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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Chasing Electrons and the Rockwell Automation Show

“Five years ago, we thought of the Web as a new medium, not a new economy.”

Clement Mok

Today was 'tradeshow day' for me. I spent all day at the Rockwell Automation Fair.

I worked the booth, and did some presentations on AutoCAD Electrical, which while an amazing program, not really my strongest suit. But don't get me wrong, I did get to show a little Inventor and Showcase too!

Needless to say the show was amazing though. Everyone from Rockwell Automation themselves, to FIRST (of FIRST Robotics Competion Fame) was there.

The attendees were all very excited about their technology, and everyone had a lot to share.

Plus I got to work with a lot of great people again in the Autodesk Booth, so even while working hard, we had the comradery of working with a great team.

The show was so good, I didn't even get time to walk the show and see some of the interesting things for myself yet.

But there's always tomorrow. I'll be there with my trusty Blackberry phone in hand, taking pictures of something interesting I'm sure!

Here's a couple of pictures until then!

At the booth. Just before showtime
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There were a LOT of people there.
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Derrick Smith of Autodesk getting ready to go on
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Derrick Smith, the Great Showman!
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Monday, November 09, 2009

“To write what is worth publishing, to find honest people to publish it, and get sensible people to read it, are the three great difficulties in being an author.”

Charles Caleb Colton

Well, this already sizing up to be pretty crazy, so I'm going to keep this blog entry simple. As a matter of fact, I'm going to take advantage of some previous work that's come full circle.

A while ago I had an article submitted to AUGI AEC EDGE and it was accepted!

Needless to say, I'm both excited an honored. It's really beyond words.

Click HERE for the magazine. The article ison page 46. Enjoy! And thanks again to AUGI AEC EDGE for the honor!

I'll be at the Rockwell Automation Fair in Anaheim Wednesday and Thursday. Since this show's a first for me, I'm going to see what interesting things are there.

Swing by the Autodesk booth and say hi if you're in the area. I'm hoping that me and my trusty Blackberry camera can get some good pictures!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Making a rendering 'Pop'. Normal maps in Showcase.

Indiana: Meet me at Omar's. Be ready for me. I'm going after that truck. Sallah: How? Indiana: I don't know, I'm making this up as I go.

Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), and Sallah (John Rhys Davies) in Raiders fo the Lost Ark.

Since Autodesk Manufacturing Academy, I've been working on some recordings, which have been fun, but time consuming. I find that you're never done, you just have to move on! I'm hoping to get a few up on the blog, but I've been head down quite a bit lately!

As part of my recordings, I've been creating renderings in Showcase to add a little 'artistic flair' to them. As always, there's another challenge to overcome.

I've learned, both from others, and through my own experience, that the accuracy a computer brings can work against you in Showcase. In a rendering that's trying to create a realistic look and feel, the perfect, sharp angles the computer brings are a dead giveaway that this is a rendered model.

In this case, I was rendering a valve to make a nice little illustration for a Powerpoint slide. Nothing crazy, just something to look pretty, and catch the eye.

My first test was without a bump map. Sure enough, it's too perfect. It screams fake. At this point, I've learned enough to not be surprised when the first test comes out like this.

Definitely too perfect
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So what next?

In a previous post, I talked about using bump maps and normal maps to create the illusion of a wavy, or imperfect surface when the computer creates a perfect surface. Making the rendering look more realistic.

Showcase comes with maps inside of it, and you can find several through your favorite search engine at no charge. I've just typed 'Normal Map' into Google and searched the image area. I can usually find anything I want pretty quickly.

I decided that making the body of the valve look cast would do the trick. So I started by scanning the directory of normal maps to see what I could find.

There was no 'cast metal' map that I saw, and I didn't feel like hitting Google, even if I have had pretty good luck. It was late, and I was getting tired.

So now, I had to shed my engineers brain... You don't NEED a normal map that has a cast texture, you just need one that LOOKS like it's a cast texture.
Bingo. I allow myself a clever smile.

