Thursday, December 30, 2004

Asia Pacific Region Relief After Disaster

Words cannot express the sorrow experienced and the current needs of the people in this geographic location following the devestating earthquake and tsunami.

If you would like to donate to the relief effort, these organizations are equipped to offer both immediate and long term assistance:
Australia: Care AUS, Red CrossUK: Care UK, Red Cross
USA: Care USA, Red Cross Global: UNICEF, Save the Children, Shelterbox

Links above courtesy of Shaan

Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by this disaster.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Holiday Audio Post

this is an audio post - click to play

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

CAD Related Blogs Growing

When I started this blog in June of 2003 it started as an outlet and way to share thoughts, ideas, tips/tricks, personal stories and more related to the AEC industry. At that time it was the only cad related blog; since then it has been great to see the growth of so many who have since joined the blogging world.

With the new year coming soon there have been a few others who have stepped up and started blogging recently. Welcome to the blogging world:

The Mad Cadder - Michael Rotolo

Cold Fire CAD

(both of which originate from the Canada)

If there are any others who may have started in the past week let me know if I have not found you yet.

happy blogging...

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Christmas Wishes

Seasons greetings from the will render for food family to you and your loved ones.

We wish you the best as you learn and grow in the upcoming year...

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Heading back

The trip through St. Louis was a lot of fun and gave a great opportunity to meet many new people and discuss cad, visualization and of course ADT.

I also want to thank Melanie Stone for meeting me for dinner at Imo's (I got to try my first St. Louis style pizza). If you have not had the chance to meet Melanie in person yet, here is a picture.

We had a great discussion on cad; past, present and future, as well as some great discussion about AUGI and CAD User Groups, life and more. If you are in the St. Louis area you should try to attend the next Gateway Autodesk Users Group meeting on January 11, 2005.

Here are a few images of the town:

The name in lights is pretty descriptive where this is. =)

This was a morning view from the hotel:
(visualization people take note of the gradient sky)

I have some more business to take care of here in January and plan to venture out further when I return. Any suggestions of places to visit/see in the evenings let me know.

happy cadding...

Thursday, December 16, 2004

St. Louis - Meetup

Here is the location and time for those that can join us this evening (12/16/04):

Imo's Pizza
2001 Olive Street, Saint Louis, MO 63103
(314) 241-5585
(314) 241-5585 (fax)


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

A blogging welcome

For those who frequent the Autodesk Discussion Groups you probably know the name Tracy Lincoln. Well Tracy is now part of the blogging community:

Looking forward to seeing more postings from you Tracy and keep up the great work!

St. Louis

While traveling through many different parts of the country I typically try to have dinner with a few cad and/or visualization folks to chat (geek out) when time permits. I will be in the St. Louis area for a few days; if you are interested in getting together for dinner on 12/16 drop me an e-mail.

These are always very informal sessions, lots of fun and offer a chance to meet other users in your area with related interests. Also for those that are not aware there is a local users group in this area too, but no meetings planned during this timeframe.

Smells like something new around here...

This past Monday we closed the doors to our old office location and opened the doors to a new one:
4460 Corporation Lane, Suite 317
Virginia Beach, VA 23462

While not quite up to the level as Joel's office, we have been enjoying the new outdoor scenery and interior decor compared to the previous location. For anyone local that would like to see the space there is an open house tomorrow afternoon, feel free to come by and say hello. I am unable to make it to the open house but there will be plenty of other great folks to meet and of course great food, wine and even some door prizes and other goodies.

I will be posting a few pictures of the new layout later in the week for anyone interested.


I have been anxiously waiting to go see The Incredibles. Royal and I headed out to the theater on Saturday to watch and it was incredible! Good storyline and a great animation. Afterwards over a good pint of ale we talked about the different items we liked and both agreed that in many places the blurring of the lines between photorealistic cinematography and "cartoon" style was done so well that you hardly even noticed it was an animation. If you are a fan of animation this is one you should not miss.

I was reading Manton's blog recently and he mentioned that ASIFA-Hollywood members recently received the Incredibles DVD screener, while not currently a member of the I will have to wait for this to arrive on DVD with the rest of the world. In the meantime I may try to catch this again in the theater.

happy animating...

Monday, December 13, 2004

Eastern Virginia AutoCAD Users Group - Meeting

Next meeting: December 16, 2004, at Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas + Company (HEWV) Architectural Firm's "Knowledge Cafe", located at 120 Atlantic Street, in Norfolk, Va. between Waterside and MacArthur Mall.

6:30-6:50pm - Meet & Greet - We will start the meeting off with some food and drinks. This is a great chance to see old friends and meet other CAD users from area companies.

6:50-7:00pm - Introduction to the Group

7:00-7:30pm - Topic #1 - Nick McCully of Rouse-Sirine Associates will cover a broad spectrum of tips and tricks including: Properties Dialog Box (Filter command), Express Tools (Nick's Favorites), Paper Space Tricks, Converting clients drawings to your format, and Text Set Up & Tricks. Learn to work faster, not harder.

7:30-7:40pm - Short Break - This is a chance to chat, eat, stretch and/or carry on a corner discussion.

7:45-8:30pm - Topic #2 - "How NOT to model in AutoCAD/ADT" Through the last few years Mike Taylor has been using AutoCAD/ADT to model buildings and other geometry using a variety of methods. This presentation will cover the many lessons in modeling that Mike has learned the hard way over the years. For beginners and advanced users; this topic will have a lot of great tips and lessons to help you avoid common mistakes and make your modeling life even easier.

8:30-8:35pm - Wrap Up, Prize Giveaways and Dismiss

Mark your calendar! After this meeting, the next one will be on Thursday, January 20 2005. As always, free food and prizes.

Last but not least, thanks to everyone who supports and attends our meetings. The EVAUG would not continue to grow in its current direction without your active participation.

Eastern Virginia AutoCAD Users Group

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Red Vs Blue

During AU Rob Finch introduced me to a set of videos/animation "Red vs. Blue" that is reminiscent of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. Basically a group of people are using the game Halo (and now Halo 2) to shoot a movie within a game. Several of them interact with each other and one guy's view is essentially the camera angle.

In their words: "We use four Xboxes, four copies of Halo and a PC with a Canopus DV Storm capture card and a bunch of Adobe editing software. Run the video from one of the Xboxes into the capture card and use that as the "camera", the other XBoxes are used for the characters and are run by our puppeteers."

There is some pretty funny stuff (in some cases juvenile humor) they say/do. Download a few videos to watch or to make this even better you should go back and start at the beginning or purchase the DVD's for each season here.

More AU Photos

Robin Capper has posted his AU photos (from San Francisco to Vegas) here. I got the chance to meet and have dinner with Robin (and Jan) during AU after we bumped into each other at a Autodesk Usability Study.

Thanks again Robin for dinner and the great New Zealand pen.

Shortcuts of Life

Shortcut keys... simple, easy, effective and something you should learn. Most every windows/mac/unix software has keyboard shortcuts to enable you to work faster in your daily computing life. If you are not using them you you may be overlooking one of the biggest time savers.

Over the years I have learned the ones in AutoCAD/ADT and know a good majority of the ones in VIZ/MAX to leverage the software effectively. I run across users continually who are unaware of the numerous keyboard shortcuts there are. For example did you know that if you have multiple drawings open in AutoCAD you can use the Ctrl + Tab key combo to cycle through the open drawings (think a continuous loop) and if you go past the drawing you want you can always reverse the loop by using the Ctrl + Shift + Tab key combo.

Want a few more standard window's shortcut key combos?
Ctrl + A - Select All
Ctrl + C - Copy
Ctrl + X - Cut
Ctrl + V - Paste
Ctrl + S - Save
Ctrl + Shift + S - Save As (for most programs, those that do not use this should be...) =)

Now I mentioned I have been learning the VIZ/Max key combos (of which there are a bunch) and found a few that you may not be aware of:
Shift + Z - Undo View Change
Shift + Y - Redo View Change
Ctrl + Z - Undo Scene Change
Ctrl + Y - Redo Scene Change

Viewport changes:
P = Perspective
U = User
F - Front
T = Top
B = Bottom
L = Left
C = Camera (changes to a camera selection if more than 1)
V = Select view from list (or keyboard entry)
Alt + W = Maximize/Minimize View

And my personal favorite I did not know until today:
Alt + Middle Wheel Mouse Button is Arc Rotate, no more need to use the icon from the toolbar. This even works in Viz Render!

