Five tools for real-time rendering

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Greg Corke highlights five tools that can bring your designs to life in a fully interactive real-time environment. Explore your building from any angle, and in VR, or produce stills and animations at lightning fast speeds

Real-time rendering in AEC is on the rise, with more applications tuned to the workflows of architects and engineers, offering tight integration with leading CAD / BIM tools.

It’s all about visualising your designs instantly at a much higher quality than you can achieve in a CAD or BIM application. The software uses realistic materials and lights and you can also bring designs to life with trees, cars and people.

There are two main use cases. The first offers the freedom to explore designs from any angle and in immersive VR. The second allows the creation of traditional design viz deliverables — stills and animations — very quickly or instantly. The quality isn’t as good as the best ray trace renderers, but the speed in which the software reacts to design change is unparalleled.

Real-time rendering, especially for VR, requires a powerful GPU.

Enscape (Enscape GmbH)

Enscape is all about ease of use. Simply install the Revit, SketchUp, Rhino or ArchiCAD plug-in then click a button to view your model in Enscape in real-time and in VR with the Rift or Vive. The beauty of Enscape is that all the prep is done in your familiar BIM tool and all subsequent edits are automatically seen in Enscape seconds later — textures, lights and all. Enscape can also export an EXE so anyone can explore designs interactively, and in VR, without anEnscape licence.
Update 4/3/21 – read our Enscape 3.0 review

LumenRT (Bentley Systems)

LumenRT stands out for its ability to provide a visually rich context for architecture and infrastructure projects. Users can paint in forests of trees or add animated characters and vehicles. Models can be imported from Revit, SketchUp, ArchiCAD and MicroStation, with BIM data also brought over. The software can handle truly colossal datasets by streaming in Bentley’s scalable meshes. Support for VR and the ability to export a ‘LiveCube’ executable is also included.


Lumion (Act-3D B.V.)

Lumion is renowned for its high visual fidelity and ease of use and its ability to view designs in context with vegetation, water and objects. The software offers a ‘LiveSync’ for SketchUp, Revit and ArchiCAD so any changes made in the BIM tool are instantly seen in Lumion. Most customers use Lumion to create videos and stills very quickly. VR support is limited to static 360 panoramas.

Check out our interview with Lumion’s Roger Hammond.

Twinmotion (Abvent)

Twinmotion is built on Unreal Engine, so the visual fidelity is excellent, but the software is much easier to use. It has live links to Revit and ArchiCAD and runs on Mac and PC. Twinmotion is used mostly for creating images and videos very quickly, but more users are experimenting with real-time VR presentations. Twinlinker allows users to create and share projects as ‘virtual visits’ in a browser.

Check out our interview with Twinmotion’s Martin Krasemann.

Unreal Engine (Epic Games)

Unreal Engine looks amazing and is used to make stunning games, so with the right programming skills the world is your oyster. This makes it complex to use and more suited to the tail end of design, but Epic is looking to change this. Unreal Studio is designed to make it easier to work with BIM tools like SketchUp and Revit. There’s also an optimised workflow from V-Ray.

To find out more check out Unreal Engine – becoming part of design.

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