Viewing, Sharing Revit and SketchUp Models with Vizerra Revizto
By Ralph Grabowski
In business since 2008, Russia’s 3DreamTeam (which does business as Vizerra) writes software for viewing 3D worlds interactively. Their idea is to make it easy for designers and clients to collaborate in areas like AEC, urban planning, product design, and even virtual tourism (see figure 1). For now, however, emphasis is on AEC, and in particular, Revit and SketchUp.
Figure 1: Vizerra’s Revizto Viewer software displays 3D models exported by Revit or SketchUp
What Revizto Consists Of
There are three tasks that Revizto software performs:
- Convert and Edit – Revizto for Revit ($399) converts Revit and SketchUp models to Visual Information Model (VIM) format and edits the lighting and materials; Revizto for SketchUp ($99) does similar work with SketchUp only. The software runs on Windows, with a Mac version for SketchUp coming soon.
- View – Revizto Viewer (free) allows one or more people to view the files output by the converter software. There are versions for Web browsers, Android and iOS devices, and for Windows and Mac computers.
- Gallery – stores the VIM files on the cloud for viewing by the public or authorized users. The gallery operates in supported Web browsers only.
There is a lot more to Revizto than meets the eye, and so I strongly urge you to review the help file online at help.revizto.com. In addition, I found useful the set of video tutorials the company provides at www.revizto.com/support/tutorials. There is a lot of support for starting up.
Exporting Models to Revizto
The primary Revizto software exports 3D models from Revit and SketchUp into VIM format, and then allows you to edit the result to make models look more realistic.
To export from inside Revit 2011-2013, choose the Add-ins tab, and then click Export to VIM. Vizerra recommends that you next click Revizto on the Add-Ins panel – instead of immediately opening the VIM file in the Revizto. This is because the extra step applies additional optimizations, such as compressing data and replacing Revit plant objects with more realistic ones.
To use custom Revit materials, be sure to export the model with the Export Custom Materials checked box in the export options which will export all the custom materials you have used within Revit. While it has generally been considered impossible for non-Autodesk products to export custom materials along with the Revit model, Revizto provides that option.
In the case of SketchUp, don’t export models from inside SketchUp; instead, use Revizto to import the SKP files and then convert them. There is no FBX option, naturally.
Using Revizto for SketchUp
I tested the Revizto for SketchUp software, as Revizto for Revit software would not install on my computer because I do not have Revit.
Revizto for SketchUp is a 200MB download. During the setup process, I got blocked from finishing the install until I created an account with revizto.com. Once I verified my account through an automated email message, the setup continued, installing Revizto for SketchUp, Revizto Viewer, and Revizto Activation. The latter ensures “correct” use of the software.
To test out the software’s abilities, I got some SKP files from Trimble (Google) Warehouse at sketchup.google.com/3dwarehouse. After downloading the SKP files, I used Revizto for SketchUp’s File | Import command to open one of them. A big file opened pretty quickly, in five seconds flat (see figure 2).
Figure 2: A 3D model created by SketchUp displayed by Revizto
Once Revizto opened the model, I could fine-tune the materials and lighting settings. I won’t get into detail about the many functions, but I’ll provide this overview:
- Imports and export files
- Applies lights, and sets the position of the sun
- Inserts panoramic images and skyboxes
- Optionally excludes selected objects, families, and categories
- Merges meshes, generates flat-ish terrains, reduces object complexity, and groups parts
- Edits materials (see figure 3), and imports them; a single scene can have multiple material libraries and can switch between them
- Creates new projects (groups of VIM files) and synchronizes them
Figure 3: The Materials dialog box has an extensive set of parameters for creating and tweaking the look of materials
As you can see from the list, Revizto does a lot more than just show off pretty models. Note that the Revizto for SketchUp version lacks some of these functions, such as changeable light settings and plant replacement, as well as other features specific to Revit. Hence, the lower price.
While in the model, I can place markers to indicate places of interest. I click the “i” icon on the toolbar, and then enter a note that gets attached to numeric markers (see figure 4). The marker consists of a rotating colored “i” icon.
I can use Revizto to view models interactively, or use the Revizto Viewer. To do so, I need to first save the SKP model as a VIMPROJ project file using the Project | Save VIM to Project As command. The model then becomes part of a list of VIM files saved in the VIMPROJ file (see figure 5). Project files are used for viewing and for collaboration, as described next.
The free Revizto Viewer is meant for anyone who doesn’t have the primary Revizto software. I tested the Windows and Android versions of the viewer, and found the two so identical to each other that the Android version did not adopt any Android user interface elements. This consistency of user interface is good when switching between Windows and Android. Looking at the Apple AppStore, I see that the iOS version also looks the same.
I initially made a mistake, which was solved by Vizerra’s fast response to my tech support question. My problem: when I started testing the viewer, I found that it would not open VIM files. The solution: the viewer only opens VIMPROJ project files; this is to ensure synchronization.
