With the multitude of ways in which designers work with clients and stakeholders, it is important to have the ability to provide the most effective visualization elements at the appropriate time during the project’s design and construction phase.
Where some workflows require multiple tools to create still images, videos, and virtual reality, Enscape facilitates a way to keep all visualization efforts tied to the native design platform (e.g. Revit). Below, we will dive into the range of Enscape exports and file formats that are included with every subscription (it's worth noting that Enscape is offered at an affordable price point, making it accessible to most design staff).
When you stop and consider them all at once, it’s impressive how many options Enscape offers to export high-quality visualization content. This post will look at nine different export options in Enscape, including high-quality image options from popular CAD and BIM platforms such as Revit.
The 9 Enscape export and file options we will cover:
Render Image (Into Document) only available in Revit
Enscape export options - Enscape toolbar
Enscape export options - Enscape video editor
Enscape export options - Special Revit option
Let’s take a closer look at each of these export options; all of which work the same in Revit, SketchUp, Archicad, and Rhino – with one exception, as noted above.
1. Screenshot (render image)
This is everyone’s go-to command to create high-quality still images as PNG, JPG, EXR, or TGA. I always say, “it now takes longer to compose the view, than it does to render and generate the rendered image file”!
Related post: For more on composing a view, see this post: Best Practices: Finding The Right Perspective
It is helpful to know that the resolution of the image can be set in Enscape’s Visual Settings dialog. By default, the resolution is set to Full HD 1920 times 1080 pixels. I like to leave this set at Ultra HD, so the quality is extra high, and I do not have to go back and recreate any images (see image below). If you have a slower graphics card (GPU) that may take too much time early on in the design process, a lower setting would be more appropriate.
Render image settings
Selecting Custom allows us to enter any resolution up to 8192 x 8192 Pixels. For my last three book updates, and for the next, I have used high-quality Enscape-rendered images for the cover of my Revit textbooks. For a printed book cover, the resolution needs to be very high. The combination of an Enscape image and a high-quality printed book cover is really amazing, as shown in one example below.
The file format can also be selected when creating screenshots. The default is PNG, which is what I usually use:
Here are a few other Render Image-related settings to keep in mind.
Keyboard shortcut (Shift + F11)
Be sure to take advantage of the Keyboard Shortcut. When composing a scene in Enscape, it is a lot easier to use the keyboard shortcut than go back over to Revit and click Render Image (especially, seeing as the current tab on the Ribbon, in Revit, often switches automatically to the Modify tab).
Object ID, material ID, and depth channel
Use this option to create a background depth mask and material ID layer. This can be used in an image editing application, such as Photoshop, to replace the background using a masking layer. When this option is checked, Enscape creates three image files as demonstrated below.
NB: With Enscape 3.3, an alpha channel export is now available, allowing you to export an image with a transparent background. This makes it much easier and quicker to then add a background in an image editing tool.
Use this option to easily create images in a rapid-fire fashion. No need to stop and specify a name and location of the image file about to be created. Files are saved to the default folder and include a timestamp in the name.
2. Batch Rendering
Using Batch Rendering, it is possible to render several scenes and panoramas at once. Simply check the views you wish to render, and then select an output folder. Saved visual presets linked to a view will be used, which allows each render to have different settings, such as white mode and a custom skybox.
3. Mono Panorama
Exporting a panorama is one of the most cost-effective ways to share an immersive 3D Enscape experience.
It is something between a still image and a VR/navigable environment; where the former may be limiting in some cases and the latter requires a certain level of quality computer hardware. For a mono panorama example: click here.
A panorama is a fully-rendered, fixed point in space, where we can look around in all directions. This can be done on your computer where you use your mouse to look around, or on a mobile device, where, when combined with a Google Cardboard Viewer, or Oculus Quest II, the user is immersed in the design. With a cardboard viewer in hand, you can send links, hosted by Enscape online, where your clients can view key portions of the design and potentially sign off on proposed solutions much earlier than in the past.
