✱ Methodcast 18: Organizing Projects in FormZ & Bonzai3d with Objects and Layers

✱ Methodcast 18: Organizing Projects in FormZ & Bonzai3d with Objects and Layers

This video shows how I organize my architectural projects in FormZ or Bonzai3d which tend to have lots and lots of objects in the scene. I talk about the differences between the Object and Layers palettes, and which one I like best. I also give out a couple of hints about isolating and selecting objects in as well that make modeling a complex scene easier. 

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✱ Maxwell Render Surface Properties Q+A

A community member here recently sent in a question about painted surface properties when using Maxwell Render and I thought others might find it interesting as well. The Q&A comes down to understanding what the different settings in MXED are for. While my answer doesn't get into detail about each setting, it does talk about which ones we should be paying attention to depending on the type of material we are trying to create. A lot more information can be found in the user guide for Maxwell materials.

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✱ FormZ 7 Webinar Replay

In case you missed the hour long event or want to watch it again (I know it went fast), here is the video of the webinar I hosted with Novedge. The topic was architectural modeling in FormZ. We had a great turnout with a few minutes of live question and answers at the end from those that were watching live. I know more questions were submitted and as time permits I'll be tackling those in a follow-up blog post. 

There was a question before the live feed began about transferring models over to Cinema4d, and I mentioned that my workflow for that process is covered in my 3d File Format Cheat Sheet. You can learn more and download a free copy of it here. It basically talks about all the ways you can get geometry from one program to another and is a free resource I offer here on the site. 

I also mentioned my FormZ setup guide video tutorial that I posted, and you can find that here. It's a great place to start when working in either FormZ or Bonzai3d that will get you up and running very quickly. 


I also gave a shout out to a company that makes one of my favorite hardware add-ons for 3d modeling during my presentation. That company is 3dconnexion and they are the makers of the Space Explorer 3d mouse. I'm not affiliated with their company - I just really like their product. Here's an Amazon link to the one I use. (If you buy one using this link, I'll get a small kick-back from Amazon and it won't cost you a penny more.)

I also have to reiterate that I really love working in FormZ, and I don't work for the companies represented. I'm not getting any kick-backs from AutoDesSys or Novedge on the sales of their software. Both companies are great to their customers and I am happy to support them.

Be sure to check out my other tutorials on FormZ while you're here.

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Link: 3d Landmark Challenge - Stop the Moment!

There's a new 3d challenge going on over at CGTrader and I'm one of the judges. This one is all about architectural landmarks. 

The idea of a landmark for me goes back to my studies in architecture school. Kevin Lynch wrote a book called The Image of the City where in 1960 he wrote about the five elements that determine the imagability of cities. Imageability is the “quality in a physical object which gives it a high probability of evoking a strong image in any given observer.” The five elements are paths, nodes, edges, landmarks, and districts.

Lynch further describes landmarks as readily identifiable objects which serve as external reference points.

You know the usual suspects: The Colosseum, Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building, Burj Dubai, stadiums, towers, etc. I like to think of landmarks as those things you see from airplanes or from really far away and can easily figure out relatively where you are in an instant. 

So this is your chance to show us what your favorite landmarks are, build 3d models of them, and enter the competition. There are some great prizes to make it worth your while.

I hope you pick something challenging and use this contest as a reason to push yourself and learn new modeling skills. You have about two and a half weeks you get you submission in by the deadline on May 11th.

Ready? Learn more and enter here.

Happy modeling!

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✱ Get Personal Training

Personal training is the fastest way to learn

I've taught thousands of students in person during my 10 years teaching digital design at both California State Polytechnic University, Pomona and Mt. San Antonio College in their architecture departments. My students all had the benefit of being able to ask questions and help steer their education through group conversations and one-on-one learning during and after lectures. A nice additional outcome is that I still talk with many of them to this day because of the relationship we established over the years. The tutorials on this site have been able to take them even further since they graduated and I stopped teaching in brick-and-mortar institutions.

With that in mind, I put up a page here on the site that talks more in depth about the personal training, the tools I teach, and about the benefits of what I call "learning without a speed limit." I'll leave that information out of this this post because you can read about it on my training page. The biggest take-away is that I want to help you be worth more, and personal training is truly the best method to get better, faster.

A few people have already taken advantage of my personal training and the feedback I've gotten has been very positive. Here's a testimonial from Sven Johnson who is a professional architectural illustrator in New York:

My name is Sven Johnson and I’m an professional architectural illustrator in Brooklyn, New York. I’ve studied all of Evan’s tutorials and done one-on-one training with him to improve my skills in my rendering pipeline.

Method is my go-to source for learning both the conceptual framework and the practical little details that go into mastering this type of software.

To me the one-on-one training is a great investment as I have learned a number of tips that I know will be saving me countless hours and increasing the likelihood of getting a full night’s sleep even with a deadline looming. Keep it going Evan, thanks for sharing your expertise!
— Sven Johnson, Greenpoint Brooklyn

Sven had told me that he wanted to do some personal training and that he had some things in mind of what he wanted to cover. After he sent me a list of what he wanted, I was able to tailor a session to match up with what he wanted to learn so he could get the most out of our time together. We setup desktop sharing over Skype, and even though we are three hours apart, were able to pull off a couple of hours of training without a hitch. I also recorded video of our entire session and provided that to Sven so he could go back and reference it anytime. We covered a lot of information.

This is about making you worth more, faster

All of this is to say I'd love to do personal training with you. Check out my page where I talk more about the types of training I do, my teaching philosophy, the tools I cover, and my rates. This is a great opportunity to take your skills and your future into your own hands and become worth more to your business, firm, colleagues and clients. The best part is being able to choose exactly the kind of training you need to get to the next level. No one knows that better than you.

