in without extensive training. Materials, Light, and Settings controls live in quick access tabs that make up the user’s dashboard. Additionally, the tool features intuitive rendering controls. Users can adjust their compute power for distribution rendering by moving a slider across a bar. The new Batch Render function allows users to queue up and render multiple static images with a single click.

Powerful Rendering

The V-Ray Swarm feature takes distributed rendering to the next level. With Swarm, architects and designers can harness the CPU or GPU power of all the computers in their local area network to render their projects faster. Swarm machines can find one another over the network, which saves users from having to enter each computer’s address manually. By breaking up rendering into multiple small “tasks” that are distributed to CPU or GPU cores, Swarm can significantly speed up progressive and final frame rendering.

Light Editing

V-Ray 3 for SketchUp offers built-in light types that allow users to realistically simulate both natural and artificial light sources. A physical sun and sky system helps users create a 3D scene that accurately shows what their building will look like in the real world. Additionally, architects can use the Lens Effect tool to layer bloom and glare lens effects over their design.

Extensive Materials Library

The Materials Library contains over 200 drag-and-drop elements, including many varieties of wood, stone, and metal. Architects can also add realistic grass, fabrics, and carpet to their models.

VR Compatible

Architecture firms are increasingly using virtual reality technology to test environments and share 3D realizations with clients and collaborators. Chaos Group, the creator of V-Ray, has stayed abreast of this trend by making V-Ray 3 for SketchUp VR-compatible. Users can render content for all the major VR headsets, including Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Google Cardboard, and Samsung Gear VR.

Boxx Workstations Help You Get More Out of V-Ray 3

V-Ray 3 has made a lot of improvements when it comes to rendering speed, but BOXX can further streamline your workflow with our rendering solutions, such as an APEXX workstation configured to your rendering needs or an off-loaded rendering solution like the renderPRO 2 or a renderBOXX. If you’re running V-Ray 3 or other demanding applications in SketchUp, contact us, and we’ll recommend the right solution for your needs.

Adobe Premiere’s New Graphics Features

It’s been a while since Adobe decided to update its classic Type Tool in Adobe Premiere, but the latest revamp of the existing graphics interface pulls caption and title creation into the current era – along with some major changes in the software’s graphic features.

The April 2017 product update introduces the new Type Tool, the Essential Graphics panel, and the Motion Graphics Template feature, among others. The new interface options and tools should be more familiar to those who also work in Adobe’s other creative products, such as Illustrator or Photoshop.

As usual, the addition of the new Adobe features changes the standard workflow slightly, but these tools also expand Adobe’s syncing capabilities so that working between Adobe programs should be easier on your machine – and your schedule.

Must-Know Graphics Updates

For those that work with visual media, there are three new features about which experts should become familiar.

Motion Graphics Templates

Just like it sounds, motion graphics templates allow editors to make changes to moving visuals saved in a template format. Having motion graphics available as templates eliminates the need for graphic artists to shift text for editors and allows editors to work directly in Premiere to perfect text, color, size, and layout of motion graphics.

Once an artist or editor creates a motion graphic with an editable element, he or she can save it as a motion graphics template and share it across machines. Alternatively, editors and artists can store motion graphics in the Adobe Creative Cloud and recall them from any machine connected to the appropriate library.

Type Tool

There’s no longer a need to open a separate panel, edit text, save it, and insert it as you would have when using the legacy Adobe Title Tool. The new Adobe Type Tool makes text editing directly in Adobe Premiere much more intuitive, especially if you’re already familiar with graphics editing programs such as Illustrator and Photoshop.

With the Type Tool, you can create multiple text boxes on multiple internal layers that unify on a single layer in your timeline. Using the effects controls or the new Essential Graphics panel, you can then tweak the details of your text, such as font, size, color, and shadow. Reposition text, add motion, then save the result as a motion graphics template to speed up your workflow significantly.

Essential Graphics Panel

The Essential Graphics panel brings in tools familiar to those who work in graphics editing software to the Premiere workflow. You can use the panel any time you’re working with graphics such as shapes and text to customize the appearance and behavior of those graphics.

Adding the panel to the already long list of available tools should simplify your workflow rather than complicate it. With Essential Graphics available, you won’t have to make changes, save them, and reload them within or out of the Premiere framework – everything happens live, right inside of Premiere.

