Friday, April 08, 2011

The Big Picture

First off I’d like to thank Autodesk for inviting me to Autodesk Media Day over the last two days. David Mills and Bruce Finch were especially instrumental in getting me to and from Waltham for the event. Rob Todd and and Sarah Cunningham were nice enough to come down from the Autodesk Manchester offices (where Civil 3D is primarily developed) and let us peak a little bit into some NDA topics for Civil 3D, which was really awesome of them.

If you are a long time reader of this blog you could probably pick up on what future of Civil 3D that I think the product should go. For instance I put a lot of my thoughts down in this post. Now a whole bunch of my thoughts on where Civil 3D should go is influenced by exposure to other products in the Autodesk portfolio such as Revit, Revit MEP, Revit Structure and Plant 3D. My  thoughts on how I viewed Civil 3D over media day was definitely influenced by what I saw and heard about in the other products.

I could definitely see my enthusiasm for the new release Civil 3D wane as I saw more of the other ACA_Corner_Window2products demoed. For instance I saw the new Revit feature to put a window in the corner of a building.  This is cool, you place the window in the model and the surrounding walls update to accommodate the placed window. I guess this is really frustrating because I recently had a customer who wanted cross sections at driveways. Well there just isn’t an easy way to model a driveway. There is a whole lot of work involved just to model a common real world roadway occurrence of driveway. And if the model changed? Well I’ve got update the corridor, update my base linework representing the driveway and move all of the labels. The architect has less work to do if they want to shift the window over, they grip move it, check the dimensions and then move on to the next task.

SNAGHTML222bacb6 Now don’t think of the driveway example as a feature but as a big picture item that’s missing from 000_0001[1]Civil 3D; the ability to model real world civil objects in an efficient and cost effective manner. Looking out my window into the hotel’s parking there’s a whole sea of items that I can’t model efficiently in Civil 3D. I see curb and gutter, retaining walls, slight mounds in the landscaping area, inlets in the corner of a parking stall, inlet on a curve  of curb and gutter, handicap ramps and lighting. Now I have the ability to model all of these items in Civil 3D using feature lines, corridors, blocks and pipe networks. But I think is a great stretch to call it efficient. Is it better than previous civil software products, yes. Is it better at modeling than other non-civil software products, a resounding no.

That doesn’t even include the items I can’t see. Such as the thickness of the pavement section and the underlying earth. All of which are important aspect of a project in terms of both cost and design. I feel as an industry we need to step back and think are feature lines and grading objects the best way to model the real world. Sure it worked when our primary tools was the pencil and slide rule, but today we have greater computing power available. Why not design with a plane with thickness to represent a pavement surface, or an actual curb and gutter object with volume. Taking a look at the driveway image above we can see we have psudo volume in how we model. Sure I can shade the top of the surface, but I’m just hiding the inadequacies of the model.

Now I don’t bring this up to bash Autodesk, and this post is in no way intended to come off that way. It’s more to get you, the users of Civil 3D, to ask for this functionality and big picture workflow. For whoever is squeakier is more likely to get the features into the program that they want. If you aren’t asking for it (and asking for it repeatedly) it probably won’t make it into the product. So unfortunately for the people at Autodesk who represent the Civil development team they will be faced with me being a broken record. Asking for the ability to model real world objects with real world realism.


Eric said...

Hey Christopher,

I am definitely on the same page. Until recently I worked almost exclusively in Revit, but now I work almost exclusively in C3D. There is a world of difference between the usability between the two products, as well as their ability to produce "BIM" content that is useful to others. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying there aren't reasons for where C3D is and where Revit is.
My light at the end of the tunnel are some new developments with Subassemblies. The release of Subassembly Composer is really bringing to light the ability to make something comparable to a Revit Family and use it in an intelligent environment.

Andrew Puller said...

What about creating a corridor for the driveway and make an intersection. If the road corridor and the driveway corridor are made then the intersection only links the profile for the driveway to the road profile. Then you can sample the driveway corridor in the road corridor sample lines and then it displays in the road cross sections.


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