Abvent Artlantis Render & Studio v2.x

A - Introduction

Artlantis (http://www.artlantis.com) is a rendering application from the French company Abvent (http://www.abvent.com). It is primarily targeted at architectural visualization. It is a commercial, closed-source application for Windows and Mac OSX.

The application has some specific goals, which are important to understand, before complaining about certain limitations:

The software is available in different editions.

Students can obtain the software for free (one-year license). See our CAAD software info page for a link where you can sign-up.

B - Importing CAD and 3D Models

C - Overview of the interface

While Artlantis is fairly easy to use, it doesn't hurt to at least give a brief overview of the user interface.

The Windows Version of Artlantis Studio looks like this:

Artlantis Studio Interface on Windows

The Macintosh Version is similar, but looks somehow different (more akin to the Mac OSX user interface style):

Artlantis Studio 2.x interface on OSX

Remarks: Note that the placement of windows and palettes can be changed and thus the layout on your screen might differ slightly. Files can be exchanged between the Windows and the Macintosh version without much trouble. One license can be activated on the platform of your choice and you can transfer your license at any time (without cost) to the other platform. Simply deactivate your license, open the software on the other computer and reactivate (with the same serial number). You'll need an active internet connection to do this.

The main workflow with Artlantis is identical in all versions:

That's all there is to it. While Artlantis does not offer the wide control over the rendering process which is available in applications such as 3ds max, Cinema4D or Lightwave, it makes up with a fast and easy workflow. You will be able to produce qualitative renderings and animations, in a fairly short amount of time.

Navigation

Before you can start working, you need to know how to manipulate what you see. You can pan, zoom and orbit around the scene as in many other applications. However, beware that all these view navigation commands actually modify the active viewpoint. If you want to retain it, make sure to first select the Perspectives mode in the Controller and then copy the current view by pressing the large red +-button, which creates a copy of the selected viewpoint.

You can activate the navigation mode by pressing the button displaying a move icon on a sphere. The preview turns into the faster OpenGL display mode and the mouse now operates on the view position.

D - Rendering & Visualization with Artlantis Render/Studio

While working in Artlantis you will switch between the different modes in the Controller.

Shaders

Main Shader settings

A Shader is the method with which materials are displayed. To choose a realistic material, you have to assign a shader to the correct geometry, by dragging it from the Catalog or from a PostCard into the scene.

When you open the Catalog Window, you can activate shaders, objects, postcards or textures. Choose Shaders and browse through the list of Catalogs, which are folders of specific object types. In each folder, different materials are available. PostCards (snapshots of scenes) contain material information, so you can drag, from the picture, the used material into your scene. Use it to store different versions of projects you are working on and quickly retreive their materials.

To manipulate the shaders, click the Shader button in the Controller. Now you can activate a particular shader by clicking in the scene or in the Shader List, which you can fold open from the Controller Window.

Depending on which shader you applied, the settings in the controller are different. However, most shaders contain comparable properties.

Beware that the material settings might seem rather limited. Artlantis uses a model based on reality to calculate the effect of these settings. So e.g. shiny materials will always be reflective.

When you want to project textures on the object, you have to add textures to the shader. Press the Edit... button and the Texture Mapping dialog opens. A texture is an image which is projected/glued to the geometry. The texture can be tiled (repeated) and has a projection mode.

Adding layers of textures in a Shader

Remember that it is possible to have multiple layers of texture on top of each other. It is a good habit to get into, for added realism. It is usually best to start with the main seamlessly tiling base texture (e.g. bricks, plaster etc...) and overlay it with additional color and/or dirt-layers, which can use an alpha-channel or be partly transparent.

In the catalog you can choose examples using different Shader Types:

Lights

Light sources in Artlantis cast light and shadow in a scene. They are usually applied for artificial lighting, but you can use them for whatever suits your purpose. The different light sources in Artlantis can be placed and adjusted in the Controller. You can also visually adjust their position and orientation in the 2D Window.

The Light controller

Artlantis places Lights in Light Groups. Beware that to actually see the effect of lights, you have to make sure that the desired light group is activated for the current view! Multiple Light groups can be activated at the same time for a particular view. This makes it easier to control larger groups of lights, e.g. per room or per building part.

Heliodons

While a Heliodon might be regarded as a special type of Light, it receives its own Controller panel. It is actually a combination of a Sun and a Sky, since they work together.

Heliodon

Objects

You can place people, cars, trees and other accessories as Objects in Artlantis. It is generally advised to place highly detailed objects not directly in the CAD model, since they will slow down drawing generation. You can place them in the rendering application, for visualization purposes.

objects in a rendering   objects in a rendering

The Scene controls the complete project. Here you can move, rotate and rescale everything. This is especially useful to bring an imported scene on the correct scale. Use it when added objects seem to be all on the wrong scale. You can also add an infinite ground plane, which can be assigned a material.

Additional Objects can be added to liven up the scene. You can adjust the size and the rotation of the objects and also edit their materials. Use the 2D Window or the 3D Preview to postion them graphically.