Hitting the normal map directory again, I try a couple of other maps, and finally find one that works.

Which is it? Leather. That's right, I used a leather texture to simulate cast metal.

(Click to enlarge)

If it's crazy, and it works, it's not crazy? Right?

So that's the big trick. Don't limit yourself to what should work. Look at what does work.

Because in the end, I got what I needed in about an hours work. I got a rendering that was good enough for my Powerpoint. I wasn't after something to manufacture to, just something to look good.

That'll do!
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One last trick, don't forget to play with the bump depth! Most of the time, I find it's too deep to make for a good rendering. I cut mine down to as low as .015, depending on the look . This one is pretty deep for me, .25. The default is about 1.0 usually, which is almost always too deep for my tastes.

In other news! Inventor Fusion Technology preview 2 is available on Autodesk Labs. I've been hoping to get a video on it, but no luck so far (much to my chagrin), but I'm hoping soon. I'm really liking where they're going with it so far.

And for the trivia buffs out there. 3D Connexion's Space Explorer put a cameo in G.I.Joe, the rise of Cobra. Now that the movie is hitting DVD, look for it when Baronness fires the missile in the Paris chase scene!

A Space Navigator in the G.I. Joe movie. I don't think controlling missiles was on the list of supported apps.
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Friday, October 30, 2009

Tricks of the Trade, a Tip on Orbiting in Inventor

“One only needs two tools in life: WD-40 to make things go, and duct tape to make them stop.” G. Weilacher

With only about an hour before 'All Hallows Eve', here's one little trick that Rick Renda of KETIV shared today. Consider it an early 'Trick that's also a Treat'.

If you want to perform an orbit function in Inventor, there's always the icon for it, which most of us all know.

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What isn't as well known, is that the 'F4' key can also perform the orbit function as well. But even then, this is fairly well known.

The trick that Rick shared, was that you can hold down your 'Shift' key while holding down the middle mouse button, and also access the orbit function!

We'll I'll be darned! I never knew that one!

Thanks Rick!

And Happy Halloween!

It's just a flesh wound!
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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Autodesk Subscription Advantage Packs Available

“Start where you are. Distant fields always look greener, but opportunity lies right where you are. Take advantage of every opportunity of service.”

Robert Collier (American motivational author, 1885-1950)

First the 'disclaimer'. The info I'm going to talk about this time is for those on Autodesk Subscription only. Apologies to the guys who aren't on subscription. I'll owe you a post!

So that's it for disclaimer, on to the info.

Like the title implies, the Autodesk Subscription Packs are out on the subscription site HERE.

You'll need your subscription login. If you don't have it, your local friendly neighborhood reseller should be able to help you out.

So what do they bring to the table for the Inventor user? It depends on the product, but for Inventor, here's what you get.

* DWG Block Browser—Browse for your AutoCAD Blocks and put them into Inventor files!

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* Chain Dimensioning— Tools to make creating chain style dimensions easier

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* Multi-View Create—Create multiple views simultaneously. (this is my personal favorite!)

* Architectural View Scale— Architectural scales are now available in fabrication templates

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They've also added the following tools into Simulation. I'll confess that I haven't had a chance to even touch these yet, but I'm hoping to take a look soon!

* Materials Assignment for Simulation—Multi-select materials in simulation. It makes it easier to change them (you use to have to do it one at a time)

* Editable Simulation Reports—Output simulation results to a single file for editing. Just makes this a little easier.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Autodesk Manufacturing Academy. That's a Wrap!

“The riders in a race do not stop when they reach the goal. There is a little finishing canter before coming to a standstill. There is time to hear the kind voices of friends and say to oneself, 'The work is done.'”

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr

This time last week, we held Autodesk Manufacturing Academy. It was challenging, exciting, and yes, at times quite frustrating as I wondered if I'd be ready in time.

Ultimately, things fell into place, and it was a great event.

For myself, it's always great seeing all the Autodesk users that I've spoken to over the phone and e-mail, and seen how they've approached the challenges that they've faced over the course of the years.

