software to design HT room

Discussion in 'Home Theater Projects' started by BobMaslen, Mar 11, 2003.

  1. BobMaslen

    BobMaslen Extra

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    Hi,

    Does anyone know of good software that I could use to design up my HT room that would actually let me draw up 2X4's and such.

    I know MikeWh sent me a image of a stage and it looked great. Mike, what did you use to whip that up?

    Thanks all

    Bob
     
  2. MikeWh

    MikeWh Second Unit

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    Bob, I use Visio for all of my design work (i.e., anything that I need to visualize in order to build it in the workshop). I've used it for years for my job, so it's just something I'm used to. It's now a Microsoft product (latest version = Visio 2002), but seemed to be doing fine without their help for many years. [​IMG]

    Visio was never intended to be a 3D CAD program. It was only intended for 2D drawing (originally, at least). It is perfect for floorplans or any other 2D drawing (e.g., computer network design, flow charting, org charts, etc).

    The stage pic I created was on a 3D perspective, but only because I knew how to invision and draw the perspective using a 2D package. It's actually only the 2nd or 3rd time I've ever messed around with cheating the perspective in Visio, because like I said, it's not made for that. I did it, because I knew it would be easier for someone to see what I was talking about.

    For true 3D design work, you need a CAD program. Also, 3D modeling programs (like for web work) can be used, but I don't think you'll find features like the ability to determine measurements. FreeCAD is one of many of these CAD programs.... but, like I said, I don't use them, because Visio does everything I need. I'm sure others can give you their solutions.
     
  3. DougHaffner

    DougHaffner Auditioning

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    Hi, Bob!

    Depending on whether or not you're on a Mac or Pc...there are lots of great 3D programs out there. Some of the big names are Maya, 3D Studio Max (PC ONLY), Lightwave, Cinema 4D...and the list goes on and on.
    The price range really varies. If you happen to be a student, you can get some really decend educational deals on some of the software. Further, most of the good ones will allow you to download a fully functioning demo that either has a time stamp (program stops working after a certain time) or they render a watermark of some kind (so you can't use the program commercially without paying for it).
    Personally, I've been trying out the Cinema 4D demo (the company is Maxon) and really enjoying it. If I get my HT opening completed, I'll post it.
    Best of luck
     
  4. sean_pecor

    sean_pecor Stunt Coordinator

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    I'd recommend Blender - http://www.blender.org

    All of the consumer-oriented 3D home-design tools I've used have fairly limited 3D rendering capabilities, but they may work well to help you plan and visualize. I've used IMSI's tool, and it is pretty nice. It's called Floorplan 3D and you can get a 15 day trial at:

    http://www.imsisoft.com/free/

    If money is no object, you can use a tool like 3D Studio Max, Lightwave, etc. But, spending $2,000+ just to design a home theater defies all logic [​IMG] I use Lightwave for my work, and here is a recent rendering of the modest wall unit I'm designing:

    http://extranet.digitalspinner.com/ht/ecenter7.jpg
     
  5. MikeWh

    MikeWh Second Unit

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    Bob: The software Doug and Sean describe are what I was referring to as "3D modeling programs (like for web work)", as opposed to traditional CAD (Sean... glad you mentioned IMSI-- TurboCad was the other CAD program that I was thinking of). Sean also makes a good point-- there are plenty of relatively cheap home designing programs out there. For what you want, they're great and relatively easy to use.

    Doug and/or Sean: Out of curiosity, when you create your models before full-blown rendering, is the process more of an artistic one (e.g., where object sizes are just relative to each other, and you draw a spline here or there, then connect it to others in a visually appealing way), or an engineering one (e.g., where you define the environment's scale (1:10, etc.), and you define an object's length, position, angle, etc.). For example, in Sean's wall unit (nice rendering, Sean), could you click on an object's properties and be able to tell that, say... the unit is 10'2" long and 5'3" high (for example)?

    This is the primary reason I continue to use Visio (and why traditional CAD is still out there)-- because you can make exacting designs and then bring the resulting measurements to the worksite.
     
  6. sean_pecor

    sean_pecor Stunt Coordinator

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    Mike: I approach this type of modeling work from an engineering perspective. For example, to add a shelf I'd do this:

    1. Select Object -> Create -> Cube with the mouse, after selecting an empty object "layer". Lightwave calls them layers, but they're more like slots to me.
    2. Select numeric dimensions tool (keyboard shortcut 'n')
    3. Specify 0.75" height, 22" width, 12" depth.
    4. Make any optional tweaks, like applying a "surface" or adjusting the number of polygons I want to use.
    5. Press "enter".

    At this point, in my viewport I have a board. I can move this board around, for example, like this:

    1. Make my only foreground layer the one with the board in it.
    2. Place all other layers in the background (they appear as black wireframes).
    3. Now I see my white wireframe board set in the context of a 3D model. I can move/rotate/resize the board.

    The interface is very intuitive once you understand the basics. I keep my viewport settings at the default, where I see four viewports, one for a top view, one for a side view, another for a back view. In the fourth viewport I see a real-time solid shaded perspective rendering of all foreground layers. This last viewport is where you can get a subjective feel for the design in progress. Each viewport can be zoomed/rotated depending on the level of detail required.

    Yes, it has a handy measuring tool, so you can measure on any plane. There is also an angle tool so you can set down two lines and move a third line around; the current angle is shown in a status box. Handy for determining where to place speakers etc.

