Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Learning Resource is Now Available for the InfraWorks Roadway Design Module

About a week ago I had the pleasure of announcing my newly available InfraWorks Essentials book. Now, I'm just as tickled to share that the Roadway Design essentials e-book is available on Amazon for only $7.99

So if you feel like you're pretty good at the core functionality of InfraWorks, the new eBook is a great way to dive a little deeper into the powerful roadway module and learn its ins and outs as well.

The book has three chapters: Getting Started, Designing Roads, and Using Advanced Functions.In the Getting Started chapter you'll get a tour of the module's capabilities and its expanded user interface.
Then in the Designing Roads chapter, you'll learn how to perform the meat and potatoes of road design: laying out out roads, viewing in profile, making adjustments, intersection design, and so on.

Then in the third chapter entitled Using Advanced Functions you'll get into profile optimization, sight distance analysis for highways and intersections, and the powerful Generate Civil 3D Drawings function for making the jump from InfraWorks concept to Civil 3D plan set.

This is the good stuff people! If you're really into InfraWorks and you want to learn more for just 8 bucks, you can't beat it.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Getting Started with InfraWorks (2015 version) - Part 5: Sharing with the World

Note: This series of posts is an updated version of the same posts I did last year for version 2014 R2. It has the same content as those posts, but updated to address the new user interface and any applicable feature changes. If you're still on the older software, you can try out this series of posts.

Before reading this post, you should probably check out:
In this final post of the series, I'd like to take a look at how to share your InfraWorks creation with the world - even someone who doesn't have InfraWorks.

I'll start by creating a Scenario.  This begins by clicking the Scenario Browser icon on the Presentation toolbar.

This opens the Scenarios palette where I can click the Green plus sign to create a new scenario. As the new scenario is created, the Scenario Editor asset card also opens.

I'll use the Polygon icon within the Area of Interest section to set the extent of my scenario. Unless you've got a really small model area to begin with, it's not a good idea to include the whole model in your scenario. Remember that the person viewing the scenario may have limited resources such as computer power or internet speed.

There are more settings here, but for now, let's just define the area of interest (which we've done) and get this thing in the cloud. To do that I'll need to click the Publish/Sync icon in the upper left corner of the screen within the black strip called the Utility Bar.

This will publish the model to InfraWorks 360 and also publish the scenario. You'll need to choose a group that will become the new home of the online version of your model. Then you can click Publish.

Now of course, in order to pull this off, you have to have InfraWorks 360 installed as well as have access to a group that you are able to publish to.

Once the model is published, the status of your scenario will say Generating for a while...

But then the status will change to Published. Once it has, you can select the scenario and then click the Open in Web Browser icon to well...open it in a web browser.

When you click the button, you'll be asked to log into your Autodesk account (if you're not already) and then you'll be taken to your online scenario.

You can share this link with others so that they can get a look at what you have in mind. In fact here is the link to the scenario I published while writing this post - give it a try.

There is also an iPad app which allows you to take the scenario out in the field and visualize your model right there where it's going to happen. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense for what we've done so far, but imagine editing your model to add a resort on the hillside. Now imagine taking a developer out to the site, having him hold up the iPad like a magic window, and see the building right there like it's already been built. You can totally do this.

Getting Started with InfraWorks (2015 version) - Part 4: Adding a Road

Note: This series of posts is an updated version of the same posts I did last year for version 2014 R2. It has the same content as those posts, but updated to address the new user interface and any applicable feature changes. If you're still on the older software, you can try out this series of posts.

Before reading this post, you should probably check out:

Although the title of this post suggests that we're going to do some design, I'm actually referring to dressing up an existing road a bit to make it look better - and eventually to give us something to tie our new roads into.

At this point in the project, we've got a nice terrain and some aerial imagery draped over it.  The imagery looks great from a distance but when you zoom in, it starts to look very grainy.  Not a huge deal for some features, but for others you may want to improve their appearance drastically.  I'm going to accomplish this with the existing road on the switchback area shown below by simply adding a new road in its place.

