Saturday, 2 June 2007

Day149 QuadroPlex

NVidias QuadroPlex 1000
There are several hardware solutions out there to add some grunt to rendering like the Raybox - here I have a peek at graphics grunt. This beast from NVidia ( the Quadro Plex 1000. The tech specs just read off the charts in my mind - but here are a few just to hint at the firepower that dwells within say the IV model: 2 x Quadro FX 5600s with 1.5GBs of frame buffer per GPU. This is a serious box with a serious price-tag and if reviews ( can be believed we are talking 80 billion pixels per second throughput - whew. But then you can join a pair of these beasts together and rack mount them - but why stop there - a rack full of them would be graphics grunt beyond all reason :-)

[image of the standalone and a rack full of nvidia quadro plex 1000s - note the scale difference]

Friday, 1 June 2007

Day148 RoboRedCentre and tech discussions

Red Centre Modelling in RoboBlitz (Unreal3)
Russ has been carrying the flag here with getting geometry into the Unreal3 engine via Roboblitz. A graduate has been working on a Max model of the foyer of the Red Centre here and Russ has brought that into Roboblitz and with the collisions set to 'line' we get the result below. This is a demostration really that the process for UT2004 (with known tweaks) works well through into the new editor and engine. Next step will be to grab the textures and setup some nicer lighting etc. Note that the image below shows the material changed to all metal rather than the default gray and white squares. YAY.

[screengrab of the roboblitz Unreal3 engine with the Red Centre Model]

Tech discussions
Today saw a series of conversations/meetings covering quite a bit of tech ground in relation to Architectural education. Some covered the wonder that is Sketchup - this little piece of software now handed to the world with the might of Google behind it is just such a joy to use that it makes all the might of other applications look plain silly. Sketchup is a revelation and is finding its way into all manner of places - I will have to play with it some more and check out the plugin options (like vray) that it supports now.
Large format touch screens and the Microsoft Surface ( tech took up lots of time. My feeling is that the Surface tech is too stripped back (to realise the clean interface) that it looks to lack functionality we would crave. If it were to be used in tutorial/crit sessions with staff and students huddled around it easily exchanging ideas - this would be great. But if the interface cant give us Sketchup, Google Earth, Browsers, HL2 etc then it wont really cut it for our needs. All they have to do though is give us a way to bring up the normal Windows interface to do all the rest :-) Having huge touchscreens for presentations was covered and desired several times today again and is some thing we will persue. With simple out-of-the-box solutions from say Panasonic that deliver 50" touch-screen HD plasma - there are plenty of options. Rear projection to much bigger sizes may be even better. Architectural education is crying out for a big change here - a leap in the display and interface side that will lure tech takeup throughout the rest of a students works.

[super huge Panasonic interactive screen setup - drool]
The iBar ( is another sexy touchscreen interface showing where this tech can go.

[Promo image from the iBar site]

Warcraft tabletop
But lets bring out the firepower of the multitouch tabletop again and add some voice recognition logic and you can have something like this:

Today the falling water HL2 model got nice oohs and aahs, as it should from those I showed it off to - super!

Thursday, 31 May 2007

Day147 Digital Presentations and Falling Water

Digital Presentations
Spent time in several ways today looking at what the future of a digital design presentation (includings crits and juries) might take. What interfaces are required/desirable/appropriate and what elements might make up a presentation of this type. At present the idea of building an interface (say flash/director) that could bind a design scheme is a good one but is probably beyond us. I say this only because we would want to integrate things like Google Earth, HL2, Sketchup, etc right into a presentation - so for now we may have to live with Windows being the glue. Perhaps we could look at a facelift for it that de-windowsified the look'n'feel somehow?

The display and Microsoft Surface > The idea of large format touch sensitive screens is an obvious way to build an interactive and expressive interface to a design. This video ( of Microsoft's Surface technology shows off a whole range of interesting things. One to take notice of is how nicely the large screen works on the wall. I can see this sort of screen making for such a stunning presentation interface that no-one would ever want to pin up drawings ever again.

My previous thinking on the idea ( by integrating a pair of 50" plasmas into the basic presentation kit to be used in the redeveloped exhibition space is perhaps not exciting enough. If we go without portability then perhaps other options open up?

Just to inspire a little further, if you look at where Panasonic is taking us ( - huge interactive screens are what it is all about. We should be heading here!

[image of the huge screen at Panasonic from the Gizmodo site]

But why stop there - here ( is something fun that would work really nicely in a building like the Red Centre (with all its glass). So the display in this Ralph Lauren storefront is semi-transparent allowing the interaction and the view through to say an exhibition beyond. Would love to see it in the flesh.