It's also rewarding to know that I may have helped in my own, albeit small, part.

And even though I'm there to 'help them use their software more efficiently', I always learn something from them too. It's a two way street that I'm always grateful for.

So once again, I was thrilled to do it, I have a brain full of new thoughts, ideas, and concepts that I can use for next year!

And for all those who attended, thanks!

Checking in
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My 'kit' as we kick off
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The Welcome Speech
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Lunch, a must have at any engineering event.
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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What is this 'sleep' you speak of?

“Sleep is like the unicorn - it is rumored to exist, but I doubt I will see any”

Sleep Quotes

So with Autodesk Manufacturing Academy (AMA) on the horizon, I can say that I haven't had hardly any time to breath, let alone blog, but I did want to give a mention that I do have some blogs and videos in mind.

In the time between blogs, I've learned a bunch of cool stuff with Camtasia, not to mention dabbling in Autodesk Revit, and immersing myself in Inventor during all my waking hours!

I'm learning a ton of great stuff, but it's definitely put a crimp on my 'playing with the software for fun' time.

But I'm getting excited about AMA, getting to see some of the people I've spoken to over the phone, and maybe 'geek' out a little with some of the CAD tinkerers.

So stay tuned, once AMA passes, I'll post some pictures, and get back to blogging some tech tips on some of the cool things I know I'm going to learn!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

A Case for Assembly Level Features.

“Greatness is a by-product of usefulness”

Greatness quotes

Before going into the 'gory details' of the subject, what is an assembly level feature?

An assembly level feature is a cut that's made into components at the assembly level, after they've been put together. At the part level, no cut appears. The cut only appears at the assembly, and only at that level.

A question I'm sometimes asked, is 'why would I want to place a cut only in the assembly, and not down at the part level?'

The cheeky answer is you may not. It's a tool, that much like a pair of safety wire pliers, may not be useful to anyone but those who truly need it.

Safety Wire Pliers
(click to enlarge)

However, here's the example that taught me the place where an assembly level feature can be very useful.

I was building a night stand for a woodshop class I was taking, and naturally, since I had access to Inventor, I used it. But part of the design encountered a challenge, although not a difficult problem to overcome.

The side of the table was 24 inches wide, and about 30 inches tall. Now if you're using lumber (not plywood), it's nearly impossible to find a board that size, and of you can find it, it's going to be expensive.

A more realistic solution is to use a 'glue up' take smaller boards, and glue them up to create the board you need.

Boards to be 'Glued up'
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But there are slots that need to be cut in the side that will hold the rails for the drawers, floor, top, etc.

These slots will all run through three of the four boards. This is where we run into the beginnings of our challenge.

1) The boards are the same, with the exception of the slots, they would come out of sizing (jointer and planer) the exact same shape.

2) Why wouldn't I cut these slots separately and try to join them later? It's nearly impossible to get them to line up, and even if I could, it would take so much work, it wouldn't be worth it.

(click to enlarge)

So the result is to cut the feature after the boards have been glued up, using a simple jig to guide to tool. But how to I represent it correctly in Inventor?

I could 'fake it' (and in the old days we did), by cutting the features at the part level, but one of the parts has a blind slot. That would mean creating two distinct parts (three with the through slot, and one with the blind slot).

That translates into an inaccurate Bill of Materials, since the parts have the slots cut after their assembled. In effect, the blanks are the same.

So that's where the assembly level features can make a lot of sense. You can cut the slots at the assembly level, where they should be, and still have a nice, accurate bill of materials that reflect the materials you need to buy and prepare.

(click to enlarge)

So you may never need them, like that pair of safety wire pliers. But just because a given user doesn't find a tool useful, it doesn't mean it doesn't have a purpose If you do need them, they can be a critical tool that is indispensable it its usefulness. Just like the mechanic that needs those pliers.

