Become a Navis Director/Producer

November 4th, 2013

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then an Autodesk® Navisworks® walkthrough is like a novel. Navisworks enables users to quickly create and easily control scenes and objects in order to tell a story.

Whether you’re a beginner who has never made an animation or someone looking to sharpen your skills in Navisworks, it’s my hope that this article will help you.

Simple Animations

Creating an animation can be as simple as a few clicks or as complicated as hours of work, depending on how much detail you want to have. There are two types of animations—a normal animation and an animator scene. You will notice these when you export an animation because they are separate sources for exporting.

First let’s cover a normal animation, which can be created by using the Record button under the Animation tab or by right-clicking inside the Saved Viewpoints window and selecting Add Animation. Let’s go through the workflow for creating these two basic animations.

If you add an animation manually in the Saved Viewpoints window you will then need to create saved viewpoints for your walkthrough. These viewpoints should be considered as anchor points for the walkthrough. Each saved viewpoint will bring camera location, item color, item transparency, hide settings, and section cuts with it. However, the changes to some of these items during transitions between viewpoints will not be interpolated automatically.

After you have saved your viewpoints and created a new animation in the Saved Viewpoints window, all you have to do is select the viewpoints and drag them into the animation. If you select your newly created animation then navigate to Playback under the Animation tab, you can play your animation and see the results. With this method, Navisworks will automatically interpolate your camera angle between the saved viewpoints and any section cuts you move from view to view. It will not interpolate object transparency, color, or hide settings.

You can further adjust this animation by adding, removing, or moving saved viewpoints inside the animation. By right-clicking the animation in the Saved Viewpoints window and selecting Edit, you can change the duration of the animation. If during the animation you need to focus on an area longer you can right-click inside your animation and select Add Cut. Right-click the new cut and select Edit. Inside you have the option to adjust the delay time of your cut.

Figure 1: Easy way to create animations

The second way to create a normal animation is by using the Record button under the Animation tab.

This method might be the simplest for creating animated walkthroughs. When you are ready, click the Record button or shortcut key CTRL+Up Arrow to start recording your movements and actions. This method will record all of your movements as well as any item transparency changes or color changes.

As you are recording you can pause and continue by using the Pause button on the Ribbon or by using the shortcut CTRL+Space. When you are finished recording, click the Stop button or use the shortcut CTRL+Down Arrow.

As soon as a recording is stopped, Navisworks will create a new animation in the Saved Viewpoints window. If you expand this animation you will see viewpoints and cuts that Navisworks has created, which follow your movements exactly.

You can edit this animation the same as the first simple animation we discussed.

Figure 2: A saved viewpoints animation and a recorded animation

Animator Scenes

Now that we have covered simple animations let’s get into the fun stuff using the Animator window. In the simple animations you weren’t able to interpolate item transparency or manipulate objects, but with animator scenes you can do those things and control the timing of your walkthrough with precision.

In the bottom left corner of the Animator window there is a green plus sign—select it to create a new scene. You can create multiple scenes and organize them as needed. Once you have a scene you can add three types of items, a camera, an animation set, and a section plan.

You can add a camera by right-clicking the scene and selecting Add Camera. You will have the choice to add a new blank camera or a camera from an existing viewpoint animation.

Adding an animation set to a scene requires first selecting the items you wish to manipulate through normal selection, selection sets, or search sets, and then right-clicking the scene and selecting Add Animation Set.

Navisworks allows you to add only one section plane per animator scene, but that does not mean that you are limited to one section cut at a time. Right-click on the scene and select Add Section Plane.

Familiarize yourself with the buttons in the top left of the Animator window. They are your item manipulation buttons as well as your keyframe capture and snaps toggle buttons. We will tackle object manipulation last because it can be the most time consuming if you are animating a complex walkthrough.

Creating the path for a walkthrough is very easy in Animator. First, select the camera inside your scene making it the active item, then navigate to the start of your walkthrough and press the Capture Keyframe button at the top of the Animator window. You will see a keyframe appear in the timeline. The keyframe acts the same as the viewpoints in the simple animations—like an anchor. Next, click and drag the black arrow in the timeline a few seconds forward and then navigate to the next point in your walkthrough and again capture another keyframe. Once this is complete, a solid line will appear between the captured keyframes, which means that Navisworks will interpolate between those two keyframes. If you right-click the first keyframe you can uncheck the interpolate option.

If you try to navigate first and then drag the timeline arrow, it will move you back to the position of the last keyframe capture. When creating an initial walkthrough path, the time between keyframes is not critical—keyframes can be dragged to adjust movement durations.

Animator makes it easy to see how your finished animation will look; you can check the timing of your animation by using the play buttons or by dragging the timeline arrow. Dragging the timeline arrow allows you to edit a walkthrough precisely.

Now select the Section Plane in your scene. If you didn’t have a section cut turned on before creating the section plane, don’t worry. Turn on a section plane or multiple section planes and move them to a starting position. Once there, you will capture a keyframe and again you will see a keyframe appear in the timeline on the Section Plane line. After creating a starting keyframe, move your section plane(s) to the next position and capture the next keyframe.

Figure 3: Simple animator scenes

Remember, you can drag any keyframe to change durations and find the right times so when you are in the view you want your section plane will be where it’s needed.

Animation sets contain an object or objects you want to animate. The first thing to remember is anything in an animation set will be counted as one object; it will move and be manipulated in any way as though it were a single object.

Because of this, if you want intricate object manipulations you will need to create a selection set for each object.

I have made animation walkthroughs with hundreds of selection sets and that took hours to produce. But for most animations you will only have a dozen sets.

To manipulate your animation, set select it and then select how you want to manipulate it. Do you want to move, rotate, scale, change color or transparency? The buttons in the Animator window allow you to do these things. After you have selected a manipulation button, capture a keyframe, then move the black timeline arrow forward, manipulate your object, and capture another keyframe. Easy, right?

Figure 4: Simple animator scenes

If you change the transparency of an animation set and save keyframes, Navisworks will interpolate between them. This will allow you to fade objects in and out of view. A warning with transparency: let’s say you want to fade out an entire building. Because dragging the timeline arrow will take you to any moment in an animation, if you fade too many objects it could slow down Navisworks. To deal with this problem simply uncheck the active box for that object while you are working, and then before you export the animation, check the active box again.

Exporting Animations

There are a two main ways you can export your animation. In the Animation Export window under Output you can export as an AVI file or as image files. Navisworks has become much more efficient with its new rendering engine, so it can now produce high-quality animations without requiring a rendering farm of supercomputers.

To export, select the source, Current Animator Scene or Current Animation, then select your rendering style and frames per second. If you choose to export an AVI file with 25 FPS or more, be prepared for a very large video file. However, if you export the animation as images at 25 FPS, you can keep the picture quality without the memory. You would then have to stick those images together with an outside program, but the time and memory you can save might be worth it.

I hope this helps you with future animations. Happy animating!

Mark Hunter is a BIM Manager for C.W. Driver, a large general contractor in Southern California. The firm is highly regarded throughout the design and construction industry for implementation of BIM innovations on each project, and for creating customized software plug-ins to increase the efficiency of the latest software releases. Mark enjoys a good walkthrough and has stayed up all night in order to create an advanced walkthrough, Mark can be reached at mhunter@cwdriver.com, or at 909-945-1919.

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