There are plenty more useful shortcut keys for each of these programs. To learn more you should check the help file and/or the accompanying quick reference card that most of these programs ship with.

happy "quick key" rendering and cadding...

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Spreading the blogging love

It has been nice to see the thoughts and experiences of so many individuals come to life through blogs over the past two years. A few weeks ago Shann, Lee and myself set up feedburner accounts to spread our blogging experiences with a larger audience.

This started with being displayed on the Vizdepot and now available for anyone who wishes to see an animated ticker displaying the latest blog postings in your own HTML page (or other HTML allowable device) feel free to grab and use the following:

Will render for food... Digital Media Blog

happy blogging...

Multi-page DWF Merge

For those who use both .pdf and .dwf format's to share/archive data one of the the first things you may notice is that Acrobat has the ability to merge other .pdf files into your current multi-page document. For those who wish to merge .dwf files together into a multi-page document you can easily accomplish this using DWF Composer. This is a tip I recently learned from Shaan.

To accomplish this try the following:
1. Open a .dwf document using DWF Composer.
2. Using Windows Explorer browse to your .dwf file.
3. Drag the .dwf file you wish to merge from Explorer to the DWF Composer Navigator pane.
4. Save your file. Done!

For those who do not have DWF Composer you can also accomplish this task as described by Shaan here.

Thanks again Shaan for the tip and happy dwf'ing to everyone... =)

Space Traveler

About a month ago I got access to using a CadMan but had major issues with the downloaded drivers and Max 7 that prevented me from using it. During AU I saw the 3dconnexion booth and stopped by for a chat to see if they could help. Turned out to be some kind of an issue with the driver and is not present on the new cd's with the products.

While there I also got a chance to play with the Space Traveler and fell in techno love (ok it was really techno lust).

This has been great fun and already productive in the first few days of my return from AU. The Space Traveler also works with many other programs, but I found it best to work with VIZ/MAX so far. For those wondering the cool blue lights around the edges are also customizable buttons (8 in total).

This software/hardware also supports many other programs and here are my first thoughts on a few I have used this for:
1. Photoshop - The OTB settings seem strange at first as the navigation is the opposite of the way I think/work.

2. Architectural Desktop - The OTB settings for this are actually based on AutoCAD. While this may not make a difference to most users I found the settings very limiting and clunky, not at all the way it behaved for Viz/Max.

3. Revit - While the drivers do not mention about Revit I thought I would give it a try, no dice. The OTB settings are just not there.

4. Inventor - Okay I admit I am not a regular Inventor user but I have a friend who is and we tested this out on his system and he liked the way it performed.

The team at 3DConnexion said they would appreciate any feedback on the way the sofware interfaces/works for other programs and admitted ahead of time that the settings beyond VIZ/MAX are not complete. I will be submitting my thoughts/wishes to them over the next month as I interface with it more, but thought I would share my current findings as I do love working with the hardware

The price is a bit steep but if you work with VIZ/Max on a regular basis you should give the Space Traveler a trial run.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Rendering Challenge Final Results

Congratulations to the following winners of the Rendering Challenge:

November 30, 2004
1. Ged Trias
2. Andrew Schroder
3. Robert Braud

See the results for Day 1 here, thanks to Ted Boardman for judging the entries for this day.

December 01, 2004
1. Ben Rand
2. Beau Finch
3. Lynn Gramam

See the results for Day 2 here, thanks to Chris Bullen for judging the entries for this day.

December 02, 2004
1. Scott Martin
2. Alexander Ximenez
3. Mike Harper

See the results for Day 3 here, thanks to Jim Smell and Paul Aubin for judging the entries for this day.

Many thanks to Steven Papke from the Vizdepot for co-sponsoring the challenge and prizes that were given.

AU Day 4 Recap

Autodesk University is now officially over as the final day of classes/events involved a 3.5 hour session/lab for most everyone. For my last class I took one called "Autodesk VIZ Lighting: Get A Grip" by the master himself. If you work with visualization in either Viz or Max you owe it to yourself to take a class at somepoint with Ted. As usual this class ventured into many areas and had Ted sharing some techniques as well as having some great audience participation.

The two main areas touched on were Exteriors and Interiors. The first was done using the scanline renderer and the second using and demystifying radiosity for those who may not have had a firm grasp on the subject. One other thought that I thought would be great to share from the Max 7 class yesterday involved the use of changing the large amount of used lights in an exterior scene to using only two mental lights, this made for the same final result in about the same time with a lot less lights to control.

There was so much great content and insight offered by Ted that in addition to the handout I had multiple pages of additional notes/thoughts based on the discussions.

After the final class I ran into Jim (wearing a very cool "will render for food..." t-shirt =) ), and our families ended up on a great walk and lunch over at Paris on the Las Vegas strip. Afterwards we ended up meeting up with Paul for a bit too. Great conversation and for those who are looking to learn/understand how Viz Render and ADT works you should look here for more insight too. Of course you could always hire me too! =)

This was another great AU and it looks like I will be seeing you next year at AU in Orlando, FL.

AU Day 3 Recap

Wow, another exciting day here at AU 2004 with big news of venue changes for next years event on the East Coast. Waiting to hear whether I can officially say the location yet or not, but it could be quite interesting. =)

Early this a.m. I attended a Max 7 class called Design Visualization for the Advanced User. This dealt with numerous great tools inside of Viz/Max that will help make your life much easier and also shared a small bit of Mental Ray as well as some Combustion. I have not used Combustion yet, but this looks incredibly powerful!

After this great start to the morning this had me in several different locations throughout the MGM. Along the journey I also learned that the Segways have different magnetic keys and each is pre-programmed to do different things. For those who like speed, the red key is what you want. =) Stopping by the rendering challenge was great as I ran into numerous people along they way including Jim and Stefan from the Vizdepot and numerous others. It was nice to see the renderings being done using Viz and Viz Render by so many people. I will try to get the winners uploaded to the Vizdepot tomorrow.

One more half day of AU then it's over... Not to fret as there is always next year and the classes and events just continue to get better and better.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

AU Day 2 Recap

The sessions here today were great and ranged in many directions for myself. One that really stuck out in the morning was from Chris Bullen and was called "Visualization Voodoo". Two items that really stood out dealt with sub-object animation (in Viz, yes that's right) these included the animated elevator (using a plane and a greyscale .avi file in the Material Displacement slot and a flying bird (spider and tree too!). Basically the bird's wings were animateable in Viz by using a combination of the Patch Deform and Path Deform modifiers. These little items make a world of difference in believability in rendered animations. Chris also showed how easy this is to do in Max without the workarounds mentioned above. Simply put, this was great stuff. As luck would have it Chris was also the judge of the rendering contest held today too.

Lunch was an awesome feast and we got the chance to meet and chat with numerous people. Unfortunately I missed Jim, but did manage to get in touch with Rob and numerous others to chat throughout the day. The afternoon was spent with numerous BIM classes and each offered some great ideas/solutions. The evening was spent with a few parties on-site of the MGM and was great fun getting to meet new people and see a host of other old friend and those we have exchanged converstations through e-mail and in the NG's.

That is a quick recap and Thursday is filling up quite quickly as well.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

AU - Update Day 1

Well the day has just ended for me and now trying to wind down. This afternoon I had hoped to attend this event, but had my curiosity peaked by a Max 7 session, though I did manage to run through to say hello to Shaan along the way to.

The Max presentation did not have very much description on what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised by the presentation from Rich and Mike Burmann from Paul Steelman. To start this off they simply started playing an animation with music that was top notch and got everyones attention from the get go. Rich shared his background and his role in creating and helping to grow the 3D visualization department for this company.

