One of the most exciting new technologies in architecture is virtual reality. Architects are now able to create more immersive and interactive experiences for their clients, leading to higher conversion rates and more satisfied customers. If you have an Autodesk Revit 3D model that you would like to convert into a virtual reality experience, then this article will provide some tips on how to do it effectively- including which software options might be best depending on your needs.

If you are looking at making a virtual environment from a Revit model, you can either get a plugin like Autodesk Live or Enscape – or, you can export the Revit model to an engine like Unity or Unreal for a more professional VR experience.

If you are a first-time virtual reality developer it might be difficult to understand which technique might be best suited to your current project. Luckily, you have come to the perfect place.

The Quickest and Easiest Way to Make VR from Revit

If you are an architect or interior designer, you probably don’t want to waste too much time getting your lighting and textures absolutely perfect within your virtual reality environment. Rather, you want to focus on getting a quick real-time visualization of your 3D environment.

With other tight deadlines, you are more concerned with getting the design optimized for virtual reality, rather than trying to perfect it. If this sounds like you, then you will want to consider using a plugin like Autodesk Live or Enscape 3D.

Autodesk Live

Autodesk Live is a real-time visualization plugin for Autodesk Revit, which can be used to create virtual reality environments by exporting the model from your software. Autodesk will automatically synchronise the virtual reality environment with your Autodesk Revit model.

What’s really great about this is that it will automatically calculate the lighting and textures to create a realistic design visualization, which means you can instantly see how the room will look like at different times of day or night. It also has an inbuilt viewer so you can view any changes as you make them on your screen without needing another monitor for previewing.

If you are using Revit for your modeling work and want an easy-to-use software solution that is widely available across all platforms – then Autodesk Live might be the best option for you. It provides a user interface that allows users to more easily navigate around their model in real-time while achieving VR quality visuals at 60 frames per second on most systems without needing any additional rendering hardware or plugins.

Autodesk Live gives designers and engineers the ability to:

  • See how different materials will look when combined with other building materials within the same space
  • Experience full-scale interactive walkthroughs of projects they’re designing before construction even begins
  • Create real-time renderings to create VR experiences. This software offers a user interface that allows users to more easily navigate around their model in real-time while achieving VR quality visuals at 60 frames per second on most systems without needing any additional rendering hardware or plugins.
  • Within Autodesk Live, you can also choose from multiple camera angles for your shot to get an idea of what it might be like from someone’s eyes down below looking up at a monument or seeing the view.

Pro’s of Autodesk Live:

  • Allows you to interact with your world in a “real-time, interactive experience”
  • Offers an easy UI that allows users to more easily navigate around their model in real-time without needing any additional rendering hardware or plugins. You can also choose from multiple camera angles for your shot and get the idea of what it might be like from someone’s eyes down below looking up at a monument or seeing a view.

Con’s of Autodesk Live

  • Autodesk Live is only compatible with Windows operating system so if you are on MacOS this will not work but Unity and Unreal Engine do offer virtual reality modules as well which may better suit your needs.
  • Autodesk Live is not freeware and requires a monthly subscription of $99 USD.

You might want to stay away from other Autodesk software if you are using Revit as it can be difficult to convert the model into one of their other formats. Their packages are also really expensive. If this is the case, then I would recommend you try out another quick-and-easy plugin called Enscape 3D.

Enscape 3D

If you are looking for more customization options then Enscape may be what you need – but bear in mind it’s not real-time, it does take some time to render all those fancy details!

We have written a review on Enscape before, and if you’d like to check that out you can click here.

Enscape is also an easy way of creating VR experiences with minimal effort as it has preconfigured template scenes and assets that you can use in minutes.

One thing to keep in mind when using these plugins is that they are not designed for high-end graphics or rendering so if this sounds like what you need, then your best option might be Unreal Engine or Unity.

