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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Using Camera Properties in Autodesk Showcase 2013

“A true photograph need not be explained, nor can it be contained in words.”
Ansel Adams

Autodesk Showcase.  When I first started learning it, about three years ago, I was told by my mentor:  "Remember that you want to catch the viewers eyes.  Take a look at how photographers use things like lighting and camera angles.

What he was trying to tell me during his explanation, was that I needed to break my engineer's brain of perspective and isometric views.  The goal is to create a rendering that grabs the viewers attention.

Some of the old tricks I learned, that I use to this day are playing with camera angles.  I'll adjust camera tilt, focal length. and sometimes height.

As a matter of fact I shared these tricks in a blog back in June of 2009 (see that post here).

Here's an example where I changed the camera tilt to add a more dramatic effect.

But now!  (drumroll)  In Autodesk Showcase 2013, there are some more options!  By going to the View>Camera Properties pulldown, there are more options are available.

The new camera properties.

 The new settings are for Image Control, and control the tone mapping for the rendering.  Now there are more ways to adjust the appearance and quality of your scene.

Here's an example of a few of the settings:

Compensation:  Think of this as exposure.  Make a scene brighter or darker with a slider.

A Showcase rendering with a compensation of 2.36

The same scene with a compensation of 1.36.  Notice that this scene is darker
Highlights, Midtones, Shadows: These three sliders affect the brightness and darkness of your highlights, midtones (similar to gamma control), and of the shadows in the scene.

Saturation:  A favorite for me.  I refer to this as the "Band of Brothers effect".  This WWII based mini-series subdued the colors to give it an aged effect.  This was accomplished by reducing saturation.  Showcase 2013 can do the same thing!

A scene with the standard saturation of "1.0"

The same scene, reducing the saturation to "0.5"

Color Filter:  Maps a new color to be "White".  It creates a different feel for the scene.

Changing the color filter of a scene
White Point: Shifts the white balance of the scene.  This can create a warmer or cooler overall feel for the scene.

An example of a scene shifted to the "full warm" setting.
Take a look at these settings, including focal length, and tilt angle too.

They can really add that extra pizazz! 

And now, the video showing the tools.  Give them a try in your next Showcase project!

Have some thoughts on how you make your renderings stand out?  Tell us how in the comments!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

It's Exactly Like That, Except.... - Copying Components in Autodesk Inventor

I am my own secretary; I dictate, I compose, I copy all myself.
Venerable Bede

Here's a quick tip on a tool I've found is sometimes overlooked.  Copy Component.

We've all been there.  A part has been modeled and used  an assembly.  But then another component is needed that's nearly the same s the one just finished.

But the functional word is "nearly".  It's not quite the same, there is a difference, perhaps slight, between two components.

So there's a dilemma.  The original can't be reused, because of it's not exactly the same.  But rebuilding the part is time consuming. 

Another option would be to go into Windows Explorer, copy the part file, and reinsert it into the assembly.

But that's a lot of steps.

This is where "Copy Component" comes into play.  A component can be quicky copied, placed in an assembly and reused.

Take this chest of drawers for example.  I've built some molding where the top meets the bottom.  The cross section of the components is the same, but the mitered cuts on the ends are different.

Why not use one part to create another!

In other words, the part is nearly the same, but not quite.

Copy Component!  Just what we need.

This is where Copy Component shows up and struts it's stuff.  A similar component can be quickly, and efficiently created without exiting the assembly model.

Using Copy Component to create a new part.

Unfortunately, it seems that this is a tool that a lot of users don't realize is there.  They're copying part files or recreated geometry unnecessarily. 

So that's why this video is here.  To "throw off the shackles" of unnecessary steps. 

Take a look at Copy Component, and use it to its fullest!

 Got a place or an idea where you used Copy Component?  Drop a comment!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Downloading your Autodesk 2013 Software - Byte by Byte

“There is an unstoppable trend towards digital downloading of content.”
Phil Harrison

Many of us have already heard.  The Autodesk Design Suites are available from the Autodesk Subscription site.

If you're like me, you logged on as soon as you got to the office and.... and... waited....