The Catalog displays some default objects, but you can add new objects, by opening 3D files in one of the recognized file formats and save them as an Artlantis object (*.aof) and drag them into the Catalog.

objects in a rendering

You can download additional free sample objects from the Abvent site or buy additional object (and shader) CD-Roms. There are 3D trees and 3D people. The trees have additional settings, such as their height and they can look different depending on the date or season.

Viewpoints

This is the part of the controller where you control the view position and orientation. This is also where you switch between the different camera modes, such as perspective or panoramic.

D - Rendering

For most of the Viewpoints, you can choose the properties of the camera and which light groups and heliodons are active. There is an option to define the background, which can be a color, a gradient or a picture. You can also choose between two rendering styles: Photorealist and Hatched.

Radiosity is a technique to distribute light around a scene. This is an energy balance, which is calculated as an iterative process: light falls on objects, which in their turn distribute some fraction of their received light as reflected light. Depending on the surface characteristics (material), more light can be reflected. Each surface becomes a small light emitter.

Still Images

While most people will utilize Artlantis to generate photorealistic images, there are some additional rendering options in the effects panel from the viewpoint settings. The option Edge and Pastel, can create more a conceptual renderings.

Rendering Effects
Non-Photorealistic Rendering

Animations (only in Artlantis Studio)

It is possible (with Artlantis Studio only) to create animations. This is used for two main purposes, at least in architecture: camera animations or flythroughs and sun animations or shadow-studies.

To create or edit an animation, you have to activate one of the animation-enabled camera-models. Choose the Animations option to follow along.

This will display the timeline. You might have to drag this control window to a suitable place. It will dock in the Windows version, but will float in the Macintosh version.

Timeline

The timeline is the interface to edit sequences. When defining a movement, instead of adjusting the position of an element on each and every frame of an animation, keyframes are defined, which are the global points in time where parameters are set. The software will interpolate between these keyframes. The timeline displays time from left to right and allows you to zoom in or out and to navigate similar to a video player.

To define an animation sequence, make sure the object to animate is selected first. Then you can create a new animation sequence or copy an existing one. When you are in recording mode, every (animatable) parameter that is changed, is recorded. You can animate the sun's position, the camera postion and view angle, an object's position and other settings.

You can display the animation path and the defined keyframes graphically, when you open the 2D view. Here you see how an object is moving, where keyframes are defined and where the object will be located at the current time. You can drag the beginning and end point on the animation path, which defines when the animation starts and stops. In this editing mode, you can not edit the XYZ-position of nodes in the path graphically.

Animation displayed in the 2D view

To edit an existing path graphically, you can activate the Edit Path option in the 2D view (the button might be hidden on the right popup menu). Now you can edit the path with familiar Bezier-handles. You can also use this to create a path. The Timeline automatically creates two keyframes: one to lock the postion to the beginning of the path at the beginning of the sequence and a second to lock the camera path position to the end of the path, at the end of the sequence.

Edit path

Panoramas (only in Artlantis Studio)

Panoramic images are created as a series of six orthogonal images, projected onto the inner sides of a cube, with the viewer placed in the center. You can look freely around in all directions, but there is no real 3D information available. This is much more interactive than a single image yet it is still reasonably fast and supporting full render quality.

When saving the panoramic image to a file, make sure to choose a suitable image-compression, such as Photo-JPEG in the Quicktime exporter dialog.

Panoramic Camera - 2D View

VR Objects (only in Artlantis Studio)

VR Objects can be regarded as the reverse from panoramic images. Instead of looking to the world around a single point, you look to a single target, from different view positions around it.

As a result, VR Objects take considerably longer to render and take up much more disk space. In practice, they are not used that much, but they can still be an effective interactive presentation of a design or model. Make sure to set the suitable "angles" as this directly influences the total amount of images to render. It is not uncommon to require some 60 images for one VR Object!

When saving the VR Object to a file, make sure to choose a suitable image-compression, such as Photo-JPEG in the Quicktime exporter dialog. This is not a real animation movie, which requires other settings.

2D View of the VR Object

E - Reloading 3D/CAD Models

After you made some rendering, material and light settings, you might have to modify the original model again. Artlantis has a solution to re-use the visualization settings for this modified geometry.

Additional Resources

  1. A first example can be downloaded (3,25 MB). It was created in SketchUp and translated with the plugin to an ATL file (actually using the older 1.2.x version of Artlantis). This is the complete Artlantis scene, after editing of lights, materials and camera's. You can create archive copies of your own scene, from the File menu. This contains not only the Artlantis file, but also the referenced textures, shaders and objects. This can be used to exchange scenes with other people.
  2. An additional example (using the 2007-2008-2009 ArchiCAD model from the BIM module) can be downloaded here (0,5 MB). This is not edited at all. It is just the exported model from ArchiCAD (using the ATL exporter) and it needs serious work to generate quality renderings.
  3. This last example was further edited can be downloaded here (6,6 MB). This is a much more refined version, including different camera types and some animation. It was used in the preparation of the syllabus text.