And if you're wondering what those pliers are used for? It's used to twist wire through bolts and prevent them from vibrating and falling out in racing and aviation applications. It also ensures that the bolt has been checked for proper torque (the bolt should be checked before it's wired).

So even though we don't personally use it, the mechanics fixing the commercial aireliner we may fly on are!

An example of safety wire on an older airplane.
But it's still used today.
(click to enlarge)

Happy inventing!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Are Your Ports Under Blockade? Firewalls and Autodesk Network Licensing.

“The only truly secure system is one that is powered off, cast in a block of concrete and sealed in a lead-lined room with armed guards.” – Gene Spafford

For some reason, tech issues seem to swarm. It's like they happen in threes.

Here's one that for some reason, came in one of those little swarms. So I took it as an opportunity to go ahead and blog it.

Firewalls and network licensing and how they work (or specifically don't work) together.

For those of us who aren't sure what network licensing is, it's how software (including, but not exclusive to, Autodesk software) can manage distribution of licenses when multiple users need to share a license pool.

In short, your licenses are maintained on a server, while your software is installed on a client machine. When you start the software, your client sends out a ping to the server. If a license is available, the server issues a license. If not, you'll get a message telling you that a license isn't available.

For example, lets say you have a license pool of five licenses, but you have ten users that need to share the pool (they're only part time users).

If you request a license and one of the licenses is avaiable. You get a license and are on your merry way.

But if you get to work late, and the five license have been used by the five users who beat you to work, you'll get a message indicating no more licenses are available.

You can think of it like checking out a book from the library. If the book is there, you can have it. If not, sorry, have a nice day.

But, what if the only road to the library has be closed because of 'police activity'. You can't get to the library and get your book. It doesn't matter if there's dozens of books on the shelf.

That's what a Firewall can do to the Autodesk Network Licensing Manager (or FlexLM). By no fault of the license manager, it fails to acquire a license.

It can be frustrating for the users and administrators involved. You check your license manger, it's running beautifully. You check the client, everything seems fine. Try to start the software, and 'poof'! An error message. Maybe, just to really confuse things, maybe some of the clients are getting a license, while others are not.

Sometimes, it's as simple as the firewall. For Autodesk software, ports 2080, and ports 27000-27009 have to be open. If not, your hosed (this is the official I.T. term for it).

The licensing daemons (the utilities that pass license packets back and forth) need these ports open to pass their packets. If not, it's like closing the bridge to the library.

By default, Windows Firewall will block these ports (this is the only Firewall I'm personally familiar with, but I'm sure others do as well).

So we know the ports are blocked. How do we open them?

It will vary depending on your version of Windows and your firewall, but this should get most users in the ballpark.

Go to your Windows Control Panel, and choose Windows Firewall.

(click to enlarge)

Depending on your version of Windows, the screens may look different. The screen shown here is for Vista. Of course the simplest solution is to just turn the firewall off entirely. Many companies do just this. They have other firewalls between them and the 'rest of the world', and don't need a firewall between clients.

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I'm going to assume that for some reason, we can't, or won't turn off the firewall. So now, we have to open up the individual ports that the license manager needs.

So to do this, we choose the 'Exceptions' tab, then choose 'Add Port'.

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A new screen will appear and ask you to name the port, and enter which port you want to open.

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Give the port a meaningful name (so you know what program the exception affects). The capture above is shown for 2080. The steps will have to be repeated for 27000 through 27009 (that means 27001, 27002, up to 27009).

Once you have that done, you shoud be able to start accessing license (assuming there's no other issues with the licensing environment). Bear in mind, that this may have to be done in multiple places (routers, servers, etc). Anything blocking this ports will prevent the license packets from getting through.

So if you have that 'phantom issue', and run into that case where all the systems can pull a file except for 'that one guy'. There's a good chance this could be the culprit.

When in doubt, check it. If those ports aren't open, everything else is for naught.

Good luck!

