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Mastering Autodesk VIZ 4
By George Omura
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-7821-4132-3
Chapter OneGetting to Know VIZ
Welcome to MASTERING AUTODESK VIZ 4. Formerly known as 3D Studio VIZ, Autodesk VIZ 4 steps from the shadows of its sister product, 3ds max, to give architects and other design professionals an indispensable design tool. Although 3D Studio VIZ was a great rendering tool, VIZ 4 gives designers an even better way to see their designs under various natural and artificial lighting conditions.
This chapter introduces some of VIZ 4's special features and then gets you started working with the VIZ 4 interface.
* Introducing VIZ 4 Features
* Getting Started
* Touring the Interface
* Working with Objects
* Getting the View You Want
Introducing VIZ 4 Features
With new features like global illumination technology and real-world lighting, VIZ 4 isn't just a program to create pretty pictures of your designs. It now allows you to make better design decisions by providing the most accurate rendition of the effects of light in and on a design. And as experienced designers know, lighting can have a dramatic effect on the way a space is perceived.
VIZ 4 takes a major departure from 3D Studio VIZ by offering radiosity rendering. Radiosity rendering is a method of rendering whereby the interaction of light and materials is accurately simulated in the computer. This means that a light source's intensity, color, and direction can be reproduced within the framework of a 3D computer model. If a surface has a color, the light from a source reflects that color as it bounces around in a space. The net result is an image that, in many cases, cannot be distinguished from an actual photograph.
With radiosity rendering, VIZ 4 becomes more than just a rendering tool. You can now create accurate study models of a design by inserting light-fixture specifications. By simulating the way light works in the real world, radiosity rendering takes much of the guesswork out of lighting design. With VIZ 4, you won't need to wait until a project is built to see if your lighting design works the way you intended. Natural outdoor lighting has also been improved to give you a realistic representation of your design. In addition, VIZ 4 gives you greater control over your renderings by offering a perspective "straightening" tool to reduce the exaggerated foreshortening of wide-angle views.
VIZ 4 is also a faster program, especially when you're using realistic material modeling, known as Ray Traced materials, as shown in Figure 1.1. Ray Traced materials are especially useful for reflective and refractive materials such as glass and water.
If your computer is connected to a computer network, you can borrow processor time from the other computers to reduce the time it takes to render a single image. As with earlier versions of VIZ, you can also take advantage of multiprocessor systems to improve speed.
Autodesk VIZ 4 is also designed to take advantage of the Internet. With its Asset Browser and an Internet connection, you can quickly acquire 3D models and props that are available on the Web. File sharing across the Internet is also integrated into VIZ through its file system and file-sharing capabilities. If you're an AutoCAD user, you'll find that linking to your AutoCAD designs has been improved.
Finally, VIZ 4 offers a set of improvements based on user feedback. The interface has been simplified to help make model creation easier.
Although many of VIZ's components are typical for a Windows program, quite a few are unique. To begin exploring the VIZ 4 interface, start the program by doing one of the following:
* Double-click the Autodesk VIZ 4 icon on the Desktop.
* Choose Start [right arrow] Programs [right arrow] Autodesk VIZ 4 [right arrow] Autodesk VIZ 4.
You'll see a variety of components in the VIZ window (see Figure 1.2)-some that are familiar and others that are not.
At the top, you see a typical menu bar and toolbar. Below the toolbar is something called a Tab panel, which offers custom tools and macros geared toward specific tasks. In the center, you see the viewport area, which currently shows a perspective view. At the lower right corner of the screen, you see the viewport navigation tools for adjusting your views in the main viewport. You also see the time controls for creating animations, the prompt line and status bar, and something called the MaxScript Mini Listener (for creating macros). On the right side, you see the Command Panel, which contains nearly all the tools you'll use to create and edit objects in VIZ. Let's take a closer look at each of these components.
Touring the Interface
VIZ offers a wealth of tools, and their sheer number can be overwhelming. To get a basic understanding of the VIZ window, let's look at each of the window components individually, starting with the menu bar.
The Main Menu Bar
At the top of the screen is the main menu bar. Here, you find the typical Windows commands for file maintenance, as well as commands specifically for Autodesk VIZ 4.