When the Windows Viewer starts up, it displays a Configuration dialog box in which I select the resolution and the quality of the viewing area (see figure 6). The default settings are “1024×768” and “Fastest.” I found that Fastest quality was sufficient, because Fantastic quality didn’t look any better to me yet slowed the viewer’s response to a crawl. Fantastic mode turns on SSAD (screen space ambient occlusion), tone mapping, HDR (high dynamic range). The slow speed could well be due to the integrated Intel graphic chip my computer uses; the display speed would improve with a dedicated AMD or NVIDIA graphics board.
Figure 6: Start up options for the viewer
Selecting a resolution is unnecessary for tablets because they display all apps full-screen and so the dialog box does not appear. To change the quality, click the Options button on the toolbar.
I clicked the Input tab to review the list of keyboard shortcuts that let me navigate through the 3D scene (see figure 7).
Figure 7: Modifying keyboard shortcuts
I’ll reproduce them here so that you can cut out the list as a handy reference:
The keyboard assignments can be changed by double-clicking a control name, and then tapping the key I prefer to use instead. In practice, I found using a combination of both keys and the mouse to be best:
- Right-click the screen to go into navigation mode.
- Move the mouse to change my viewpoint – looking left, right, up, and down.
- Use the cursor keys to move forwards, backwards, and side to side.
- Right-click to exit navigation mode.
There is one significant difference between the desktop and tablet versions. Touch-based tablets cannot right-click to switch between viewing and motion modes. To overcome this problem, the Android viewer screen is split into two parts: I drag my fingers in the left one-third of the screen to move through the scene, and drag them in the right two-thirds to rotate the view. Because tablets have limited working RAM, yet they can open files with average complexity.
Also missing from the tablet versions are keyboard shortcuts (a pity, for my Android has a keyboard dock). The option for recording track is still available, although they cannot be exported into AVI or MOV format, unlike the standalone one viewer.
The toolbar across the top of all versions of the viewer has icons that perform the following tasks (see figure 8).
Figure 8: The Viewer’s toolbar
- Show/Hide Toolbar – toggles the toolbar
- About – displays the About dialog box
- Open Project – opens a .visproj file
- Synchronize Project – syncs changes back to the online storage
- Layers – toggles the visibility of layers
- Open Scene – opens a scene
- Markers – more about these later
- Movies – records movies of navigating through the scene
- Screenshot – grabs screen shots
- Settings – accesses the settings dialog box
- Fly/Walk toggle – switches between flying and walking at ground level
- Collision toggle – switches between crashing through walls or not
- Help – accesses on-line help
- Close – closes the program
Tip: When Revizto Viewer stores VIMPROJ files locally on Androids, it uses the /Android/data/com.Vizerra.ReviztoViewer/files folder. This is useful information, because the software is not (yet) linked with Dropbox or other file sharing services.
When the desktop viewer is not in navigation mode, it is in selection mode. In selection mode, I can click items to get information about them (see figure 9).
Figure 9: Clicking on objects tells you about them
While I could run both Revizto and Viewer at the same time, open files are locked and so changes cannot be saved until I closed one of the programs.
To give others access to my models, I needed to save them to the online Revizto Gallery. The gallery provides 2GB of online storage at no charge, and this is where screen grabs and videos are also stored.
The process for saving models online is easy enough, but then sharing it with others was more complex than I thought necessary. Here are the steps I took:
- In Revizto, I clicked the Sync to Cloud button.
- I entered my username and password, and then waited for the project file to be uploaded.
- Revizto Gallery was opened in my default Web browser, listing my projects (see figure 10).
Figure 10: Revizto Gallery lists projects and related data
- To give access to others, I can make the project public, or else restrict viewing to selected people, or generate a Web link. Alternatively, I could add people to the Project Working Group list, which generates an email inviting the recipients “to join the project as a Viewer at www.revizto.com.”
- As the recipient, I clicked the Accept button in the invitation email, and then I was taken to a registration page.
I feel that this is too much resistance for inviting people to view my projects; it should be more like Dropbox, where a link accesses a file without needing to signup. Vizerra tells me that they have these measures in place to provide additional security, and they feel that the signup process is pretty simple.
For public examples of projects, visit the Gallery at http://www.revizto.com/gallery/demo. Click the 3D tab to experience the viewer with your desktop Web browser; it uses the Unity plug-in. I also accessed the online Gallery using Firefox on my Asus Android tablet (see figure 11). I could view the Gallery Web page, the screenshots, and the video walkthrough (hosted by YouTube). I could not, however, launch the 3D viewer in the Web browser, because Unity is available for Windows and Mac only.
Figure 11: The Revizto Gallery in Firefox running on an Android tablet
Revizto was announced and has been shipping since last November. It currently works with files generated by Revit and SketchUp. I think that some of its workflow could be smoother; nevertheless it is sufficiently mature at this young age to be useful even now. I was impressed at how it handles large files effortlessly.
Free 14-day versions of all the software packages are available from http://www.revizto.com/products. Revizto is an interesting solution for teams that need to modify the look of buildings and products – whether in the same office or on the other side of the world.
About the Author
Ralph Grabowski, TenLinks senior editor, is one of the leading CAD journalists and authors, with over a 100 books and many hundreds of articles. His upFront.eZine may be the industry’s longest running newsletter. Ralph holds a civil engineering degree.