The Long Road to a (Nearly) Perfect Visualization

I didn’t intend it to turn out this way, but my first few roadway visualizations were sloppy and quick. Because the project managers hadn’t seen anything like it from our organization, the messiness didn’t seem to matter. Everyone thought I was doing swell and the ‘addaboys’ were swift and often.

My next one was slower and better. It was a diverging diamond interchange so nothing was standard. The striping was especially tricky and most of the time spent on the visualization was given to developing a method to bring the existing striping file from Microstation into (what was then called) Infrastructure Modeler. The results must have been better because it was shown on the local news many times.

This trend towards more time and higher detail has continued as I have striven for better quality in my image and video renders. This almost seems counter-intuitive – the more experience I have gained the longer it takes to complete a visualization?

I have a hunch that there will be a point where it starts to trend backwards towards less time while still maintaining quality, but I’m not there yet. This can be frustrating both for me as well as the PM or client. This is an industry where technical knowledge and experience can tune a budget to the hundreds of dollars. However, visualization isn’t a technical skill. It is an art.

And this is where it starts to get tricky. Convincing stakeholders that not only is the visualization absolutely necessary but also that there needs to be flexibility built into the budget to allow for creative license. There is no formula for  testing the best textures!

While we have already admitted that visualization falls more into the art category than technical craft, I strongly believe there is hope for taking out most of the messiness that is often part of the process. What if you could most of the steps of getting the engineering data into a 3D modeled world into a more streamlined process? What if you could get the basics of the world created without any issues therefore leaving more time for the creative (and not quantitative) process of making everything look right.

I realize I am probably on an island on this. Specialty firms likely have set methods and processes to increase profitability. However, if they do they aren’t sharing them. I have had difficulty finding good information on most of the nuts and bolts issues with InfraWorks, Civil View, 3ds Max (from a civil engineering perspective) and the other software programs I use to get data from equation to pixel.

I hope Civil FX can be a place where I can not only develop new, efficient methods for visualizing civil engineering design, but also for sharing my results with you. I promise to do so if you will promise to share you own findings as well.

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