Boot Camp and Phases

Second day of training wrapped up.  I always get a bit panicky, looking over my notes and thinking that there is NO POSSIBLE WAY that I can cover all the material.  But we always seem to make it through.

Each time I do the class, I find myself adjusting the emphasis on certain sections.  With the economy in its current state (opposite of “awesome”), our firm has a larger percentage of renovation work than we typically have in the past.  In previous classes, day 3 of training has had a 20 minute discussion of the phasing available in Revit: “Hey, look that each element has a phase.  Neat?  Neat.  And, no, that demolish button doesn’t mean delete.  DELETE means delete.”  Tomorrow I intend to spend at least an hour on it.

We have not seen much need to go beyond the standard “Existing” and “New” phases.  Mainly the way the phase filters forces us to display things pretty much exclusively based on chronology, we just weren’t able to produce the documents we had expected.  There are workarounds, but overall, I would love to see a revamp of the phase filter system.  Instead of seeing it as “now” or “prior”, I would like each phase filter to be able to control the different phases and phase states individually.  Basically, the chart would get more columns based on the phases in the project.  Then one could select on, off or some override settings for that phase and state.

Ah, to dream.

And while I’m dreaming, a root beer float would be great right about now.

Time for Teaching

Tomorrow I’m starting three days of training for some of our architects and architectural staff on Revit Architecture.  I’ll be teaching, as I’m doing once a month now.  It’s surprising how exhausted you can get of just standing/sitting and talking for the whole day.  I am pretty much wiped when 5:00 comes around at the end of teaching day.  I know, I know.  Your heart breaks for me.

We are lining folks up to get trained and will start their first project in Revit within two weeks of training.  Most of these folks are coming from CADD, some from Sketchup (ahhh… my anger toward Sketchup in a firm’s design and documentation process will be laid out in a later post).  The shift is so drastic, that we want to make sure they are trained and then POW! jump into a Revit project.  We give plenty of support as they start working, but we have absolutely found that Revit (or our other CADD platforms for that matter) is not like riding a bike.  We will have spent significant resources getting these people trained and if they don’t use the software, they forget it.  And these are smart people.  The process is just so different from what they are used to, you need to nurture the part of their brain that it gets plugged into.

I enjoy getting the feedback and the conversations and ideas from the class.  What I don’t like is halfway through the third day when their eyes are all glazing over and they don’t answer any questions.  I don’t blame them.  I would go groggy too, if I had to sit and listen to me speak for 8 hours straight.

I also enjoy seeing the light-bulb click on for some of them.  Working in a BIM production cycle is a drastic change.  I give most of the folks three weeks of using the software before the light bulb goes on and the realization that “hey, this is cool.”  A few of the folks have the switch thrown during the class.  They’ll be peering into their monitors and a smile will slowly cross their face.

“Welcome to the party,” I think.  “We’re glad to have you along.”

Rotated Views

Sometimes you are going to find yourself in a situation where, darn it, you want that plan rotated.  Maybe you are working on an area of your design where the walls are not orthogonal to the project cardinal points. 

Actually, that’s probably about the only reason for a sane person to rotate a view.

This is not Project North vs. True North.  You can very easily tell a plan view to change orientation to True North in Revit.


That’s easy.  But let’s say my view is set to Project North, and my plan is looking like this…

Please don't check for code
Please don't check for code

I want to do a callout plan, but I want that view to be “parallel” to the walls.  There are two ways to do this.  First off, I need to drop my callout box on the view.

Not parallel
Not parallel

From here you can select the border of the callout, and simply use the ROTATE tool to rotate it to the angle you want.  And as we know, in Revit the border of the callout is exactly what the border of the called out view will be.

After rotate
After rotate

That’s a piece of cake.  Nice, intuitive, what you see is what you get kind of thing.  But let’s say the view you want to rotate is NOT in a callout.  This is where the second method comes in. 

The first thing is to make sure your CROP REGION is visible in the view you need to rotate.

Tiny yellow light-bulb?  Check
Tiny yellow light-bulb? Check

Then, select the crop region border, and use the rotate tool on it.


Now your entire view will be rotated, and you can work “orthogonally” based on the new orientation.

Please note some things:

  • This will NOT change your Project North or True North.
  • As far as I can tell there is no way to determine if a view has been “rotated” thusly.
  • For good model management, including the bullet above, it is recommended that you duplicate any view and rename prior to rotating.  Put a suffix on it like ” – ROTATED”.
  • It’s probably my brain, but I always seem to want to rotate the wrong way, when using the rotate crop boundary method.  Have your hand over the CTRL-Z for a quick undo!
  • The rotate callout will work with any view type (plan, elevation, section).  The rotate boundary will work on plans and sections, not elevations.  Although you get some WEIRD results when rotating sections.