There are a lot of great tools in the Autodesk Suites, but "with great power comes great responsibility".  Or at least  a great deal of bandwidth use.

I was downloading Autodesk Product Design Suite Ultimate.  Nearly 16GB of CAD designing goodness.

But like most of us from work, I can't go running around unplugging everyone's computer from the network proclaiming "Mine!  Your bandwidth is mine!"

After about 4 hours, I got one of four files I needed to download.  I started the other, but I realized I had a problem.

5PM was approaching, I was heading to Mammoth Mountain for a Snowboarding weekend, and I wasn't going to be done by 5PM.  And I wasn't hanging around for the download to finish!

I am not missing this for a download!

What do do?!?

Autodesk has a download manager for downloading their software.  The nice thing about the download manager provided by Autodesk is it will let you pause your download, shut down your computer, and restart it later.

But I couldn't get the Autodesk Download Manager to work on my version of Firefox 12.0, which is brand spanking new.  So I had to download using the standard browser method.

While I'm not positive, my Firefox version may have caused my problem.  I haven't had a problem with the Autodesk Download Manager before.  But with 5PM and some fresh powder calling my name, I'm not inclined to utilize the scientific method and research it.

But I have an idea.  One a whim, I check my Firefox add-ons and find that there's an add-on called "DownThemAll!"  It claims to have the capability of letting you pause a download and restarting it at a later time....

Well.  This looks interesting!

I stare at my laptop like someone disarming a bomb in a bad cop movie (Cut the blue wire!  No, the red wire!  NO! THE BLUE WIRE!)

It's crazy.  Just crazy enough to work!

I finally do what I didn't want to do. I CANCEL THE DOWNLOAD.  Two hours and a Gigabyte of data are flushed over the side. 

I install DownThemAll! and try the download again.  I special, different download manager begins, and I restart the whole process again.

Let's see how this works

A get to about the same point where I aborted before when 5PM rolls around.  I pause the download, shut down my computer, and race home.  Which in Southern California means driving at 20 MPH on a crowded freeway.

Once home, I fire up the laptop again, and restart the downloads on my Fiber Optic line, and start downloading again.

The downloads pick up again, and are done in about a little over an hour.

Once I arrive in Mammoth, I can't contain myself.  I extract the files, and install.

It all works perfectly.  The download manager did the trick!

So what is the moral of the story.  Downloading the information takes time.  There's no denying that, and it can be hard to tie up a system to grab a given file at once.

So if you have a hard time downloading your Autodesk products, try the Autodesk Download Manager, it's worked great for me in the past (I swear).

But if you're running a fancy new version of Firefox, or you have a hard time with the Autodesk Download Manager for some reason (stupid I.T. security policies), try another download manager.  It worked for me, and let me download my Autodesk software, and enjoy my weekend in Mammoth!

If you're running Google Chrome, it looks like they also have download managers available, although I've never tried them (click here for the link).

I wasn't able to find one for you I.E. users.  Sorry.  :-(

Got a thought or two?  Have a download method you prefer?  Share a comment.

BTW, I'm hoping for a video tip by the middle of the week!

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Autodesk Showcase 2013 - A Preview of a New Interface

Find the good. It's all around you. Find it, showcase it and you'll start believing in it.
Jesse Owens

A few days ago, I pulled the cover off my Autodesk Showcase 2013 installation, and took it for a test spin.

The first thing I found when I took a look, the user interface has changed.  It's subtle, but it is significant. 

There a new "Task UI" that's been added.
It's called the "Task UI", and it contains many of the functions normally accessed via hotkeys and pulldown menus.

The pulldown menus are also hidden now.  Although you can click on the arrow at the top of your screen to show them again.  All the hotkeys from Showcase 2012 are still there too.

The menus can still be viewed.
My "knee jerk" reaction was much the same as a lot of us.  I'll have to learn a new user interface. 

But I tried it for a little while, and I've found that it's not that bad.  It wasn't that long before I was starting to get used to it, and (gasp) starting to like it.

So here's a quick video I put together on the new UI.  It's just a preview.  But as I dive further into Showcase, I'll be sure to post some more!

Taken a look at some of the new features in Autodesk Showcase 2013?  Share you thoughts and drop a comment!

