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Navisworks renders: what are the capabilities?

Navisworks renders are a great tool to showcase your engineering or architectural project to stakeholders. Read on to find out their capabilities and potential.

As we know, Navisworks is potentially a compelling addition to any BIM project. Not only is it excellent for clash detection, but also allows you to create photorealistic images and animations. The renders may not look quite as photorealistic as those produced by purpose-designed rendering software, such as Autodesk 3DS Max, but given the simplicity of the process this can be an acceptable trade-off.

Navisworks renders with Autodesk Rendering engine in the cloud

Navisworks renders effectively have two processing options available. The first is to use the Autodesk Rendering engine. This option can be found under the ‘Render’ tab in Navisworks, called ‘Render in Cloud’. According to the company, Autodesk Rendering is a highly optimised engine. It is also different from the rendering engine used in Navisworks. Because of this, it may show minor differences in how the materials look compared to the Navisworks rendering engine.

One of the advantages of Autodesk Rendering is that it automatically applies advanced exposure controls to simulate real-world lighting conditions. It relies on 3D views created in Navisworks. You can create a render of any 3D views saved within your Navisworks project. You just need to set the desired 3D view as current and run the ‘Render in Cloud’ command in the ‘Render’ tab.

Navisworks renders with the built-in Autodesk Graphics engine

The other built-in option we have for rendering, also found under the ‘Render’ tab, is called ‘Autodesk Rendering.’ This process uses the engine known as Autodesk Graphics. Before using this rendering engine we need to assign materials to the model objects, select the material mapping, set up the environment and lighting.

In the context of rendering, materials define how an object reflects the light. Navisworks renders come with a built-in library of materials that you can choose from, including concrete, wood and glass. You can also modify parameters like reflectivity, transparency and texture.

Once we set the materials for each object in our 3D model, we have the option to adjust the material mapping. Navisworks will apply a material mapping by default to the best of its ability. Therefore, we only recommend changing this if you are an experienced user. The material mapping options are planar mapping, box mapping, spherical mapping, cylindrical mapping and explicit mapping. If you are rendering a pipe, for example, using the cylindrical mapping may improve the result of the rendered image.

Sunlight, sky illumination and artificial lights

In the environment settings, we can adjust the sun, sky illumination and exposure settings. There is also an option to set the real-world coordinates of the project. This tool comes in handy to create real-world sunlight effects. For example, we can set the location of our BIM project to London and render the real sunlight of 14 February 2021 at 3:00 p.m. We can also specify the sky illumination. Whilst the sun’s rays are parallel and yellowish, the sky illumination comes from all directions and it is blueish in colour.

If your project also has artificial lighting, such as interior lamps or street lighting columns, you can add these sources. In the lighting tab within the Navisworks render panel, we can add point, spot, distant and web lights. You can control the position of the lighting glyph within the model to replicate each lighting source.

Setting the quality of Navisworks renders

After setting the materials, material mapping, environment and lighting settings, we can proceed with the rendering. But before we click the rendering button, we need to select the rendering quality. We can choose between:

  • Low quality: there is no anti-aliasing and the shading quality is low. You can use this quality as a draft to get a taste of how your materials and lights will look.
  • Medium quality: anti-aliasing is active and it has a deeper reflection setting than the low quality. You can use this quality for a final preview of the scene.
  • High quality: anti-aliasing, sample filtering and ray tracing are active and set to the maximum. The output image includes all reflections, transparencies and anti-aliasing. It requires the most time, so it is recommended to use only to get the final output.
  • Coffee break rendering: sets a rendering time of 10 minutes with simplistic lighting.
  • Lunch break rendering: sets a rendering time of 60 minutes with advanced lighting.
  • Overnight rendering: sets a rendering time of 12 hours with high numerical precision.
  • Custom rendering: it allows you to set your own rendering parameters.

With your quality defined, you can press the Ray Trace button and let Navisworks do its magic!

Have you used Navisworks renders before? Did you find them an effective tool for your presentations? Let us know in the comments below!

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