Thursday, June 25, 2015


Sometimes odd little things just crop up.  I'm sure I knew about this before but it had slipped way below the radar.  "Measure along an element" combined with Tab returns the length of a chain of elements.  And into the bargain you get this quite impressive display of temporary dimensions.  Not sure what I would do with it, but more data is better (apparently) so lap it up.

Then I read this post about copy-pasting revision cloud sketches into detail lines.  SCRATCH PAD

I stumbled on this myself about a year ago, but haven't used it much.  Just occasionally you want to cloud something that isn't actually a revision.  Maybe it's a problem with the linked structural file, maybe it's just "we showed this feature two issues back but you seem to be ignoring it".
I was a bit surprised by the statement that you can use the cloud in a filled region.  Doesn't work like that for me.  You can paste the lines in alright, but all you get is the underlying polygon, no curvy segments.

But that led me to thinking, "what about a detail item".  This was quite exciting, I thought I'd discovered a hidden gem.  The curves came in perfectly and I even managed to get parametric scaling working. 

Sadly though, despite the curves being fully intact in family editor, they don't transfer back to the project environment.  It's just a rectangle.

Still, my mind was racing away by now.  Isn't this really a lot like a line-based detail item ?  So I quickly knocked one of those up and turned out to be surprisingly easy to get it working.  Put this back into my rectangular rig and reloaded.  It works, but something doesn't look right. 

That's when I realised that the in the revision cloud segments, the meeting point between the two arcs doesn't lie on the straight line.  No problem, this is also easy to set up.

Still, my little cloud was a bit too regular, so I threw in one of my false starts to mix it up a bit.  Also set up a parameter for varying the proportions of the underlying rectangle.

All very good, and the journey was fun, but when I stopped to reflect, I decided that just drawing directly in the project with the line-based family was going to be the most effective strategy.

 But by now my mind was wandering all over the place.  What about a two-pick family that defines a rectangle ?  So I set up a rather elaborate rig with angles to define the proportions of said rectangle and tried locking lots of my little "2_arc_detail items" in place.

Of course that was asking a bit too much.  Everything worked fine until I tried to change the angle, then it broke.  Probably locking families to families I thought (by mistake)  Easy to test, use the rig to drive a simple rectangular filled region.

That worked like a treat, so the principle is OK, but trying to lock 6 detail items each with 3 planes to be constrained was somewhat daunting.  How many retries would I have the patience for?  Wait a minute though.  Locking a rectangle is easy enough and I already made a rectangular cloud.  Just need to adapt that one.

This did the trick.  Changed the rectangle family from 4 segments to six.  Flexed it thoroughly.  Nested into the diagonal-rectangle rig.  Align and lock.  And it works.

None of this is particularly earth-shattering, but it was an interesting exercise in squeezing unusual behaviours out of family editor.  And along the way I came to realise what a neat idea the two-pick pair of unequal arcs was when someone on the original Revit team thought it up.  If only we could recapture the freshness of those early insights.  Wouldn't that be something ?

Oh yeah & I had fun with the snipping tool too. 

Monday, June 22, 2015


This blog is suffering from serious neglect.  My usual style of posting takes so long.  Let's try to do something fast.

It's Ramadan (in case you didn't notice) Got home early last night and consequently up with the lark and into the office before 7.  Decided to do a quick blast on Formit.  (Bit by bit, build up my fluency)

Fired up the map and headed for Great Zimbabwe (feeling homesick)  Hit Import Satellite Image, adjust the location slightly to centre on the Great Enclosure, down in the valley, and off we go.  Better set units to metric, and since I need to draw very loose splines, better switch "snap to grid" off.


Draw two splines, roughly sort of parallel.  Important to note that you get one chance to draw it right.  No adjustable nodes to fiddle with the line afterwards (like in Revit)  This is a different world.  Forget parametrics, think quick and dirty (like this post)  The minute you close the loop it becomes a surface.

Flip to 3d (we were in plan ... the only other choice) select the surface and drag it up.  You can type in a height if you like but I'm just guessing it anyway, so proceed to repeat the procedure for more curvy walls.  It would be nice to make them slope in, but I couldn't figure that one out.  With regular shapes it's easy, (just grab an edge and move it) but these walls are actually made of lots of little facets (you can see them as little orange dots when you hover over a surface)  Let's move on.

