With a creative rather than technical background, Starkey found a great fit with the intuitive interface of DesignWorkshop. Working directly in three dimensions took a little getting used to, but the ease with which she was able to alternate between views and manipulate objects in 3D helped to speed up the learning process. She found she couldn't wait to get objects modeled so she could see how they looked when rendered with textures and shadow casting.
DesignWorkshop's same click-and-drag interface is available for both Macintosh and Windows platforms and for a range of applications from a downloadable, upgradeable free version for the novice or hobbyist to production modeling and photorealistic rendering for the design professional.
DesignWorkshop integrates smoothly with all the major high-end CAD, rendering, and animation systems, including Lightscape, LightWorks, Art*lantis, and Radiance. The last of these is available as RenderCity!, a Web-based service from Artifice.
Adding More Realism
For the first few months, Starkey used DesignWorkshop for final rendering as well as for modeling but found herself doing further editing in Photoshop because she wasn't getting the photorealistic look she was seeking. Then, with a rapidly approaching deadline, she looked for a compatible renderer to use on a project with a lot of glass for which she wanted reflections, transparency, and more control over lighting.
She selected Art*lantis as a rendering tool for the same reasons she had chosen DesignWorkshop: its user-friendly interface and short time to mastery. She liked the ability to see changes in textures and lights in real time, as well as the control it offered her over the textures she had created.
Starkey finds Art*lantis fast, powerful, and accessible, yet simple and flexible. The renderer's lighting model features global illumination, integrating the multiple effects of light re-bounced by the surrounding objects. Thus, each element of a 3D scene affects the color and brightness of other elements, resulting in the photorealistic result.
She finds DesignWorkshop and Art*lantis to be a good combination for several reasons. Both are straightforward and easy to use, and although functions can be performed mathematically, they can just as easily be adjusted visually. That frees the artist to concentrate on product rather than process.
Moreover, Starkey says, the two systems together offer the same quality as packages costing thousands of dollars more and requiring more time to learn. (Abvent also offers a demo version of its software.)
She speaks highly of the companies' technical support. For her, a "nontechnical artist," the responsive support from both companies has been essential when she's trying to meet deadlines. She has also found the DesignWorkshop 3D Forum and User Gallery to be invaluable in getting good advice from other users.
Starkey's firm uses Windows and Macintosh computers, and they have had no problem using both DesignWorkshop and Art*lantis on both platforms. She reports that some things seem to work better (or faster) in Windows and others work better on the Mac, which probably has as much to do with the way her systems are configured as with the different platforms.
To transfer models created in DesignWorkshop into Art*lantis for rendering, Starkey typically exports the model from DesignWorkshop in triangluated 3D DXF format, with the objects put into DXF layers by their material. This approach speeds the assignment of textures in Art*lantis, and provides for an efficient updating process if the model is changed during the rendering phase of a project.
The Firm's Work
One of Starkey's big clients is Soundfold, a company that fabricates and installs acoustical wall panels for commercial and residential projects. After receiving a drawing file and color and material selection from the customer, Starkey uses DesignWorkshop and Art*lantis to create a panel design. She uses Art*lantis with textures she's created in Photoshop to simulate commonly used fabrics, such as velvet and satin. Later, her firm generates dimensioned drawings in 2D CAD.
Soundfold shows their customer the photorealistic renderings of different perspectives and color options and uses the drawings for estimating and fabrication. Starkey says there is a big difference between drawing a flat design in 2D and using 3D to see what looks best from different perspectives. Views in 3D provide the client a better sense of balance in colors and materials.
For the past six years, Starkey has been producing renderings for the local Home Builders Association-sponsored home shows. The project that used to take four to six weeks of drawing and painting now takes only one to two.
She has also found that the DesignWorkshop/ Art*lantis combination can be effective in creating proposals because the client can make changes to the model throughout development and have more influence over which views are presented. This flexibility is especially important when the client provides rough plans or no plans at all, just ideas.
One current project nicely summarizes the range capabilities of DesignWorkshop and Art*lantis working together. For a proposed museum, the finished presentation will consist of three to five boards, a six-page full-color handout, and a CD-ROM containing animations. The project takes full advantage of the palette of tools for architectural rendering.
Elizabeth Bollinger is a professor at the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, University of Houston, in Houston, Texas.
Note: DesignWorkshop is a product of Artifice, Inc., publisher of ArchitectureWeek.