Friday, April 06, 2012

Autodesk 2013 - Server Not Configured Error?

“Life is measured by the rapidity of change, the succession of influences that modify the being.”
George Eliot

For about the last week, I've been working with Autodesk Vault 2013, and so far, I'm enjoying what I've seen. 

The new searching features are really slick, and the ability to login using my 2012 based products works nicely.  The adjustable grid views in open and place are super cool! 

But I did run into one thing that made me go "huh".

I right clicked on a folder to check a setting, and got a big "The server is not configured to use that feature" warning.

I go to my properties

Doh!  What's this?
 So I did what any self respecting geek would do.  I Googled it. 

It looks like Autodesk found out about it and issued a hotfix right away.  I found it, downloaded and installed it, and all was right with the world again.

You can download it from the link here! 

So should you be one of the users who finds this glitch, grab the fix, and everything should be fine after a few minutes!

TaDa!  It's working
P.S.  I've got some videos I've got planned.  It's just that the schedule hasn't been friendly to it lately!  But I'm hoping to get some new stuff posted soon!

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Going Forward! Installing Autodesk Vault 2013

Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be.
Khalil Gibran

Late last week I decided it was time.  I upgraded my Autodesk Vault server from 2012, to 2013.

The process went through pretty darned smoothly.  I was able to get my Vault up and running no time, maybe an hour, give or take.  But I thought I share my steps and experiences.  So those of us who might be getting ready to take the same leap soon.

First a few explanations of what I was upgrading:
  1. Updating Autodesk Vault 2012 Basic to Autodesk Vault 2013 Basic
  2. I was upgrading my laptop, which is a server for only one user, myself
Of course your configuration may vary.  You might be running a configuration like mine, just one guy accessing a Vault for managing his own set of projects.  Or you could be managing dozens of users who are running a large Vault installation replicating across several sites.

So these steps represent my upgrade process.  I can't cover every contingency here.  So if you have any doubts, do a little extra research.  If you REALLY have doubts, call your friendly neighborhood Autodesk Reseller.  They can help make sure your transition is as smooth as possible.  

Next, here are some things I had ready, or planned for.

Have a backup!  
I can't stress this enough.  Even though I have never once lost a database or filestore during migration, you don't want to make any assumptions.  Should the worst happen, have a backup plan that includes having a backup to restore, instead of slipping out the back door before anyone notices! 

Be prepared for some downtime!
If the server is upgrading, files in Vault won't be accessible.  Make sure you have time set aside when everybody can be ready to be out of Vault for a few hours. Don't upgrade when you have a massive project due in fifteen minutes.  It's not a pretty sight when the engineering department shows up outside your office with torches and pitchforks.

 Be prepared for a reboot!  
This ties into the previous bullet.  The server may have to be rebooted, so be prepared for that too.  This is especially true if you have a server that's running processes other than just Vault.  Knocking payroll offline on payday can have unintended consequences (see torches and pitchforks above).

In short, a little caution goes a long way.

Now that that's said.  I have my backup safely tucked away.  My install is ready to go.  All I have to do is start pressing the buttons.

So what were my steps?

The first is easy.  I uninstall Autodesk Vault 2012 via Add/Remove in the Windows Control Panel.

Farewell, Vault 2012.
This will fire up the Autodesk Uninstall screen, where you can remove the Autodesk Data Management Server Console from your machine.

 Vault will ask you if you have a backup.  And if you haven't.  Make one!  Seriously! 

 Now you get to confirm you're going to uninstall!


Progress bars will do their "progressy" thing, and the Vault Server will be removed from the machine.  It's important to note that the filestore and database (which contain your valuable design data) are still on the machine.  

And Vault 2012 is off the machine!
Installing Vault 2013

Now we fire up the setup for Autodesk Vault Server 2013.  The setup starts up, and we see our first screen.

Here we go!  Vault 2013 going hot!
First you'll see the End User License Agreement (EULA).  I know that each one of you reads this diligently and takes notes before agreeing and hitting next. :-)

I agree to some legal things, and ZZZZZZZ... Oh!  A "Next" button!
Next the install options appear.  The options may vary based on your installation (SQL Server settings, new install or upgrade, etc).  Notice in my  case, the installation sees that the instance "AUTODESKVAULT" already exists.  This is my old 2012 database and filestore.

