Sunday, May 19, 2013

Revit Technology Conference 2013- Australasia

My "Calender Sunday" is on its 34th hour, having just crossed the International Date Line on my way back to Dallas following the Revit Technology Conference Australasia, at The Langham Hotel in Auckland, New Zealand. This was a bit of a different trip for me, since it was also a personal vacation that let me bounce around the country of NZ for a few days. 
Culturally and experientially, it was a wonderful experience.  A few days on the south island, including an island wide drive, days of hiking, and meeting a bunch of great people, then heading to Auckland for the conference itself. The country was a phenominal host.  People going out of their way to ask if i knew where i was going (i nav with paper maps while i walk), people recommending things, stopping to talk with me everywhere i went.  Fantastic Country. Finally, i made my way to RTC on Wednesday of this week.
Generally when i attend conferences like RTC, there are three things i absolutely relish during the experience: 
Amazingly Graceful Constraints
The first is the elevated education level that only comes from getting lectures from REAL users who do this stuff day in and day out, and this conference did not disappoint

I wont call out "favorites" because i know *I* get sad when im not on others lists of favorites, but there was some serious classware going on here.  I made sure to sit through (or read handouts from) many Adaptive Components and Repeater Classes (I was distracted by someone doing the repeater...).

Tim Waldock does Repeaters

Tim Waldock (Awesome Repeater Magic!), Alfredo Medina (Repeaters with FT parameters based on Repeater location placement), and Marcello Sgambelluri  (Adaptive Components doing just about everything (very cool, even if it gives me implementation heartburn...;) )) all gave me many things to think about teaching during some lunch and learns.
Its always humbling to be around such great talent.  Its even more humbling to get to teach for them.  Especially when you forget youre in New Zealand, and ask how many people in the audience are using the National CAD Standard graphical standards.  That gets more awkward when you forget where you are and say *Oh thats right, none of you are from around here.*  Uhhhhh... Anyway.
Gala Dinner: Great Talks
The second is finally getting to shake hands and talk (commiserate?) with so many people from our Revit Community, and in THIS the conference excelled... As it always does. 

I got to meet so many people in person for the first time, after talking on Twitter or RFO or Blog Comments for months or years. I got to meet Andy Milburn in person for the first time, and he and i took turns heckling (and #tweckling) Marcello, which was great. =). I also got to meet the entire crew from Christchurch, whom even invited Steve Stafford and myself down early for the #RUGCC, which was an honor! (BTW, i owe you guys some materials, will post them once im home!).  And, while on early vacation, i got to finally have a drink (and lunch, and wasp trapping...) with Phillip Miller, after 4 YEARS of emailing and Instant Messaging.  Awesome! 
Steve Appleby and i at Dinner
I have to be clear though:  It isnt just a meet and great schmooze fest, either.  Thats what i LOVE about RTC. Three nights in a row, i was sitting in the Hotel Lobby Lounge, talking shop with others until 3 in the morning.  Great conversations that always lead to more questions and new answers. I cant say enough about the great talks that were had.  And the "Brothers in Arms" feeling of fighting with hardware and software together (Phil Read, Adam Sheather, Silvia Taurer, Wes Benn, and Steve Stafford)... This event always sends me back to my office ready to take over the world (again) after meeting so many passionate people who fight the same fight i do every day.
The final thing i always enjoy about these events, is the opportunity to Meet and Greet, and share our dreams/passions/war-stories/jokes, with the Software Developers themselves. 

Some of the best conversations ive had with Revit Developers, and Autodesk Staff in general, has been at RTC Events.
Sadly, they werent here.
Obviously its none of my business why, but the disappointment is NOT the type of "im angry at Subaru for not inflating my ego after i already bought their car," but its more like the "Im disappointed my father didnt think it was important enough to play Catch, in the front yard."  Granted, we have already all bought our licenses, so there is little money to be made. But this is an event put on by GREAT people, to "rally the troops" in an industry that isnt always willing to take on what were pushing.  If you work in sales, "selling the software" is the end game.  Thats polar from us, where thats "go time."  This is the Rubber Hits the Road convention, and if Subaru (or Dad...) was there with me, i think we would have a better Race Team (or family).  But i digress.  To be clear: Its not a slam, its more heartbreak than anything else.

One of my favorite RTC memories of *all time* was standing around the Huntington Beach Dinner Venue, talking *shop* with the Autodesk Reviteers, for HOURS.  Anyway, thats a decision well out and way above my head... But you guys were missed.  Maybe we can toss the football around one day soon.  Or maybe not. :-/ (But Daaaaaad....)
One more special Thanks to Wes, and the entire staff at RTC and the committee.

