Church Production



List Price: Spotlight: $2,695; Spotlight & Renderworks: $3,245


Review: Vectorworks 2016 Software

"Vectorworks is a cross platform Computer Aided Drafting or CAD program that allows you to design in both the 2D and 3D environments."

By Greg Persinger
July 6, 2016 2:25 pm EST

Topics: Video, Lighting, Staging and Rigging,
Tags: gear, production, review, software,

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There are four add-on modules that can be affixed to the vectorworks 2016 base Fundamentals package—Landmark, Architect, Spotlight, and Renderworks, with Designer being all of the modules rolled up into one.


From its humble beginnings as MiniCAD in 1985, Vectorworks has gone through many changes over the past 31 years. And while the company historically gets an update once a year, some years the improvements are more pronounced than others. For 2016, Vectorworks definitely got a major update to its suite of tools.

First, for those that don’t know, Vectorworks is a cross platform Computer Aided Drafting or CAD program that allows you to design in both the 2D and 3D environments. It is generally accepted as the standard design program for the entertainment industry and is used to design sets, lighting, audio, and camera placements for film, television shows, concerts, and permanent installs.

In addition to the entertainment industry, Vectorworks is a worldwide leader in Building Information Modeling (BIM) systems in the architectural design world, and it holds a prominent market share in the world of landscape architecture, as well.

In its most basic form called Fundamentals, it has the basic Vectorworks CAD 2D and 3D functionality, 2D documentation, many different import and export options to other design packages, and integration with Renderworks, Vectorworks’ add on photorealistic rendering package. While Fundamentals has everything that you need to do most any kind of design, where Vectorworks really shines is when you get into the industry-specific add-on modules.

The Modules

In brief, there are four add-on modules that can be affixed to the base Fundamentals package. They are Landmark, Architect, Spotlight, and Renderworks, with Designer being all of the modules rolled up into one.

Landmark adds specific tools for those doing landscape design, including a library of plants, trees and shrubs, as well as water features.

Architect provides an array of tools for architects and those doing building design, including Building Information Modeling tools, and sustainable design tools that let users gauge the energy efficiency of a building.

Spotlight adds design tools for those working in the entertainment industry. It offers a wide array of design symbols that represent equipment used in the entertainment industry, such as lights, truss, motors, speakers, drape, and stage decks. Renderworks, which is Vectorworks photorealistic render software powered by Maxon’s Cinema 4D render engine, allows designers to take their ideas, draw them in 3D, and render out final designs to communicate them in the form of a photorealistic picture.

Lastly, there is Designer, which is all of the modules packaged together. Overall, Designer is the best value because it is offered at a discount compared to purchasing the modules separately at the single module prices. As noted previously, Vectorworks gets an update every year—so there are new features are in 2016 affect what the modules can do, and how a church can benefit from them.

2016 Updates

One of the first major additions to Vectorworks is Point Cloud Support. A Point Cloud is generated when a user laser scans a room. From this Point Cloud data, the user can generate an accurate 3D model of his or her room.

A number of churches today were built before architectural drawings were done on a computer, leaving sparse or non-existent architectural drawings of the building. Some buildings have been remodeled—and so the room doesn’t match the original drawings at all. Having a room laser scanned can give staff an accurate model of the room that can be used to accurately design retrofit systems, special productions, or even week-to-week activities.

Another major upgrade to 2016 is the addition of the Marionette scripting tool. Marionette allows users to visually chain together pre-built blocks of code to quickly build dynamic objects. For instance, you have an idea to build a set that uses columns, but you want to experiment with different diameters and heights. In less than a minute you can chain together a script that would allow the creation of 3D columns. You define the diameter and the height and execute the script, and the column is instantly built into your drawing. Of course, this is just a basic example; the same can be done for all sorts of complex shapes that you might want to use over and over again without having to know detailed coding. Next page

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