Will These Adobe Premiere Updates Affect My Machine’s Performance?

Yes, your machine’s performance is likely to be affected, but not in a negative way. You’ll be able to cut back on rendering time since simple rendering can now be done live without having to switch between programs.

If your workflow includes a lot of exporting of custom text and motion, you’ll be able to cut down on most of that exporting by taking advantage of the available Motion Graphics Template features. Your machine will likely need less processing power to perform laborious rendering and exporting – provided you master the new workflow.

These updates might improve your workflow, but if you are still seeing bottlenecks, you may want to consider a hardware upgrade. If you want a new powerful workstation to run Adobe Premiere optimally, consider a custom BOXX machine. Contact us today so we can help customize one to suit your specific needs.

New Autodesk Releases for 2018

There’s exciting news in the Autodesk world if you regularly use their products, including AutoCAD and Inventor. The 2018 Autodesk updates to both products have been released from beta and are available to the public. Both AutoCAD 2018 and Autodesk Inventor 2018 contain user-enhancement upgrades and performance improvements that can advance your workflow.

Whether you’re an architect, engineer, project manager, graphic designer, or you work in another profession, these updates to AutoCAD and Inventor will help you achieve your goals more easily.


What’s New in AutoCAD 2018?

AutoCAD 2018 is the best version of the software Autodesk has created. It includes many major performance improvements, along with some necessary changes to the DWG file format. It’s now even easier to import PDFs into AutoCAD 2018. Autodesk has improved external reference file paths, making it easier to correct damaged paths and specify the correct path. Autodesk now supports high-resolution (4K) monitors in full resolution, allowing you to see your creations in the clearest way possible.

With all the improvements to object selection, text to mtext conversions, user interface, sharing, the AutoCAD mobile app, AutoCAD 2018 is one of the most comprehensive overhauls in recent years. Learn more about the advancements in AutoCAD 2018 on Autodesk’s website.


What’s New in Inventor 2018?

Inventor is the perfect tool to make your inventions come to life. Whatever you’re designing, Inventor’s 2018 updates will improve your workflow. Including under-the-hood updates and advancements to performance, Inventor 2018 offers a new measure tool, 3D annotations, ANYCAD for Inventor, and much more. Inventor 2018 also adds model-based 3D definitions, Top Inventor Ideas, all with improved performance to help you get your work done faster and better.


Take Your Autodesk Software Workflows to the Limit with BOXX Today

If you want a new powerful workstation to run the latest Autodesk software optimally, consider a custom BOXX machine. We also offer mobile workstations that provide the performance you need in a portable package. Run AutoCAD and Inventor on the go while you’re on the job and use the AutoCAD mobile app on your phone or tablet, for convenience.

A BOXX mobile workstation or desktop will optimize your Autodesk’s 2018 software workflows and reduce bottlenecks. Contact us today so we can help customize one to suit your specific use case.

Who Uses VR in the Professional World?

With virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive now available to consumers and professionals, the applications for VR technology are rapidly increasing. And, because VR can place people in three-dimensional simulated environments, we’re beginning to see it used as a professional business tool to design, test, and educate.

Below are six fields that are beginning to adopt VR technology.

 

Gaming

It comes as no surprise that the gaming industry has been a major driver of VR software and hardware development. Major gaming companies and independent developers have been scrambling to create VR headset-compatible games for an audience in search of an immersive experience. One of the biggest trends in game design now is collaborative VR, in which multiple headset users can interact in the same virtual space.

Architecture

Static, hand-drawn building renderings may soon be a thing of the past. Architects and engineers are beginning to use game engines like Unreal Engine and Autodesk’s Stingray to develop three-dimensional realizations of buildings to share with clients and collaborators before breaking ground. The new Vectorworks software even allows architects to create a shareable VR panorama by uploading a 3D CAD model to the cloud. This new technology can be a useful communication tool, especially for clients who don’t fully understand scale and spatial relationships when looking at a 2D plan or 3D model. It also gives architects and engineers the opportunity to test environments (e.g. measuring how long it would take someone to exit a building in case of fire) before construction starts.

Real Estate

Some real estate brokerages are experimenting with VR as a way to show homes no matter what physical distance is between the potential buyer and the property. By capturing a 3D video or scan of a property, Realtors allow home buyers to go on a private virtual tour. This saves time and money on travel and could even allow Realtors to show a home to multiple potential buyers at the same time. However, because the cost for a 3D scan or 360-degree video is relatively high, VR in real estate has mostly been restricted to the luxury sphere so far.

