t h e   b u s i n e s s   o f  c a d


Issue #743 |  July 24, 2012
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In This Issue


1. Revit vs Online Rendering
      - Guest editorial by Bart Blankendaal


2. Why I Quit the CAD Business

     - Guest Editorial by Steve Hannath


3. Out of the Inbox, and our other regular columns.



Revit vs Online Rendering
Guest editorial by Bart Blankendaal

Further to the last two issues of upFront.eZine, in which you wrote about benchmarking rendering on the desktop versus the cloud, I did a benchmark myself. First, though, I'd like to answer some of your open questions.


Q: Is Revit really slow at rendering?
Well, it definitely hasn't the fastest render engine in the world, but not slower than for example AutoCAD.


Q: Is cloud rendering not meant for AutoCAD users?
Yes, it is. The thing is that you need 3D models with light (artificial and Sun) and materials; this is where rendering starts to take time and resources.


Q: How do users know where the cut-off is between models simple enough to be rendered faster on their desktop computer. and those complex enough to pay extra to have them rendered on the cloud?
You will know when you have a reasonably large model with lights and materials added. In the AEC area, you Usually want several renderings of a model (different cameras, etc.). This can easily take hours to render. If you do it on your desktop, your computer will use all its power for rendering, so any other work on that computer can hardly be done. Good reasons for cloud rendering!


Now for my benchmark...


My "desktop" computer is an HP EliteBook mobile workstation, with Intel Core i7-2820QM CPU running at 2.3Ghz, and 16Gb memory on 64-bit Windows 7. For my benchmark, I used a standard sample file from Revit, named "rac_basic_sample_project.rvt." In the sample file are a number of ready-made 3D views named Aerial, Fireplace, Ground Approach, Kitchen, Living Room en Sectional Persp. ThisRevit model has materials attached, and there are two lightsources: a Sun and an interior light.

For the tests, I chose the High Quality setting and tried to keep the same resolution. In some examples, the resolution from the cloud was slightly higher, which means longer render time.


First, I rendered one view (Living Room) on my computer. Result: 27:45 minutes:seconds. Then I rendered the same view in the cloud, including login and upload time. Result: 06:10. A significant difference. The visual results differ a bit, but that's mainly because of better exposure settings in the cloud; take a good look at the reflections in the Teapot! See figure 1.


Figure 1. Left: Rendered in Revit; right: rendered with Autodesk online rendering service

(Click image for higher-resolution version.)


Then I rendered the five other 3D views in Revit. For the results, see the table below. The cloud service offers the possibility to render more views at the same time, so that's what I chose. I uploaded all six views at once, and the total render time (including login and uploading) was 27:12.


When I add up the individual renderings on my workstation, the time came to 57:26. So cloud rendering is more than 50% faster, in my tests. In addition, it provides me with other benefits, like being able to work on my computer while the render is being made elsewhere, and for making panorama renderings (360-degree views).

3D View          quality   lights          resolution  time local  time cloud

Living Room      high      sun+artificial  1800x1350   27:45       06:10
Aerial           high      sun+artificial  1232x785    05:10       *
Kitchen          high      sun+artificial  1139x715    07:00       *
Ground Approach  high      sun+artificial  1038x709    03:43       *
Fireplace        high      sun+artificial  998x1128    11:05       *
Section Persp    high      sun+artificial  1440x795    02:43       *

                           total time                  57:26       27:12


Conclusion: in my benchmark, cloud rendering is definitely faster.

[Bart Blankendaal is an Autodesk certified instructor with CAD&Company in Holland.]

Why I Quit the CAD Business

Guest editorial by Steve Hannath

I began in the CAD business in South Africa in 1985 when I was involved in the development and international marketing of TurboCAD. I sold the Scan2CAD business to its software developer over a year ago, and I now have absolutely no interest in CAD anymore; I am starting a new career writing historic fiction.


Frankly, raster to vector conversion is a hard sell. The biggest problem is the quality of the scanned images and the expectations of the users. Most people using modern scanners that cost thousands of dollars achieve only poor quality scans inconsistent with the "productivity" hype of the large format scanner manufacturers.


