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AECbytes Tips and Tricks Issue #16 (March 27, 2007)

Animating Illustrations of Design Changes using Newforma Project Center

Tamara Shroll
Project Team Leader, Gould Evans Associates

At the Gould Evans office in Phoenix, we're using software intended to streamline project delivery to strengthen presentations to clients and stakeholders. Among its many functions, the software, Newforma Project Center, creates animated GIFs of before-and-after changes as part of a quality control process for revised sets of drawings. But at Gould Evans, we also embed such GIFs in slide presentations to more clearly show clients how spaces will be transformed. An example is shown below: the blue pixels show structure being added to the building, while red pixels show structure being removed.

Newforma Project Center is new software that architects and engineers are using to organize project information, connect team members and streamline the project process. The Newforma Project Center solution includes a dozen functions, but three in particular come into play here:

  • The first functionality, Viewer, opens and displays files of type DWG, DGN, DWF, DXF, PDF, PLT and most bitmap formats.

  • The second functionality, Compare, finds changes that have been made between successive versions of drawings, document sets, transmittals, or project folders and files.

  • The third, Digital Light Table, brings an additional level of clarity when comparing any two raster, CAD or PDF files of different or incompatible origin. It color-codes the differences between any two files. It is from Digital Light Table that we create animated GIFs of the kind shown above.

In this tutorial, we show how a proposed floor plan created in a Revit model and exported as a DWF file compares to a PDF file of the existing plan.

A note at the outset: When files match in terms of location and scale, as when comparing iterative versions of DWG files or DWF files, the process of creating an animated GIF takes about half the steps shown below. We've chosen a more involved demonstration to more clearly reflect the realities faced in an industry that uses many different file types and scales.

Let's get started.

1. Newforma Project Center organizes all project files in a central interface. The first step to comparing two drawings is as simple as selecting a baseline file within the project's file structure, then selecting Compare from the Folder Tasks panel. Here, I've selected an owner-supplied PDF that shows existing conditions.

2. Next you'll be prompted to select a second file for comparison. Click the option that applies: in this case, Another File in Project Folders.

3. We are prompted to select the second file to compare. In this case, we select a DWF file published from our Revit model. At Gould Evans we use Revit, so the ability to compare DWF files published from Revit to other file formats like DWG, PDF or TIF is very useful. After selecting the second file, click Compare Now at the bottom of the screen.

4. The Compare Results window displays a summary of the changes to the files, including the difference in size and date changes between the PDF and DWF file. To view the graphical changes between the two files, select the file and, under Tasks, click Compare with Newforma Viewer.

5. The two drawings are overlaid on one another and color coded in the Viewer. When comparing incompatible file types, as we do here in comparing a PDF to a DWF, you may need to make the two drawings conform to the same scale and position. If so, click Modify Comparison.

5a & b. As a first step to aligning two drawings, click Fit Revised to Baseline to match the extents of each file. Then, if necessary, click Align Background Drawings.

5c. Once the drawings are aligned, we'll focus on a restroom being adapted to conform to the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Use the mouse to zoom in, and click Scale Background.

5d. Identify two points on the first drawing that are replicated on the second. In this instance, we chose the total distance of the restroom wall, which is the same in the existing and renovated spaces.

5e. In this example, matching the drawings' scales was sufficient to align them. If necessary, the Newforma software allows users to use the Move Background function to align drawings further.

Regardless, click Back, and Back to Compare Tasks, to set up your next step.

6. When comparing two different file formats, the Digital Light Table lets us isolate the differences between the two drawings. Select Digital Light Table in the Compare Tasks panel, as shown below.

7. To manually display Before and After images, use the animation slider in the Compare Tasks panel, as shown below.

8. Now the payoff: Click Create Animated Comparison and enter a name and location to save the file as a GIF.

9. Place the GIF in a PowerPoint slide to show clients and stakeholders the transition from the old space to the new.

By watching the transition repeatedly, clients and stakeholders come to understand which building elements change, and which stay the same. The animation conveys the scope of the renovation in dramatic terms.

About the Author

Tamara Shroll's roles in the Phoenix office of Gould Evans Associates include project manager and project team leader. With 10 years of experience, Tamara Shroll has worked on several complex and large-scale projects, providing team management, operational analysis, programming, space planning, and the design of alternative environments. The 200 associates of Gould Evans practice architecture, interior design, urban planning, landscape architecture and graphic design from seven United States offices: Kansas City; Lawrence and Overland Park, Kan.; Tampa, Fla.; Phoenix; San Francisco; and Salt Lake City. A broad range of public and private projects comprise the firm's portfolio of work, including educational, civic, mixed-use, retail/entertainment, office and hospitality. For more information, visit www.gouldevans.com.


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