One of the aspects of engineering that I think is really important is communicating your design, especially for MEP engineers. Typically I think that engineers find it hard to convey the workings of their design in a straightforward way. The usual way to present it is through schematics and floor plans but people who are not schooled in MEP will find it hard to understand. That is why I think it is really valuable to create an easy to understand overview of the building services.
For a while I used Autodesk Showcase to make movies to highlight the design of the building services, but Showcase was discontinued by Autodesk as of version 2017. While Showcase was a really easy application and you could get nice results pretty fast, it also took a really powerful computer to work with entire buildings.
With Showcase gone I began to search for a new application with really only 3 demands in mind:
– The ability to create section boxes/planes that could be applied to different objects;
– An easy way to set up cameras and create a movie out of it;
– not being too expensive, seeing as I make these movies whenever I have some time left.
The first application I tried was Unity, but it soon became apparent that it was going to take a lot of time before I could produce anything decent with Unity. Out of the box Unity does not really provide much in the way of cinematics (although I believe the latest versions do). For most of the stuff you want to get done in Unity you have to jump in to coding with C#. With my basic C# coding knowledge I did create some basic interaction with my models, but it was far from anything close to production ready.
I had not considered Unreal Engine as an option because it uses C++ as programming language. I figured I would not be able to create anything with it. Then Unreal Studio was released and I decided to give it a try anyhow. Basically Unreal Studio is just Unreal Engine but it comes with an exporter that will allow you to import various file formats, among which Revit files. Along with the exporter you get some free high quality materials to use.
Turns out that Unreal Engine isn’t as daunting as it first appeared: It does not require you to use any C++ coding to get anything done. Instead you can use a visual scripting language called ‘Blueprint’ (much like Dynamo) to do all your ‘coding’. For basic visualization you do not need to do any visual scripting though, Unreal Engine has a great cinematic tool called ‘sequencer’ and changing materials can be done through the UI as well. Still the learning curve can be quite steep as there are just so many buttons to enable/disable (even more than Revit yes).
I am still learning a lot about the engine so I do plan on improving the quality with each new movie but for now I am pretty proud of the first result, check it out: