Who doesn’t get excited seeing Tinkerbell flying over Cinderella’s castle before the start of a Disney animated movie? Who doesn’t love the anticipation of watching the Pixar lamp bounce across the screen? I know for me, both awaken my inner child and spark joy from memories of growing up watching these movies. But why should the wonders of a great animation be limited to a movie theatre? Why not bring those same great animations into our adult life? At Mead & Hunt, we have done just that.
As we transition into working in a three-dimensional design world, we see this as an opportunity to leverage the models we are already creating as part of our design process to build a virtual environment of the proposed work. Using our Bentley family of products, we can easily transform our design from software like ConceptStation, OpenRoads Designer, or OpenBridge Modeler into a virtual environment that mimics the graphics in modern video games using LumenRT. Once the models are in LumenRT, we can bring the model to life!
What do I mean by bring the model to life, you might ask? Great question!! When the model is first brought into LumenRT, it can be a little bland. A bare existing ground with a roadway or bridge on it isn’t very exciting to look at. That’s why we add trees and vegetation to replicate the existing conditions around the project. For some projects, this includes matching flowerbeds and other landscaping found in front of homes and businesses. We also add any vegetation that will be added as part of the proposed project. This could include new trees in a grass median, or landscaping at an intersection. The combination of existing and proposed vegetation helps to give both stakeholders and the public a depiction of what the finished project will look like. And as we’ve blogged about before, visualization strategies can play a vital role in enhancing both stakeholder and public understanding, which is an important piece of a successful project.
Adding vegetation is only the first part in bringing a model to life. Transportation corridors allow for multiple modes of movement. We like to demonstrate what this will look like, showing everything from cars, trucks, and semis, as well as walkers, runners, and cyclists (and if I can slip it in, a deer or two). As multimodal corridors are becoming more and more important to the public, this gives us the ability to show how various modes of transportation will function alongside one another. It often isn’t enough to show the vehicles and pedestrians in static positions, so the cars are driving, the cyclists are riding, and the people are walking. This truly brings the model to life!
The type of data we use to create the existing ground can also increase the realism of our model. In many cases, we are using lidar captured from a manned aircraft, provided either specifically for the project or as part of statewide aerial survey, combined with traditional ground survey data. In other cases, we deploy our in-house UAS (drone) capabilities to create a virtual terrain of all existing features. This can be particularly useful in urban or industrial corridors to show how the proposed project will look with a home or business in the background.
Now that the model has come to life, we can create media to be used for anything from client meetings to public involvement. The media created can be adapted to fit a wide variety of needs and uses. Renderings can be generated to be used in reports, for boards to be used at public involvement or stakeholder meetings, or on websites for the project. Similarly, fly-through videos can be created providing a view of the project from a variety of different angles. And then there is my favorite use of our LumenRT models! We can create an environment that users can move around in on their own! This can be done using a computer or a VR headset. Once in the model, the user can take a closer look at whatever they find interesting or have questions about. This can be a great tool for fostering dialog with clients or the public about their feelings on the project.
The technology we are now using is a giant leap forward in our industry. The types of animations we can create now in our own office are the types and quality that were once thought to be reserved for Hollywood and the video game industry. We can now bring a similar production quality to reports, client meetings, and public involvement, greatly enhancing public buy-in and stakeholder understanding. Plus, who doesn’t love a good animation?