So, spin away!

Bad Pun? Worst Pun

So I thought I would take a stab at the rendering side of things for an easy Sunday morning.  It’s Super Bowl day and I am an idiot, so I give you…


Where are the chips?
Where are the chips?

The materials dialog has gotten an upgrade from 2008, and it is using the same back-end as Max now.  So if you are familiar with Max, it should be a piece of cake.  I am not familiar with Max, beyond a courteous “hello” to each other as we pass in the hall.

Modeling the bowl was easy.  Since this was a quick test, I just made a generic model in-place family.  A simple revolve of a hand sketched shape, and the bowl was done.

Then it was onto the material.  I found a nice cheap looking white plastic and used that as the base.  I started a new material based on the plastic, and modified the RENDER APPEARANCE of the new material.


I added the IMAGE FILE of my recently downloaded logo (thanks, Google Images!)  Started to look OK.  But it needed some depth.

I then took the original file into Photoshop and took a stab at making a bump map.  A bump map is imply a black and white graphic that will add “depth” to the rendered material.  Black means low and white means high.  Grays are the in betweens.


I added this to the FINISH BUMP of the material, noting that there is also a BUMP PATTERN listed below it, with the same potential settings.  The help file was a little vague on what the differences were, so that is something to add to the research list.

I applied that material to my bowl and did a render.


Something was clearly wrong.  There is no ways I would have eaten my Saturday morning cartoon cereal out of a bowl with upside-down S logos.  Revit was applying the material in one quick swipe over the entire bowl, starting at the outside and “draping” it over the whole thing.  I had upside-down “S’es”.  Or, “S’s”.  Um… The “S” was upside-down.

Luckily, the materials dialog box allows for rotation.  Obviously, if I were to simply rotate the material, then the outside would be upside-down, and that would be wrong as well.  I created another material and rotated the IMAGE FILE and FINISH BUMP.  I cheated a little and opened the in-place family and simply did a paint bucket of the material on the inside face of the bowl (the rest had been applied by and instance parameter).

The whole process took about 15 minutes.   I seriously think that it took me longer to write this post.

I’ve always like the render engine in Revit ’09.  It comes across with very nice results without much tweakage.  I definitely would put some more TLC into this thing if it were going to go in front of a client (we don’t have that many clients requesting comic book inspired table settings), but it’s nice to know that the basic steps for creating and modifying materials are not that difficult.  We have been trying to make sure all our default template materials have the corret rendering information assigned to them.  That way, the designers can click a few buttons and get a very reasonable rendering to make design decisions with.

I’ve always said that there is a voodoo artistry needed for an excellentrendering, and that is still completely true; lighting, materials, camera angles… these all need to be massaged and then massaged again until the final product.  But it’s nice to know that Revit makes it very easy for a good rendering to be done without much work

Keep Your Hands Dirty

I often find that folks in an IT/CADD/BIM support role often find themselves a step or two away from some of the actual issues production folks might end up with.  It’s understandable, the economics of the situation forces us to spend time in crisis mode.  However, this shell can keep us from identifying hidden issues and truly understanding the scope of problems that our end users might find and bring to us.

With Revit, I’ve decided to attempt to keep myself a little more “in the game”.  Here and there, when I can sneak it in, I have been working on modelling our firm’s headquarters.  You have to drop it anytime someone comes in, or you get a phone call, so finding a groove is tricky, but it is definitely beneficial to discovering potential pitfalls and little gems hidden in the software.

I’ll post some of the gems and issues along the way.

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

We are using stacked walls almost exclusively for our exterior walls.  It gives a nice organizational structure for the architects, and it lets the structural guys have their own “wall” at the bottom for foundations that they can control.

This lends itself to some issues that we are working through, ones that I’ll probably address more fully at a later date: clean-ups get odd, level association, etc.

With a particularly nasty clean-up, we found ourselves wanting to just “explode” the stacked wall into its sub wall components so we could change the type of one of the subwalls, but not lose any of the layout.  We figured we would have to go through a horrific process of deleting the wall and manually building the wall back up, one piece at a time.

Well, lo and behold if Revit hadn’t thought of it for us already.  We just had to find it.

While doing my usual stab at selecting and right-clicking, I saw an option in the menu called “Break Up”.  Normally, a command called “Break Up” would freak me out, assuming that something is going to be torn asunder into its core geometric components and leaving me with thousands of triangles to deal with.

Alt-click brings up the BREAK UP tool

So, with one hand on the mouse and the other firmly over CTRL-Z, I clicked.  Revit dumped the stacked wall out to its component walls, maintained the hosted elements, associated it with the original level and offset appropriately.  Then it was just a case of selecting the basic wall whose type I needed to change, and change it.

Simple, clean and elegant.  I love it when things work like I want them to.