The options in the menu bar are organized in the same way as they are in most other Windows applications. Clicking an option issues a command, and you're expected to take some action. An option that's followed by three periods, called an ellipsis, opens a dialog box, usually to allow you to make changes to settings related to the option. An option with a right-pointing arrow displays more options in what is called a cascading menu.
Try out the menu bar by taking a look at the Units Setup dialog box.
1. Choose Customize -> Units Setup. The Units Setup dialog box displays. [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]
2. Make sure that Inches is selected for the Scene Unit Scale setting. Also make sure the US Standard radio button is selected, that Feet w/Decimal Inches is selected below it, and that the Feet radio button is selected for Default Units.
3. Click OK to close the dialog box.
By checking the Units Setup dialog box, you ensure that in future exercises, you'll be working with the same units that are discussed in this book. Now let's continue with a look at the Tab panel.
NOTE The main toolbar and the Tab panel discussed in the next sections may be located in a different order-that is, the Tab panel may be positioned above the main toolbar.
The Tab Panel
Below (or above) the menu bar are the main toolbar and the Tab panel, as shown in Figure 1.3.
The Tab panel offers a quick way to access commonly used tools and macros. Some of the tabs contain options that duplicate the main toolbar, and other tabs offer custom macros for building architectural or mechanical components. When you click a tab, a set of tools related to that tab displays in the space just below the tabs, much like the tabs of a typical Windows dialog box. For example, if you click the Shapes tab, you see a set of tools. As you might guess, clicking the icon for one of these tools lets you draw the object indicated by the tool icon.
If you place your cursor on a Tab panel tool icon for a second, you see a tool tip appear. A tool tip gives you a quick reminder of what the tool is used for.
The Tab panel also offers a way to organize your VIZ window when you have a lot of toolbars on the screen. Any toolbar can be turned into a tab on the Tab panel for easy access. Here's a little exercise to show you how it works:
1. Right-click the Rendering tab at the far right of the Tab panel. You see a pop-up menu displaying a list of tab options.
2. Click the Convert to Toolbar option in the menu. The Rendering tab becomes a toolbar.
3. Right-click the Rendering toolbar. A different pop-up menu displays. Notice that you have a Dock option at the top. This allows you to dock the toolbar at the VIZ window border.
4. Click the Move to Tab Panel option on the menu. The Rendering toolbar returns to its location on the Tab panel.
Note Autodesk VIZ 4 is something of a chameleon. It can change its appearance, depending on the focus of your modeling needs. If your VIZ 4 window doesn't look the way it does in the figures in this book, choose Customize - -> Revert to Startup Layout. You'll see a warning message telling you that any UI (user interface) changes you have made will be lost. Click OK to set up your VIZ windows to match the interface you see in this book.
The Main Toolbar
Just above the menu bar is the main toolbar. The tools on this toolbar offer tool tips to help you remember their purpose.
To the far left of the toolbar are the Undo and Redo options.
Next is a set of tools for selecting objects. These selection tools let you select objects by clicking them or by selecting them by name. You can also set the method for selecting objects by using a selection window, which provides a way of indicating a selection by placing a rectangle, circle, or other border around the objects.
To the right of the selection tools are the transform tools. This set of tools lets you move, rotate, scale, and mirror objects. You can also set the center of the transform using the Pivot options, change the spacing between objects, and align objects to one another.
To the right of the transform tools are the layer tools. These tools allow you to organize your drawing by separating objects into layers. If you are an AutoCAD user, these tools are already familiar to you.
The next group of tools to the right of the layer tools are the materials and rendering tools. The materials tools give you control over the appearance of objects. With these tools, you can create color, texture, opacity, and other material characteristics, and then apply these characteristics to objects in your model.
The rendering tools give you control over the output of your Autodesk VIZ 4 model. Unlike output from most applications, output from VIZ 4 is most likely to be image or multimedia files. The rendering tools let you set the type and size of output, from single, large format stills to video-ready animations.
Tip If you're working with a screen resolution of 1024?768 or less, you won't see all the tools on the main toolbar. Some of the tools are off the screen to the far right. To access these tools, place the cursor on the toolbar so that a hand icon appears, and then click and drag the toolbar to the right. The hidden tools will emerge. You can also click the Rendering tab to expose all the rendering tools.
Docked and Floating Toolbars
In addition to the main toolbar, you see a column of toolbars to the left of the VIZ 4 window and three "floating" toolbars sitting on top of the perspective view (see Figure 1.2). Let's take a quick look at these other toolbars.
