When navigating a model in real-time is not practical, or you want a pre-scripted path that aligns with your talking points, creating a walkthrough video is the solution. And, now, with the related updates in Enscape 3.0, the process is even easier!
For example, I worked in my previous firm’s booth at a regional conference to promote our design services. We had a large television which was used to play a continuously-looped Enscape-generated video (straight off a USB drive plugged directly into the TV). This eye-catching medium proved to be very engaging and prompted several questions, thus serving its purpose to engage attendees in a meaningful conversation about the work we do.
This article will cover the powerful video creation features and workflows found within the Enscape plugin. Enscape has a powerful yet simple workflow for developing a video walkthrough. I will be using Autodesk Revit, but the way in which this functionality was implemented into Enscape allows it to work the same in SketchUp, Rhino, Vectorworks, and Archicad as well. If you’re not an Enscape user yet, sign up for the free trial:
TIP: Follow along with this post by downloading the free sample Revit model and textures via this link. This sample file is the beautiful modern office shown in the following Enscape rendered still image.
Getting started with video creation in Enscape
Enscape provides a great video walkthrough renderer in Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, Archicad and Vectorworks. The overall process of walkthrough rendering is very simple.
First, in your design software, start Enscape, toggle the Video Editor on, and then compose a view in Enscape (see first image below). Click Add Keyframe (the + button) to define the start point. You can then continue this process along the path you would like the video to follow. The path and keyframes are visible within Enscape, as shown in the second image below. The video follows this path and morphs between each keyframe. For example, notice the view direction arrow added at each keyframe. Enscape will smoothly transition between #1 and #2 and then again between #2 and #3.
Enscape’s video commands
Enscape's keyframes and path
In the video editor, you can select your different keyframes by clicking on the diamond shapes on the timeline. In addition to morphing the view direction, keyframes allow other adjustments such as Time of Day, Focal point, and Field of View. The duration between keyframes can be adjusted by setting an explicit Timestamp.
To finish, once the path is defined, the video may be previewed in Enscape using the Preview command (play button). If everything looks good to you, then use the Export command to make an MP4 file which can be hosted online or generally shared. Keep in mind that you can also adjust the output quality and resolution through the Visual Settings -> Capture tab beforehand.
Creating the video path
A video is created by following a camera path and defining this path has never been easier in the AEC industry when using Enscape. To begin the process, within Enscape, click the Video Editor command (or type V). This will activate the Video Editor UI within Enscape - see image below. Next, while in Enscape, simply compose a view and click the Add Keyframe + button (or type K). This adds a keyframe, represented as a diamond on the Timeline. Continue composing views and adding keyframes along the desired path until it is adequately defined to travel around objects, corners and up and down stairs.
TIP: Be sure to save your path before closing Enscape, otherwise your work will be lost!
Enscape’s keyframe tools
Keyframe tools legend:
A. Add a new keyframe, based on current Enscape view, before the first keyframe
B. Click a diamond to select a keyframe
C. Click between two keyframes to add a new keyframe
D. Add a new keyframe, based on current Enscape view, after the last keyframe
Editing the video path
The path may need to be modified to adjust the view direction or avoid colliding with objects in the scene. Enscape makes this easy by allowing us to select keyframes and then visually adjust them. This process can be started within the 3D view or via the Timeline in the Video Editor. In the 3D view, hover your cursor over a camera (i.e. a keyframe) until it turns green (see next image) and then click. Notice how the camera path has arrows on it, indicating the direction of travel.
Selecting a keyframe
Once a Keyframe is selected, you can toggle Gridline visibility (item A) for reference, as shown in the image below. While in the keyframe, the path is not visible. The path will not appear again until you click Exit Keyframe (item B). Note that the Timeline and Movement options in the Video Editor apply to the entire video, so they are only editable while not in a specific keyframe.
Editing a keyframe
In the short video below, I will show how keyframes can also be inserted graphically on a path just by clicking on it. I demonstrate how to add another keyframe between #2 and #3 so we look straight ahead longer after leaving keyframe #2. I also show how to adjust the camera height, so the video ends with a shot looking down on the kitchen. To do this, simply click on the last keyframe/camera, make the view composition adjustments and then click Update to apply the changes to the current keyframe.
Using the controls in the Keyframe Editor, the Time of Day, Field of View, Depth of Field, and Timestamp can be overridden from the current settings. For example, if a keyframe is selected and the timestamp is adjusted, the duration of the entire video is adjusted. Or, if the time of day is adjusted in at least two keyframes, it will morph between these views. To help keep track of where overrides exist, markers are added to the Timeline as shown in the following image. These same adjustments can be seen in Enscape, next to each keyframe as shown in the second image below. It is important to remember to click Update to save changes to the current keyframe.