You know, the one that holds that critical engineering data?

Look!  A the instance is waiting to meet us!
The next option is what to install.  In my case, I'm not installing the ADMS Content Center.  I run my content off of the Desktop Content because I'm always testing different Vaults on my machine.  It's easier for me to maintain my content separately for these reasons. 

Clicking install starts process.  The first thing the install notes was that their is already an existing database.  The installation advises me that it may need to be migrated when it's done.  

This is expected in this configuration, and I go ahead and continue.

Yes! We must forge ahead!
Now the ADMS check starts.  Like a preflight check in an aircraft, this makes sure we're ready to go. 

In my case, two warnings were noted.  One was that a reboot was required.  The other was that a there was a failure in the ASP status.  One nice thing about this check is that if you click on the warning, it will take you to link of solutions for that error. 

Stuff needs to be tweaked!

In the case of my ASP error, I had to change the .Net setting in my DefaultAppPool from v2.0.50727 to 4.0.30319.  The instructions in the link showed me the steps I needed. 

Switching the pool
After a reboot, and repeating the steps above, I was able to run the install.  Now it was just a matter of waiting for more progress bars.

I hear gameshow music.

After a few minutes, the install completed.

But we're not quite done yet.  Remember that warning about having to migrate databases?  If you don't, you'll remember it now!  Why?  Because Vault will remind you!

In my case, I wanted to get things rolling right away, so I started the server console.

We're not just flying South for the winter.
The installation wants to know if what we want to migrate.  I chose to migrate everything, vaults, and libraries.

We're taking the whole shooting match!
Now the migration begins.  It takes a little bit of time to migrate everything, especially if you have a lot of content center libraries.  In my case, I don't (remember I'm running Desktop Content?).

More progress bars appear as the migration takes place.

One more completion message, and the migration is truly done.  The Vault server is upgraded, and I'm ready to start using my new, migrated databases and filestores.

All done
So those are the steps for my Vault upgrade.  I wasn't expecting a reboot (although in retrospect I should have).  Fortunately, I knew I could reboot if needed.  It just meant I had to stay at the office a little longer to reboot my machine.

I hope you find the steps I used helpful as you plan your own Vault installations and upgrades.

For more resources, check out the following:

Autodesk Vault Knowledge Base
Under the Hood (Data Management/PLM blog)
Cracking the Vault (Data Management/PLM blog)

Have your own thoughts or suggestions from your own upgrades?  Throw out a comment below!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Autodesk Vault 2013 - Upgrading Made More Flexible

"Whereof what's past is prologue; what to come, In yours and my discharge."   
Shakespeare, William

I've always been excited to upgrade my Autodesk software.  I still like to geek out about all the new tools I get to learn.  It's like Christmas in spring!

Usually, it means taking an afternoon or evening (sometimes both!) installing Product Design Suite, and updating Autodesk Vault.

Then the fun with new tools began!

But there is always one thing that must be addressed when upgrading to your shiny new release.

It takes time and planning to upgrade.  Vault has to be upgraded on both clients and server, along with the new versions of the CAD products it's going to integrate with

Extend that to a facility where there are several users connecting to Vault.   You had to install new clients, upgrade Vault, and get everyone working together in one long marathon session

To make it more interesting, there might also be a grumpy CAD Manager looking over your shoulder, snorting like an agitated thoroughbred.

But now with the release of Autodesk Vault 2013, a new capability has been added that should greatly increase the flexibility of migrating to your shiny new version of Vault.

Forward compatibility.

Great! What does "forward compatibility" actually mean?  

What it means is you can upgrade the Vault Server to 2013 in the background, without ever touching the clients.

They can access a server running Vault 2013 using the same Vault Explorer and CAD plugins they used for Vault 2012!

Mixing and matching like you've never done before

 So what?  Why is this a big deal?

Just think about the ability to upgrade the server without having to immediately upgrade all your clients.  You can stagger your rollout, and upgrade machines clients in stages instead of hitting your CAD department like a whirling dervish!

