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Notes from Press Chat on Vectorworks 2012

Architosh attended Nemetschek Vectorworks’ Press Virtual Event prior to the new product’s announcement and here are some notes from that session

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So Nemetschek Vectorworks Inc. has recently announced the latest version of their flagship software, Vectorworks 2012. We covered this news very recently. Just prior to that announcement the American-based but German-owned CAD software company held a virtual event for press. That virtual event had very good participation. Lots of mainline CAD and 3D journalist were in attendance–along with yours truly–and we would like to share some of the interesting tidbits from a follow up Q&A session.

Notes from the Press Chat

Growth and Market Questions

Responding to questions from the press chat were Sean Flaherty, CEO and Biplab Sarkar, CTO, along with Theresa Downs and Lisa Lance of marketing.

Early on in the Q&A a question was asked of market growth for Vectorworks. The company responded that there was growth and a follow-up question clarified that it was in the Mac segment of the business. Sean Flaherty stated: “I think Apple is penetrating widely with their retail and app store push now lifting all markets. My feeling is this also extends across our product line.” This, of course, does not surprise us at Architosh given what we are hearing in the market by talking to other software vendors.

Related to this was a question about selling Vectorworks in the Apple Mac App store just like Autodesk sells AutoCAD LT for Mac. Sean Flaherty again responded to this by saying that he felt that products like Vectorworks are not served well by the App Store because they integrate so deeply into customer workflows. Another analysts/journalist noted that Autodesk admits that the App Store is still an experiment for them as well. Sean Flaherty noted that BIM/CAD is complex and benefits from an expert channel.

BIM Orientation

The company was also asked to clarify how Vectorworks is seen in the market. A question was asked to clarify Vectorworks from products like Revit. It was noted that such products are often focused on DD&E (design documentation and execution) whereas Vectorworks can be seen as just focused on AD (architectural design). Sean Flaherty didn’t agree that Vectorworks is just a design tool but insisted that it has some of the strongest documentation features around. The difference these days is how we arrive at documentation given various BIM tool options.

Flaherty said: “We find the workflow in other BIM packages to be very restrictive in what and how they allow you to model.”

Biplab Sakar answered a question about whether the company would build or acquire an energy software package and is answer was: “we will do energy analysis using Open BIM (IFC).”

When Brad Holtz noted he doesn’t know how best to describe Vectorworks’ strengths to other BIM packages Sean Flaherty, CEO, answered by summarizing this way: “1) best modeler in the AEC business, 2) best presentation capabilities (transparency, NPR, etc), 3) best integrated renderer (CINEMA 4D engine) and 4) support for Open BIM (IFC) and a workflow that includes solutions from other vendors.

Flaherty also noted that in their view they believe, relative to BIM, that Vectorworks Architect allows a much broader range of geometry to be included in the model. Clarifying analysts’ questions further, Flaherty noted that: “I think until the model freedom is [fully] achieved, BIM will continue to be a contractor/owner technology.”

System Performance Questions

Biplab noted that they now recommend a system with 1GB of video ram and 2GB for OpenGL shadows. And do GPU’s get utilized in the software? Biplab Sarkar stated: “Yes, we do [support that] for 2D Navigation and OpenGL rendering.”

Vectorworks 2012 can take advantage of 64-bit platforms on both Windows and Mac. It was not clear in the presentation Q&A if this is new to 2012 or old. The company did clarify that Renderworks 2012 is now fully 64-bit. This means users can now handle the largest scenes possible as long as they have the onboard physical RAM. Also this version of Vectorworks now supports OpenGL 3.0.

Rendering and File Formats

During the session yours truly asked several questions aimed at rendering and deeper integration with other tools. While others were pointed at BIM types of integration (structural, MEP and energy analysis tools) I was interested in newer types of tools, with a special emphasis on early design tools expanding. I’m thinking of the types of technology showcased at the SmartGeometry Conference….tools that capture data, tools that bring in schematic or programmatic information and tools that enable other types of ways of creating the BIM geometry model or parts of it, such as generative modelers.

First, I asked if the new Vectorworks 2012 supports and includes the vary latest CINEMA 4D engine–which was an updated renderer. The answer was yes. I asked about any future plans for supporting other types of competing rendering tools such as Luxion’s KeyShot, Bunkspeed, modo and Maxwell for example. Biplab Sarkar answered they “have plans” for that kind of thing, noting that right now C4D supports many of those other tools.

In terms of evolving technologies in the industry, I asked about Autodesk FBX support or similar new file formats. The answer was that at the moment interoperability is highly focused on IFC and the Lightwrite format for entertainment. When questioned about the support of version 12.x for this release Sean Flaherty noted that part of that decision was based on customer requests but in particular a large customer in Japan. Nemetschek Vectorworks has client site locations in Japan with seats in the thousands, and these being non-academic. Again, Flaherty clarified that Japan alone is 1/4 to 1/3 of their global business.

Vectorworks Future

There were several interesting future-oriented comments in the session. Let’s recap on some of the things said overall. For starters, BIM is squarely aimed at Open BIM and IFC. Folks asked about built-in MEP, structural and energy analysis tools but the company wants to connect to others.

Rendering is looking to expand even beyond the superb CINEMA 4D integration. For those clients with render farms or access to them or GPU render tools, the company does seems to have plans in the works. This should please many who are also quite happy with its onboard raw modeling capabilities.

I asked a question about updating the user interface with Vectorworks and the answers were interesting. Biplab Sarkar said that at the moment they are updating UI items on architectural objects but after that work is done they will look at the main interface. Sean Flaherty replied: “Anthony, do you think the ribbon interface in other CAD packages have been popular.” From which I replied, “no.” Flaherty’s comment, of course, is squarely aimed at the reality that just because an OS vendor has created new UI standards doesn’t mean that they should be applied to everyone’s software program.

Random Comments

Edward Goldberg, CAD journalist opined: “As usual, in my opinion, the VW team has the best graphics in the industry.”

Biplab Sarkar: “there was a big focus on performance in this release–especially with viewports and sheet navigation. As well as general 2D navigation and pan and zoom.”

For more information on the new Vectorworks 2012 product line visit them online here.

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