    3D modeling man-made objects is interesting. You approach the design of seemingly organic shapes using an engineer's set of tools. For example, the best way to create a crescent-shaped cutout from a board is not to add some vertexes and move those around until it looks right. Instead, with a couple of mouse clicks you'd create an irregular "disc" in the background layer using the disc tool, place it relative to your board that is in the foreground layer, and then use the Multiply -> Boolean -> Subtract option. The space shared by both the disc and the board would be removed from the board, and surface of the disc would be applied to the newly exposed surface of the board. Then you'd just delete the original disc layer from the object.

    Lightwave and other high-end 3D applications support organic design metaphors too (like splines, "nurbs", "metaballs" etc). Those approaches are invaluable to creating organic stuff like humans, flora and fauna etc.

    Sean.
     
  7. MikeWh

    MikeWh Second Unit

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    Sean-- Excellent. Thanks for the info. I had always wondered if these tools were working in "real" dimensions.

    I've tooled around with raytracing, Bryce, etc... but have had 3D Studio Max on my "things to play with" list. I'm afraid I've got too many projects going on at any one time, and whenever I find a new, cool tool, I get easily side-tracked. That's how I got into my QTVR/Stitcher work. I'm now playing with Flash, Director, and linux now. It just keeps going on-and-on-and-on.... looks like 3ds is next.
     
  8. sean_pecor

    sean_pecor Stunt Coordinator

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    I use Linux (Gentoo Linux / KDE) on my main workstation. You should try out Blender, since it works on Win/Max/Lin boxes. It's a pretty powerful modeling and animation tool, and it's free (as in beer).

    Sean.
     
  9. Chip_Slattery

    Chip_Slattery Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm currently using Autodesk's Revit (www.revit.com) which comes as close as I've found to combining the best of both the CAD world and the 3D world. Unlike Autodesk's AutoCAD which is quite versatile in it's applications, Revit is designed specifically for architects and the building community.

    It's an expensive program ($2000+ range), but there's really nothing out there that I've found that compares to it. You can download a demo from the Revit website (link above) and try it out for yourself.

    If you'd like to see the type of rendering available via Revit you can take a look at the "gallery" section of my HT website. (link in sig below) Bear in mind that I've only been using the program for a little over a month. I think I'm just starting to touch on what this program is capable of creating.

    I guess I should mention that up until recently I had been using Punch! Software's "Home Design Architectural Series 18" (www.punchsoftware.com) which IMHO is the best of the consumer (i.e. under $150) programs that I have found. Punch! design products served me well for several years before I recently moved on to Revit.
     
  10. sean_pecor

    sean_pecor Stunt Coordinator

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    Chip,

    I have a tremendous amount of respect for Autodesk. Back in the very early 90's I used Autodesk Animator, and Animator Pro to do 2D design work, and I loved both tools.

    IMHO, if you're doing strictly architectural work, then Revit is a great choice. If you're an A/V enthusiast who wants to design your home theater in 3D, but once complete want to use your tool for other 3D artwork or design, then Lightwave is probably a better choice. It's $500 cheaper, and the photorealistic output is nearly unmatched. Here is a shortcut to an architectural rendering done with Lightwave:

    Lightwave Gallery Image

    Have fun!

    Sean.
     
  11. Chip_Slattery

    Chip_Slattery Stunt Coordinator

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    Sean,

    I think you're absolutely right in your assessment.

    Boils down to the right tool for the right job...
     
  12. MikeWh

    MikeWh Second Unit

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    Sean-- That Lightwave gallery pic is SWEET! OK. Lightwave is next on my list. [​IMG]

    Chip-- And, I think "degree of learning curve" or "cost/benefit" should be thrown in there, too. I think we sometimes get carried away with what is "best, but difficult or expensive" vs. what is "good enough, but easier to do and cheaper". But then, we wouldn't be HT idiots, if we liked the cheap and easy route all the time. [​IMG] BTW, I love the graphic design of the Fox Path Theater logo and the overall clean style of the site, as a whole. Very nice.
     
  13. MikeWh

    MikeWh Second Unit

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    Sean-- just went hunting around the Lightwave site-- Newtek! The Video Toaster people. Boy, what a history THAT product has had. I looked throught the gallery a little more... the next image after the one you sent the link for is spectacular. Very nice.
     
  14. Dave Poehlman

    Dave Poehlman Producer

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    Since this thread was sort of revived by a link in THIS THREAD, I thought I'd ad my 2 cents.

    I've used a free download from Artifice called Design Workshop Lite.

    It's not the most user-friendly interface. But once you get through the tutorial, you can do some neat stuff with it. IMHO, it's perfect for the occasional remodel. I was able to draw THIS with it.

    And once I was pretty adept at importing textures (involves converting images to the obscure .pict format), I was able to recreate my pictures,refrigerator, furniture, and my Toshiba 50HDX82 seen HERE.

    It does take some patience, and if you have a digital camera, enjoy tinkering with the archaic texture file, you can pretty much recreate anything in your house.

    The shareware version will only let you save 100 objects. Which sounds like a lot, but when you're importing things from their example files (limited selection), it can add up pretty quickly. A work around is to save some objects in a separate file and then just paste them together when you want to move things around.

    It's tedious.. but it's free... whadya want for nothin' [​IMG]
     

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