TIP: You can take this experience even further if you use a tool like Krpano or Yulio to stitch individual panoramas together. Alternatively, you can use the new Enscape Panorama Gallery, to create and share multiple panoramas from the same project (available with Enscape 3.1 and above). Panorama tours can also now be created from within Enscape itself, with Enscape version 3.2 and above.
Enscape’s Visual Settings dialog -> Capture Tab, offers Low, Normal, and High resolutions.
A panorama gallery in Enscape
The low cost Oculus Quest II can be used to view rendered panoramas from Enscape
If using a mobile device, with a cardboard viewer, be sure to adjust the Resolution to high if your device supports 4096 pixels. This is important when you think about the fact that you are placing your phone’s screen very close to your eyes. You want the best quality possible.
Mobile device: display settings example
The next several images are screen captures from a mobile device so you know what to expect when using this export option. First, make sure to adjust your screen’s resolution, it may not be set to the highest setting by default.
When you click the link to open a panorama or scan a QR code, this is what you see at first. A single image where you can move your phone around to see the entire space from the prescribed vantage point, even without a cardboard viewer. Notice the two icons in the lower right; switch to cardboard mode and full-screen mode.
Mobile device display: initial Enscape panorama view
When you switch into cardboard mode, be sure to select your viewer via the gear icon positioned at the bottom, center, of the screen. Try both to see which works best for your viewer.
Mobile device display: cardboard viewer settings via gear icon
Mobile device display: ready to be placed in viewer
In cardboard viewer mode, there is one image for each eye. With this first mono export option, the two images are exactly the same. In case it’s not clear, this is how the mobile device is positioned in the cardboard viewer.
4. Stereo Panorama
This brings us to the next export option; a stereo panorama (for a stereo panorama example: click here)
As the name implies, the cardboard view mode has two images that are slightly offset from each other. The perspective of each view is slightly different to improve the depth perception of the scene. This is a better option for panoramas, but does take more time to render - which is directly proportional to the quality of your graphics card.
The next two images compare a downloaded Enscape panorama from the same vantage point; one Mono and the other Stereo. Again, this helps to simulate depth, just like our brain does based on the spacing between your eyes. Speaking of that, a better cardboard viewer will have the ability to adjust the eye spacing to make it compatible for each user. The example viewer shown below is a branded viewer my previous firm made to share with clients!
Downloaded 'Stereo' example
Downloaded 'Mono' example
Cardboard viewer with adjustable eye position tabs on each side
Finally, all your panoramas, stored locally and in the cloud, can be managed from Enscape’s Manage Uploads dialog. Here you can preview, delete, upload to cloud, download image and download QR code image.
Manage uploads: Panoramas tab
5. EXE standalone
To me, this is such an amazing gift from Enscape; they take the core engine of their software, along with your model, and package it up royalty-free to share with the world! While you can no longer edit your model live with the EXE standalone export, you – or any partner of yours - can inspect it in every way ‘Enscape connected to your CAD’ would allow you to do!
Not only that, but as mentioned at the beginning of this article, we can even use this EXE file to drive a virtual reality experience. I like to include the Enscape version number, at least for my go-to sample projects. I want to keep those up-to-date so my demos always use the latest version of Enscape’s technology.
I recently shared an Enscape-generated EXE with someone who works in the VR world (but not directly in the AEC sector). The model was from my Interior Design using Autodesk Revit 2020 textbook. This person actually asked me if I used 3D cameras to create the architectural VR experience! This building does not exist, anywhere! It is totally made up for my books. That is how awesome the Enscape experience comes across to those outside of the AEC space, not familiar with Enscape; think, clients!
Surprisingly, the EXE file size is not extremely large. In this example, the 198 MB file includes my two-story office building (210 MB Revit model, including structure and MEP), required textures, and the Enscape engine. Very reasonable.
