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How can I get a 3d autocad model from building plans
September 7, 2010 10:20 PM   Subscribe

I've commissioned someone to create a rendered "artist's impression" of a planned housing development, but he priced it under the assumption that the architect would release Autocad files of the project. It turns out that the architect will only supply PDFs of the building plans. How can I find someone to turn these plans into something my artist can use, and how much should I expect to pay? All I need is the outside of the building, including the grounds and property fence.
posted by Joe in Australia to Computers & Internet (16 answers total)
 
So the architect has no outside renderings, as in the PDF are only floorplans? Doesn't the architect have a building model from the sale stage that could be rendered down?
posted by parmanparman at 11:31 PM on September 7, 2010


I'd suggest checking your nearest university that teaches architecture/design. Hang up a flier. It should be a couple of hours work for a student (depending on how detailed you want the render)
posted by flyscan at 11:40 PM on September 7, 2010


All you need is someone to turn a PDF into a CAD file? And that CAD file only needs to capture the building envelope (no internal walls, etc.)? My sense is that this should be a very minor effort. Also, I'm a bit surprised that your artist can't just measure it out themselves. / But I only took one architecture class, so I defer to others.
posted by salvia at 11:49 PM on September 7, 2010


Yes, I've only got floor plans and elevations. Nothing "pretty". And there's no actual model. The artist says he can do it himself, but it's not what he usually does and it will take him a while - which costs. I like flyscan's suggestion - any others? Googling "turn PDF to Autocad" gets me software packages, not people who will do the work cheaply.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:49 AM on September 8, 2010


You could also try on elance.com and guru.com
posted by Morbuto at 2:53 AM on September 8, 2010


Open the PDF in Illustrator and if it's vector at that point you can export to DXF and open that in most CAD programs. Your artist should know this...
posted by PSB at 5:20 AM on September 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


So you essentially want someone to trace it with autocad and then you'll hand it over to the artist? That pretty much used to BE my old job, except with aerial photos instead. I agree that it should be minor - a highschool drafting student could totally do it, assuming the instructor was able to help them get the raster file in there. A university architecture/design student can absolutely do it.

You may need to convert the pdf to a rasterfile (such as a .tif), unless newer versions of Autocad allow you to embed pdfs. I'd do it via Photoshop, but that might be bass-ackwards because I made that way up myself in college.

(How complex is it? Are you only concerned with the floorplan view, or elevations also? It's possible that I could just do it for you; I have some free time for the next few days.)
posted by WowLookStars at 5:21 AM on September 8, 2010


Dude, PSB, that's amazing. I had to try it myself - that does work! (There are pitfalls to teaching yourself how to use fancy programs, yes there are.) Now I wish I could use that all the time, but the pdf->cad route is rare for me.

Hopefully the artist gives Joe in Australia a nice pdf straight from Autocad. :)
posted by WowLookStars at 5:27 AM on September 8, 2010


The artist says he can do it himself, but it's not what he usually does and it will take him a while - which costs.

Yep. An artist who understands perspective drawing can produce renderings from floor plans and exterior elevations, but it will take longer. "A couple hours" may be unrealistic if it's more complicated than just a rectangular box with a roof on it - getting all the exterior details positioned correctly can be really time consuming. (I've done this before, but I'm not proficient.)

You might try to find somebody who does old-school architectural renderings without CAD. There are still people around that don't use CAD. Working from pdf's is he same as working from hand drawings.

(To answer your question more directly: It's possible to trace hand drawings or pdf's into CAD. This may be what your artist is planning on doing anyway.)
posted by nangar at 5:33 AM on September 8, 2010


PSB, I didn't know that either! OK, that might be the ticket. Joe gets somebody with Illustrator to convert the pdf's to vector drawings and then gives those to the artist who can work from there.
posted by nangar at 5:44 AM on September 8, 2010


if the PDFs were printed directly from the CAD file (CAD->PDF), the Illustrator trick usually works. If they are scanned images or flattened raster PDFs (ie CAD->paper->scanner->PDF) then the illustrator trick won't work.

If you are the architect's client, there's no reason they shouldn't furnish CAD files (even if they have you sign a waiver first). If you're not, and they won't be reasonable, you'll either have to use the Illustrator trick or have someone trace the PDFs into a CAD format for your artist. It's not something that requires a lot of skill; anyone who can use CAD can do the trace. However, you should have this person communicate with your artist to verify their expectations and requirements (layers, accuracy, file format, etc.).

Price will vary based on the number of different unit types, the size of the property, and so on; I'd recommend asking a college kid how many hours they think it'll take, then offer a flat fee based on their hourly rate.
posted by Chris4d at 8:26 AM on September 8, 2010


what is an "artist impression" ? are they going to make it into a 3d model from the CAD plan?
so that they can get the right perspective? or is it a 3d rendering?
posted by metafus at 9:58 AM on September 8, 2010


(I'm an architect, but at this point, I don't do a lot of drafting so take that into consideration)

SketchUp is a program that is widely used today by firms of all sizes. It's very easy for someone proficient with the software to use it to create a nicely (and accurately) detailed 3D model of a building from a PDF. Luckily, almost all recent arch grads are whiz kids at SketchUp these days. It's used all the time to make nice, accurate models for presentation before there are any significant CAD drawings - often from sketches only. Tracing one of these would save your illustrator tons of time and therefore may well end up being your most economical solution.

If the firm you are working with can't provide this for you (which they should)...you could always sub the SketchUp model out to somebody looking for a side project or a recently graduated arch student, and then pass this on to your illustrator.
posted by nickjadlowe at 10:37 AM on September 8, 2010


I would pressure the architect to release a hidden wireframe rendering in perspective projection. It should be child's play to do that if they already have the building envelope modeled.
posted by werkzeuger at 11:38 AM on September 8, 2010


the pdf can be a texture on a 3d plane and extrude the walls according to the heights.
I am sure you can do it in sketchup which is a free 3d program, which most architects are using these days. Then create a camera and render an image.
posted by metafus at 2:51 PM on September 8, 2010


I would pressure the architect to release a hidden wireframe rendering in perspective projection. It should be child's play to do that if they already have the building envelope modeled.

Generally, CAD is still used only for 2D drawings, so there wouldn't be any kind of wireframe thing that one could turn into a perspective drawing.

the pdf can be a texture on a 3d plane and extrude the walls according to the heights.
I am sure you can do it in sketchup which is a free 3d program, which most architects are using these days.


True, but this still takes time that Joe will have to pay for. My firm actually does sketchup models and then hand-draws renderings over them, as nickjadlowe suggests.

One thing I don't understand though - even if the architect did release dwg files, and they're 2D, how does that actually help the renderer more than a pdf? You can still bring a pdf into photoshop. If the drawings are fully dimensioned, he's not going to get much more info from the dwg than the pdf. Is the architect actually working with a modeling program or straight-up 2D AutoCAD?
posted by LionIndex at 10:03 PM on September 8, 2010


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