In addition to sharing some background on the type of work they do and the tight turnaround time (1.5 weeks) for some of the best animation work I have seen coming from the Architectural Industry but also shared much more about the inner workings and what it takes for them to get this accomplished with everyone involved in the process. Along the way Rich and Mike shared some highly useful tips for keeping their renderings time down to meet these deadlines and shared several tips from their running checklist that everyone on their design team uses. There was quite a few items that I have not heard of before that I hope to share with you as I implement these into my own rendering pipeline.

After this session it was off to take the ADT Certification Exam. This was not too difficult, but I ran into 4 questions that were incorrect according to the question and had to prove this to the gentleman overseeing the exam and they then agreed. One thing to keep in mind for those who may be considering taking this read the questions carefully as the semantics can be tricky in a few areas. All in all it was a good exam focusing in multiple areas. If anyone would like I would be happy to post more about this just let me know.

After finishing and passing this it was off to the Avatech/Vizdepot Autodesk University Rendering Challenge. Upon arriving there were people lined up and rendering away. It was refreshing to see and chat with so many new faces from all over the world; Japan, South Africa, just to name a few. Todays winners will be announced and their work will be displayed on the Plasma screen at the Avatech booth (#800).

now off to get some sleep before tomorrow's classes...

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

AU Opening Day

Today is the opening day for AU (though yesterday held a few events for ADT and ATC members) that offered some great information.

Well in the past few days I have seen several friends around town and on the MGM floors. Ran into a few Kiwi's along the way (Mike Burke and Robin Capper) as well as many others from here in the states.

As mentioned today is the opening day for general AU attendees. This morning I had the pleasure of taking a 3.5 hour class from the rendering master himself; Ted Boardman. Shortly I will be attending an industry session that should be quite interesting then off to finally take the ADT certification exam.

I will be uploading pictures this evening for those interested. For those already here be sure to check out the "Avatech/Vizdepot Rendering Challenge" at booth 800.

happy rendering...

Friday, November 26, 2004

AU Last Minute Items

In a few short hours we will be leaving and flying directly to Vegas (total flight time 5 1/2 hours). This will be Dylan's first flight and I hope it is pleasant. =) For those that have not been to AU before here is a list of last minute items you may want to consider:

1. Comfortable shoes. If you just bought a new pair of shoes this is not the place to try them out for the first time as you do an insane amount of walking. Unless you are like Lonnie and manage to gain full access to a segway. (really I am wishing I had thought of it first)

2. Lightweight jacket/sweater. The environment at AU is great and temperature usually warm while walking around. This is not when you need the sweater/jacket, this is needed when you are attending classes as they tend to run cool. Better to be prepared than frozen stiff.

3. Remember those hard choices you made choosing which classes you wanted to attend? Some classes may not be what you wanted/expected them to be and most instructors let you know at the very beginning what they will and will not be covering. Make sure to have a list of other backup classes you would like to attend and their locations in the building should your class not turn out to be what you expected. It never hurts to have more than 1 backup either.

4. Wi-Fi and anti-virus. - If you are bringing your own notebook to keep in touch and take advantage of the free wi-fi at the convention center make sure to update your anti-virus before arriving. Last year someone on an unsecured machined infected a great many unsuspecting people and closed the wi-fi service down for a day. There is also internet access via machines within the main hall.

5. Keep yourself well hydrated. This tip should begin the moment you read this, seriously.

6. When you arrive Vegas is a very enticing place to be and you are going to be around 4,000 other people who love cad as much as you do; pace yourself. There is nothing worse than letting your first night ruin the rest of your trip and learning.

The next posting will be in route to AU. We are staying at the MGM Grand for those we were unable to get in touch with earlier or you can call my mobile directly. We are looking forward to seeing you there and for those that could not make it there will be plenty of blogging going on from the event. No promises yet but Steve and I are working on some live video feeds from AU too!

The Incredibles

I have not had the opportunity to catch the CG film "The Incredibles", but hope to soon. I was reading this recently and according to an article in the latest issue of CGW, Pixar has been using 3ds max and Brazil r/s in the production of their latest Disney/Pixar film.

happy rendering...

Names you know

Many of you know the name Lynn Allen, but in case you have not heard she is now part of the blogging world.

Welcome and we are looking forward to seeing/reading all that Lynn has to share.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving

I think the title says it all. Today is a great day to count the many things in life we are all thankful for. Myself this year has brought forth growth in many areas from work to my personal life and I am thankful for each and everyone who has been apart of this great ride.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Utilizing the Watermark

If you are using Viz Render and/or Viz and adding your watermark using a graphics manipulation program (Photoshop, etc..) you may not be aware that these programs offer a way to add your watermark without the need for post-processing.

To accomplish this use the following steps:
1. For toolbar lovers go to:
Rendering toolbar > Render Scene > Render Scene dialog > Render panel > Watermark Parameters rollout

For menu lovers go to:
Rendering menu > Render > Render Scene dialog > Render panel > Watermark Parameters rollout

2. Once here choose the "Load..." button and browse to the image you wish to use as your watermark (choose from one of 18 file types).

3. To effectively use the watermark you will want to control the placement and opacity of the image. This can be done by using the checkbox and spinners in the Watermark Parameters. To better understand what each does use the following (from the help file):

Render - When turned on, renders the watermark image in your rendered image or animation. A watermark image must be loaded before it can be rendered. Default=on.

Load - Enables you to select an image to use as a watermark.

Blend value - Blends the watermark image with the rendered image. Values between 0 and 1 determine the opacity of the watermark placed in the rendered image or animation.

Image Top - Specifies the placement of the watermark image. The Image Top spinner enables you to determine the uppermost pixel in your rendered image or animation at which the watermark image will be rendered.

Image Left - Specifies the placement of the watermark image. The Image Left spinner enables you to determine the leftmost pixel in your rendered image or animation at which the watermark image will be rendered.

For those who may be using Max 6 or higher the watermark feature has been removed. You can of course create your own using Maxscript or download one from here. In particular I have been using this one from Bobo. The various blending mode options are a nice bonus too!

happy rendering...

AU - How About A Rendering Contest...

Insiders Tip: For those attending Autodesk University there will be a rendering contest sponsored by Avatech Solutions.


Avatech will invite participants to join in on a fun, interactive event - Avatech's Daily Rendering Contest during Autodesk University, Nov. 30 - Dec. 3, 2004 at MGM Grand Conference Center. Designers, engineers and architects who want to strut their stuff can participate in the contest at the Avatech Booth #800.


Four laptop workstations will be set up with Architectural, Civil or Mechanical models. Each participant has 20 minutes to complete an already created model. Basic models and a set of materials that they can pick from to place on the model are already included. They can use Viz Render with ADT or Civil 3D, Inventor, Revit or Viz to produce the renderings. Then they set up the lighting and camera and at the end of the 20 minutes they must stop the rendering process. At the most, there will be about 4 renderings created each ½ hour of the show.


Participants must fill out a submission form. Judges, who are instructors at the conference that specialize in visualization, will view the renderings each day and determine the daily winners. Each set of winners will be posted on the plasma screen the following day.


First of all, each participant gets a T-Shirt. Avatech will give away 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes daily, for a total of 9 prizes. Daily 1st place winners will receive MP3 players.


Participants should simply come to the Avatech booth and get rendering!

happy rendering...

AU Bound

Like many others in a few short days we are headed to Vegas for AU. I am looking foward to seeing many old friends, not to mention Lee, Robin, Shaan, Chris and a few other bloggers while there too. We will each be blogging about this event and sharing different tidbits for those of you who are unable to attend. There will be an ADT 2004 link in the photography section of the sidebar that I will be updating daily.

The "will render for food... " group (Shannon, Dylan and I) will be arriving and staying from Saturday to Saturday at the MGM Grand. For fun we recently got a few shirts printed up for AU that says "will render for food..." if you see this shirt feel free to come up and say hello.

See you at AU!

Master Viz Render

For those looking to learn more about Viz Render your wait is over. The book Mastering Viz Render by James Smell and Paul Aubin is now available.

There are a few sample items available for you to download and review; including a great water example tutorial (and cool night scene). While you are browsing the site be sure to look at the appendix information as there are some great goodies hidden here.