Read more about my Personal Training here and let's get started!

News: The Latest on FormZ, Bonzai3d, SketchUp 2014, and Maxwell Render

There have been a bunch of small and large announcements recently about the tools I talk about (and use) a lot, and here they are in summary:

FormZ v7.3.4, Bonzai3d 3.2.4 Updates

Updates to FormZ v7 and Bonzai v3 are out that address many small issues, and are available from within the app when you check for updates. There are a bunch of refinements that make the apps more stable and predictable - basically better to use in a production environment. We all know how important it is to have the most stable software instead of whiz-bang new features with these maintenance releases. You can read more about the FormZ fixes here and the Bonzai3d fixes here

Maxwell v3.0.11 beta for FormZ and Bonzai3d

The latest plugin for Maxwell 3 for FormZ 7 and Bonzai3d 3 has been posted to the Maxwell Beta site. I've been beta testing this for a while and I recommend grabbing this one because it fixes a bunch of stuff. Something new is that you can now download all of the beta plugins for Maxwell so you don't have to wait for the official releases. You can read the release notes and find out exactly what the latest fixes are when you login to the Beta site. Here's how:

Next Limit is delighted to announce the launch of the Maxwell Public Beta Area. Customers can now get access to the most recent builds, and won't need to wait for official releases to get the latest fixes. It will also help us to reduce development cycles, meaning that you get better versions of Maxwell, faster! 

For more information about how to access the public beta area, please visit our forum: 

SketchUp Pro 2014

Trimble SketchUp Pro 2014 is out, and just like previous releases this is an iterative, refined and more powerful version of SketchUp. While there aren't any new features that make my eyes pop out of my head, there are a few nice upgrades to the ubiquitous modeling program that affect us architects and designers from previous versions:

  1. Faster shadows (up to 15x faster depending on your setup)
  2. New Arc drawing tools (nice, finally!)
  3. Classifier (a new way to add metadata to objects in your models - think BIM)

While these may seem small, these are very welcome updates. The Classifier alone is a great new foundation in SU because we now have the ability to tag types of geometry, do quantity take-offs, and when using the new IFC exporter you can pass that data along to a higher level BIM tool so it knows that a wall is a wall, a slab is a slab, etc. Having faster shadows is a big deal for real-time walkthroughs. I actually do our presentations on the fly right inside the program, and I'm looking forward to not have to wait for the shadows to pop into existence only when I stop moving. That's always been jarring to me and I hope this will fix that problem. If it's jarring to me, I know it's jarring to my clients watching the presentation.

There are other advancements under the hood and on the web regarding the extension warehouse, underlying Ruby API framework and more. They seem to be going more in the direction of BIM which is a big deal for a program that costs $590. I expect a lot of people to jump on making some very cool plugins for SketchUp in this area in the future because it's a huge market.

New Layout features for creating documentation of our designs include:

  1. Auto text
  2. Smart labels
  3. Improved vector rendering
  4. Much better handling of large documents

These are all things that, if you haven't tried for yourself, have been major slowdowns in previous versions. More and more people tell me they are looking for a single tool to do their architectural work in (which I don't actually condone), and the team at SketchUp is clearly listening. And I get it - learning a few programs and their quirks takes longer than learning a single program. I'll talk more about that in another blog post.

If you haven't tried using Layout in a while, I suggest giving it a try. I think it's one of the most underrated and easy ways to document and present your 3d work as printed documents, PDF's or as a Powerpoint-style presentation. While some people have dug in and have been using it for construction documents for a while now, these new enhancements will make it easier for new people to adopt the program in this way. 

Image courtesy SketchUp

SketchUp 2014 runs on both Mac and Windows. As far as I can tell, the Pro version is the one getting all these updates. There is also SketchUp Make which replaced the free version last year and is not for commercial use, but it's still free but has some serious limitations as you can see in the graphic on the right. You can read about all the upgrades in depth here on the Trimble site.

Maxwell Plugin v3.0.1 for SketchUp

More great news for SketchUp users is that there has been an update to the plugin released that fixes some important bugs in conjunction with the newly released Maxwell 3. They say this update is a must-have. I've written about the new stuff in Maxwell 3 in a previous post, so check it out if you haven't yet. You can get the update in the customer portal or on the previously mentioned Beta site if you're a current v3 customer.

Happy modeling and rendering!

Link: FormZ for Architects Webinar

Featured on Novedge.png

I'm happy to announce that I'll be hosting a live webinar for Novedge showing off some cool stuff in the latest version of FormZ on March 26th at 11am.

There are specific tools included in formZ 7 that make it a very smart tool for conceptual architectural modeling. Parametric tools that are specific to architecture include walls, stairs and more. Other helpful things like working with a combination of solids and surfaces, booleans and NURBS, 2D drawing layout abilities and several 3D rendering types make it a production powerhouse.

I hope you can join me. The whole thing will go for about an hour. There will be a live question and answer immediately following the presentation. The video will be posted afterwards as well, so if you can't make it you'll still be able to see it. 

Click here to learn more, and to register for the event

Link: $300 off FormZ

What I consider the best tool for architectural concept and schematic 3d modeling, FormZ, is $300 off through the end of February. It's time to jump!


February 14 is a special day for Autodessys as it is the 23rd anniversary of the release of form•Z v1.0.

In honor of this anniversary we are offering a special savings of $300.00 off new form•Z licenses and form•Z RenderZone bundles. We are also offering a $300.00 discount when you add additional seats to an existing form•Z license. This special applies to purchases from February 14th through the end of February.

Go to this page to see the details. Highly recommended. Tell them Evan at Method sent you!