In 2006, when i first submitted my first class to Autodesk University, i had emailed a prominent Revit User on AUGI for advice.  They told me "not to give up, and to keep the passion, because sometimes teaching its thankless." What he meant was, its a LOT of work, and the reward isnt always there. (But teaching at RTC is amazing because everyone is so in to it when its happening, hence im trying to teach at as many as i can!)  But, the entire RTC staff and committee puts this entire event on "for the love of the game," and for us: The Users.  (Tron fights for the users!) And they do a splendid job.  This is their passion, and they share it with us so we can share ourt passion with each other, in a very personal, close knit venue. I also say thank you to any event organizer who will- not only TOLERATE my bullshit antics- but celebrate them, bequeath me presents, have me parade around on stage, and send me home in Colored Toe Socks as a reminder. =)
And in closing:  The Air New Zealand Safety Video.  First, because they are the first airline to actually hold my attention for 4.4 minutes, and second because (as someone with a serious affinity for Accents, i fell in love with Marina Roodt in the same 4.4 minutes.) I dont know what Haere Mai means, but i like it.
By the way, if you read this far, email me for your Gold Star.  If you are interested in seeing pictures from the entire journey, they are in a Public Folder HERE. I didnt seperate my vacation journey from the RTC pics, so they are all together. Hope you enjoy, i know i did!

Friday, March 8, 2013

"The Helen of Geometry"

... Otherwise known as the Cycloid.  Not gonna lie, i had never even heard of the mathematical description before, and the reading on these fine shapes is absolutely astonishing.  But i digress.  Last week i was showing off one of our projects (the large "classic" Brick building), and if you see the image from last weeks post, there is a very wide Stone Arch above a drive lane coming under the second story of the building.  Early in Design, a lot of the Columns, and Capitals, and Profiles, and Trim pieces were appropriately placed in rough form, and as the design progressed they were iterated in to something properly proportioned for their appropriate style.  So, they bequeathed me the Wikipedia entry describing the shape of the Cycloid, a.k.a. The Helen of Geometry, which is what shall actually be placed above the Drive Lane.

The math behind it sounded pretty entertaining to me, although i admit pretty quickly that Grasshopper is probably a much better candidate for something like this. EDIT:  Zach says Python as well... Still, armed with wikipedia and Wolfram, providing formulas for coordinates and arc lengths along the form, i figured it was doable.  My first attempt seemed pretty straightforward: 
Armed with formulas for X and Y along the shape, i would generate 10 X points, all equidistant.  Their X distances calculatable since the overall width of the form is a direct relation to the Radius of the acting circle (The width is an unrolled circumference of the circle, exactly).
Then, id use the formulas to generate their Y coordinates, based on those X's.
(Let me start by saying:  I am not a world leading mathematician.  I got through Calculus like a champ, but i dont know how i would put a Differential Equation in a Revit Family.  That takes some Buildz skills.)
You can see in the image that the final product didnt go the way i originally planned, but thats because there were options:  I had intended to plan the X values, and infer the Y values based on them.  You can do it, as Wolfram has a badass Equation describing X and Y in relation to one another.
But there wasnt much point: My intent was simply to have an instance parameter in the family that let me type in a value from 0 to 1, with decimals.  (0, .1, .2, .3...).  From there, i wanted it to build the Y values.  But did i really care if it put them at predefined X coords?  Negatory. So in the end, xPercent still exists, but now all of the families "sit" on the same origin, and the X coord is also "pushed out" using the formulas, instead of locking the different instances to the reference planes.  It involves a few wacky variations moving between degrees and radians (and a "Number" since we know how Revit is about units...), plus a throwback reference to David Light's blog on how to enter Pi as a variable in Revit "Pi()".  That was handy. =)
After making it so the users could input either "r" or the CircumferenceTotal (a.k.a. the width of the drive lane), it was a Connect The Dots exercise.  I am still IMMENSELY frustrated that the Conceptual Massing / Adaptive Component Editor is the only place we can Spline Through Points (where points are the end of other Model Lines) and have them stay constrained.  But i digress.  No, i dont digress.  It pisses me off.  Because an AC cant nest in to a Face Based Family, and its not an AC for ANY other reason.  Which means i have to have my project team place an Unhosted component, then edit the Profile of a wall to trace the stone Cycloid, which they cant "trim" the sketchlines of because its a Picked Spline.  REALLY?? Sigh. (Ill post the imaged in the project once they refine the placement and the Profile). BTW, there were other issues, as well.  In a REAL Cycloid, the 0 point and the 1.0 point are tangent to vertical.  In Revit, a Spline through points wont let that happen.  I even placed two additional vertical points underneath the 0 and 1.0 points to force it *tighter,* but it doesnt matted.  So it takes a void to lop of the bottom of it.
Anyway, since thats the case, Adaptive Component it is.  The AC has a nested "Stilt" family, and thats whats doing everything except Connect-The-Dots, which means we will use it "for reference" inside the Window Family where we need to describe this shape as well.  The Window just wont be able to be parametric.  I would love for every Line to have Reference Points at the end that could be woven through, in the traditional Family Editor... But that continues to be my wish. 
Wrapping it up, the obvious question (i hope) that i had to bring to the Design Team was:  Whos building this?  And how are we documenting it?  The reason being, while a Cycloid is graceful to form in a GIF image at the top of a blog... Its awfully close to a semi-ellipse, which is awfully close to approximated arcs.  Im all for modeling it correctly, but im all for having it built correctly as well.  And if they arent going to bother, i can certainly make tangential arc segments in the traditional family editor with far less effort, and then we can tie down real X and Y dimensions for the subcontractors.  In our heart of hearts though, we wanted a Cycloid.  And... As a small part of me hopes we end up the GC on this job as well (at which point we can zing out some awesome fabrication models from this information), we figured we would do it. 
Its full value for the Project will ultimately live or die on "what happens" with this geometry now that its there.  It must be described for its audience, in such a way that it can get built as desired, or transmitted in such a way that it can be used again.  Otherwise, having a fancy Revit Family in a fancy Building Model just to hack dimensions on it is rather... well, basic.
Here is hoping we can keep this somewhere past basic.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Elusive Origin aka The Original Origin aka Not the Current Origin