Edit keyframe editor
Keyframe shows options applied
Quick feature overview
Field of view defines what is visible at a particular position and orientation in space. Chose the angle of the area captured through the camera to influence the atmosphere of your scene.
Set the time of day by choosing the desired hour of day in the editor; the lighting will be changed accordingly. Enhance your project by fine-tuning where the daylight falls in every scene.
TIP: Be careful changing the time across a short video as it can be distracting and not very realistic.
Depth of field determines the focal point in your video. You can either use the center of the screen as an automatic focus or set a target distance. Use this feature to increase emphasis on a specific part of the scene.
TIP: Focal Point has no effect in the Keyframe Editor when Auto Focus is checked within the Visual Settings dialog.
An Enscape video path can also traverse floors as shown in the next two images. The process is the same: compose views along the path and add keyframes.
Video path traveling between floors
Keyframe added mid-way up the stairs to better define path
My first attempt at this multi-level path only had a keyframe at the top and bottom of the stair run. However, when smoothing/morphing the path between keyframes, the path curved too much between the bottom and top of the stairs. To correct this, I inserted another keyframe mid-stair to define the path as shown in the image above. Using these features, we have full control over the path and view direction.
The video path editing features allow multiple keyframes on the same position (with different camera rotation or time of day) as well as explicit control over the timing. I recently wrote about this on my blog, BIM Chapters, in the two posts below:
Save and load a path
If you want to use a path again in the future, you can save it using the Save Path to file... command as shown below. The ability to define multiple paths within the same project is an especially beneficial feature. Save these files in the project folder on the network so the entire design team has access. Once a path is saved, or if you wish to discard the current path, click New video path.
The saved file is an XML file. If you edit this file, you will notice each keyframe has an X,Y,Z value for Position and LookAt. These numbers could be modified to make more precise adjustments along the path - be sure to save a copy first!
Save and load video path
Once the path is defined, the video can be created. First, the quality of the video is dependent on the options specified in the Visual Settings dialog, shown below. There are a few important things to know:
Choose the video resolution in pixels. This setting impacts the time needed to generate the video and the resultant file size. If you chose a Full HD (1080p resolution), Enscape will render a video with 1920 x 1080 pixels.
TIP: For 4k video, I recommend using the VLC Media Player which performs very well.
Compression Quality: A higher compression quality increases the file size but reduces compression artifacts in the video. The export time is unaffected by this setting.
TIP: Selecting Lossless creates individual image files, not a video file. A maximum or lower setting will create an MP4 when the video is exported.
Frames Per Second (FPS): Takes proportionally longer to render, but higher values yields a smoother video.
Visual Settings dialog – Capture tab - Video settings
3. Motion blur
Motion Blur, found on the Image tab, can be deactivated if rapid camera movements result in a blurred image.
4. Rendering quality
This setting controls the lighting and reflection quality of Enscape. Higher values yield more photorealistic results, though this increases the render time-per-frame. Thus, the combination of render quality and capture settings can have a significant impact on the time required and quality of the final product.
Keep in mind, the overall length of the video is determined automatically or by the Timestamp animation feature in the Video Editor as described above. It does not matter where the keyframes are or how many there are.
Finally, use the Preview - play button - command (or “P” on the keyboard) to get a quick preview of the animation in real-time. If the preview looks acceptable, use the Export command in the Video Editor to create an MP4. As already mentioned, this process can potentially take a significant amount of time. This is largely dependent on your settings (see above), but also determined by the computing power of your hardware. A fast graphics card will improve export rendering times significantly.
The resultant video file can be quite large. I have created a few that were upwards of 2GB for a 20-minute 1080p video. However, the results are definitely worth it!
Here is an example, created just by using the Enscape video editor. Video editing software was used only for overlays and to string them together:
And a further example where no video editing software has been used whatsoever:
Credit: Jack Tenrev
In today’s busy and complex world, we need tools that are both powerful and easy to use. As you have seen, Enscape makes the whole process of developing and editing a walkthrough video just that – easy. The ability to create multiple paths and save each one to be individually reloaded later increases efficiency. And, the fact that this process works the same across multiple authoring tools (Revit, SketchUp, Archicad, Vectorworks, and Rhino) is just ingenious in my opinion. We may not be able to agree on the best modeling tool, but Enscape is making it hard to not pick them as the go-to visualization solution for the office.
Videos are an effective tool for conveying design intent in our industry. For our clients, many of whom are spending millions of dollars, seeing a high-quality video can be comforting and affirming, because we can all relate to the natural sense of motion in our 3D world that videos afford. These walkthrough videos can also become a powerful marketing tool for both the design firm and the client. We can use these videos to impress potential clients with our design and technological capabilities. Plus, clients can use the videos on their website or in their own presentations to engage shareholders, investors or their customers. Many readers probably already know all of this, but I wanted to make this closing statement to help bring out the strong value proposition Enscape has for our industry.