Friday, June 28, 2013

Getting Started with InfraWorks - Part 3: Setting the Model Extent

Before reading this post, you should probably check out:

In Part 1 we acquired terrain data and aerial photos via the National Map Viewer and built a terrain model. In Part 2, we draped the aerial imagery over the terrain model giving us a much better sense of what was where.  Now that we can clearly see the project area that we would like to focus on, it's time to set the Model Extent so that the project has less to think about and performs much snappier.

To begin, I'll click the Manage tab of the ribbon, and then click Model Settings.

That brings up a dialog box which is currently set to the default of "Use Entire Model".

I'll uncheck that box which enables the BBox (bounding box)/Polygon menu, and then click the BBox option.

Clicking is a little different in InfraWorks if you're used to an AutoCAD-based environment like Civil 3D.  To make the box, I'll single-click the first point and then double-click the second point.  Don't click and drag like you would to make a window in AutoCAD.

I click Save and then Close on the Model Settings dialog box and I'm good to go.

Note that there is an Load Extent from File option.  When I first saw this I was thinking that it was looking for some sort of text file or XML file that contained coordinate values.  It's actually smarter than that - you can choose in image file, for instance, and it will use the extents of that image as the extents of your model.  Since I have so many images it didn't make sense in my case, but I can see where that could come in handy in other instances.

Now my model only includes the area I selected, regardless of the area that any source data covers.  And I'm noticing an immediate improvement in performance because I'm giving InfraWorks permission to think about less of my data - in this case a lot less.

If you're not happy with the result, you can go back to the Model Settings command and use the Edit Area of Interest command to change the extents.  Just remember to double-click a point to signal that you're finished (a common theme in InfraWorks that will drive you crazy for a little while).

Now that my model extent is defined I can lean back and enjoy those animated clouds. (they look 100 times better in InfraWorks than they do in the GIF below, but I just had to do it)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Getting Started with InfraWorks - Part 2: Draping Imagery

Before you read this, you should probably go back and read Getting Started with InfraWorks - Part 1: Building the Existing Terrain because it explains how the data was acquired and how we got Infraworks going.  At this point, we have an InfraWorks project open and it contains terrain data that was acquired from the National Map Viewer.  We also have some aerial imagery but it hasn't been applied to the project yet.

The biggest challenge with getting the data from the National Map Viewer is that each image tile comes in the form of a zip file.  For this example - 72 zip files.  Each one had to be extracted to get to the data within.  Then after that, each file had to be imported into InfraWorks.  With 72 files, I HAD to find a quick way to do this.

First, unzipping the files.  I used 7zip to do this because it let me unzip a bunch of files at once and place them each in their own folders.  Took about 10 minutes but at least I didn't have to right-click and pick unzip 72 times.

After that, I had the challenge of having 72 image files in 72 different folders.  Here I leveraged Windows along with the drag and drop capability of InfraWorks.  I opened the folder containing my raw data and did a search for *.jpg.  Then I simply selected all of the found files and dragged & dropped them into InfraWorks.  

The Configuration dialog came up once and applied my settings to all the images.  Pretty sweet, but please know that it doesn't always happen this way.  The extra files supplied with the images gave InfraWorks the information it needed to know what coordinate system was assigned to the images.  Sometimes you have to simply know this and assign it manually.

Interestingly, the names of all the images are not included in the Data Sources window.  It adopted the name of one of the images and has stored the path to all of them in its Connection String property.

The result, a gorgeous view from the the Grandview Overlook (also known as the Ship Hotel - Google it.).  I've stood here myself many times.

I've also viewed this escarpment from a small airplane.  Didn't get any pictures....but it would have looked something like this:

In part 3 we'll set the Model Extents to make the model perform much snappier.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Getting Started with InfraWorks (2014) version - Part 1: Building the Existing Terrain

NOTE: This post is for those starting out with InfraWorks 2014. If you've got the newer version with the 2014 R4 or 2015 interface, there is separate post for that here.

Autodesk InfraWorks is the new Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler, in case you didn't know.  It's a super great tool for building amazing proposals and sharing design ideas and concepts in a stunning 3D environment.  If you've never used it before, like many software programs, the toughest question to answer is "Where to begin?"  Hopefully this will help.

Before showing any design ideas in InfraWorks, you first need to establish some existing conditions.  Probably the simplest way to do this is with an aerial image draped over some terrain information.  But where do you get such information?  There are tons and tons of sources, but one that you can use that is free and covers the entire USA is the National Map Viewer  Here you can zoom in to an area and then choose the data that you want to download.  There is lots of data here and I haven't experimented with much of it, but I will show you the sources I have tried that have worked for me.

The area of study that I'm going to use is a beautiful overlook near my home town.  I always thought the hilltop above it would be a great location for a ski resort.

Once I've zoomed in to the area, I click the Download button and then use the bounding box option.