Also if you plan to be at AU Jim and Paul are co-teaching a Viz Render class as well as signing books at the Authors table on Tuesday evening.

happy rendering...

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Top 10 Cool Computing Utilities

One of the nice things about being in the consulting world fulltime is that your hardware/software needs to be up to date. I mention this because I have transitioned from the HP to a Dell Latitude D800.

With changes in hardware like this I tend to evaluate what software to install to keep the machine running lean and myself productive. Here are my favorite Top 10 computing utilities.

1. Microsoft XML Notepad - If you are looking for a great low cost solution for editing .xml files and keeping them well structured then look no further.

2. CutePDF Writer - Create PDF documents on the fly - for Free! If you just need to create a PDF, but do not need all the bells and whistles this is a great utility. This works for all windows based programs (CAD, Word, Excel, etc…)

3. JAlbum - I mentioned this program before and still find it a great asset in my graphic work. From photoalbums to FTP publishing and more.

4. NewzCrawler $24.95 - As you may know from my past blogging I love RSS feeds and this is a great way to access and organize them.

I tend to think of Screen and Web camera capture software as similar so here are two I use:
5a. Webcam32 $39.95 - This is a nice utility that not only can be used for still webcam images but also video push/pull via website or ftp. There is quite a bit that this software can do beyond that as well.

5b. ScreenCam - This is what I use to show screen captures on the blog window periodically of what I am working on. It has a great ftp upload feature and can be set on a timer and more.

6. Network Stumbler - If you work with wi-fi a good detector is invaluable. This is also great for sys admins to help find rogue networks. I typically fire this up to find available networks to websurf while traveling.

7. Skype - You have heard of VOIP, here is a name that is catching on. Basically it works like this if you want to call other people on their computers or phones you can use Skype to make calls all over the world (I recently had a conversation with a friend in the UK from the states free of charge).

Here are two invaluable programs from Techsmith . Great software at a great price:
8a. SnagIt - Capture screen images, text and printer output from your Windows PC. If you have used the windows print screen to get screen captures wait until you try this, I use this for documentation and/or just showing someone how a feature works

8b. Camtasia - Great for quickly creating professional-looking videos of your PC desktop activity. Anyone can Record and create a full-motion video tutorial or presentation, in real-time, and publish it in the format of their choice. No multimedia or programming experience necessary! This is great for tutorials or just to simply show someone how a feature works by seeing the exact steps you are taking to perform it.

9. Aquadock - I mentioned this one before but it is still super cool. If you are or know a Macintosh user you may have seen the Apple Docker. Here is a similar version but brought to the PC world. This one always makes people jaws drop when they see it in action the first time.

10. Konbalulator - I cannot begin to fully explain what this software full does as it can be anything. If you are looking to create your own widgets that is pretty easy to do via javascript and .xml too.

Though I ended up with more than 10 so far this is one (or two) of the coolest utilite(s) of them all:
11a. Desktop Sidebar - Much like the Konfabulator above this can be almost anything, but within the confines of a single bar. If you have seen longhorn you may recognize the concept. Though I have not been using this as long as the one below I have found it to be a good replacement as my personal favorite has been slowly progressing.

11b. SmartBar XP - Similar in many respects to the one above this has been my favorite for the past 6 months, but sadly development has slowed to a snails pace.

happy computing...

Thursday, November 11, 2004

MSN Search Beta

The MSN search service beta is now available for those wishing to test this out. I have only been playing with it a short time, but the results are drastically different from those of google (my usual search choice).

If you wish to test this out try the following:

Also if you are a blog/rss reader the following may interest you as well:

For those in other parts of the world try the following list:
Belgium - FR:
Belgium - NL:
Canada - EN:
Canada - FR:
New Zealand:
South Africa:
Switzerland - DE:
Switzerland - FR:
US - EN:
US - ES:

happy searching...

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Racing around in circles

With all the traveling I have been doing recently it was great to have a full weekend with the family and of course some time for fun! I have been trying to work in a trip to a local indoor go cart track I heard about for some racing fun and we managed to finally make it to American Indoor Carting on Saturday night.

If you remember riding go-carts as a child and are looking for a way to race (bump) others, this is about the closest most of us will get to Nascar. Since it was so much fun we are headed back this tuesday evening if you are interested in joining us on the track.

happy racing...

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Maxin Out

I have been working with the new release of Max 7 for the past two weeks. Though a majority of my work is architectural I have been sketching some characters over the past year in more detail and could never justify purchasing Character Studio, good news is that (as mentioned here) it is now included as part of the suite of tools inside of Max.

Speaking of characters there are a couple of cinematic reels that may want to check out (thanks to MaxUnderground for pointing these out):

Blur Studio's CG Cinematic for Relic's "Warhammer"

Blizzard Entertainment's CG Cinematic for "World of Warcraft"

happy rendering...

Monday, November 01, 2004

DWG on Linux

DWG for the LINUX community

As you know I work with Linux a bit here and there and ran across a beta for Linux that may interest those who are looking to use the power of cad on a Linux platform. Currently it looks like the supported flavors of Linux include Red Had, Suse and Java Desktop, downside is it currently only looks to work with Wine at this time.

My plate is full the next few weeks, but I hope to get to this soon.

happy cadding...

Back from Halloween

Back after a short hiatus these past two weeks and I hope your halloween was as much fun as ours.

More coming later...

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Wearing My Monitor

Surfing around for a similar device I ran across the following from Mitsubishi Electric:

Called the SCOPO, this prototype compact wearable display is designed for users who need to perform multiple tasks simultaneously. Users have full visual range once they take their eyes off the display, which is positioned in front, slightly below eye level so as not to obstruct normal vision.

There is an accompanying video (requires Real Player) and rumored to be $400.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Max 7 Shipping

It's official and shipping now. What is it? Well Max 7 of course... You can read the press release about it here.

happy rendering...

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Importance of File Naming - General To Specific Part I

One of the most often overlooked items when working with digital files is your choice and implementation of a File Naming scheme. Early in my career I was not so concerned with this, but overtime as I began working on larger and more complex projects the use of a good file naming system has made my life (and others working with me) much easier.

Why is this so important and why should you care? Good question. One of the most important reasons to consider the naming structure you use is to benefit both yourself and others later to access a particular file/folder to retrieve or use the data contained therein.

Since I tend to use ADT and VIZ more often than not I would be remiss if I did not include a related example to share in the context of this article. At the end of this consider how to use a similar approach for your daily work. For the cad world the UDS (and other standards) offer some guidelines for consistency in your drawing file naming but outside of cad there are no real guidelines for visualization files (from maps and materials to your working model files). Let's look at a typical approach:

Notice to proceed with work is given and off you go to start modeling. Along the way you will want to save this file. Now is the critical time and if you have no standard you should give some thought to your naming scheme at this point. If like most users you probably have a folder for your current job. Some may have a specific folder structure they tend to use from job to job. If so this is a great idea as this will help you know where to look for a particular file regardless of which job you are currently working on. Consistency here is the key and an item you should strive for.

So at this point we have a folder structure, perhaps similar to this:MyDrive:\\Projects\ProjectType\JobName\LocationIfApplicable\WorkingFiles

Using a similar structure allows us to keep all jobs in a consistent location (this applies for 1-2 users as well as larger working teams). Achieving a good naming scheme starts with the folder structure you use. It is important that the structure you choose/use allow for maximum flexibility not just for current projects but also future work/project types.

Once we have a working folder structure the next step is to deal with the files themselves. To accomplish a good naming system we should again consider flexibility, usability and simplicity of use the main goal. Let's discuss the main concept of this article:

Work GENERAL to SPECIFIC ex. General_Specific_MoreSpecific.FileExtension

As you can tell in the example above I tend to use the underscore (_) instead of using periods (.) in my naming strategy. While macintonsh, unix, linux, etc.. work well with periods if your workflow involves multiple platforms you will want to avoid periods to be as compatible as possible with each system. You would be wise to also avoid the use of spaces to separate your naming acronym as this will help when using scripts.

