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Interview: Dr. Biplab Sarkar talks to Architosh about Vectorworks 2016

In this interview Architosh learns more details about Vectorworks 2016 and some specific technologies such as the Project Sharing features, based on tech similar to Git as well as information about Marionette and the new SubD modeling features.

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Project Sharing

AFR: Okay, so let’s get into the actual Project Sharing subject and talk about that now. I read somewhere that this technology change enables you to work in a remote office situation. How does that work? How does the new Project Sharing technologies work remotely?

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BS: I think the remote situation right now only works via VPN, a virtual remote network connection. We don’t yet support cloud storage options like Dropbox…we are working on it but we don’t yet have the solution finalized. So right now I can have a network and you can have a network–like say two offices–and I can connect to your network via a VPN connection and that is the only way at this moment we can work with Project Sharing remotely.

AFR: So if you are working via a VPN connection to a remote network you would have at least two options, one of which is to open the file directly over the VPN connection and work off of that network. Is that the preferred method?

BS: At the moment that is the only method, on a file that is on a network server. So whatever the network is that that server is on, you can login to that network remotely and start working on it. We tried that ourselves because we have a development office in Sofia (Bulgaria) as well…so they can actually check out some things by logging in via a VPN network.

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AFR: So what happens when you just take a file home with you, like putting it on a UBS stick…what happens the next time you bring that data back to the main environment?

BS: So there is an ‘off-line’ mode for Project Sharing…you come back and log back in and it recognizes that you have changed something.

AFR: So when you are in off-line mode does the rest of the team become aware or get locked out of areas of the file? How does that work?

BS: The way it works is you have a file on a server which is called the ‘project file’, and when you are working on your local machine you are seeing what is called a ‘working file’ which is just a copy of that project file. And in that working file you can actually check out some of the layers and make changes and as you make changes you can ‘commit’ those change back to the project file. And the moment you commit those changes back to the project file, other users can see those changes and sync those changes.

So it’s basically like any of the source-code control or that kind of database—is how this works.

AFR: So back to the question about cloud storage. Cloud storage and Dropbox in particular is decentralized and they are in some ways the “anti-server.” So how does the setup work with Project Sharing if the so called “project file” is imagined to be on a central file server while the “working file” is on a client computer? Would the project file get replicated up through Dropbox into replicated directories on the client machines and therefore the working file is always talking to the project file in a relative versus absolute directory sense?

BS: Yes—the project file will be replicated by Dropbox on client machine, and the working file will communicate with the project file continuously. These communications will be quite fast. Once the user commits, the local project file on the client machine will be updated and then the Dropbox will sync the project file for all the other users in the project. For the users in the same LAN, the syncing will be again quite fast. For other users, the syncing may take a little longer.

AFR: So what is this technology modeled on?

BS: When we started to develop Project Sharing we looked at things like Git—a version control system for software development—and transactions are taken care of in that database. We modeled it after that. It allows you to check out layers, make changes, check it back in, and you can commit changes when you want to. And then when you are done you can just select ‘release,’ which means that you are both optionally committing as well as giving up those layers for someone else to check out.

AFR: Right and like Marionette, this is another area where for your installed base they will come into this type of technology feeling very novice. What kinds of things are you providing for your customers today so they can learn to take advantage of this?

02 - The Marionette Trophy object. Pretty sweet and given a cool metallic material and rendered using the updated Cinema 4D engine in Vectorworks 2016. Image: Vectorworks, Inc. All rights reserved.

02 – The Marionette Trophy object. Pretty sweet and given a cool metallic material and rendered using the updated Cinema 4D engine in Vectorworks 2016. Image: Vectorworks, Inc. All rights reserved.

BS: So for this we have already created tutorial videos for how you can set up your project, including how the privileges for different users work. So different users can have different privilege levels, where you can have varying degrees of control with members of the team. For example, some users won’t be able to create project resources, some users won’t be able to create or edit classes, and some users can only view items.

So things like that you can set up and all these items are now up on the Internet in the form of tutorial videos on our website. And we are doing more videos because what we are seeing is that people are not reading as much, they like visual stuff.

AFR: Yeah, nobody reads these days… (laughter…)

BS: We spend so much money and time creating our documentation, and yet we see less and less people making use of it. They want visual forms.

New SubDivision Modeling

AFR: Okay, that’s good—videos are good, I’ve always been a proponent of that, as you probably know from my reviews. So let’s switch focus a bit to modeling. The new modeling features look great. So the video that shows the SubD modeling, the one that creates that wonderful wooden curved wall that looks like a built-in bench wall and was inspired by Pabellon Ricchezze Barrios Escudero.

If you create that shape using the SubD tools, that’s great but in the video it just blends into something made of many individual pieces, like strips…so is it possible once that shape is made using the new SubD tool that you can simply slice it?

BS: Yes! That’s our basic story there. Anything that you do in the SubD modeling tool, at the end of it, you can convert it into a Parasolid solid, using convert to solid command. Basically it becomes a Parasolid entity from there on. That’s actually how we created that video.

AFR: Okay I understand and that’s good, the mesh can be converted to NURBS or solids.

BS: Actually the mesh, the presentation that is there for the subD, we do some special things there, so we know how to convert that mesh into a smooth NURBS surface. And then it can participate in further modeling operations.

AFR: So the full gamut of Boolean operations work…

BS: Yes, anything that you can do with previous types of solids is now supported on that type of solid as well. It merely starts as a subD mesh.

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AFR: Okay, just one more question. We all know that SketchUp has emerged as a prominent force in the world of modeling, and we know that the backbone of that tool is this simple, easy-to-use push-pull modeling capability. And we know others have replicated push-pull modeling and in some cases at a higher level. So my question is, is your push-pull modeling tool finished or is there more to come?

BS: No. It’s always evolving for us. I’m not sure if you know or have seen this but our SubD modeling tool has this new 3D dragging widget…

AFR: No, I actually don’t really recall that.

BS: Well, we actually want to use that 3D widget now for all of our 3D push-pull operations, rotations, scaling, et cetera. You will see. Once you see all the videos about the SubD modeling tool you will see that that 3D widget provides all the aspects about scaling, asymmetric scaling, symmetric scaling, rotation about axis, rotation about arbitrary axis, and then of course translation.

So what we think is that we are essentially done with that widget and we want to implement that widget with all of our other tools. It will become a unified interface element.

AFR: Sounds good. I am sure users will appreciate the improvements to modeling with the SubDs as well as future improvements. Thanks for talking to Architosh about Vectorworks 2016. 

BS: You are very welcome.

More Details

That wraps up our interview with Dr. Biplab Sarkar. We hope this clarifies two of the most important new features in Vectorworks 2016, features that offer entirely new workflows and capabilities and puts this BIM application on its strongest footing ever. We want to reiterate that the Vectorworks folks were well aware of the lack of a native OS X software tool that equated to the Grasshopper plus Rhino workflow. Architosh has written about this missing element for Mac-based design professionals for years. We had originally believed that the formZ folks may get there first. That didn’t happen.

An important aspect of Vectorworks 2016 is that Marionette offers the Mac market—finally—a native tool in which to explore algorithmic modeling within a node-based visual scripting environment.

Footnotes

1 — ODBC stands for Open Database Connectivity and is an open-standard industry way for software programs to talk to each other’s databases utilizing a standard programming language middleware API (application programming interface) for accessing database management systems (DBMS).  Apple’s FileMaker Pro, for those who are wondering, has long supported the ODBC standard and can create a live connection to SQL-based databases and ODBC data sources via an ODBC driver. See: ODBC Overview, FileMaker.com.

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