I must admit:  It has been a few years since i ran up against this problem, even though i was reminded of it while explaining to someone interally why there are THREE origins in Revit:  Shared, Project, and Relative.
Alas, this isnt a post on Shared Coordinates, just a small reminder about another gotcha that appears in the Family editor:  The Original Origin (The Elusive Origin) versus the Real Origin.  If you know me well (or if you dont know me at all), you know one of my hundreds of obsessions is Door Content, and how it affects Architects abilities to document efficiently... Of course, the bigger picture is:  What does it REALLY mean to document doors correctly for buyout and installation?  But ill check that at the door.  Todays is a smaller issue. Im redoing the CW Doors in addition to the Regular doors to make some changes:
1.  Parent Families by Action.  (Most people do this, my last library iteration was a bad choice. The "action" definition was part of the Panel Type.  Horrible idea.  I have to own that).
2.  Panel Typology including Materiality (not finish) at the Type Level, not instance.  Less fields in the "door schedule" as more is defined by Type of Panel.
3.  More options to reflect the real world.  This meant adding in the potential for CW/SF doors to have a Frame inside them as well.  Sometimes Doors in Storefront Systems get an additional frame jamb and head aside from the surrounding mullions, and i wanted that capability.  So the new options looked like this. (You can see the door at left has the frame).
But we all know the way Doors are Curtain Wall Panels in Revit means you get two choices: 
1. Door Panel Sizes flex with Curtain Wall Grids, runs risk of Door Schedule showing wacky Dims.
2. Door Panel Locations flex with Curtain Wall Grids, runs risk of gaps in between the Doors.

I personally prefer the latter.  Reason being BOTH infuriate Project Teams, but the Door Schedule is sometimes already seen as a WonderWall of data that is more like PowerBall and less like steadfast decisions.  So any chance i can get to make the schedule not go nuts, i "jump in it."  But, i also have Check Value Reporting Parameters in our Curtain Wall Doors.  They tell the user how much they have to adjust the CW grids to make the model AND the schedule legit.
While working on my new CW Doors to finish out the Door Library, i found this beauty:  A rogue 7/128" hanging out somewhere between the CW Grid dimensions (which are correct:  All dims and units are rounded to 1/256" in our files), and the Reporting Parameter dims of the Doors.  Nicey nice. First i tore through the Door (CW Panel) itself, assuming i had missed something minor... But there isnt even any complex math in it.
So then i realized whatever it was had to be in the Mullions of the CW/SF in the Project.  Joy. Although it drives people crazy, we have a LOT of Mullion Types, and a lot of Profiles, so we can accurately model varying shim spaces, glass pockets, etc.  So i opened up the Mullions, and re-certified that the Origin-defining Ref Planes were locked centered.
Then i remembered this minor bit of stupidity that hit me back in 2009, when i was making NCS Compliant Section Heads in New York State:
That Revit sometimes forces you to use the Original Origin of a Family, and not the currently defined origin.  In that regard, its sort of like Relative versus project.  And in the Profile Family editor, you cant see origins (aside from ref planes), so i pulled the old school "Insert CAD drawing with an X at the origin OtO, and see where it comes in."
Sure enough, it wasnt sitting pretty on the 2 ref planes that were defining my origin currently... It was the ever elusive 7/128" off that my Curtain Wall Panels were reporting.
Thankfully its got an easy (albeit stupid and shouldnt be necessary) fix:  Picking up everything in the family and moving it towards to "original" origin by the offending amount.  In this case, 7/128".  I hadnt seen this issue in a number of years, so i forgot that back in the day it caused a few issues for me where Section Heads had a gap from the system Witness Line, and tags were somehow offset from the leaders that were supposed to be touching them.
It still feels a but odd that i can have Reference Planes Defining the origin and have them not be the Finite Origin that all things referencing that Profile are, but i guess its just another day with Revit.  
Having solved that riddle, everything now appears to be playing by the rules.  I cant say my users will be any more happy to have these CW Doors over the old ones (they are Revit Curtain Walls, after all), but they will be more functional, and will more accurately represent what i would like them to be for Documentation and Construction.
They certainly havent gotten any more difficult to use, even if the CW Doors are a "wash" with the old ones.  These are compatible with our new Wall Hosted Doors, which (i think) are worlds better than the last set. 
At the very least, i got to have a nice stroll down memory lane relearning things i forgot i used to know a couple of years ago... And now we can all make jokes about the Elusive O... O is for Origin.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Malleristic BIM travels