In part II of this article I will be giving more specific examples to help share this concept. In the meantime with a small bit of planning before and during your next project you can help to make your projects easier to work with for everyone involved by paying attention to your specific naming scheme.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

ADT Model Space View

For those utilizing named views (View>>Named Views...) in the Project Navigator within ADT there are several times that you may wish to see the boundary extents of each named view. To accomplish these there are a few ways to accomplish this:

1. Under View>>Named Views... you can select your named view and choose Edit Boundaries. This will allow you to specify a new rectangular boundary if you wish.

2. In the Project Navigator you can double click the named view to show the boundary (and the extents of the boundary) on your screen.

3. Use the undocumented command "showmodelspaceviews" to show all the named views in your drawing including their name (see example below).

happy cadding...

Monday, October 11, 2004

Error creating or saving AVI files in VIZ 2005

When attempting to save or create an AVI file from Autodesk VIZ, you receive an error indicating the program must be shutdown.

This update fixes the save to AVI file format feature for Autodesk VIZ 2005 English. The English update can also be applied to localized installs of Autodesk VIZ, but the AVI specific dialogs will appear in English. To install, download (here) and unzip avi.bmi to the \Autodesk Viz 2005\stdplugs folder.

happy rendering...

Thursday, October 07, 2004

AUGI Cad Camp

One of my main focuses is to help those in the cad and visualization industry to expand their working level knowledge to help them grow personally and professionally. Well in keeping with that spirit I received the following item from Richard Binning that will be a great help to many users:

For those interested there is a great regional learning and networking event called AUGI CAD Camp, which will take place in Jacksonville, Florida on November 9, 2004. AUGI CAD Camp is a one-day event that will provide a unique opportunity for you to highlight and promote your particular user group and recruit new members.

For you and other members of your staff, the educational benefits of attending AUGI CAD Camp are significant.

Choose from among three different classes in five sessions. This enables you and other members of your staff to plan their training strategies and target specific learning needs.

Get expert advice from Lynn Allen, Autodesk technical evangelist and friend to end users everywhere. Check out hot new technology from some of Autodesk’s top third-party software development partners in the exhibit area. Have plenty of time to network with peers and colleagues. A single day devoted solely to training and networking is sure to benefit you and every member of your staff, so be sure and spread the word.

We hope you’ll join us in Jacksonville! Simply visit our website at to learn more.

While you are there, be sure to register as slots are filling up fast!

If you have any questions, contact Richard Binning.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Viz Consolidation

For those who visit and use the discussion groups from Autodesk, they will be consolidating the VIZ release specific + Wishes discussion groups into one master discussion group on October 07, 2004. Autodesk VIZ Vizions will remain.

The new forum will be named: Autodesk VIZ (nntp:/autodesk.viz). If you are using NNTP (newsreader) you will need to resubscribe to the new forum in order to use.

happy rendering and heres to hoping for a smooth transition of the NG... =)

Monday, September 27, 2004


What an awesome and great week this has been and I have quite a bit of items to share/post. Currently I am taking a break from my vacation in upstate New York this week for a 2 day trip to DesMoines for some ADT consulting.

Along the drive to New York it has been nice to observe and use the many wi-fi spots that are available. It all started as we drove from Virginia in the beast, at one of the rest stops along the way we noticed a sign for free wi-fi access. Later along the way somewhere in PA. we decided to stop for a hotel close to the exit was 4 of the local hotels with advertisement for free wi-fi, which worked quite well.

While I am waiting to fly out of Syracuse the wi-fi coverage from T-Mobile is working great and consistent. I am looking to try out another option for remote areas too; any suggestions?

Besides the wi-fi availability I would be silly if I did not mention how beautiful it was to see the colors of the leaves changing from green still in Virginia to the many vibrant colors of autumn in New York. I will post a few pictures later in the week. Next trip I plan to do some hiking to a few large windmills that I just heard about.

Also if there is any cad and/or visualizaiton people in DesMoines who are interested in getting together to eat and chat on Tuesday evening (9/28/04) send me an e-mail with your name and telephone I can reach you at, should be a lot of fun. Last time I was there I met with a small group of cad users who wanted to discuss ADT workflow for construction documents, the topic of the evening is still open... =)

happy cadding...

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

ADT 2005 SP1

Autodesk Architectural Desktop 2005 Service Pack 1 is now out and ready for download (3.73mb).

This addresses quite a few items that you can read about here.

happy cadding...

Thursday, September 16, 2004

ADT - Live Vertical Sections

John Herridge, AIA of AEC CADCON, Inc. has a great tip to share over on Chris's blog about "Live Vertical Sections" and how he uses them for dissecting his BIM. Good examples to learn from for those of you just starting to leverage this tool.

Keep up the great work John!

happy cadding...

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Calculate With Ease

New Calculator PowerToy from Microsoft for Windows XP. This is an expanded calculator to what is already included (separate item); that allows everything from conversions to mathematical functions... I do like the new interface vs. the classic mode.

For the AEC industry this is still lacking in feet and inch input/output, but for others it may be a benefit. Me personally I still like my Feet/Inch/Fractional/Calculator. Have a good feet/inch calculator, that is software based, you like to use?

happy calculating...

Monday, September 13, 2004

Eastern Virginia AutoCAD Users Group - Meeting

Next meeting:
September 16, 2004, at Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas + Company (HEWV) Architectural Firm's "Knowledge Cafe", located at 120 Atlantic Street, in Norfolk, Va. between Waterside and MacArthur Mall.

6:30-6:50pm - Meet & Greet - We will start the meeting off with some food and drinks. This is a great chance to see old friends and meet other CAD users from area companies.

6:50-7:00pm - Introduction to the Group

7:00-7:30pm - Topic #1 - Product Spotlight - VisionREZ.
Ameri-CAD, Inc., the developer of VisionREZ, has been providing architectural services and software solutions on the AutoCAD platform since 1989. VisionREZ is an enhancement solution, available as a plug in or stand alone, for Autodesk Architectural Desktop, that accelerates the creation of construction documents for residential and light commercial applications. Draw it once! Draw in the familiar 2D plan view and simultaneously receive the benefits of a fully functional 3D Building Information Model (BIM) including design verification, complete construction documentation, graphic views and estimating schedules. Request a FREE 30-day evaluation copy today by visiting us online at:

7:30-7:40pm - Short Break - This is a chance to chat, eat, stretch and/or carry on a corner discussion.

7:45-8:30pm - Topic #2 - Autodesk Building Systems Part 3 - Ductwork & Piping - If you enjoyed the last 2 parts of this series this one will be no different as we complete this three part series with an understanding of the ins and outs of ductwork & piping including routing, system definitions and creating custom fittings.

8:30-8:35pm - Wrap Up, Prize Giveaways and Dismiss

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Archvision News - Updated Spray Script

This just in from Archvision:
Updated Spray Script for 3ds max 6 and Autodesk VIZ 2005

Many of you may have noticed that the Spray Script failed to work with 3ds max 6 and Autodesk VIZ 2005. Now thanks to Peter Brigham, of Sasaki Associates, a new version of the RPC Spray Script is available that returns this functionality to 3ds max 6 and Autodesk VIZ 2005.

On behalf of ArchVision and RPC enthusiasts around the world, we thank Peter for this helpful contribution. The Spray Script is an excellent tool for quickly distributing RPC Content onto large surface areas.

happy rendering...

Archvision News - XP SP2

Windows XP Service Pack 2 Information
ArchVision's Development team has detected an RPC Plug-in issue caused by installing Windows XP Service Pack 2. When Service Pack 2 is installed, network security is increased and network file access times increase significantly. Some users have experienced an increase in load times when utilizing content over a network. Although a solution is not yet available, users can transfer RPC Content to their local machines to eliminate this Windows XP snafu. Hang in there! We are working diligently to increase efficiency in this area.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Daylight System - Adding Locations

If you have ever used the daylight system in Viz Render, Viz and/or Max before you may have noticed there is a good selection of city/locations to choose from. This list does not include every possible location and if you have a site specific latitude/longitude that is required you can easily add additional locations to this list.