So as you plan on deploying your new Vault versions, take a look at your new choices for deployment.  You have more options to make for a smoother transition.

And avoid a haircut such as mine (see profile picture)!

 Curious about what else is new in Autodesk Vault 2013?  Check out the What's New!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Autodesk Inventor 2013 Arrives, and I'm Excited!

“Based on the feedback we're receiving, people are very excited to try something so exotic and new.”
Eitan Segal

Autodesk announced their 2013 based products today!  It's certainly like Christmas in March!

For me, I installed Autodesk Inventor 2013 immediately and read through the "What's New"!  Why?  To find out what's new of course!

Have I done an in depth study of everything yet.  Pfffft!  Of course not!   But I'm not going to let that stop me! 

What I am going to do, is list the top ten features that caught my eye.  Things I can't wait to explore some more.

I will, however, put in a disclaimer.  This top ten is based my first impressions, so I may change it as work with the features more.  Also, the order of the features isn't necessarily in order.  In other words, it's just a list!

But with that! Here goes!

Number 1: New file screen

Autodesk changed the appearance of the "New File" screen and I like it!  I think it's more sensibly organized, and will help me find the right template a lot more quickly than I used to!

It's really much clearer now!
Number 2: New Sketch Options

Previous versions let set which sketch to start on, but Inventor 2013 allows you to start a sketch, and choose the plane to work off of at this time.  It's a flexibility I think I'll really get to like!


Oh.. I like this.

Number 3: Set Sketch Scale by First Dimension

When the first dimension is placed on a sketch, the entire sketch scales in proportion to the first dimension.  This should help prevent me from having those "which way did it go?" moments when I make a large change in a sketch dimension.

Very smooth!

Number 4:  Center Point Rectangle

Sure I could do this with a little construction geometry.  I didn't even take long, but this is a nice little feature that just makes things run a little smoother.


Number 5: Equation Curves

Need to make a parabolic curve to create a reflector!  Now the equation to define a curve can be entered. I can think of a few places where this one will help out!

The Algebra is Strong in this One!
Number 6: Remove Internal Voids in a Derived Component

Need to hide internal components so you don't "give away the farm" when sending components out!  I think I'll be checking this one out!

Hmm.  This will make securing intellectual property a little easier!

Number 7: Export Colors to STL

Now you can export your part colors to an STL file!  Need to send out components to a rapid prototyping house and print the component colors!  Here it is!

I see your true colors shining through!
Number 8: Import STL files

Someone sends you an STL file?  Fear not!  Inventor will import them now!

Got em coming and going!
Number 9: Purge via Task Scheduler

It's important for any CAD Manager to purge out dated and unused Styles and Materials from your files.  Now you can "Nuke the Site from Orbit" with Task Scheduler.  Instead of getting those pesky styles one at a time, you can grab a fist full of files and purge en mass!

Purging in one fell swoop!

Number 10: Default Application Options

If you've ever taken an Inventor class with me, you know that there are "settings Jon changes on any new Inventor installation".  Apparently Autodesk agrees with me on this one (at least that's what I'm going to tell myself).  But many students did agree with this, so Autodesk really has listened to all of us.

Now "Grid Lines" are automatically turned off, and "Edit Dimension When Placed" is on!  It's nice that I won't have to go and turn these off on my own now!

Nice Change in Defaults!

So these are the things that "caught my eye" out of the gate.  Does that mean this is the best?  No, just what I found on first blush.  I'll surely find more as I get behind the wheel and start driving.

Look for those posts to start coming up soon.  And yes, they'll be videos! 

Do you have your own favorites for what's new?  Post in the comments.  Here's the full list for What's New in Autodesk Inventor 2013!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

It's a Snowboarding Holiday Again - With a Warbird Chaser

This weekend I must postpone my blog as I've taken another jaunt to Mammoth Mountain, Ca.

It's a good, relaxing trip, but one I'm happy to just enjoy the outdoors, my time with friends, and take a couple of days hiatus from technology!  

This ride up Chair 23

Is rewarded with a view like this!
And on a final note from the other side of my life, the Planes of Fame video team,  have put up another fantastic video using a wing mounted camera on the North American B-25 Mitchell.