Starting Your Journey With Enscape and Archicad

Clear communication of a design to project stakeholders is one of the most critical components of a designer’s business. The expectation of clients to get realistic imagery of projects on demand and the ability to visualize a project in virtual reality in every design meeting is becoming a business-as-usual requirement.

Enscape provides a solution to this problem and enables you to meet these demanding requirements. Through its live direct integration with Archicad, designers can make model changes on the fly while stakeholders view the model, either in the real-time rendering window or in virtual reality. Enabling design collaboration, Enscape provides the platform for faster and clearer communication with stakeholders.

As an Enscape user since 2019, I can honestly say that the addition of this tool to my Archicad workflows has made the communication of my design proposals with clients quicker and easier. It facilitates collaborative design in a format that is easier for clients to understand, with design concepts signed off faster. It has enabled additional service offerings to clients, where I provide early design phase realistic imagery in very quick time-precious situations.

Visualizing in Archicad with Enscape

Running Enscape alongside Archicad is as simple as downloading the Enscape application, connecting your license, opening a 3D window in your Archicad project, then clicking on the open Enscape button from the Enscape toolbar. You control what you want to see in Enscape from Archicad using layers, renovation filters, and 3D filters, with the resulting real-time render imagery being displayed on your desktop or laptop.

Once you have it up and running, you are immediately in real-time walk-through mode. This mode is powerful enough for most stakeholders to understand the proposed design and enable you to navigate wherever you want in your virtual project.

With one more click and a connected, supported VR headset, you are taken into virtual reality! On several projects, I have had clients walking around in their project in virtual reality, making suggestions and changes they want to experience on their project. I make changes directly in Archicad, and the client gets to immediately see the changes in the virtual reality environment, making design collaboration easier than ever before.

Claude and Me Draft Nathan Hildebrandt renderExport options with Enscape

After your design meetings or to provide deliverables for your submissions, Enscape has a broad collection of export functions available. These exports are not only of a higher quality, but they are also very quick to export compared to using Cinerender in Archicad.

You can export 360° Panoramas in standard or stereo mode for viewers like google cardboard. These exports provide an entry-level feel for virtual reality, with users able to view on their computer or dynamically view these views on their mobile phone while turning the phone standing in one spot.

Realistic perspectives can be created with a variety of camera and atmosphere settings, providing more realistic imagery akin to the imagery captured by professional photographers capturing real architecture.

Fly-through movies can also be created and saved to be used to present to your clients and stakeholders at the same high-quality realistic standard as the perspectives.
You also have the option to export your 360° Panoramas, or the actual Enscape model to an Enscape-hosted online portal, with access provided to your stakeholders via URL or QR code. They can then view the panoramas online or navigate the model in a supported web browser.

Another export option offered is an Executable .exe file that can be opened on any supporting PC computer to navigate around the model. This can be done without Archicad or Enscape on the viewing computer. This method still enables you to view the model in VR, but live changes can not be made between Archicad and Enscape. This is a great method for communicating a finished design to stakeholders like potential building contractors during the tendering process or for sub-contractors to view on-site to see the design intent prior to commencing work. It could also be used in a multi-residential sales office to walk potential buyers through the virtual apartments prior to them being built. The opportunities are almost endless.

Icons Victoria Overall Interior Nathan Hildebrandt imageHow to go from good to great

The biggest problem with Enscape is that it is extremely easy to use. The user interface is well designed and simple for new users. You just open the software and begin using it to deliver imagery and walk around in VR. With only a few clicks, you are on your way.

This is where I went wrong. Being one that always jumps into software before reading the manual, I did the same with Enscape. The outputs I was able to create without any training at all were reasonable, but not to the quality that Enscape can truly deliver.

So, my one recommendation is that you take a little bit of time to learn some of the key features of the tool before you begin. If you do this, the quality of your outputs will be at the high standard that Enscape can truly deliver, and you will obtain the benefits of this great tool.

I suggest you start by watching this video from Enscape on how to get started with Enscape 3.3 + Archicad.

Materials in Enscape and Archicad

After you have completed the basics in the video above, the first area of training I recommend is in the use and application of textures (Archicad Surfaces). By understanding how all the material settings work in Enscape and how they relate to Archicad, you will immediately see the quality of your imagery take a leap forward.

I personally skipped this step, much to my demise, and was hitting the 80% mark. With a little bit of time invested in training (all of 20 minutes in total), I understood where I was going wrong, made the adjustments, and began to see the quality that Enscape can deliver.
I suggest taking the time to read the following article from the Enscape Knowledge base: Materials in Archicad

With the recent addition of the Enscape Material Library, a lot of the high-quality textures you need are right there out of the box, built into the software. Remember though, that little bit of investment in training will help you edit those materials and create new materials that you need to successfully deliver your imagery.

Lighting

The second area I recommend spending time understanding is lighting. Architecture is nothing without being able to see it how we envision it to be. There are a few tricks you need to play to achieve good quality lighting from Archicad into Enscape. I typically use 3 x components to achieve what I visually want to achieve:

  • The geometry for the light fixture
  • The IES lamp in Archicad with the associated IES file from the light manufacturer
  • A piece of geometry to replicate the lamp with a material set to self-illuminate.

I talk about light settings in my Enscape presentation from ARCHINTENSIVE 2021 (at the 27- minute mark). 

I also recommend that you take the time to go through Enscape’s Knowledge Base and read the article on Lighting in Archicad to help you understand how lighting works in Enscape through Archicad.

And if you have time, I would also recommend that you take the time to go through the other relevant sections in Enscape’s Knowledge Base to understand best practice settings to get the best outcomes from using this easy and powerful tool. 

Where to find visualization resources

Once you have learned all the tips and tricks through the videos and articles I have mentioned above, you will want to go out and start creating high-quality imagery for your projects.

Now I should also point you to the following very helpful Enscape resource. It is a document that lists over 40 websites where you can obtain free 3D models, materials and textures, skyboxes, and IES light files from.

Over the last two years, I have progressively built up my content to improve the speed and quality of the imagery I create in Enscape using these resources. This is one document to download and refer to as you begin your journey. 

Free 3D visualization resources infographic from Enscape3D model library in Enscape

With so many things to consider in putting this article together, I almost forgot another important part of Enscape, its built-in model library. The Enscape Asset Library is a great way to enhance your design model with over 3,000 models that can be added into your Archicad project.

These objects are already preset with incredibly realistic textures ready to use in Enscape. You just go into the Enscape library within Archicad and place the elements directly in Archicad in either the 2D or 3D window.

The assets are low polygon proxy elements, so they do not bog Archicad down, but enable you to see how they relate to your model in the Archicad environment. This helps expand on the OOTB library from Archicad to assist you to deliver greater quality outputs.

Final thoughts

Personally, I feel that Enscape is the best rendering solution for my business’s workflows. I strongly recommend that you take the time to test Enscape for yourself and see how easy it is to use and how quickly you can achieve outputs at a high quality and standard.

Now my comments are at this stage only relevant to Archicad users on a PC. I know that a large proportion of Archicad users are Mac users, so all of this may seem irrelevant to you. But don’t worry, Enscape is currently developing a version of Enscape for Mac (SketchUp 2021 currently supported through an open beta). For Archicad users on Mac, I strongly suggest signing up to Enscape's Mac mailing list to receive the latest updates on when this will be available.

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