To accomplish this browse to the following folder (choose applicable software):

VIZ Render (ADT 2005):
C:\Documents and Settings\\Local Settings\Application Data\Autodesk\ADT 2005\enu\VIZRender\PLugCFG

VIZ 2005:
\Autodesk VIZ 2005\plugcfg

Max 6:

Open the sitename.txt file in the location(s) given above and add the specific latitude/longitude you desire. This will now be included in your list of locations.

Tip above based on a reminder from Jim Smell (look for Mastering Viz Render in stores later this year).

happy rendering...

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Quick ADT tip

For those ADT users who take advantage of the Project Navigator (which I think is a great start to drawing management) and notice the AutoCAD Sheet Set Manager coming up as well you will want to make yourself aware of the system variable: ssmautoopen

This controls whether AutoCAD displays the Sheet Set Manager when a drawing associated with a sheet set is opened. If you get this coming up everytime you are working with project drawings and wish only to see/use the PN; set the variable value to 0.

0 = Do not open the Sheet Set Manager automatically
1 = Open the Sheet Set Manager automatically

happy cadding...

Distributed Rendering Setup - Backburner


If you are a Viz 2005 or Max user who frequently creates animations and are not using backburner this is a good, short tutorial to help get you started.

happy rendering...

This beautiful sunset was shot during a layover in Detroit this past week. The colors were absolutely amazing. Posted by Hello

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Back in Action

Back from my cross country tour of traveling, vacation and consulting and now another year older (birthday was on Sept. 02). Thanks to my close friends who all conspired together to create a great surprise party at Cogans. You guys/gals are the best!

For those who have not been to the Vizdepot recently there is a new rendering challenge underway. It is called the VVC (short for Vizdepot Visualization Contests) and is organized into a series of six monthly contests. Each month the type of contest alternates focus between the Charrette and the Challenge. This is a great opportunity for beginners and experienced as well.

happy rendering...

Monday, August 23, 2004

Autodesk Architectural Studio - Discontinued

The development of Autodesk Architectural Studio appears to be discontinued according to this post by Jim Flanigan (project manager for the AAS development team). Having used this product for some time it is sad to see this go, it had the makings of a great prouduct.

Looks like SketchUp is about to get a few more users.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Skype Me

Steven mentioned Skype to me a few days ago and since then I have seen this linked from a few sites. I have an account I would like to test, if you are interested send me an e-mail and we can arrange the details to connect.

Skype System Requirements:
PC running Windows 2000 or XP
1 GHz processor
256 MB RAM
30 MB free space on your hard drive
Full duplex sound card (most sound cards made after 1998), headset
Cable, DSL or equivalent broadband connection to Internet

Notebook GPS - Update

I spent a bit more time researching online and getting feedback from a few users who use(d) this product (thanks again). Armed with this information I decided to purchase the software I was considering and did come comparison on-line pricing. On the off chance I headed off to my local tech shop to make a purchase. After browsing the store for a bit I managed to find two in-store locations that had the same product (one in a showcase, the other on a shelf) with different prices. The base price was the same as I could find on-line, the other $10 cheaper.

Well I had a trip with my Grandfather to take over the weekend and this came in handy to learn the ins/outs of using the software. My first impression is the software interface could use a bit of updating but I do like the features and ease of use. Right now I have the USB connection verison, but may upgrade to the Bluetooth version to get rid of the wires.

Here is an outline "route" of a trip we took this morning to the oceanfront for some fun in the surf:

Two other bits of information I learned from this;
1. I live 21.76 miles from my favorite spot at the Oceanfront.
2. The new suspension, lift and tires have thrown the odometer off by about 6 mph. =)

Friday, August 20, 2004

Notebook GPS

I have been doing quite a bit of traveling and consulting over the last few months and I am looking to add a Streets and Trips type of software to my mobile toolset. In looking at some of the options available; the affordability of GPS integration has caught my eye.

One product that I keep running across is the DeLORME Earthmate GPS Receiver. Before I purchase this I wanted to find someone (you) who may have one to share their experiences with me:

Are you happy with the product? Would you prefer a different GPS Receiver?

Are you satisified with the Street Atlas USA 2005 software?

Drop me an e-mail or use the comment option below. Thank you and I will keep you posted on which option I go with.

Presentation Assessement

Checking my inbox this morning I found an interesting link for Architects/Consultants and another for Clients to use as a checklist/review for presentations.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

EVAUG Meeting

EVAUG meeting: August 19, 2004, at Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas + Company (HEWV) Architectural Firm's "Knowledge Cafe", located at 120 Atlantic Street, in Norfolk, Va. between Waterside and MacArthur Mall.

6:30-6:50pm - Meet & Greet - We will start the meeting off with some food and drinks. This is a great chance to see old friends and meet other CAD users from area companies.

6:50-7:00pm - Introduction to the Group

7:00-7:30pm - Topic #1 - Architectural Desktop 2004/2005 Project Browser/Navigator - Have you ever wondered how to get started with the Project Navigator for new or more importantly existing projects. We will walk through an example of converting an existing legacy project to use the feature and toolset available within the project navigator as well as understand what Constructs, Elements, Views and Sheets really are.

7:30-7:40pm - Short Break - This is a chance to chat, eat, stretch and/or carry on a corner discussion.

7:45-8:30pm - Topic #2 - Building Systems - Part 2 of a 3 part series - The MvPart Builder Unleashed - A presentation detailing the steps of creating and editing custom equipment and parts.

8:30-8:35pm - Wrap Up, Prize Giveaways and Dismiss

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Shrek on CAD

You know cad is a lot like onions, they both have layers. OK so I am no Lynn Allen, but fresh from a cruise and not missing a beat she was at the Design Expo today and had numerous great tips to share with the attendees.

What a great event to learn some helpful tips and get to meet so many talented people.

Thanks to Pete for snapping this shot.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Lynn Allen

For those cad users in the Hampton Roads area, Lynn Allen will be here for the Autodesk Design Expo tomorrow. Myself and the rest of the EVAUG staff will be in attendance and hope you can join us as well:

Autodesk Design Expo - August 10, 2004.
This event will be hosted at the Virginia Beach Advanced Technology Center
1800 College Crescent, Virginia Beach (next to Virginia Beach-TCC Campus)
For directions, log ono:

8:00 - 8:30 a.m. Registration and Continental Breakfast
8:30 - 10:00 a.m. General Session featuring Lynn Allen
10:00 - 10:15 a.m. Break
10:15 - 12:00 p.m. Breakout Sessions
Autodesk Solutions for Architects
Autodesk Solutions for Building Engineers
Civil, Mapping and Infrastructure Management

Currently we have a table setup courtesy of Inlet Technologies. If you plan to be there keep an eye out for us and come say hello.

Brain Dumps

If you are a user of ADT you have probably heard of the infamous brain dumps before. If not basically the goal of these can be summed up in the following words from Jim Awe:

"Given the wide range of opinions expressed on this newsgroup about ADT, I thought it might be useful for someone who was intimately involved in the project to give a "Philosophical Brain Dump" of what we have attempted to do with version 1 and why. Please don't view this as an "official" Autodesk statement or as any kind of effort to avoid the heat that is being leveled against ADT in its initial release. It is merely an effort to increase the understanding of where things are at the present and to help you make your evaluations with a little more information... that I'm sure wasn't included in the manuals :-)"

These are great collections of information and I highly recommend reading through them for a deeper understanding of ADT. In the past the brain dumps have been housed in a few different locations (Chris Yanchar, Rob Starz and myself) to ensure these items were available to the general public and not lost in the shuffle. Well now thanks to Chris (Between the Walls) the entire collection is now available here. It is nice to see these housed in one central location.

Funny side note: Before I met Chris personally at AU a few years back I knew his name from the Brain Dumps he hosted on his personal website. After our short introduction to each other my first comment was "Hey your the brain dumps guy...". ;) Ok well may be it is funnier to me, but many thanks to Chris for being so helpful to fellow ADT users and helping to make this a better product.

happy cadding...

