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Creating Complex Family Shapes in Revit: Part-1

Family Modeling in Revit Architecture 2011

 

 

This is part of a series on creating complex family shapes in Revit. In my previous post (Creating Complex Family Shapes in Revit: Introduction _June 7, 2010), the Beer Mug example was modeled in Revit Architecture 2010. However, from here on, I’ll be using Revit Architecture 2011 (RA 2011) to take advantage of its new features and enhancements.

This post will deal with my firsthand account of RA 2011 Family editor tools in the creation of the Pool Table Set found on my website (https://www.littledetailscount.com). As I explain some of this latest version’s features, I’ll show you my modeling setup as an example. Later on, I’ll present annotated isometric views of the pool table with explanations on how it was modeled.

Summary

RA 2011 is a huge improvement that addressed a lot of issues from the 2010 version. I recommend you upgrade to this latest version because you’ll be able to work with less clicks. Aside from the enhancements to the Ribbon interface, a lot of cool features has been added. You may have already read about them in numerous articles and internet blogs. We’ll take a closer look at some of these features relevant to this post and as outlined below:

A. Significant changes to the family editor tools

1. The improved Ribbon Interface, Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) and Tab Behavior Display
2. The Modeless Properties Palette
3. The Modify Tab
4. Visual Enhancements

B. Some Rendering Issues with RA 2011:

1. Carpet & Fabric_Velvet materials
2. Glass_Clear material
3. Metal Screen material scaling

C. How the Pool Table was Created

D. Conclusion

A. Significant changes to the family editor tools

1. The improved Ribbon Interface, Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) and Tab Behavior Display

With RA 2011, it only takes one click to get to a lot of tools. By default, the QAT now includes Thin Lines, Close Hidden Windows, and Switch Windows. When you’re in edit mode, the Work Plane panel also shows up on the right side of the Draw tools.

To make things even more efficient in my everyday workflow, I added the following tools
(Figure 1) to my QAT:

• Model text
• Materials
• Form Tools
• Purge Unused
• Load Family


Figure 1

In Family modeling, the most frequently used tabs are the Home tab (where the Form tools are located) and the Modify tab. By having the commands of the Form tools in the QAT, I have a one-click access to them while in the Modify tab. This setup works well when you set your contextual Tab Display Behavior (Application Menu> Options > User Interface) to ‘Stay on the Modify tab’ (Figure 2).


Figure 2

You’ll also notice that I relocated my QAT below the Ribbon. This means less mouse travel to my frequently used tools. Unfortunately, this also takes away about a quarter inch of screen space as everything has to move down to accommodate the QAT. To compensate for this, I changed my Taskbar setting to display small icons, thus gaining about 1/8 of an inch space. I then always make sure that the Revit window is maximized. And check this out, when you right-click on the blank space to the right of the Ribbon (Figure 3), you can take out the check mark in the ‘Show Panel Tiles’ that pops out. This hides the name of the Ribbon panels and moves the Ribbon up by 1/8 of an inch.


Figure 3

The QAT has a new customization dialog box accessed through the drop down arrow as shown below (Figure 4):


Figure 4

Sliding your mouse down to the ‘Customize Quick Access Toolbar’ takes you to this window (Figure 5) where you can add, remove, move or change the order of the tools:


Figure 5

Here’s a closer look at my QAT (Figure 6) showing added spaces between tool groupings. You can add as many spaces as you want between each group to make them easier to see. I’ve also relocated the default 3D view to the far right:


Figure 6

Please take note that the Project file and the Family editor share the same QAT. My QAT setup may not work for you as I deal mostly with families.

2. The Modeless Properties Palette:

What this means is that the Properties Palette can now be left open or docked in any location while you’re modeling. It can also be left floating on your second monitor. This is the much awaited timesaver feature that users have been clamoring for. When you first open a template or family, the palette (Figure 7_A) shows a blank default setting of a generic family. When you pick a tool, the palette content changes into the properties related to that tool (Figure 7_B). When you place a component, it changes into a type selector (Figure 7_C) showing the component’s properties and parameters. This is also where you’ll find Edit Type:


Figure 7

A cool feature of the palette is when you enter information into a text field. Since there’s no OK button, all you have to do is hover your mouse away from the palette after you finish typing and your entry gets accepted! You don’t even have to press Enter.

On my custom family template (more on setting this up below), I left the properties palette on its default location which is on the left side docked above the Project Browser. Unlike project files, most family files don’t contain a lot of views and sections so the project browser size can remain as is. Having a consistent location of the panels and palettes helps you get to your tools right away after you memorize where they are. I recommend you keep them where they are all the time. You’ll see the practicality of this when you start creating complex shapes.

How to create a custom Family template:

1. Choose a frequently used family template and change its settings to suit your needs. This may include the scale, custom lines with different colors, maximum backups, default preview, panel arrangements, etc.

2. Save this rfa (your only file format option in the Save dialog box) inside the folder where the Templates are located (C>Program Data>RAC 2011>Imperial Templates). Accept the “Family1″ name.

3. Exit Revit and locate the folder where you saved your rfa file. Change the “Family1″ name into: “A_Name” (for example: A_My Generic Model.rfa). The prefix A_ will bring up your template to the top of the alphabetized listing.

4. Finally (important), select the rfa extension and change it to rft (A_My Generic Model.rft) After you do this, you’ll get this message (Figure 8):


Figure 8

Click Yes and your new custom family template will be created (the rfa icon will change into the rft icon). Now whenever you start a new family and click New…Family, the New Family-Select Template File dialog box (Figure 9) will pop out showing your custom family on top along with the other out of the box family templates!


Figure 9

3. The Modify Tab

The modify tab can be accessed even without selecting an object. When an object is selected or any of the form tools are clicked, the related panels appear on the right side. The modify tab’s location now stays in the same place all the time.

