Tridify recently launched a new BIM streaming service that uses Unreal Engine. Greg Corke caught up with the company’s CEO, Alexander Le Bell, to find out more
Tridify is well known for its BIM-to-web service. Users upload an IFC file to the cloud and it is automatically turned into a web-optimised model that can be shared online for collaboration with teams, partners and customers.
While the resulting models are lightweight, they still have to be rendered on the local device – be that a laptop, tablet or mobile phone – using the local GPU. This is fine for smaller BIM models, but, for the larger ones, users won’t always get the best experience – and, we expect, some models will simply too big.
To help get around this challenge, Tridify was recently awarded an Epic MegaGrant to develop a new service that allows its models to be rendered with Unreal Engine in the cloud with the pixels then streamed to a mobile device. All the end user needs is a URL, so the model can be viewed using a standard web browser.
As all the graphics processing is now done on a powerful GPU server, the service is said to work with ‘any size of model on any device’. And, while models are currently rendered quite simply, as the system is based on Unreal Engine the world is really your oyster when it comes to visual quality.
With the new service now being made available to selected customers we caught up with Tridify’s CEO, Alexander Le Bell, to find out more.
Q. Is the primary reason for the partnership to give the ability to view larger models, and the secondary benefit is render quality?
The first step is to give our customers the ability to view bigger models with any device. In the future, our aim is to provide an automated content pipeline to Twinmotion and Unreal developers. This means that you will be able to have an easy-to-use workflow where BIM data is used to filter content from large amounts of data and then use it in Twinmotion or Unreal applications. Or even import content in real-time to those software applications using Tridify APIs.
By default, the render quality will also be constantly improving but the main objective is not to compete with software like Twinmotion that is geared towards high quality rendering. Our aim is to push the limit of how large and complex models can be viewed on mobile devices.
Q. How will customers pay for the service? (as they will be using your GPU hardware resources?)
The customer will buy a normal Tridify subscription plan that allows them to have all the current features of the Tridify service, where customers can publish to the web using the Tridify web viewer. In addition, they will now also be able to publish to the streaming service.
Q. With the Unreal service do you (or will you eventually) get all the same functionality as you get with the existing tools? The press release states “future tools will include mark-up, annotations, measuring and cutting planes.”
We will give users the tools they need for viewing and working with BIM models. The tools will come in stages. We are working with our key clients to get the feedback on what are the most important tools you need when viewing large and complex models. Some tools are more important than others, so from the feedback we will be able to decide the most important use cases and give the tools to solve them.
Q. Will you be able to view BIM object data?
This will be the first feature that we are going to implement because there is no use in viewing a BIM model, if you don’t know what part of the model you are looking at.
Q. Once you’ve uploaded your model(s) do you get a choice to use the existing workflows or Unreal streaming, or do you have to choose at time of uploading?
The workflow stays exactly the same. First you upload and process your BIM files. Then in the publishing phase you select the content and the data that you want to publish. Then you select the media where you’d like to publish the content. Either you select to publish to the current existing web viewer or to the new streaming service. Then you will be able to choose what tools you will give to the viewer, since the two different viewing options do not have the same tools available yet.
Q. How are materials applied to the BIM model (does it use BIM object data and automatically replace with Unreal materials?).
Currently, our Unreal application is mapping basic materials from the BIM model automatically to Unreal materials. However, at the end of this November we are releasing our Revit material exporter plug-in that will enable you to export the materials that you used in a Revit BIM project to our service. Then you will get the same materials as in Revit in the Unreal application and to the current web viewer.
Q. From the images we’ve seen it looks like you are not making the most of the render quality in Unreal Engine. I presume this is not the point of the software (the focus in on geometry) or are there tools where you can improve the quality with control over materials / lighting etc?
First step is to get the process fully automated. Then we will be able to get to the features of the Unreal engine that are the best in the world. We are going to implement raytracing, physical materials and lighting effects, so you will be able to get closer to the quality of rendering that Unreal users are used to. Keep in mind that we are going to create all these features as a fully automated service. So, if you compare our approach that enables you to publish hundreds of models in a matter of minutes, with an Unreal developer that is using 100+ hours on just one scene, to fine-tune every Unreal feature, there will always be a difference in the end result.
Q. Is there currently any workflow from Tridify to Twinmotion or Tridify to Unreal Engine?
This is one thing that we are working towards. The Unreal team is working on adding Datasmith as part of the Unreal Engine. This means that we would be able to generate Datasmith files in real-time from the content that we show in our Tridify streaming service.
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