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Photoshop Brushes

Most people in the visualization industry tend to use some kind of graphics manipulation program (Photoshop, Painter, Gimp, etc...) for numerous tasks. Myself I tend to use Photoshop as my choice of software, if like me you find yourself wishing for a larger selection of brushes why not create your own? Lack of knowledge? experience? no more here is a good tutorial, from Rickard Johansson hosted by 3DTotal, explaining how to create custom brushes that should get you started.

happy photoshopping...

Frozen Cameras

Here is a good tip from Miker the Biker regarding disappearing cameras in VIZ.

It's always the little things...

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Project Navigator and Existing Projects

For those of you learning to use the ADT Project Navigator (strongly encouraged) one of the first things you may notice is that upon installation of ADT you probably have older projects that still need work to be completed (often referred to as legacy projects). Well no need to give up on the ADT PN just yet, depending on how far along you are in the project you can still make use of the PN.

Before we go any further for any drawings created with ADT and the PN you will have a corresponding .xml file created (visible using windows explorer); do not delete any of the .xml files.

If you have a project that is 90% complete, converting this to use the PN would probably not be advantageous, but if your project is in the early to middle stage you stand a good chance of being able to convert the project in a usable one with the PN. The ADT team has done a great job of providing a few ways to help make this possible. Let's look at two options to turn existing base drawings into Constructs and Elements:

Create a new project using the Project Browser and set it current.

If you open each file individually, you have the option in the PN to right click the construct and/or element category and choose the "Save Current Dwg as _" option. This will save a copy of the drawing to the project location in either the Construct or Element folder, depending upon which was chosen.

The method above works well, but is time consuming. Let's look at one of my personal favorites and use Windows Explorer to help make this a more streamlined process.

Open Windows Explorer and place beside your ADT session. Using a drag and drop we can easily transfer information from one to the other and combining this with some useful key combinations will give us even more options. Here are a few examples of how to use this method successfully:

1. If you drag the file from WE into the PN and release this will move the file to this location.

2. If you use the Ctrl key and drag the file from WE into the PN and release this will create a copy of the file in this location as a construct or element depending upon where you release it.

3. If you use the Alt key and drag the file from WE into the PN and release this will create a link to the file in the original location but accessible from the PN (the graphic will show a small shortcut icon on it)

In all three methods above you have the option of changing the name and description for the file(s), if this is a construct you also get the option of choosing which Level and Division you wish for this to correspond with.

One additional tip; when using windows explorer you can drag an entire directory to the PN and it will create a new category with the files converted to either a Construct or Element depending upon which was selected. From experience make sure your files are not read-only.

For those who would like to use the PN but find legacy projects hindering that effort, this may help to get you started.

Happy cadding...

Rhino and Brazil

This looks interesting for Rhino users...

Seattle — July 30, 2004 — Robert McNeel & Associates and SplutterFish LLC announced today that they are collaborating to bring the Brazil Rendering System to Rhino users. The new Brazil 2.0 r/s will be integrated into Rhino using the latest technology from both McNeel and SplutterFish. Details...

Though I have not used Rhino for any production work, I do tend to use Brazil quite often.

happy rendering...

Monday, August 02, 2004

Programming Lite

For those of you out there who dabble with programming or would like to check out the Visual Studio 2005 Express Beta from the Microsoft Labs. This is a lightweight version of Visual Studio and includes a smaller limited toolset. Includes, Visual Basic, Visual C#, Visual C++, Visual J#, Visual Web Dev and SQL Server examples.

Over the last 2 months I have found myself programming less and less and have not had the chance to play with this in conjunction with any of the Autodesk products. If you have been using/testing them together (either successfully or not) drop me an e-mail, I would be curious about your experiences.

happy programming...

Bigger Beast

Another weekend gone...

Skirting around the rain this past one was great and a special thanks to the guys at Pro Trucks who added a 4" suspension lift, rims and tires to the Beast. Total height change 8"+.

The Beast was almost put out to pasture as we were checking out other vehicles due to a few minor items we were not happy with. The biggest issue was the way the vehicle rode, going over bumps was a roller coaster, thanks to the new suspension and additional work this has all been smoothed out.

happy driving...

Autodesk University 2004

As you may have heard from Autodesk, Shaan, Lee, Robin and a few others; AU 2004 is scheduled to take place from November 30 – December 03, 2004 and the ADN/ATC portion of the conference will be held on November 29, 2004.

For subscription members you should have received an e-mail from Autodesk last week for early sign-up. Why early sign-up? There are several labs that are offered (hands-on computer training) that fill up fast, so if you have not signed up yet be sure to do so soon.

AU is a great learning and networking event as you get some of the most knowledgeable speakers/presenters in the industry. I have attended the past two years and the level of knowledge and people you get to meet/interact with is incredible!

Lee has some great links including maps of the MGM Grand and more available here and here.

We will be there again this year and are looking forward seeing new and old friends. If you plan to be there or have any great stories from AU send me an e-mail.

happy cadding...

3DS Max 7

Well the boys and girls over at Maxunderground have a press release from Discreet that shares some information about the upcoming release of 3DS Max 7 (shipping this fall). There are a few interesting features that should be of benefit to quite a few users.

happy rendering...

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Desktop Capture

The desktop screen capture in the sidebar is courtesy of a fun free utility I have been playing with called SCWebcam.  Think of this as a combination of Snag-it and a webcam but for your computer desktop. 

Here are a couple of the listed features that I find very useful:
  • Automatic capture and FTP Upload with configurable timer
  • Improved configuration interface, and far more human-readable error messages
  • Saves image as JPG or PNG with variable quality, size, and thumbnail functionality. Choice of several image resize engines to balance quality with speed, and image can be sized by percentage or absolute pixel size
  • Optionally minimizes to the system tray, with visible countdown
  • Detects screen saver, locked workstation, and logoff/shutdown, and can upload an 'offline' image at those times
  • Capture can run in several reduced priority modes to minimize the impact to your system - good for games!
  • Autorun and Autostart available through configuration switches
  • Text caption with selectable font, color and location
  • Ability to capture the Desktop (including translucent windows), only the Active Window, and/or Still Video Frames from a Video-For-Windows compliant webcam or other capture device (such as TV card)
  • Ability to run in local mode without FTP upload step
  • Built-in WWW server - serve your desktop or even a small web page right from your own PC!
  • Full scripting system allows complete flexibility over the image processing and upload steps. Several sample scripts are provided for those not interested in writing their own.

    I plan to keep the images updating a few times daily and the webcam will be coming back soon...

Tuesday, July 27, 2004


This is a quick tip for those who wish to use Mental Ray materials in VIZ 2005. 

In order to take advantage of using the Mental Ray materials from the browswer you must enable the mental ray extension (off by default). 

To enable this go to the Customize>>Preferences... menu, mental ray tab and check the following:

happy rendering...

Monday, July 26, 2004

Walking woes

Bad combination does this make:
1 pair new shoes (worn 3 days)
1 very rainy day
1 soccer match without substitutes

results = blisters with lacerations the size of silver dollars on both heels...

I will spare you the picture(s) but the skin got me thinking about the many different textures skin can take on.  Character modeling and rendering has so many additional items to worry about than straight architectural modeling and rendering...

And for your blister care try the following link.

Monday, July 19, 2004

AutoCAD Blocks

Do you use acad blocks? Do you use the same blocks in multiple drawings? Ever need to update the blocks?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions then this posting is for you. I recently gave a refresher/updated materials course for a few AutoCAD users and part of this involved different methods of using blocks and redefining existing definitions in different drawings. If you need to accomplish this here are a few examples of ways to accomplish this:

1. The ability to have a block in a drawing and manipulate the block(s) by redefining/changing all instances can be done with the refedit command, or by recreating the block and using the same block name. This will update all the blocks in the current drawing of the same name.

2. If you are defining your linework for an object to become a block in an external file you can use the "insert" command with the browse option to choose the external file to override blocks in your drawing of the same name. If this is not working the most likely issue is that the file was wblocked out as a block to a file of the same name. If so explode the block in the external file to simple linework and purge the block from this drawing and save the file. The insert command>>browse option will now insert the file as desired.

