World, Meet REFLEX

October 8th, 2012

Who?

You know, REFLEX Render, the latest design collaboration tool. The name and interface are simple, its effort is complex, and its results are absolutely amazing! REFLEX is developed and delivered by Advanced AEC Solutions, LLC (aAECs) out of Atlanta, Georgia, USA, and can be found at www. aaecs.com.

What Is It?

REFLEX Render is a flexible photorealistic rendering solution for designers, architects, engineers, construction managers, and property lease managers who must coordinate and convey the exterior and interior design of a building project with owners, designers, and construction team members.

How Do You Use It?

REFLEX serves its clients as a digital design visualization tool to work within the Autodesk® Revit® platform of design tools. It does this preferably on a second monitor at your  workstation. You’re working with Revit on one monitor and a REFLEX viewer opens on the second monitor. This allows you to develop your Revit model and see the results of a design change in the REFLEX viewer at the same time. Wow! This can save so much time from our design workflows.

You know that really cool Revit model you’ve been working on? REFLEX displays it exactly as you have modeled in Revit. Exactly! REFLEX will visualize your modeled objects exactly as they would appear with every natural and artificial lighting effect taken into consideration. This would also include light reflections, refractions, surface textures, opaque,  translucent, transparent, and shadow conditions on and around every object. If I model a pool of water and placed a person in the pool, I would see the body’s refraction in the water. That, and the person’s body and clothing color depth and visual magnification change as well.

Considering how much this software does, you would think it would use a lot of computer resources, but it doesn’t! This software is considered a cloud-based system, meaning that it delivers computing as a service over the web rather than as a product installed on your computer. So, shared resources, software, and information are provided to your computer and other handheld devices like a utility over a grid, much like your office power is delivered over the power company’s electric grid.

REFLEX is delivered directly over the Internet in the same way. To use REFLEX, download and install a plug-in from the web. Once it is installed, you will need to upload your model to the aAECs’ Cloud, and magically your model beams into your REFLEX viewer illustrating all your model has to offer, including geometry, materials, and lighting. Beyond this 40MB plug-in, the rest of this very powerful program resides on the aAECs’ servers. After a simple install of this REFLEX rendering plug-in, Revit is equipped to illustrate your design photorealistically, and so fast that you’ll be able to do multiple renderings in the time it used to take you to do one, and you’ll do it regardless of whether the images were exterior, interior, day, or night. Really!

OK , But What Can I View?  

You can view whatever you wish as long as it relates to your modeled geometry. Using Revit’s camera views and a lit up area within your Revit model, you can view any modeled geometry. 

Are you wondering if you’ll be limited to where you can go within your model? You know, like a lot of visualization software, you would have to create a path first. Well, there’s no path, and no worries, mate! If you can create a camera view of a lit up area that interests you, you will see the image converge in the REFLEX viewer. What’s converge? As the model begins to materialize in the REFLEX viewer, the image begins with a fair amount of graininess. Within seconds, this graininess is reduced dramatically, and as time goes by, the image detail clears further to create a very sharp rendering. The amount of time it takes to clear up can vary greatly depending on the geometry, materials, complexity, and the lighting within the model. On average, you will see your modeled geometry within a minute of it converging in the REFLEX viewer, and a very crisp rendering within an hour.

For those of you accustomed to renderings that take 20 minutes just to show if the lights are on in the scene, you’ll find REFLEX a vast improvement. You can put a special modeled light fixture in your Revit model, pull it up in the REFLEX viewer to check its light source, change the light value in Revit, pull it up again, all in a matter of minutes, not hours. Of course, you’d probably change multiple light fixtures at the same time to optimize your time. But you wouldn’t have to.

What about All the Rendering Setup Time?

What setup time? Beyond creating your usual modeled systems and components such as walls, floors, ceilings, doors, windows, lighting, furniture, and casework, upload your Revit model to aAECs’ REFLEX, and don’t sit back! The REFLEX viewer will display your modeled visualization so fast you won’t have time to go for coffee. Sorry! 

Though upload times may vary based on your Internet service upload speed, REFLEX realistically illustrates interior and exterior scenes photorealistically without the heavy setup time. So, you won’t have to recreate your renderings time after time, with those times being hours upon hours, just to find the image still needs tweaking. Long gone is the notion “just set it up and let it run through the night.” The technology behind REFLEX eliminates the traditionally long wait of rendering time. It turns hours into minutes.

Standard 3D rendering techniques often require expensive computer hardware, extensive setup time, and lots of technical guesswork to produce and perfect virtual 3D scenes. REFLEX allows even novice Revit designers to dynamically interact with highly complex 3D data in a manner that is not reliant on the user’s own in-house hardware and software capabilities.

What Else Can You Do with It? 

The possibilities are staggering, but to the point, collaborate! Turn on your imagination for a moment—now imagine you are a lead designer for an average-sized architectural firm. You have created a very cool design using REFLEX to visualize a major project and need to: first, get a sign-off of the design by your client; second, illustrate the design to your  engineers and production team; and third, convey to the general contractor and the associated trades what is needed for construction and fabrication.

Sometimes, the people involved are pretty good at understanding simple 2D plans and elevations; other times, not so much! So, to save a whole lot of time, you have a meeting (or two or three), to illustrate the design using REFLEX Render. Before each interested party, you manipulate your Revit camera views to display your model photorealistically until  everyone has seen and understands all aspects of your design. When you’re finished, you not only have a bunch of saved renderings for marketing and future design awards, you also have the respect of the entire project team for a job well done. 

This article comes to you through the collaborative efforts of:

Scott A Ebert is the Revit API CM for AUGI, AUGI BOD, AEC/O Industry Analyst, and CEO of Advanced AEC Solutions, LLC, in Atlanta, GA, and can be reached at sebert@aaecs.com and http://www.linkedin.com/in/scottaebert

and

Bonnie K Gorman is the Executive Vice President of Business and Product Development at Advanced AEC Solutions, LLC in Atlanta, GA, and can be reached at bgorman@aaecs.com.

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Scott Ebert

 

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