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Animate your architecture

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Animation technology is opening up a new world of architectural design

Animation is primarily used by architects in two ways, says Richard Benson, creative director of Pikcells visualisation studio, ‘demonstration or selling’.Demonstration usually investigates design or structural elements, while selling uses special effects to sell a project and engage an audience.

Jules Cocke, co-founder and director of architectural film studio Squint/Opera, describes animation as ‘a statement of intent that is not susceptible to Chinese whispers’.

‘An animation can include inspiration, precedents, schematic elements – all the things usually eclipsed because people want to see the finished thing,’ says Cocke. ‘All the reasoning behind design, programmatic and structural decisions can become part of the story.’

Although architects and developers often commission sequences from specialist design studios such as Squint/Opera, many firms produce their own animations. Most 3D drawing packages have some form of animation capability. Gehry Technologies’ Digital Project offers real-time interactivity, while Google SketchUp simply plays back a pre-recorded sequence.

Nick Manning of Autodesk’s Media and Entertainment Division points out there are free tutorials for most programs on the internet and that graduates are reasonably conversant with them. Autodesk 3ds Max is increasing its user base amongst architects and Adobe has brought Flash into its product suite, aligning it closely with Illustrator so it looks and feels the same, but with the added dimension of time.

One drawback with complex animation is the lead time. Robert Jarvis of Jarvis Design says it takes about six weeks to produce a good three-minute professional animation, so although they could be used
by architects from conception to the marketing of a project, designs never stay still long enough. As a result, animations are usually reserved for final presentations, rather than for the design team itself.

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