Unless care is taken to produce a truly good quality scan, automatic raster-to-vector conversion users must expect results to be unsatisfactory. While Scan2CAD is arguably the best automatic converter, 99 out of 100 demo downloaders are inexperienced; they do not know how to use it, and so do not get the quick and easy results they need. They are, after all, CAD users with a job to do and all they want from a raster-to-vector converter is a simple solution to a 2D problem -- not a three-day training course in its use. The end result is a compromise that still needs to be edited for several hours in CAD.


For this reason, all of the more expensive converters are ones that ones that work inside AutoCAD, and they have opted for automated redrawing and tracing tools, rather than automatic conversion.


Thanks for a very useful CAD ezine! It was always the first thing I read every Tuesday morning. And good luck to you. The personal touch that you brought to your ezine was what made it so readable. You were always a possible kindred spirit to the many and various CAD folk out there.


[Steve Hannath was formerly with Softcover International Limited in England.]




== Professional 3D File Conversion/Viewing/Rendering Software ==


For over 2 decades Okino (Toronto) has provided mission-critical 3D conversion software used extensively by tens of thousands of professionals. We develop, support and convert between all major CAD, DCC & VisSim formats. Robert Lansdale (CTO, lansd@okino.com) tailors each package to the specific conversion requirements of each customer.

Popular formats include 3ds Max, Maya, C4D, LW, ProE, SolidWorks, Inventor, SketchUp, DWF/DWG, DGN, CATIA, IGES/STEP/Parasolid, 3D PDF/U3D, JT, FBX, Collada & more. We know data translation, and provide immaculate developer-to-customer relations.

Out of the Inbox

Yazu captures existing conditions into AutoCAD and Revit by reading data from laser measuring devices, like from Leica. 30-day no-charge download from https://www.picardinnovations.com/software


The new software from FM:Systems is FM:BIM, their cloud-based system that synchronizes BIM data between architects, engineers, and contractors -- data like building spaces, systems and equipment; managing reconfigurations, renovations and retrofits; data commissioning services and managing model information. http://www.fmbim.com


Autodesk bought practically-next-door neighbor Socialcam, a social video service linked to Facebook, for $60 million -- leading commentators like Martyn Day to muse whether the company's acquisitions department misunderstood cam as short for "computer aided manufacturing."


OrthoGraph's new Architect 3D for iPad gets an extended object library, PDF and e-mail export, wall and floor materials, and -- the reason for the "3D" name, it now switches between floor plan and 3D views. http://www.orthograph.net/ortho-eng_product.php


TFTLabs has their free TFTPad JSON3D model viewer for Android devices on Google Play at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=tftlabs.web.mobile


OPEN MIND Technologies AG (a Mensch und Maschine company) grew revenues 20% in Q1 of 2012. Direct sales last year amounted to e30 million in 2011.


And Open Design Alliance is pleased to release Teigha API v3.6 to CAD vendors wanting to be independent of Autodesk. This update combines .dgn and .dwg into the one SDK, multi-threaded .dwg loading, and a beta of multi-threaded rendering. ODA chief technology officer Neil Peterson reports, "The new multi-threaded support has increased loading and rendering performance by a factor of 2 on average using a 4-core processor, with better results for larger drawings." http://www.opendesign.com

On our blogs
Here are some of the items that appeared on our WorldCAD Access blog at http://worldcadaccess.typepad.com:

...and on Gizmos Grabowski blog <http://worldcadaccess.typepad.com/gizmos/>

Letters to the Editor

Re: How Workstations Differ from Desktop Computers
"In my mind, the big plus for Xeon is support for dual CPUs. We just had a discussion about how multithreaded software is hard to write and not worth the effort. Do you recommend running AutoCAD (mostly single threaded) on a 10-core/20-thread CPU?


"Considering that AutoCAD is mostly single threaded, the higher clock speeds of fewer-core CPUs seems likely to improve performance. IMHO, that is a problem in our industry: old software that runs slower on future hardware.


"Writing OpenCL software is like returning to the 1980s in terms of productivity. The developer needs to ship source code, try to compile it on the target machine, allocate memory manually, and handle memory copies from main memory to graphics memory and back. None of the environments support recursion, which often means you get to do a complex restructure of a recursive algorithm (the exception being tail-recursive). Microsoft's C++ AMP is much better.


