Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Interactive Terrain Shaping - The Journey Begins

A few weeks ago, Autodesk released Interactive Terrain Shaping into the wild via Autodesk Labs.  This is a completely new way to look at grading - new technology, new commands, new concepts.  This could be very, very HUGE.  For nearly a decade, we have been struggling with bug-infested grading tools and now there may finally be some hope...but only if you, the users, download this thing, try it, learn how it thinks, tell Autodesk how great it is, and provide useful feedback on how to improve it.
After spending some time with ITS I can tell you that if you think it's just a fancier way to do what Civil 3D already does, you should should work with it some more because you don't understand it yet.  This thing is new, its fresh, and its exciting.
I will admit, however, that its taken me some time to wrap my head around it and I want to share what I've learned to hopefully help steepen the learning curve for others.
I'll start with basic concepts in this post, and then build upon that with what I hope will be many, many future posts.

Here are some basic thoughts to get you started:
  • When you use ITS the object you are working with is called a Grading Grid (AECC_GRADINGGRID)
  • It can be made up of sub-objects such as:
    • Working grids
    • Atomic grids
    • Composite grids
    • Op grids
    • Finished grid
  • Every job starts with a special grid called the work canvas which is a surface (usually existing ground) bounded by a rectangle.
    • The finished grid is created by combining the working canvas with other grids in a specific order, kind of like boolean add and subtract operations that are done with solids.
    • The grid is rough and blocky but can be converted to a solid when its time to be accurate.
    • There are tools like Pond, Parking Lot, and Swale that package many working elements and operations for you.  These are great for pretty demonstrations, but they don't help you understand how the technology works because they do everything for you.  If you want to learn how ITS "thinks" avoid these tools for now (even though the documentation says that they're great learning tools).
    • Make sure you do all of the recommended settings changes to improve performance.  You'll find these on the Getting Started Page.
    • You can adjust the spacing of the grid to help with drawing performance.
    • Make sure you download the ITS Users Guide and read it before starting.  I know, doesn't sound like fun.  I'm not typically a "read the directions first" kind of person either but this will give you a good idea how ITS "thinks".
    Stay tuned for more posts that dig deeper into this exciting technology.


    1. Thanks for your detailed description of how to use the technology preview. The more people we can get using it - the better chance we have of getting feedback to shape its future. Thanks for helping with that.

    2. Amen, Scott! Thanks for checking in on the blog.

    3. Great blog Eric,
      I really want to try out ITS but can't get the ribbon tab to show up. I'm using C3D 2012 64bit with SP2. No luck getting the ITS to show on my ribbon after loading the cui. Do you know of any conflicts with SP2?

      Thanks for any help,

    4. The ITS labs preview currently works with Civil 3D 2012 SP1 version only.