Related post: For more on this topic see this post: Best Practices: How to Use Executables for Presentation
6. Web standalone
In addition to exporting a standalone file, it is also possible to export a web-based standalone. With this method, the model is exported to Enscape’s servers and a unique URL (i.e. web address) is provided to share with just your client or the world!
Keep in mind this web-based experience still requires an adequate graphics card, as GPU processing and GPU memory are still required.
Web-based standalone exports may be accessed or deleted via the Manage Uploads command found on the Enscape tab within Revit. In this dialog, shown below, simply click on an export to open it in your browser (which reveals the URL) or delete it by clicking on the red “X” that appears to the right when hovering over an export option.
Enscape does not restrict the size or quantity of web-based exports – except for hardware reasons - allowed by licensed users and at this point never deletes them unless you initiate it as described above.
Related post: For more on this topic see this post: Best Practices: How to Use Web-Standalone Export for Presentation
7. Enable VR: Export to VR
In a sense, clicking the Enable VR option while Enscape is running, is an export-to-VR option. However, more to the point of this post, when combining this option with the Export EXE feature, we can create a VR-ready standalone EXE file.
No need for Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, Archicad, or even Enscape! Just double-click the exported EXE file on a computer with a properly configured VR system, such as the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, or a Windows MR-based device, and that’s it – a pre-packaged immersive VR experience to send to a client or take on the road.
For more on presenting using Enscape and VR, see this blog post: Enscape Best Practices: Using Virtual Reality for Project Presentations
Enscape VR experience in a large space with wireless HTC Vive headset (Aaron Kelly, LHB)
8. Export Video
Creating videos is yet another Enscape export option. Bringing a video to a meeting, or leaving it with a client, is a great way to curate an experience in a model that might not be complete or parts of the model are confidential/proprietary and not meant to be seen by a certain user group or general public.
Video path shown in Enscape with camera locations highlighted
Here is a link to an example of a fully-rendered path, using Export Video, which results in an MP4 file: click here. Super cool! I can use so many adjectives, as I don’t work for Enscape. Although, I bet they use them too!
TIP: For 4K video, I recommend using the VLC Media Player which performs very well.
In the Visual Settings dialog we have adjustments related to the resolution, compression quality and frames per second (FPS). Exported videos use the same resolution setting as still image renders.
TIP: For marketing, these videos often play very well from a flash-drive, directly plugged into a TV.
Related post: For more on this topic see this post: Best Practices: Video Creation in Enscape
9. Render Image (into document, Revit only)
This is the only export option that is unique to Revit. Compared to the Render Image option, rather than saving a still image to a file, this feature saves the same information within Revit, as a rendering. This is the same thing Revit does when using the ‘Save to Project’ button via its rendering dialog. The results, from using this Enscape feature, can be seen in the Project Browser, as shown in the image below. A rendering can then be placed (via drag & drop) on a sheet and resized.
The size or resolution of the image is also based on the settings specified on the Capture tab in Enscape’s Visual Settings dialog.
For example, the image below shows two Enscape-generated renderings placed on the same sheet in Revit; neither have been resized. The one on the left, within the titleblock, was created at ‘Window’ resolution, while the larger one is based on the ‘Ultra HD’ setting. If the intent was to fill the sheet, one is too small and the other larger than needed. Scaling up the small image will cause it to print pixelated and the larger image is just making the Revit file unnecessarily larger than needed. FYI: in this example, resizing the larger image would not be that big of a deal – but, I have seen billboard-sized images in Revit, then scaled down to fit on a sheet, which is unnecessary.
Here are the Revit properties for the two sample images shown above – Compare size of Enscape-generated images
Now you have a good grasp of all the export options and file formats within Enscape. On the surface, this real-time visualization tool is super simple and easy to use. And, when you stop and look a little deeper, you will see there are many additional opportunities to collaborate with the design team and engage clients and stakeholders. With the inspiration of this post, you can now give these export options a try and even impress your colleagues, supervisor and clients!