[image from the reddphotography site of in-window touch display]
Falling Water HL2 Model
I had more of a look at the Falling Water (Kaufman House) by Kasperg and am still mighty impressed. See ( for more. It was nice to show it off to a few people at FBE today - sparking some nice discussion, not just about this particular piece of famous architecture, but about the value of models like this.
Here is the classic view I captured from within the model - note that to get this view I jump down into the river past the waterfall bit :-)

[screenshot from in Kasperg's FallingWater HL2 model]

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Day146 Digital Urban, Kaufmann House & MotionBuilder

Digital Urban Blog
This blog ( explores a range of design and visualisation ideas - many of which are realtime and taking on the same realms as we are. To quote the about page: "Digital Urban is written by Dr Andrew Hudson-Smith, aimed at examining the latest techniques to visualise the city scape via digital media it covers a lot of the work going on at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London."
There are lots of interesting projects revealed through the blog and the use of game engines (including HL2 and oblivion) to realise cityscapes and more personal architectures.
Here are a few of the bits that inspired most after spending a few hours digesting:

Papers and Media (
This page lists a heap of reference material that will be helpful later on - the lure of doing some more intensive research in the area is growing as the field grows. At lunch today we were covering the notion of why 'render' when you can 'experience'. That with the capabilities of the real-time engines, why is so much energy still around rendering of static and occasional flythrough output - the scene is ripe and ready.

Panoramic Spheres (
This is another great addition to the Google Earth logic and is really nicely realised here. The idea of adding some immersion to the floaty Google Earth interface is nice - yet it is still part of the same experience. The fact that the same clever idea works in Oblivion as well is very neat. Check out the nice youtube vids on the site. This image shows what the image is that is mapped to the sphere - from inside it feels like a full panorama (that is just soo clever):
[image used at Digital Urban to build a Panoramic Sphere]

Importing into Oblivion (
Taking geometry (and more) into the game engines is what it is all about and this tute covers how to achieve this. It takes the models from our 2 favourite modellers (3DSmax and Sketchup) into Oblivion. I havent tried Oblivion as yet - but will have to take a much closer look now!
Apart from the tute they have some nice vids of the resulting world with a little commentary of what was involved (

Having looked at the marvels of this upcoming engine it is no wonder that IMAGTP (and other no dount) are looking to it for Architectural visualisations like those shown here.

Kasperg's HL2 Kaufmann House
Kasperg ( is one talented guy who has created a whole heap of maps. His HL2 map of Frank Lloyd Wright's Kaufmann House (Falling Water) though is a stunner and shows exactly what the real-time world can do for Architectural visualisation ( This is exactly what I aspire to with the squarehouse project and it shows how it can all come together.

[images from the download site of the Fallingwater HL2 model]

I grabbed the real model now and it is gorgeous. He has removed all the gamey elements altogether and the doors open just by bumping into them etc. This is the kind of model we need to showcase where we are headed - TOP STUFF.
With my taking on Maya soon as part of my MDM I have been looking at associated tools. One of the obvious ones is Motionbuilder ( The student pricing I got from StormFX today isnt all that I hoped, since the licenses are only for 12 months it will only see out half my MDM.
The Motionbuilder site has some very nice videos showing off many of the clever features that MotionBuilder brings to animating including some very nice mocap matching, 2way constraints and a heap more.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Day145 Collisions

Experimenting with collisions in the new UnrealEd that comes with Roboblitz using imported static meshes from 3DSmax. Well, I found out several ways to handle the collisions by generating collision meshes while inside the application for what I import - but havent yet found how to use per-poly collision detection which would be far more flexible and accurate (even if it is more work for our computers). The way it can generate collision meshes of various types is quite nifty actually - even if it wasnt exactly what I was after (I am sure it will be helpful for other tasks).
Plus the import pathway from Max via ASE is simple again.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Day144 Form.Z

If you check out the promo paragraph on the Form.Z site ( it is a software package geared right at what FBE is all about and ideas that I am interested in.
"It is an effective design tool for architects, landscape architects, urban designers, engineers, animators and illustrators, industrial and interior designers, and all design fields that deal with the articulation of 3D spaces and forms. form·Z is highly responsive to the needs of mature designers and, at the same time, novices can use it with ease."
That said the site doesnt do an inspiring job of showing off the software's potential. The information is largely text based descriptions of tools with low-res images in support. It is hard to compare the software with the major-leaguers out there in this way. The software does seem to sport a good range of tools and capability, but knowing well each tool does its job or whether it works as a whole is unknown to me.
The gallery of works dont inspire eather - but here are a few anyhow:

[sample work images from the Form.Z site gallery]

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Day143 ZBrush 3

ZBrush 3 arrives
I had a little peek at what was coming in the preview section of the Pixologic site ( for Zbrush3 a few weeks ago. Well now it has arrived and there is a great review on CGSociety ( which covers the suped up and new features that will have sculptors drooling. Things like polypainting (painting without a UVmap), transpose (posing), gravity, brushes galore, the rake tools, layers and so much more. There is no doubt that ZBrush delivers freedom to the sculptor like never before, I am unsure though how the exact capabilities compare with its competition like Mudbox, Hexagon etc etc. I am also not sure how lovely the interface with Maya, rigging and animation is - it is obviously done, but how nice is it? Regarless of the answers to these questions the software is outstanding and I cant wait to get into sculpting with a tool of this quality.

[images from ZBrush3 artists featured in the CGS review]

There are heaps more images of sculptors over in the Beta (of ZB3) section on BrushCentral () and these are a few images from this extensive (and inspired set).

[images from ZBrushCentral of various artists work using the ZBrush 3 beta]