Then I draw a box around the area that I'm interested in....

And select the types of data that I want, in this case - elevation and imagery

The actual sources of data can be a guess and you may need to go back and get other/more data if what you choose is not adequate coverage or quality.  Here I'm choosing an IMG file for elevation data and a GEOTiff and JPG2000 for aerial imagery.  Not sure which will work but it looks like a good semi-educated guess.

Once you click the next button, you'll be taken through a Checkout procedure (don't worry it's free) where you'll be asked to provide your e-mail address.  

You'll receive an e-mail with links to download your data.  It will come in the form of zip files that you'll need to extract to get to the underlying data.

Now that I have the raw data, I will open Infraworks and Create a project.

I'll give the project a name and choose where I want it stored.  InfraWorks creates a ton of files and folders so don't point this to your Desktop!

Once you're in InfraWorks, click the Data Sources button and choose Raster.

Then browse to the IMG file that you downloaded from the National Map Viewer.

Once you see the data source listed, click Refresh.  I was really surprised that it didn't ask me to configure it first - maybe because of the XML files included with the IMG it knew what it was supposed to be and georeferenced itself.  Typically you have to configure a data source before you can see it in your drawing.

The refreshing process may take awhile, maybe several minutes.  This should be a one-time investment.

After it's done, you may see something weird like this...
Turn the model on its side and zoom in to trigger the generation of the graphics.  You should start to see some terrain features come into view.  Click on the image below to see it full size - it is impressive!

Be patient and allow the software time to generate the graphics.  You may not be pleased with the performance - don't worry about it.  It will get better when you set the limits of the model.  You'll need some frame of reference to do that, typically an aerial photo.  We'll look at how to do that in Part 2!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Mapping Magic in Civil 3D 2014

This feature is only talked about in the context of AutoCAD but, because AutoCAD is part of Civil 3D, Civil 3D has it too.  Now it's not included in the Civil 3D user interface so you'll need to use the command line.

  1. Sign in to Autodesk 360
  2. use the GEOGRAPHICLOCATION command to tell the feature where you are
  3. use the GEOMAP command to bring in an aerial, road, or hybrid image.
You can look, but don't touch - the image is for looking only, it can't be "extracted" and saved as an image file, or even plotted.  But it's nice to have!  Maybe future releases will have more capability.

Click the image below to check out the video:

Thanks to @C3Dish for pointing me in the right direction on this one.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Autodesk's First Ever Workflow-Based Certification

This could be a game-changer!  Autodesk has announced a new training and certification program that is not based on a product, but on a workflow that involves multiple products.  This is a first and it will be very exciting to see how it is received by the industry.  The new certification is called Roads & Highways Workflows using Infrastructure Design Suite 2014.

Check out the article here:

To me this is a breath of fresh air.  Too often we are presented with feature-function demonstrations and training.  In the real world, a person or a design team doesn't use all of the features and functions of a single product.  Instead, that user or team cuts a swath through several products to achieve a desired goal or to complete a certain type of project.  The roads & highways workflow that is addressed in this program cuts its swath through Infraworks, Civil 3D, Navisworks, 3ds Max, Revit, Autodesk 360 and possibly other products.  It sometimes loops back and covers a product a second time.  For example, the workflow begins in Infraworks with preliminary design, passes through Civil 3D for detailed design, and then back to Infraworks for some visualization of the final design.

Here is the link to the official Autodesk certification page for Roads & Highways, if you're interested.

There is also a great audio interview on ConnectPress with Autodesk's Catherine Palmer.  Here are the highlights:

  • Autodesk has been certifying users in individual products for a while now, this is the first of its kind that addresses multiple products.
  • Based on Infrastructure Design Suite Ultimate 2014
  • Exam is taken at authorized Autodesk testing centers
  • Ascent has created a book which matches the certification exam and can be used for preparation
  • Goal of program is to create and sustain a BIM-ready workforce
  • Potential employers have indicated that they're looking for BIM competent employees
  • Focus on BIM for Roads and Highways because it is needed so badly in that industry - Road design is still very 2D and not BIM-based.
  • Tools for radical improvement are out there (Infraworks)
  • Exam is about 40 questions
  • If you pass, you will have a "Certified BIM Specialist" credential - first of its kind.
  • A "badge" e-mail signature, LinkedIn profile, etc.
  • Firms will want to market their numbers of BIM-certified staff members
  • Hopefully other workflow-based BIM certification programs will follow
  • Autodesk's BIM leadership goes beyond providing software

Monday, June 10, 2013

Autodesk Excellence In Infrastructure Competition: Why Not?

Autodesk is accepting submissions until June 28th for the Excellence in Infrastructure competition.  Were you involved in a project that really showcased your application of Autodesk infrastructure solutions?!  Then why not submit it?

Details at this link: