The high-desert luxury resort of El Monte Sagrado, in Taos, New Mexico has a variety of sustainable systems, which we explain via an interactive Flash demonstration and a QuickTime movie. We created these presentation pieces simultaneously using a 3ds Max model combining the visual aspects of the resort and its infrastructure.
We composited renderings and animations of the 3D model into live photographs and video of the completed resorts, with technical diagrams, interviews, and stock footage. We combined stills from the animation and explanatory diagrams created in 3ds Max to create an interactive Flash presentation to educate resort visitors about the "Living Systems" operation.
One presentation, for instance, is the "Living Machine Biolarium Space," which explains an integrated photovoltaic roof system and a ground loop heat exchange system that heats and cools by exchanging heat with the earth.
Also featured is an integrated water management system for stormwater collection and reuse, a wastewater reclamation and irrigation reuse system, and on-site Curoxin (ClO2) water disinfection. All these systems are effectively explained using our collection of presentation tools.
Interacting with Understanding
Instead of attempting to represent the project in a photorealistic manner, we created a general massing model of El Monte Sagrado and its surrounding site to be used as a backdrop for the systems presentation.
To do this, we converted topographic data into an accurate 3D model in 3ds Max and created a massing model from AutoCAD drawings. We imported site systems information from AutoCAD to 3ds Max. There, we gave the system components shape and color and aligned them with site contours and massing elements.
We animated water flows and created various renderings — both solid ray-traced and wireframe. To augment the 3D model renderings, we used a digital movie camera to take video of the site and to capture time-lapse footage of the weather as it changed over several days.
In addition, we collected stock footage from various sources to illustrate microscopic biological functions, and we recorded interviews with experts describing the functioning of the site systems.
Using Macromedia Flash, we combined this diverse and comprehensive footage as the underlying data for an interactive presentation, which can be used by an individual or presented to a group.
The flexibly formatted presentation features in-depth descriptions of sustainable site systems for the entire resort. Menu options guide users to a quick overview of the El Monte Sagrado systems and to more detailed analyses complete with graphic and textual descriptions of each system.
As a companion to the Flash tour, a three-minute QuickTime movie goes into more depth, showing time-lapse video of the site, animating water flows and system processes, and providing interviews with designers. We created this presentation using AutoCAD, 3ds Max, various graphics applications, and video compilation software.
We compiled and edited the rendered animations, stock footage, site stills, site animations, and interviews using After Effects and exported the final QuickTime movie to CD for presentation and distribution.
The advantage of the QuickTime movie is that it provides a comprehensive overview of the project in a captivating yet sequential fashion. In contrast, the Flash animation is valuable because it is flexible — it can be called on to present a single topic or the entire project.
Insights gleaned using these tools for the El Monte Sagrado Flash presentation and Quicktime movie have been helpful in other projects. Our team has presented several similar projects at various scales of complexity, in each case effectively combining 3D modeling and animation with live video footage via digital production tools.
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Ethan Timm is an architectural designer at Living Designs Group, LLC in Taos, New Mexico. LDG is a consulting and design firm specializing in the holistic integration of water, energy, and green building systems.