CannonDesign accelerates VR workflow by 150% using 3ds Max

by Deepika Khowal, Customer Success Manager and Heather Howe, Marketing Editor on November 09, 2018

Overview

CannonDesign is a firm dedicated to innovation in architecture, engineering, and construction. When the opportunity arose to leverage NVIDIA’s Multi-user, Virtual Reality (VR) platform called Holodeck, close collaboration with the technology company, NVIDIA, was a natural choice. The technology—which CannonDesign helped inform and shape—is a game-changer for the AEC community and its clients.

While virtual reality is nothing new for CannonDesign, nor the architecture industry as a whole, the Holodeck platform features one key difference from other architecture-compatible VR systems: it is designed for immersive collaboration. While the models CannonDesign created in VR were impressive, the process of translating Autodesk® Revit® software data into Holodeck revealed opportunities for improving the workflow. The customer needed a solution that made its workflow efficient while still producing impressive results. Collaborating with Autodesk to create a custom Autodesk® 3ds Max® software utility provided CannonDesign with the efficiency needed to continue its innovative work.


“While adoption of immersive technologies (VR, AR, XR) in our industry is on the rise, they’ve been around for decades. Immersive technologies proved valuable for communication among all stakeholders, and now enable a new kind of decision making, one that is digitally experiential and highly collaborative. Most recently, our implementation of the technology even breaks down geographical barriers.”

Hilda Espinal, Chief Technology Officer, CannonDesign


Ernesto Pacheco, Director of Visualization at CannonDesign, tests Holodeck VR capabilities. Image courtesy: CannonDesign.

Challenge

As a forward-thinking firm, CannonDesign is committed to finding innovative ways to use both Augmented Reality (AR) and VR in its design process. CannonDesign partnered with technology leader NVIDIA to translate architectural models into cutting-edge VR experiences using NVIDIA’s Holodeck platform. The Holodeck platform enables teams across the globe to collaborate in the virtual world, discussing and marking-up the model together in real-time to inform design decisions

Although the technology was a breakthrough, this early version of Holodeck VR posed challenges for introducing geometry into the platform. CannonDesign wanted to translate its models from Revit into Holodeck without sacrificing resolution, including shaders and textures. The team was committed to pushing boundaries when it came to the quality of light they could achieve in the VR models, but the process for achieving its goals was time-consuming.


Image courtesy: CannonDesign

Solution

CannonDesign wanted to achieve an accurate and streamlined process to convert models from Revit into Holodeck. The team partnered with Autodesk and together developed a 3ds Max custom utility that could be implemented into the workflow. The “3ds Max Select by BIM Property” app allowed CannonDesign to perform repetitive, laborious tasks automatically.

With this utility, CannonDesign easily prepared the model to be sent from Revit to Holodeck by importing BIM data from Revit into 3ds Max. The data was leveraged to make decisions about which objects the selected task would modify or update. As a result, CannonDesign achieved crucial flexibility when deciding how to process models. Ultimately, CannonDesign gained the ability to prepare the geometry efficiently and with beautiful results in VR.

Success

The utility was initially tested on six projects. During the trial period, the prep time needed to transfer models from Revit to Holodeck was cut from four hours to only one hour—reducing time by 75 percent.


When the utility was scaled to other projects, CannonDesign saw a 300% improvement in efficiency in that segment of the workflow and a 10% efficiency improvement in their overall VR workflow.


Scaled to the entire transfer process, the team saw significant time savings in four key areas of the workflow:

  • Gathering materials previously took eight hours, and now only took five.
  • Attaching files used to take 20 hours, and now took only six.
  • Team members used to spend eight hours isolating files and now spent only four.
  • Finally, exporting all files used to take four hours and now takes one hour to complete.


In total, CannonDesign went from spending 40 hours on this workflow to completing the entire process in just 16 hours – a 150 percent acceleration rate. Reducing time spent on back-end workflows for rendering by more than half is an incredible achievement and it’s almost impossible to overstate the significance of this accomplishment.


Average time savings metrics based on data from 6 different projects.


“I fully appreciate Autodesk helping us find a better solution to clean and optimize our Revit models for VR development. It has expedited many of our processes, allowing more time for both the development of interactive features and the better-quality rendering of our VR pipeline. It has also pushed 3ds Max to the top of our toolbox again. This type of functionality is important, and I don’t think there’s anything else out there right now that could better satisfy this workflow.”

Ernesto Pacheco, Director of Visualization, CannonDesign


CannonDesign’s commitment to innovation means many current and future projects are using VR to present models to potential clients and design in the virtual environment. In fact, 50 percent of its potential projects use VR as a tool for business development purposes. Out of which, approximately 75 percent of projects that use VR are successful wins for CannonDesign.

With streamlined workflows aided by the 3ds Max utility, CannonDesign can continue to push the limits of design and focus on leveraging the use of VR for more projects. And most importantly, CannonDesign now has more time to achieve its innovation goals.


Testing lighting in Holodeck. Image courtesy: CannonDesign.


“The need for photo-realistic visualization for presentation, collaboration, or decision-making is on the rise for AEC. Streamlining workflows is key and is the reason why we jumped at the opportunity to partner with Autodesk to help make it so. Democratizing the process is icing on the cake, as it will allow designers with minimal understanding of 3ds Max to arrive to XR with significantly diminished effort. A very much welcomed byproduct of this partnership.”

Hilda Espinal, Chief Technology Officer, CannonDesign


Adsk account home

Autodesk Account home

Here are some key features in the improved Autodesk Accounts portal.

1960x1080final render

McCarthy saves 8 Man-Hours per day using BIM 360 Design during major Washington University construction project

Leveraging its EBA with Autodesk, McCarthy improved its workflows and BIM execution through the successful partnership