All part of the Service

The newly released Vectorworks 2021 Service Pack 3 introduces real-time rendering and BIM and Cloud Services enhancements for Vectorworks

A testament to the hive of activity around the development and release of a software solution is the frequency and quality of its updates. When you have a suite of applications that cover much of the industry and then some, like Vectorworks, then unloading all the new features, performance enhancements, updated user interfaces and so on in one go, is generally a step too far, both for the customer and the company, which has to support the rollout. New product launches are therefore supplemented by further releases throughout the year in the form of Service Packs, the latest of which is Service Pack 3 for Vectorworks 2021 (SP3).

The contents in each Service Pack, with much credit to Vectorworks' software developers, probably equates to the total number of annual upgrades you would expect in some other packages. The current release provides information about new partnerships adding new functionality to the software, improved capabilities within Vectorworks Cloud Services, enhanced BIM model exchange with Solibri and IFC export and direct access to the GDTF fixtures in Vectorworks Spotlight.

Epic Games, the company behind the phenomenally successful Fortnite and developers of the Unreal Engine, the Datasmith-based, real-time graphics rendering application used in Twinmotion, have partnered with Vectorworks, enabling them to use the Datasmith SDK to create real-time renderings of Vectorworks models using open and advanced 3D creation tools such as Unreal Editor and Twinmotion's functionality.

Twinmotion is one of the most popular rendering tools, enabling architects and engineers to quickly create high-quality images, panoramas and standard or 360-degree videos for design, construction, urban planning and landscape design. It uses a simple and intuitive interface, making it easy to learn and use regardless of a project's size and complexity, and offers drag and drop functionality for inserting lights, materials and other elements into a scene, in order to change the season or weather, or even the growth of trees using sliders - and all in real-time.

Twinmotion is available for Windows or Mac devices and is compatible with all BIM software, with one-click synchronisation with Vectorworks 2021 and other leading applications.

According to VP and General Manager of Epic Games Marc Petit, "Vectorworks' integration with Twinmotion and Unreal Engine will enable users to deploy stunning real-time rendered scenes from their models faster than ever before."

Solibri, the 3D model verifier, coordinator and checker, is a member of the Nemetschek Group of companies, alongside Vectorworks. It provides a new two-way connection to Vectorworks BIM models, synchronising them with corresponding IFC models in Solibri Office, using the new Solibri Direct connection.

Changes made to Vectorworks model geometry or data can be checked and verified according to specific criteria or preferences selected by the user, and sent to Solibri to verify models and to identify problems, allowing them to make necessary changes. Model coordination and checking is made much faster and more effective.

IFC exports from Vectorworks models have also been enhanced with SP3, making it easier to share models with other providers by making improvements to the base quantities included for IFC export. This includes common objects like roofs, slabs, hardscapes, landscape areas and columns, which now have accurate base quantities assigned by default. This provides better interoperability with software packages that do Quantity Takeoff (QTO) calculations, and 4D and 5D BIM simulations.

Solibri Product Director Juan RodrĂ­guez said, "At Solibri, we believe in a future of better builds and understand that BIM users need a wide range of solutions that work. We have partnered with Vectorworks, our Nemetschek sister company, so we can make quality available to designers when they need it the most - while they are designing. Solibri Direct brings BIM quality closer to Vectorworks users. By exchanging live data between the two solutions, an architect can review their project to ensure it complies with certain quality standards or regulations."

"Solibri Direct is not just a one-way street", he added, "it will send information back and highlight the objects that need to be reviewed in Vectorworks, so the designers can continue with their work."

Synchronisation and editing are also major features of Vectorworks' improved Cloud Services, the new folder sharing capabilities enabling better project sharing and collaboration between team members and project stakeholders. Using new "Sync and Edit" permissions, Vectorworks users can sync a shared folder to their local desktop computer, enabling workflows that require multiple users to access and edit files stored in a common location. This provides an enhanced project sharing and workgroup collaboration environment for whichever Vectorworks discipline you are working in - Vectorworks Architect, Landmark, Spotlight or Designer.

Vectorworks Spotlight is one of the principal applications used by lighting designers within the entertainment and events industries. A principal component of Spotlight is its GDTF capabilities which have been updated to provide access to the GDTF fixture builder directly within the Vectorworks interface. This enables Spotlight users to update instances of GDTF lighting devices directly from the design interface, drastically improving workflow efficiency.

What exactly is GDTF? The General Device Type Format (GDTF) was created to change the way lighting designers and programmers in entertainment move the design from CAD, to Previz, to Console. Lights and similar devices are controlled by DMX, a lighting control protocol that allows users to have ultimate control over their lighting needs.

However, there are thousands of DMX controllable devices available from hundreds of manufacturers, and each has its standards for defining the DMX control channel specification, with differences ranging from technical features like MSB/LSB encoding to inconsistent naming. That's why lighting control systems contain a database of controllable devices and DMX specifications to make sense of the madness and provide a common denominator.

To make lighting fixtures, visualisers and consoles work together more seamlessly, three manufacturers, MA Lighting, Robe and Vectorworks, jointly developed the open standard format, GDTF, to try and create a unified definition for the exchange of device data. They developed the GDTF Fixture Builder, a web-based tool that helps users and lighting manufacturers create GDTF files that adhere to DIN SPEC 15800.

Service Pack 3 now includes access to the GDTF Fixture Builder directly within the Vectorworks interface, enabling customers to update instances of a GDTF lighting devices directly from the design interface. The upgraded service pack also includes fixes to Schematic Views in Vectorworks Spotlight and additional quality fixes.

Vectorworks Chief Technology Officer Steve Johnson emphasised the company's commitment to maintaining the flow of quality enhancements and additions throughout the year. "The release of Vectorworks 2021 Service Pack 3 exemplifies our focus to provide the industries we serve with quality improvements and to ensure designers that their workflow is always fully supported. Our dedication lies in partnering with applications that provide innovative technology solutions, from BIM workflows to entertainment industry product improvements."

Vectorworks 2021 Service Pack 3 is available now as a downloadable update for all English-based versions of Vectorworks 2021, including Vectorworks Architect, Landmark, Spotlight, Designer, Fundamentals, Braceworks, ConnectCAD and Vision.