 It always amazes me when i look back at the blog and realize three (or five) months have gone by since ive had a chance to update it.... But thats how the last few months have been.
Since the last post on the Deployment Debacles from 2013, ive been a Maller on the road:  A stop in Toronto to talk at SolidCAD university, while visiting my hometown in New York, and then the typical 4th quarter jaunts to Autodesk University and the Autodesk Gunslinger event.  But more recently, i was able to finally spread my wings farther than the confines of North America, to make my way to London for a respite from my day to day.
Being the passionate work-crazed folks that we all are, of course i turned the personal vacay in to an opportunity to meet with several of the BIMCrew's in the United Kingdom.  There were several nights out with folks from the UK Crew (as well as meeting a fellow RFO enthusiast!), and there was a quick run to Scotland to speak with the awesome folks at the #GRUG. 
While this post is light on technical content, i HAD promised both the SolidCAD crew and the Glasgow Revit Users Group that i would post the presentations that i gave, for them to download and look back on. 
Presenting and talking with folks in other countries was an eventful experience for me, though.  Having made Twitterquaintance with more people off North America than on it this year, its been an experience to discuss differences- not just in culture- but the state of our governments, the state of our industries, and how it impacts what we all do and champion in our work environments. 
What started out as a conversation on leveraging Design Models for Fabrication in Construction at the #GRUG turned in to a conversation about what to share with people downstream (everything), who to let in to your models (everyone), and how to navigate those waters contractually.  Therein, the differences in countries became paramount, and i was excited to spend time talking about such things.  At the end of the day, all the complex modeling in the world is useless if the *people* in the process cant or wont leverage such things. 
The differences were staggering, but in neither a positive or negative way.  Time spent abroad- watching other peoples movements, talking in slightly varied vocabularies, and questioning the ins and outs of traffic patterns (special thank you to the wonderfully special person who pulled me out of traffic at least ten times when i tried crossing the wrong way) made me stop and think a LOT about Revit and Modeling: 
That countries and locales function so differently in many ways, is it the best we can do to know our own devices and methods?  The constant joking we did all week long about Imperial versus Metric, and about driving and shifting transmissions from the wrong side of the car (Darryl...) made me realize:
Its really not enough to be doing the best that i can in one country.
Ive met so many insanely intelligent people working towards the same goals, but were all working on islands (pun intended) seperated from one another, but working towards the same goals nonetheless.  Certainly there are limitations (in pay grades above our heads (IE Decision Makers)), about how many resources we can share, but the more i look at this the more i know we (as a small group of BIM enthusiasts) are meant to do more than push our offices farther.  We need a vehicle, for reaching a Global platform.  More on that later.

So, for the imagery... If youve seen these presentations before, i apologize for being boring.  But as i promised the SolidCAD Crew and the GRUG crew, find the PPT's and PDF's at the links below. Because of the way my powerpoints are always set up, i get that the images dont read well in the PDF's.
There are also videos in the presentations, which are hard to upload and tie back together.  If you ever want to see the videos, shoot me a message.  Happy to share or host, if it is of any value to someone.

By the way, i hpoe it goes without saying that i dont post these thinking they are anything more than what they are:  One small groups workflow that happens to get us through some specific needs.  They arent an end all solution for the industry, to be sure.  Having said that, please email if you ever want any of it explained.  The more people we push ahead, the better.
By the way- Here is a video from Youtube.  Its the Chrysler Motor Corporations full advertisement for the new Dodge Dart.  If you are in the US, youve probably seen this.  If you were at SolidCAD Uni, i played it at the beginning of the lecture.  While its entertaining, its also extremely relevant.  (The Finance Guys, and the Committees... Who are they to you?)
Have a laugh, but get inspired too... Even if its not that great of a car. :)