At the far left of the screen is a set of toolbars stacked vertically along the border of the window. Toolbars that are positioned here are said to be in the "docked" position. The top toolbar is the Constraints toolbar, which offers options for controlling the way objects are moved or copied. (This toolbar is shown horizontally here to conserve space.)
Below the Constraints toolbar is the Inverse Kinematics, or IK, toolbar, which contains options for linking objects in your model. The IK tools are especially helpful in creating models of machinery, where objects must be linked together.
Below the IK toolbar is the Radiosity toolbar, which contains options for setting up and applying the radiosity features to your model.
There are three more toolbars that are floating over the Perspective viewport. As with most toolbars, you can move these floating toolbars to the side or hide them altogether to gain better access to objects in the main viewport.
The top floating toolbar is the View Orientation toolbar. It offers options for controlling the display of your model. Here, you can select from a set of standard isometric views as well as orthographic projections, including top, front, left side, and right side views. In addition, you can select a camera view and a view as seen from a light. You'll learn more about cameras and lights in Chapter 6.
Below and to the left of the View Orientation toolbar is the Layers toolbar. Layers are like overlays that help you organize the objects in your model. If you are an AutoCAD or Photoshop user, you should have an idea of how layers work. You'll learn more about layers in Chapter 5.
Finally, below and to the right of the View Orientation toolbar is the View Shading toolbar. This toolbar gives you control over the way objects are shaded in the main viewport that's showing your model. You can view your model as a solid form or as a simple outline called a wireframe view.
Earlier, you saw how you can move a toolbar into the Tab panel. You can also change a toolbar's location from a docked position along the border of the VIZ 4 window to a floating position, or from a floating position to a docked position. You can try the following exercise to see how to change the location of toolbars:
1. Click and drag the title bar of the View Orientation toolbar so that the toolbar is just to the right of the Constraints toolbar, which is to the left of the VIZ window (see Figure 1.4) The View Orientation toolbar appears as a vertical outline.
2. When the outline is in the position shown in Figure 1.4, release the mouse button. The View Orientation toolbar is now in a docked position.
3. Right-click the horizontal line at the top of the View Orientation toolbar to open the shortcut menu.
4. Select Float from the shortcut menu. The View Orientation toolbar returns to its floating position.
5. Close the View Orientation, Layers, and View Shading toolbars by clicking the Close button in the upper right corner of each toolbar.
In this brief exercise, you moved the View Orientation toolbar from a floating position to a docked position and back again. Then you closed the toolbars entirely. To bring back one of these toolbars, you can right-click the blank portion of the toolbar and select the toolbar's name from the shortcut menu. For now, keep the floating toolbars closed.
You may have noticed that some of the tools in the main toolbar show a small arrow in the lower right corner of the tool icon.
That arrow indicates that the tool is one of several offered in a flyout. A flyout is like a graphical version of options in a menu bar. If you click and hold a tool that's part of a flyout, you see a set of other tools appear. For example, if you click and hold the Select and Uniform Scale tool, two additional tools appear.
Once you select an option from a flyout, it becomes the default button that you see in the toolbar.
At the center of the window is the viewport (see Figure 1.5). This is where you'll be doing most of your modeling work. In a blank file, the viewport shows a grid that you can use as a reference for orientation and size. The grid is labeled with distances in the current, default unit setting. The labels also indicate the X and Y axes.
If you look in the lower left corner of the viewport, you see the world axis that indicates the orientation of the X, Y, and Z axes. The world axis helps you get your bearings when looking at other types of views.
Currently, the viewport shows the perspective view, as indicated by the label in the upper left corner. You can also tell that it's a perspective view by the way the grid converges in the distance. As you'll see toward the end of this chapter, you can configure and view your model in a variety of ways, depending on your needs.
Tools for Working with the Viewport
At the bottom of the window, there are several other options that are grouped into four sections: the status bar, the prompt line, the time controls, the snap tools, and the viewport navigation tools (see Figure 1.6). Most of these tools affect the viewport, either by modifying the display of the viewport directly or by affecting the way you interact with objects within the viewport.
The viewport navigation tools give you control over the main graphic display in the center of the window. With these tools, you can zoom and pan over the display, as well as alter the viewpoint of your model. You can also switch between multiple views and a single view. Try the following:
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