For additional information on network licensing, check out KETIV's tech tips here!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Importing AutoCAD into Inventor with a Little Style

Style is a simple way of saying complicated things
Jean Cocteau

Autodesk Manufacturing Academy is starting to loom now, and I've been busy trying to get my info put together. It's a little stressful, but it does help sharpen the skills.

Recently, I was working with some 2D AutoCAD data, and needed to bring it into Inventor.

One of the things I like to do when I'm copying and pasting into Inventor is to copy the data out of AutoCAD and paste it into Inventor using Windows Copy (Ctrl+C) and Windows Paste (Ctrl+V).

But there's one small trick I'd like to share that sometimes gets overlooked. This trick can help make AutoCAD drawings a little easier to paste and extrude once it's in Inventor.

First, I'm going to start with this drawing of a fixture base I want to create a 3D model from.

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Next, I'll select the geometry I want to copy, right click my mouse, and choose 'Copy' (or use Ctrl+C if you're a hotkey sort of user).

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With that done, I can switch to Inventor. Make sure you're in a sketch mode (create a new sketch if you need to), right click and choose 'Paste' (or use Ctrl+V).

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Here's the trick, before left clicking the mouse to paste the AutoCAD drawing into Inventor, right click again. A dialog box pops up, with 'Paste Options' being one of the choices.

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Choosing this, I get to the dialog box I'm really after.

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Here's the big secret. This dialog box lets you change the units of the import, just in case you have a sketch drop in and find the scale is off by a factor of 25.4 (it happens rarely, in my experience, but it does happen). I can also choose whether or not contraints are added or not.

This includes coincident constraints. Coincident constraints are probably the most important of all because they help ensure that the profile closes and extrudes correctly.

Once these options are selected, the sketch will paste, and you can extrude it using Inventor commands.

(Click to Enlarge)

Of course, there has to be a disclaimer. The better the data coming in from AutoCAD, the better, the output in Inventor. If there are open entites in AutoCAD, they may not heal once their in Inventor. But the option is there, and it's definitely another tool in the toolbox!

As for me and adventures at Planes of Fame.... I passed my museum guides test! Now they'll let me perform floor duty and ultimately guide tours on my own. It's time consuming, but I have to say I'm having a great time doing it.

My next assignment? The women in avation event on the 3rd. I'm looking forward to it!

Then... Back to studying for the Autodesk Manufactuing Academy!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Windows Vista and User Access Control. You're Not Cleared for that Citizen.

They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security

Benjamin Franklin

For some reason, User Account Control in Inventor was the absolute bane of my existence last week. I ran into it no less than three times.

I've only recently migrated to Vista myself, primarily because I was waiting on a couple of utilities to swing over to Vista. So at last, I'm on Vista. For the most part I'm happy, then I hit the U.A.C. wall. More importantly, Murphy's law hit, and I ran into several tech issues with U.A.C.

User Account Control is a utility in Windows Vista. (insert 'Psycho' theme here).

So what is User Account Control? To be honest, I'm not sure, other than the fact that it really annoys me, and can really mess up certain softwares (not just the Autodesk Software).

Generally, it makes sure that as little as possible runs as an Administrator, even if it's in a user account, but it's also overly paranoid, and the price paid for that is nag screens, and software that often misbehaves.

So what have I seen?
1) Inventor content partially disabled
2) Gotomeeting acting up when a user was allowing me to remotely operating a computer. Certain screens would disable the drive function, even if the user granted me permission.
3) Installations treating a perfectly valid CD key as incorrect.

It's tough, it's frustrating, and in a lot of ways, totally random. It seems to affect things it should have no apparent bearing on.

So now that I've ranted on it, how do I turn it off?

First, go to your Vista control panel

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Once in the Control Panel, choose User Accounts

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You'll get a second screen, click on 'User Accounts' again.

Now we've found it. Click on 'Turn User Account Control on or Off'.

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Once you hit this, you've found the mark. Uncheck the User Account Control option, uncheck it, and you're home free!

Once that's done, your Vista experience should be a little bit more pleasant.