Pro’s of Enscape 3DD

  • Enscape is a less expensive option than Unity or Unreal Engine which are both $75/month for registered companies earning over $100K per year and $125/month for registered companies earning less than that.
  • Enscape is a great way to create VR experiences with minimal effort as it has preconfigured template scenes and assets that you can use in minutes

Con’s of Enscape:

  • The plugin does not support high-end graphics or rendering which means there will be some limitations on the type of projects it can work with. For example, while you could make something like an architectural walkthrough, your options would be limited when it comes to specific textures because they don’t exist yet!
  • Enscape is not built for hyper-realism and does not support complex geometry
  • Enscape 3D VR does not allow users to interact with anything in the Revit model you are looking to create a fully immersive virtual reality experience, you will need to look at other options

If you are an architect or interior designer who takes their virtual reality experiences seriously, in other words, you are looking at achieving hyper-realistic environments and want to make your Revit model interactive, then you are going to have to consider following a different workflow.

The More Professional Workflow to Make VR from Revit

The truth is there is a lot of work that goes behind a truly impressive and immersive virtual reality environment.

Revit is a great software for architects to 3D model their designs without having the delve into a complex 3D modeling software like 3Ds Max or Blender 3D. But for the sake of a professional virtual reality environment, you are going to have to consider exporting your Revit model to a more professional 3D modeling software in order to optimize the mesh.

3D Mesh can look different in each software. In Revit, the faces of a particular mesh are triangular in typology and can be severely subdivided, making the mesh a lot heavier than it needs to be. If you want to know more about 3D mesh and how we classify it, then you can read more here.

3D Modeling Alternatives

If you want to export your Revit model to optimize the mesh, then here are your options:

  1. 3Ds Max. This might be a good option for you if you already have the Autodesk Suite and are familiar with Autodesk Tutorials. If you don’t already have the Autodesk Suite and don’t want to spend any more money, then you will want to consider;
  2. Blender 3D. Blender is a free open-source software re package that has the features needed for mesh optimization.

Using either 3DsMax or Blender 3D, you will want to optimize the mesh by making them as lightweight as possible. This means the fewer unnecessary faces and edges in a model, the better and quicker it will be for your computer to render these items in real-time VR.

Once you have the mesh optimized, then you will want to think about adopting professional texturing software.

3D Texturing Alternatives

Revit’s texturing capabilities have come far from since it started, but it is still not enough for hyper-realistic visualization.

Here are some professional 3D texturing software that you can consider:

  1. Blender 3D. Blender 3D makes use of node-based texturing, meaning that you can easily change and edit your textures in a way that Revit doesn’t.
  2. Substance Painter is also a great option for texturing as it is a way of painting in a Photoshop-like fashion. Substance painter is the more expensive option but is definitely worth it in terms of it’s capabilities.

When you’ve re-modeled and texturized your Revit model, it’s time to import the newly remodeled model into your game engine.

Game Engines

The two choices you have when it comes to throwing all your assets together in one VR environment is Unity 3D or Unreal Engine.

Unity is the more popular of the two. It’s free to use and has a large user base that can make your life easier if you’re looking for help or tutorials on how to do something specific in Unity. Unreal Engine is also very powerful but slightly less accessible due to its cost (though it does offer an educational license).

Unreal is more popular amongst architects and interior designers because of it’s easy post-effect sort photorealistic rendering and there are a lot more tutorials available for Unreal Engine in general.

Both engines have pros and cons, so you’ll need to weigh your options carefully before making the final decision on which platform is best suited for your virtual reality needs.

Once you have chosen one of the two, you will need to import Steam VR or Oculus, whichever you have decided to use as your platform.

Both engines will need a few plugins in order to export the project into their respective platforms:

– unreal engine -> VRTK for Steam Vr OR OVRPlayerKit for Oculus

– Unity -> VRUnity or Steam VR

Once installed and configured correctly, you should be able to plug in your VR headset and controllers to preview your virtual reality experience in action and have a better idea of how it will look.

It is also recommended that you adjust the lighting and post effects within your engine and export it to an .exe for distribution.

Tips for Converting an Autodesk Revit File into a VR Experience

In conclusion, the process of converting Autodesk Revit to virtual reality is not as simple but once you have gone through these steps, it will be easier next time around.

  • Decide whether you want a quick visualization or if you want a professional hyper-realistic environment.
  • Download the appropriate software for your requirements.
  • Make sure your PC is capable of handling the various software you pick.
  • Make sure the software you pick is within your project budget.
Leah van der Walt

Leah van der Walt

Leah is a 3D Artist & VR / AR Developer with 8 years of experience. Based in South Africa, she is a passionate teacher and loves to listen to drum and bass in her spare time.

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