Healthcare

In 2015, UCLA’s Department of Neurology integrated the Oculus Rift with a 3D surgery navigation device, allowing surgeons to enter a virtual replica of a patient’s brain. Surgeons and students can use this technology to practice sensitive surgeries and improve their precision without endangering lives.

Virtual reality is also finding a place in mental health services. For example, 3D computer generated environments have been used in immersion or exposure therapy for people with phobias or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Auto Manufacturing

Car makers can use VR software to test vehicle design and safety before manufacturing them. Ford is already using Oculus Rift in their Immersion Lab in Dearborn, Michigan. By putting on VR headsets, designers and engineers can inspect the interior and exterior of a 3D-rendered vehicle, giving them the opportunity to identify potentially costly problems before they arise.

Business

The development of virtual product prototypes isn’t the only application for VR in business. VR can potentially be used to reduce business travel, host remote interviews, give tours of workspaces, and conduct meetings with participants from around the world. Some businesses are also finding customer-facing applications for VR. For example, The North Face used Oculus Rift to let shoppers at stores in South Korea experience a dog sledding adventure. Carnival Cruises ran a promotion at AT&T stores to let visitors explore some of its cruise ships and vacation spots through 360-degree video.

Does Your Business Use VR?

If your business uses VR technology or is thinking of experimenting with it, you need to make sure you have the right technology in place. You can peruse Boxx’s solutions for virtual reality software and contact us if you have any questions!

New Arnold 5 Update Released

Solid Angle, the company behind Arnold–the industry standard production renderer–has released its newest edition in April 2017. Arnold 5 is the latest update to Solid Angle’s production renderer, which updates the API and sampling algorithms, as well as adds new physically based Standard Surface, hair, and volume shaders.

With Solid Angle’s Arnold 5 release, the company has introduced support for Light Path Expressions and included improvements for CPU performance and workflow advances. There is still no support for GPU rendering yet, which many power users and production companies have been waiting for, though Solid Angle says they are working on adding it in a future update.

Arnold 5 is shipping bundled with 3DS Max 2018, which was also released April 2017. It is available for Windows 7+, Linux, and Mac OS X 10.8+. There are integration plugins available for Maya 2015+, 3DS Max 2017+, Cinema 4d R16+, Houdini 13+, Katana 2.5, and Softimage 2013+.

 

What’s New in the Software?

Arnold’s new release includes updated sampling algorithms with changes that can result in reduced render noise in direct and indirect illumination. The new software also includes support for two-dimension dithered sampling, which doesn’t reduce noise but redistributes it in a more visually pleasing way—creating a result with softer shadows, indirect illumination, and DoF at low sample rates.

Arnold 5 includes a new set of physically accurate shaders, with a Standard Surface uber shader replacing the old Arnold Standard shader. This new Standard Surface shader is compatible with Disney principled material, including layers focused on replicating real-world materials like skin, water and ice, glass, and metal.

Included in Arnold 5 is also a Standard Hair Shader, which is also physically based and replaces the old one. It includes parameters that measure the amount of melanin (the pigment in human hair and skin), to create biologically plausible hair.

 

Speed Boosts and Other Improvements

Solid Angle has made changes to the architecture of Arnold 5 leading to “significant speedups during both render start-up and ray-trace time.” This can lead to up to a 10x speed boost when pre-processing textures in the .tx format, though other performance improvements may be more marginal. You may see a 2x boost when loading a “large” OpenVDB volume cache, as well as 2x speed boost when rendering “indoor scenes with multiple GI bounces [and] objects with high transmission depth.”

Arnold 5 now supports Light Path Expressions (LPEs) to extract individual lighting components into separate AOVs, which increases flexibility during compositing. The new update also introduces support for the OpenColorIO and SynColor color-management standards.

 

Conclusion

Arnold 5 is a step forward in production rendering forward, with a level of improvements heretofore unseen. While GPU rendering is still on the table for a future release, and industry professionals continue to desire it, Arnold 5 is the latest and best rendering software available.

New permanent floating licenses cost $1220 a piece, which includes one year of maintenance, with rental options available. Any integration options you need are free with your license.

Boxx offers specific workstation solutions for Arnold 5 rendering workflows.