Here's how:

First I need to bring up the toolbar that contains the Roads icon.  This is done by clicking the Create icon on the InfraWorks core toolbar.

When you click the Roads icon, the Select Draw Style asset card will pop up.  From here you can pick a style that suites the type of road that suites your needs.  For this example I'm going to pick a two lane road style.

Now all I need to do is click points along the existing road.  The number and spacing of points is important.

When I pick one point, InfraWorks will assign an elevation from the terrain.  At the next point, the terrain will be used again and the program will draw a straight line between the two points.  At the next point, the terrain elevation will again be used and InfraWorks will apply a spline to add curvature to the road.  If my points are too far apart, there won't be enough elevation samples for the road to adequately match the existing terrain.  

Remember to double-click your last point to signal InfraWorks that you're ending the command (this takes some getting used to).  When you're done, grips will show up on your newly drawn road.  The box-shaped ones are like square grips in AutoCAD - they let you move within the XY plane - however, the vertex will update to try to match the terrain in its new location.  The cone-shaped grips move in the Z-axis only.  You can use both of these types of grips to adjust your layout.  You can even right click a spot on the road and add a vertex if you need one.

When you're all done, your road will look more like a road instead of a pixellated gray thing.  Although it'll look even better once you do a little style magic - look for a post on that topic in the future.

Keep in mind that I could also have imported road data as a data source if I was lucky enough to have access to it. The National Map Viewer does have some road data that you can download and there are lots of other sources as well. And you can assign whatever styles you want to the data to make local roads, highways, interstates, even bridges. And that doesn't even consider Model Builder. But that's for another day - today we've just spruced up part of road to make it look more like a road.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Getting Started with InfraWorks (2015 version) - Part 3: Setting the Model Extent

Note: This series of posts is an updated version of the same posts I did last year for version 2014 R2. It has the same content as those posts, but updated to address the new user interface and any applicable feature changes. If you're still on the older software, you can try out this series of posts.

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 icon on the InfraWorks core toolbar, and then click Model Settings.

That brings up the Model Properties dialog which is currently has the model extent 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 OK 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)

Getting Started with InfraWorks (2015 version) - Part 2: Draping Imagery

Note: This series of posts is an updated version of the same posts I did last year for version 2014 R2. It has the same content as those posts, but updated to address the new user interface and any applicable feature changes. If you're still on the older software, you can try out this series of posts.

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.

Getting Started with InfraWorks (2015 version) - Part 1: Building the Existing Terrain

Note: This series of posts is an updated version of the same posts I did last year for version 2014 R2. It has the same content as those posts, but updated to address the new user interface and any applicable feature changes. If you're still on the older software, you can try out this series of posts.

Autodesk InfraWorks is a 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.

Now the current version of InfraWorks has the Model Builder preview which makes what I'm about to show you about 100 times quicker and easier. I highly recommend checking that out, but for this series of posts I'm going to stick to "official" features in the software to accomplish our goals.

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 http://viewer.nationalmap.gov/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.

Again, note the Model Builder (preview). Definitely check that out!

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 icon to open the Data Sources panel. 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!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The First Ever InfraWorks 2015 Book Has Arrived!

I received my advanced copy of Autodesk InfraWorks and InfraWorks 360 Essentials today and I am very pleased with how it has turned out.
With Wiley's full-color quality printing, the images are stunning and the book is really fun to look at with all of the great imagery that InfraWorks produces.

If you search Amazon for InfraWorks you'll find one book: this one! And it's the only publication available that is based on the current version of InfraWorks with the new immersive user interface.
Amazon still lists it as a pre-order but I think that will change soon. You can also buy the book from Wiley directly.

I hope that this book will help lots of people discover, learn, and master this ground-breaking software program that makes planning and engineering fun, eloquent, beautiful, efficient, and practical. If you haven't tried out InfraWorks yet - you simply have to. And if you want to learn what it's all about and how to become productive with it in a short time - this book will do that for you.