The famous conical tower is hidden in the trees, so I decided to try loading another image. 

This turns out to be pretty easy, just need to use a bit of trial and error to adjust the size.  Then you can also play with the transparency.  As far as I can see it just comes in centred.  Can't push it around afterwards.  I'd probably have to recrop the image to get it's position closer to the satellite image.  Let's work with what we have.

I made a material with an image I had on file.  Not really seamless and it maps rather strangely to irregular shapes.  The cone is really wierd.  Probably looks OK from a disgance though.  I tried out jetpack mode for the first time.  Despite its name this is primarily the "look around" tool I was ... looking around for, last week.  Just move your mouse and swivel your head around 360 degrees.  Space bar does the actual jetpack thing.  Sort of playing kangaroos.

So I ended up with a tolerable representation of my favourite National Monument (actually a really amazing place) and it took less than an hour, even as a stumbling novice.  It's great as a quick first look at a project in a specific location.  Eventually I will come back and model this in Revit.  Maybe I will have a second go in Formit first, just to help me strategise my Revit work.

Then came the write-up (at lunch time)  Here comes one of my other favourite "quick & dirties" : the snipping tool.  I used this for the screen captures as I was building the model.  Now I just reframe the ones I want to use and add some quick doodles to direct your attention.  Thick red pen is favourite.  Type up some text in notepad and I'm finished.  Back to work guys.


It's time to go home now.  Done my statutory overtime.  Can't resist one last image.  This is my son Joe, at Great Zimbabwe in 1994 wearing his famous Chicago Bulls outfit.  Those were the days.  He's a dad himself now.  How time flies.


Monday, June 8, 2015


One of the last sessions I attended at RTC Chicago was about Formit, and I came away full of enthusiasm to sign up for the beta testing now that the web-hosted version was up and running.  But then I saw some really interesting buildings on the long way home.  Robie House, De la Warr Pavilion, Hawksmoor's Limehouse Church ... then the next thing you know it was the Desert Pumpkin, couple of BIM Breakfasts, AUX Dubai, family xmas ... and come January we started on serious overtime at work.

So I didn't get very far with Formit until last Thursday evening when I decided to attempt a quick massing model of Casa del Fascio, a fascinating building that I got to know by means of Revit explorations.

Sneaky Fascist Peek

Driven to Abstraction

A Tale of 3 Buildings

Playing Chess With Terragni

Of course I had to go down a few blind alleys.  Made the mistake of starting in Internet Explorer.  It seems to work, but after a while you realise that lots of bits and pieces are missing.  Then I messed up with one of my arrays and picked up an extra bay along the front facade.

None of this is very accurate.  I was trying to do it half from memory ... simplified and abstracted ... improvising on a theme rather than replicating the original.  Mostly it was a vehicle for getting to grips with Formit.  So I started again in Chrome, and then in Firefox.  Works much better :)

Everything is very different from Revit and it's many years since I worked with the dreaded Sketchup, but after a while I started to remember the logic of push-pull cardboard modelling.  Groups were frustrating at first, but after a while I got the hang of it.

You can save a Formit sketch locally, which is fine, but when you save to A360, the heavy lifters up in the clouds do their stuff and create an RVT for good measure.  In the background of the next image you can see a monster lurking.  That's an import ... basically merging two Formit files (I think)   A couple of years back I did some posts where I was trying to find a way of doing spiky buildings in Revit.  Forms that are easy to make in Sketchup, but then steadfastly refuse to come into Revit as solids.

Drawing the Curtain

Curtain Call

More Bermuda Triangles


Well it seems to be child's play for Formit.   I made an irregular extrusion,  then triangulated it up by drawing lines and push-pulling end points like a madman.  Save to the cloud, download the RVT and Bingo!  You have a mass family containing an import instance.  You can go ahead and explode this and apply a material parameter if you want.  It takes mass floors without a complaint.  What's more you can do some more adjustments in Formit, save, download, open family, reload into project ... mass floors update to the new shape.

So that's my first serious attempt to do something useful in Formit and I'm feeling pretty positive.  I'm sure there is much more to come from the developers and certainly I have more to discover and skills to hone.  Also it's going to be important to figure out what to do with it.  Where are its strengths ... when to stop and switch over to "proper BIM", how to optimize the interaction between the two rather different worlds (aka "concept design" and "detailed development")