4. Visual Enhancements:

On the visual styles button of the view control bar, two styles had been added: Consistent Colors and Realistic (see figure 10):


Figure 10

Consistent Colors: As the name implies, the model is shown with consistent colors regardless of how they are oriented in different angles on your screen (isometric or perspective). There will be no dark areas which you get when you’re in the Shaded with Edges views.

Realistic: Forms that have been assigned materials will display textures in real time as you zoom, move or rotate the model! Here is how the new view styles compare to the Shaded with Edges view and the mental ray render (Figure 11):


Figure 11

Of course, there is no comparison to the actual render! With Realistic views though, users can see actual material textures without having to render the family inside a project file. Aside from the textures, this view also displays glossiness, transparencies and close approximation of material colors. I found it useful in checking the direction of the wood grains on my pool table. Without it, I would have had to load the family inside a project file and render it from there to check the wood grains.

B. Some rendering issues with RA 2011:

In converting all my 2009 & 2010 families to version 2011, I discovered that some materials don’t render properly in this latest release. I’ve already communicated these issues with Autodesk and they are currently working on it. They don’t have a timeframe for a fix but assured me that we’ll be informed of any updates. Here they are with solutions you can apply:

1. Carpet & Fabric_Velvet materials

A Brief Background:

In previous versions, we have the ability to use a single color instead of an image file for certain materials. For example, when you choose a carpet material like Carpet Beige, you can either choose the default image or change it to a single color (See Figure 12 below):


Figure 12

The result is a carpet with a different color (for example: Red)) but with the textures and properties of Carpet Beige.

In RA 2011, the Render Appearance tab has been revamped. The format to change the material properties has been changed. New to this version is the Image Fade feature shown below (Figure 13):


Figure 13

This new Image Fader enables you to adjust the mixture of the base color and the diffuse image. This is a neat and useful addition.

The Rendering Problem:

When you load your 2010 family with a carpet material that was assigned a single color, the Image Fade defaults to 100. This means that you see 100% of the image instead of the color. Take a look at this conversion (Figure 14) from 2010 to 2011:


Figure 14

As you can see, the material/color image I selected in 2010 did not transfer properly in 2011.

Solution:

I went to the 2011 Materials (Manage>Settings>Materials), located the specific materials and set the Image Fade to zero. Next, I made sure the image scale and bump is the same as my 2010 settings. And as my former coworker Leo Lauer would say: that was easy!

2. Glass_Clear material

Compare the two images below (Figure 15):


Figure 15

The glass material specified in the 2010 image is Glass_Clear. When brought into 2011, the Glass_Clear material is retained.

The Rendering Problem:

The rendering of the glass appears faceted.

Solution:

I could not find an acceptable substitute in the Glass category. However, I did find one in the Glass_Glazing category. In this category, choose the Clear (generic) material then set the transparency to 100% and you’re good to go!

3. Metal Screen material scaling

Take a look at these two images (Figure 16):


Figure 16

This is a metal mesh filter of a small ‘Tetsubin’ teapot generated by scaling down the Metal_Satin Screen material in 2010.

The Rendering Problem:

When the family was brought into 2011, the scaling did not transfer correctly.

Solution:

In 2011, I reselected the Metal_Satin Screen material from the Render Appearance Library and entered the scale factor I used in 2010. Problem solved!

If you encounter any material rendering problems other than these three ones, please contact Autodesk Tech Support.

C. How the Pool Table was created:


Figure 17

This pool table consist of numerous complex shapes and to explain in detail how they were created will require a very lengthy post. So rather than doing that, I will be presenting annotated views and illustrations with explanations on how each part of the table was created.

Note: When you’re modeling and it’s not possible to have the actual object in front of you to measure, then you must somehow obtain cut sheets or do some research work. Knowing its standard dimensions, colors, materials, assembly methods, finishes, etc. will help you plan and visualize a modeling strategy beforehand. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of research work. Before I start to model, the first thing I do is get all the information I can get hold of pertaining to the object I’m about to create. Here are a few internet sites I visited prior to creating the pool table:


Figure 18

In the actual construction process of a pool table, the dimensions of all the parts revolve around the pre-cut slate, the material used for the tabletop. They are specifically cut with the 6 hole openings on the sides and corners. Knowing this, I approached the modeling process by starting with the tabletop and building all the parts around it. The isometric illustrations you are about to see were taken from a worm’s eye view so you can see how the side panels (also called cabinets) were modeled.

Note: The purpose of the following outlined steps is just to give you an idea of the modeling process. Although the tone and presentation is instructional, it is not really intended as a step-by-step guide that you can follow along with Revit. My advice for beginners is to learn how to use the Form tools as they will not be explained here nor in my future posts.











So that’s basically how the pool table was created.

D. Conclusion:

Modeling this pool table was a simple process of using different Form tools and combining them with Voids to get the desired shapes. The void sweeps and the Split Face tool played a prominent part in creating the intricate details. The leg and pockets were created as separate families and loaded into this pool table family. This is called nesting and the advantage is that they sort of act like an XREF. If you edit one nested component and reload it back to the family, all the instances will update. Nested parts are also easier to move around and won’t interfere with your modeling.

One of the biggest challenges in creating complex shapes is working on different work planes. We’ll deal with this as well as the following topics on my next post:

_rendering speeds (Revit 2009, 2010 & 2011)
_the Split Face tool
_modeling on different work planes

Before I end this post, I’d like to mention that you can download the pool balls from RevitCity.com. There are also a few high quality furniture I donated to that site as well (on their Search field, type  www.littledetailscount.com and choose Downloads on the drop down menu).

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. See you next time!

Michael Anonuevo
www.littledetailscount.com

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