"Indeed, the (low-)power supply in my desktop Dell failed to power my new graphics card. Todays desktops are so cost effective that I had trouble finding one that could run the graphics board. The solution became my first homebuilt computer in 20 years."
      - Henrik Vallgren
       Streamspace, Sweden


The editor replies: "My understanding is that AutoCAD is multi-threaded in two areas: display driver and rendering. The WhipThread sysvar determines if two cores are used for redraws and regens. Render uses as many cores as are available, as reported by the number of squares shown during the rendering processing animation. Other than that, you are right: AutoCAD is not multicore-friendly."

"I've been thinking of you lately since your workstation article, and wondering whether you see the late offerings of minuscule computers (like the pi, admittedly an extreme example) having a place in the commoditised CAD market."
      - Pandelis Latroudakis
        Iatroudakis Consulting, Greece


The editor replies: "No, because they are far too slow. I have a couple of similar devices, like an Android 4.0 tablet from China. It can just barely handle HTML5-based browserCAD, like sunglass.io. It is not just the slow CPU; programs like AutoCAD require SSE technology in the CPU, something available only in more recent Intel and AMD CPUs."


Mr Latroudakis responds: "Good point. SSE is present in Intel's P3 and later. I wonder if Bricscad, which requires P3, also uses it. As ARM devices multiply, I expect in time the CAD companies might choose to take advantage of the NEON set of instructions."


"Almost every day, we are explaining this to our prospects, but your article sums it up very well. Would it be OK with you if we put a brief of this article and about the author on out website with a link to your page? I reckon our clients may find it useful."
      - Steve Bungay, director
        Envision IT, Australia


The editor replies: "Yes, and thank you for asking permission."



"That was a very good article that you have put w r t workstations vs desktops. its difficult to find these kind of explanation in regular computer know-how sites. Compliments."
       - Jubair Siddeeque

Re: Readers React to Benchmarking Rendering: Desktop vs Cloud
"I wanted to weigh in on the rendering debate, specifically to address this comment: 'You might want to alter your focus about the cloud-versus-local rendering debate. A more revealing question may be, 'Who needs it?' What companies have the clientele that will pay them to spend loads of time in Revit setting up lights and materials? You can probably dismiss almost all of an architect's sub-consultants -- civil, structural, and MEP [mechanical, electrical, plumbing] don't have much need for rendering -- along with at least half of all architects.'


"One of the things that Revit brings architects 'for free' is lights and lighting models that don't need you to actually place them -- along with materials that come pre-attached to whatever they need to be attached to. Drop in a few lamps or populate a ceiling grid with light fixtures and you've done all the setup you need to do -- as long as you use a rendering model that will calculate a radiosity solution.


"The trouble with radiosity rendering models is that they take a really long time to calculate. Which is where the rent-a-render-farm model makes good sense. You locate a couple of eye-level cameras with a few minutes work, and then ship the whole thing off, rather than tie up your workstation for the hours or days it would take to calculate that rendering locally."
       - Rick Damiani, applications engineer
       The Paton Group, USA


The editor replies: "Which is why BOXX Systems is marketing heavily its desktop rendering systems, such as their renderPro with 16 cores, 256GB RAM, and solid state drives at http://www.boxxtech.com/products/renderPRO/pro.asp -- as they worry about cloud rendering taking aways sales of these dedicated machines."



Notable Quotable

"We recently did a large field research study and specifically asked all of our [corporate] interviewees if they were looking at Windows 8, most laughed. The fact is most enterprises are still trying to get to Windows 7 and few enterprises are ready for Windows 8."
      - Gunnar Berger, research director, Gartner

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upFront.eZine is published every Tuesday, except during summer and Christmas vacation. Editor: Ralph Grabowski. This newsletter is read by 11,000 subscribers in 70 countries. Your comments are welcome at editor@upfrontezine.com! Deadline for submissions is every Monday noon.


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Entire contents copyright 2012 by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. All rights reserved worldwide. Letters sent to the editor are subject to publication. Article reprint fee: $250 and up. All trademarks belong to their respective holders. "upFront.eZine," "The Business of CAD," and "WorldCAD Access" are trademarks of upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. Letters to the editor may be edited for clarity and brevity. Translations and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd.


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