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In a time when ‘to the cloud’ is a common refrain in the techroom, Cloud Rendering is an obvious ‘Duh…!’
Well, it is a reality (finally!) with Revit and other Autodesk Products such as 3D Max Design and AutoCAD. My primary interest being Revit, I was more excited to avoid the drudgery of waiting forever for getting something rendered in Revit.
I’ve made a comparison between renderings produced natively in Revit and those produced in the Cloud – and the results are comparable. The interface is simple and the options are limited, but hey the reason you render anything in Revit is to really understand how the space appears and as a consequence impress the buyer of the space. I love rendering in Revit because it is a WYSIWYG (what you see…is what you get) impression of the model and hence there is hardly any ‘faking it’ unless you are intentionally mis-representing objects.
The interface is pretty straight-forward. You do need to be on subscription to be able to access it (and recently, I am told, you should also own the Building Design Suite Premium or Ultimate). Once you sign in, you get a very simple screen that looks like this:
You will also be asked to install an ‘add-in’ that will get you a tool bar called ‘Online’ within Revit. You will have to install this as this is your link between the software and the cloud renderers. The tool bar, once installed will look like this:
The Render in Cloud simply renders the current view whereas the ‘Render Gallery’ opens up the browser and takes you to the Render gallery you saw in the previous image. From my few experiments, it appears that the settings are mostly derived from the Render settings of the view. I was able to get Day and night settings for the same view by simply changing the settings within the render dialog box in Revit (and sometime moving the sun) and re-rendering in the cloud.
The results were quite impressive. In fact, as time passed, the renderings from the cloud were better balanced (in terms for exposure/white point) than a native Revit rendering. Below is the Native Revit Test render using default settings on the sample project that comes with the software:
I had to adjust the exposure quite a bit to get this as close as possible to balanced the exposure so that most of the image is visible. This was rendered at a ‘Medium’ setting. Compare this to the default output from the cloud rendering at the ‘medium’ setting:
As you can see, the colors are more vivid. The result is not necessarily superior depending on what you are trying to achieve, but at the same time, if you can get this in five minutes as opposed an hour for the first one, I am sure you can appreciate the value. The time that it takes on your machine (for the rendering to be done locally) obviously varies with the machine. However, the key factor is that you cannot do anything else with the machine (or the Revit license for that matter) while the (local) rendering is in progress. And, if you are using a Building Design Suite Premium licence in this case, you are also locking up the opportunity of another user being able to use any other product in the suite license.
An added advantage is also that you can have a 360-degree panorama of the space. The catch though, is that the panorama is view-able only on a browser and is not download-able.
Below are tests with the same file with artificial lighting. The first is the local revit rendering:
And this is the Cloud version of the same scene:
This is where the results tend to ’fray’ around the edges. The vividness of the colors tend to make the shadows and hight-lights harsher. In this case, you may prefer the ’softness’ of the local rendering as opposed to the cloud. You do have a greater degree of control within revit that with the cloud. The cloud controls are available after the first pass at rendering. This means you will have to ‘re-render using advanced settings’.
You have a pre-set for environment which is rather limited. These are essentially High Dynamic Range Images (HDRI) that also set the tone for the lighting of the scene. ‘Render Quality’ and ‘File Format’ settings are what you are normally used to in the Revit Environment. The ‘Exposure’ setting has two options: Native & Advanced. The difference between the two seems to be that ‘Native’ takes the settings from the native software (Revit) in this case and advanced is derived from the actual geometry that is uploaded to the cloud servers.
I have found that you get pretty decent renderings once you have set-up the view as if you would have to render it natively in Revit. Below is an example of a ‘mixed-mode’ rendering where you have both daylight and artificial light in the same scene:
Again, most of us would prefer the softness of the shadows and highlights of a local rendering, but for studies and options, I think this is more than worth the saving.