For years we considered RPC a “rendering” tool, designed to help create photorealistic imagery quickly and easily. Photorealism was at the core of our DNA. How deep? The “P” in RPC stands for “Photorealistic” (RPC = Rich Photorealistic Content)! Our ongoing observations of how imagery is created has led us to a broader definition of where and how our products are (or could be) used. Many more people are creating “Presentations” as opposed to “Renderings”. What’s the difference? I think it has less to do with the technical definition than it does the workflow. In the early days of design visualization someone created a 3D model and then created “renderings” in specialized software like 3dsMax where materials and lighting were painstakingly added to produce an image. The workflow looked something like 2D Cad > 3D Model > Materials > Lighting > Rendering where multiple specialists generally assumed roles along that process to produce visuals and the person creating the design was generally not the person creating the renderings.
I’ll claim the traditional world of design visualization changed when Sketchup was introduced. Sketchup wasn’t about rendering, it was about modeling and for the first time (Another claim… the magic was the the push/pull feature – http://www.google.com/patents/US6628279) 3d modeling became accessible to every designer no matter the level of cad/graphics proficiency. I can remember being at various tradeshows when Sketchup was first introduced and witnessing older architects (who had largely skipped CAD) almost giddy with excitement because they now had a tool that wasn’t intimidating or downright scary to use. That’s software magic and anyone who was around Brad Schell and the @Last Software team in those early days knows exactly what I’m talking about. I know for ArchVision it was a bit of a paradigm challenge as we worked to understand how RPC could and should play in this new world of design “modeling”. There wasn’t a traditional “rendering” process to interface with. We punted on trying to make RPC function directly inside Sketchup, recognizing the technical advantage of RPC at the time was in the “rendering” pipeline and not in this new world that was a hybrid of both modeling and visualization. With the ongoing success of Revit we’ve changed our tune. What we now think of as “Presentation” is here to stay and we believe will continue to be the dominant form of design visualization in the future.
I need to give credit to my friend Steven Shell, who I met at the RTC Conference (http://www.rtcevents.com) this past summer, for pushing me to think about this a bit more. Steven does some incredible “presentation” and rendering work natively within Revit. You should check out his website (http://www.scshell.com/) and blog (http://scshell.wordpress.com/) to see some of his work. Steven is also a great teacher so if you get a chance to sit in on one of his classes don’t miss it! He’ll be passing on some of his wisdom at Autodesk University later this month – https://events.au.autodesk.com/connect/speakerDetail.ww?PERSON_ID=31B2FC96BD614DDB34740336273DBBC2. Steven is an architect who uses Revit to create great communication tools to share with his clients. No external renderer, no Photoshop. Pure presentation techniques from within Revit.
What used to be a multi-step (and often multi-disciplined) approach to creating visualizations of a design are now emanating from a single-step process; building a model. All of the tools, previously part of a linear production line process for producing a rendering, are now “built-in” and the visuals are quickly becoming a byproduct of the modeling process. This is leading ArchVision to look for opportunities to extend RPC to accommodate these new workflows. Watch for new enhancements to the way RPC works in Revit in the coming months. We’re adding the ability to display silhouetted views of RPCs within Revit as an alternative to the default photorealistic views. Next up will be the ability to assign and manage varying geometric representations of content. All of these enhancements acknowledge that design visualization is evolving and becoming more accessible. Great news for the design industry!