In other news, the Sheet Metal and Interoperability Autodesk Manufacturing Academy are starting to come together at last. Time to start finalizing and getting data sets ready!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Lost in BIM Space. My Second Revit User Group Meeting

There's a lot of space out there to get lost in.

John Robinson (William Hurt) Lost in Space (1998)

So today I attended my second South Coast Revit User Group meeting. I almost thought I wasn't going to make it. I misread the e-mail and went to the wrong place first!

But I made it with a few minutes to spare.

It was good to see some familiar faces and old friends, as well as a few I'd spoken to on the phone but never met in person.

The presentation was by Jim Balding, and he presented on some of the challenges and the responsibilities of Project Managers.

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Granted, there was quite a bit that wasn't clear. Being an Inventor guy, some of the lingo is a little foreign.

But alas, the more that we are different, the more alike we become!

Many of the challenges of the architectural project manager are the same for their manufacturing counterparts.

Things like coordinating teams, customers, and government regulatory agencies keep them awake at night. They have to define what format files are to be delivered in, make sure the correct information flows correctly. In short, they're the air traffic controllers that keep everything moving, and preventing collisions that bring the project to a grinding (and expensive) halt.

So how can this one Inventor guy help this world of Building Information Modeling?

By becoming another link in the chain.

The models created in Inventor are now able to be exported to Revit via AEC Exchange, and now the information created by the designers using Inventor can now become a part of the Revit information stream.

Here's the overview video from the lastpost. I'm working on some data for a bit of show and tell.

I'm planning on getting some data together. I'm hoping to have a nice little data set for the Autodesk Manufacturing Academy!

Happy Inventing!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Codecs, Codecs Everywhere...and Which One to Use for Showcase?

“I realize that if I wait until I am no longer afraid to act, write, speak, be, I'll be sending messages on a Ouija board, cryptic complaints from the other side” Audre Lorde

A question from a user prompted me to write this post, and while I can't say that I know it all, that doesn't mean I can't share what I know.

Something that I've found is a bit of a mystery in Autodesk Showcase is, which codec to when animating a movie. I can't say I have it all figured out. I can only say that I've learned a few things by trial and error.

First, let's define what a codec is:

It's a small program that compresses and decompresses (that's where codec comes from. COmpressor-DECompressor). Wikipedia has a nice definition HERE

We're all familar with the trial and error method. It goes something like this.

1) Try to create something
2) Fail miserably.
3) Shake your fist and curse your computer.
4) Repeat until you get a desireable result.
5) Repeat step 4 until you figure out how you stumbled onto the desirable result.
6) Promise to take better notes next time.

So which have I used so far?

I've tried most of these at one point or another, of the 'standard' ones, and of the standards, yields the best results.

The downside? The files are HUGE. And when I say huge, I mean really HUGE. I'm talking 50+MB, and it's not that hard to get through the 100MB ceiling.

If you can live with this, it works pretty well.

I've tried Intel UYUC, and although I haven't used that one too much, it seems to work well too.

Screen Shot of a movie using the Intel UYUC Codec. Results are pretty good.
(click to enlarge)

The one that seems to have given me the poorest results, is Microsoft Video 1. In my experience (which may be subject to user error), it takes really good Showcase videos and produces pretty pixelated videos from them. And when I mean pixelated, I mean Atari 2600 pixelated.

Screen shot of a movie using the Microsoft Video 1 Codec. What can I say. UGLY. I haven't found a setting to improve it.
(click to enlarge at your own risk)

If you don't know what an Atari 2600, think of it as a prehistoric X-box or Playstations. Neanderthals and Prehistoric Humans played them. The Neanderthals lost, and due to the terms of set prior to the games. Neanderthals had to go extinct.

My favorite codec is from Techsmith (the folks who make Snagit and Camtasia). You can download the codec (TSCC.exe) from HERE.

So far, my experience has made the Techsmith codec my favorite.