3. If you are wblocking information out to an external file or block library as blocks and not linework you can use DesignCenter (Ctrl + 2) to redefine blocks in your drawing. To accomplish this open DesignCenter and browse using the folder tab to the file and expand the sub-files and select the blocks option. Nowright click the block you wish to redefine in your current file and choose "Redefine only" to update the block definition. You can use the "Ctrl + Tab" and/or "Ctrl + Shift + Tab" key combinations to cycle through open drawings and repeat as needed.

4. Of course for those of you who would rather type, script or use lisp you can still use the alternative -insert with the = option (-insert , ExistingBlockname=path of drawing and FileName, choose "yes" to redefine the existing blocks in the drawing).
Example -insert, MyBlock=C:\WorkingFiles\MyBlock.dwg which will replace all instances of the block "MyBlock" with the information from the drawing "MyBlock.dwg". This is very similar to Step 2 above and has the same limitations of requiring linework only in this file.

*5. Of course you could always use a small bit of lisp code to swap one block out for another, courtesy of David.

(princ "\n SWAPBLK")
(setvar "cmdecho" 0)
(setvar "osmode" 0)
(prompt "\nSelect blocks to be swapped to another:")
(setq SELECTIONSET (ssget) COUNT 0)
(setq NBLK (getstring "\nName of swapping block:"))
(repeat (sslength SELECTIONSET)
(setq ELIST (entget BLOCK))
(setq ELIST (subst (cons 2 NBLK)(assoc 2 ELIST) ELIST))
(entmod ELIST)
(entupd BLOCK)
(setq COUNT (+ COUNT 1))
(princ "\nSWAPBLK loaded.")

This should help you to understand a few of the many ways to use blocks more effectively in AutoCAD.

Happy cadding...

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

EVAUG - July Meeting

The Eastern Virginia AutoCAD Users Group next meeting will be July 14, 2004.


6:30-6:50pm - Meet & Greet - We will start the meeting off with some food and drinks. This is a great chance to see old friends and meet other CAD users from area companies.

6:50-7:00pm - Introduction to the Group

7:00-7:30pm - Topic #1 - AutoCAD 2004/2005 - Tool Palettes- You may have seen this at the demo's, or seen others using it but wondered how the tool palettes work and how you can customize and use them to their full potential. If so then this session is for you.

7:30-7:40pm - Short Break - This is a chance to chat, eat, stretch and/or carry on a corner discussion.

7:45-8:30pm - Topic #2 - Building Systems - Part 1 of a 3 part series. This first session is a presentation highlighting the major aspects of the Autodesk Building Systems program

8:30-8:35pm - Wrap Up, Prize Giveaways and Dismiss

Thanks to everyone who supports and attends these meetings, the EVAUG would not continue to grow in its current direction without your active participation.

Task Manager

I mentioned many months back a few products I use for time management. With most of the consulting and freelance work I do MS Project would be way overkill as a simple spread sheet would suffice.

Creating a task list is simple and in only minutes each day allows you to look back to see exactly where your time has gone. If you do rendering or animations, even part time, and are not tracking exactly how much time you are spending on each task you should really consider this step to accurately gauge how much time similar jobs will really take. More on this in a future post...

Behind the scenes I have been using a great product from Safari Software called Masterlist.

They are getting ready to release Masterlist Professional and it is in beta right now. If you are interested in testing this product, visit this section of the site.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Books and learning

As you have probably noticed by now I have have been updating the look of the blog, more to come over time like all great things. In doing this I have also added a link to the side called "reading" to track my choices and selections in reading material.

Speaking of books I received a brown wrapper package from Thomson Distribution Center that contained Illustrated AutoCAD 2005 Quick Reference, unfortunately the package only contained the book and nothing else.

I have an older illustrated guide from Ralph(R-12 Dos era) that was/is a great resource and after years of use is tattered and torn, this new one will make a great updated resource. To the individual(s) who sent this, thank you.

happy reading...

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Animation School...

I mentioned it briefly before but here is a little more indepth information about Animation Mentor.

Coming soon...

Monday, July 05, 2004

Input this...

As you know I love testing, using and playing with a host of different technology devices as $$$ permits (hint to companies looking for someone to test/play with cool gadgets, e-mail me). =)

Well the floppy keyboard has been replaced by a standard keyboard and as far as input devices go I have used everything from tablets (3 button - 16 button pucks), numerous roller/track ball input devices, pen input, etc... Well a buddy recently brought me back an gift from the AIA show in Chicago, an "Autodesk Mini Optical Mouse", complete with a roller wheel and more...

The image below shows a few of the devices I use on a typical basis (Wacom tablet, Microsoft trackball). I threw my hand in there for a scale comparison to show the size of the mini-mouse (tiny device on the left).

Well at first I laughed when LC gave it to me, but after his persistance in trying to get me to use it for 2 hours I finally gave in. The first 30 minutes was strange as it is quite small, but after another hour of working I did not notice the size being an issue. Now a week + later I just realized that the only other input devices I have used is my tablet for sketching/graphic touch-up. The other cool item about this device is that it has a retractable cord (see the silver item at the top of the picture), this also detaches completely from the mouse for storage/travel too.

I checked the Autodesk Store, but cannot find these for sale anywhere. If you have a few and would like to get rid of them or know where I can get more for my LUG, drop me an e-mail.

happy inputting...

Thursday, July 01, 2004

CAD Background Fun

Ran across this cool tip from CAD Forum. Not only gradients but also images...

Thanks to Dylan for being my cad background for this example... =)

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

ADT Named Views & Layers

As a quick note for those using ADT 2005 and named views. If you create your views early on in your project you may notice that if you edit a named views boundary later that some of the layers will be frozen.

To fix this use the "Update Layers" button in the views dialogue box as shown in the figure below.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

ADT 2005 Installation Update

For those interested the agenda for the next two days is focusing on the following items:

1. Updating custom Design Center content. Really easy and straighforward. I particulary like the directory and content structure (introduced in 2004) from earlier versions as this makes much more sense. My custom stuff fits perfectly in these modules with only a few additional sub-directories.

2. Migrating existing property set definitions from an older release to work seamlessly with 2005. This is the bulk of the work to ensure that legacy projects migrate seamlessly into the new release.

With this of course are all the tags, schedules and more. One item I am looking forward to being able to finally take advantage of is the many improvements/additions to PSD's such as Formula properties, Location properties, Classification properties, Material properties and of course Project properties too…

Combining PSD’s with scheduling and classifications make this an incredible way to report/return needed data in many forms. If you are not sure what these are or how they work and would like to see some examples posted here let me know.

This is powerful stuff...

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Computing Life

What a great weekend... Besides cleaning up the studio and rearranging the space layout, we managed to take an early morning walk with Dylan and our pup along the oceanfront. This afternoon/evening gave me a bit more time to take care of a few computing related needs.

All the items I have been working on this evening (web page development, documents, spreadsheets, newsgroups, web surfing, instant messaging, etc...) have all been possible through Linux. Finally got around to setting up my e-mail using Evolution too... Still have lots more to learn but Linux Online is a great resource as well as the Linux Documentation Project.

happy computing (whatever OS your using)... =)

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Rendering and learning

As I am sure you are aware the internet has and continues to offer more information on a wide range of topics. On the rendering side of things a few sites that have caught my eye recently include:

Animation Meat! - a great site for understanding traditional animation with a large number of notes and more from professional animators and studios.

Animation World Network - This is a great resource to find out what is going on in the animation industry.

Pixel Corps - Great information, classes and more. This site covers a broad range of digital media.

Animation Mentor - while not fully released yet this looks like a promising site to stay tuned for. Sign up on the site to be notified when the mentoring goes live.

Pluginz - Digital tools for digital artists. This is a great resource if you are looking for third party plug-ins and more.

And of course if you are a Viz user be sure to check out Vizdepot for free tutorials, forums and more. Also be sure to check out the recent banners and links Steven posted too.

As you can tell by the range of items mentioned above I have been doing some video/animation work recently. I love working with digital media. One phase that I have not yet explored but hope to soon is how to shoot/work with a green screen. More to come on this soon...

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