Screen Capture of a video using the Techsmith codec. My favorite.
(click to enlarge)

The only (in my opinion) downside of the Techsmith codec? If your sending the files to another person to view, they'll also need the Techsmith codec (so you'll have to send them the file, or link). The file is small, but not everyone is comfortable installing software.

Are there more codecs? Absolutely. More than I know of. I'm still looking for more good ones, but so far, the Techsmith codec has kept me pretty happy.

Still, if you have any suggestions, I'm always happy to hear the input!

Autodesk Manufacturing Academy is back! Check it out HERE

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Showcase vs. Showcase Pro. What's the difference?

“There is but an inch of difference between a cushioned chamber and a padded cell.” G. K. Chesterton quotes

As I'm sitting here tonight, I'm getting ready for a class tomorrow, just running through some of the data sets, refreshing my mind. I'm also thinking of the differences between Showcase and Showcase Pro. Yes, there is a Showcase and a Showcase Professional.

A raytrace from my practice for the night!
(Click to Enlarge)

The differences are listed on a PDF file from the Autodesk Website here.

But, for a quick summary, here's the one's that caught my eye:

1) Import FBX files from other programs (Max, Maya, etc) - FBX files are an animation program that can be exported from other rendering systems. You can import them into Showcase Pro and reuse them in Showcase.-
2) Batch and distributed tesselation. - I confess, I've never come close to using this one myself. Probably for the advance user, but if you're importing a lot of files, this might come in handy.

3) Storyboards - Create a quick way to move from different variations of your components

4) Remote Collaboration - Use your Showcase Pro to collaborate across the web. Could be useful for those design 'jam sessions'.

5) Side by Side Comparision - Show alternative designs side by side for quick comparing and contrasting of different iterations and variations

6) Cluster Support - Support showing images across multiple screens or projectors.

7) External user interface - Customize your own interface with html or flash. Useful for putting a 'company face' on Showcase Pro.

So that's the skinny on the difference between the two. Other than the cost of course.

Which one is right for you? Ultimately, it's the one that meets your needs. For some, Showcase will give you everything you need, for others, they get a little 'foamy in the mouth' when the see some of Showcase Pros abilities. Personally, I like having the Storyboards, and Side by Side comparision.

But at least now, you can take a little longer look and decide which is right for you.

That's it for now!

Jonathan Landeros

Monday, September 07, 2009

Creatures of Habit... Even in Inventor, That's Me.

On the other hand, our old ways were once new, weren't they?

Tevye in Fidler on the Roof

Like most people, I find myself to be a creature of habit. When I go to Starbucks, I get the same drink (which the Baristas will now tease be about). I take the same roads to work, and I like the same places for breakfast.

When using Inventor, I'll sometimes do something the exact same way, even when a new way presents itself.

Take templates for example. If you haven't created them, odds are, you'll need to. Even if you've made them, you sometimes need to add to them.

In the old ways, you created your template, and hit some variation of 'Save' (Save or Save Copy As). Inventor would open up a director defined by your project file.

(You are using projects, right? If not, you should! For info on projects, Dennis Jeffrey has a nice article HERE.)

Now this means you have to browse to the location the templates are located in, and it means the nag screen telling you you're saving outside the project file.

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For what it's worth, this is one of the few cases you can ignore this message. Templates aren't linked to any other files, so this is one of the few cases where ignoring this message is okay.

But the screen is annoying, and many users get nervous seeing this message (which is probably the sign of a prudent user).

While the previous method works fine, there is slightly quicker way to do it.

If you click on the big 'I' and choose Save As. If you hover for a second, you'll see the menu on the right side of the screen show the option 'Save Copy As Template' (among other options).

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This will drop you directly into the template directory, no muss, no fuss, no clicking through a bunch of menus until you find the correct location, and no nag screens.

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Is it huge? Probably not in the sense of tools we use in the daily grind. But it will make dealing with templates just a little easier.

And when somethings a little easier, we're a little less likely to put it off. Which can, over time, be quite a big deal!

That's it for this Labor Day!

Happy Inventing!