In the 3D visualization engine industry options are very limited for transportation and other civil projects. Yes, you can use 3Ds Max, Unity 3D, Unreal Engine or other more complex workflows but these are typically out of reach for most individuals focusing on doing the CAD design and modeling themselves.
An exception to this is LumenRT- visualization and reality modeling software by Bentley Systems. I’ve been aware of LumenRT for years though I’ve never used it personally. I’ve heard some good things and some not as positive, but it seems to work for some teams striving for visualization in-house.
When investing the time and money it has taken to build and launch Beyond CAD, I’ve been trying to serve a gap in the industry lacking visualization tools. And though I’ve been aware of LumenRT, I also knew that it isn’t necessarily built for those outside the Bentley ecosystem. This is a reason we couldn’t seriously consider it as an option with Civil FX- we worked on too many projects with too many clients using too many platforms. We needed a non-proprietary workflow flexible enough to serve any project. At the time that workflow typically looked like modeling in Rhino 3D and 3Ds Max (with some Sketchup and Maya mixed in) with visualization in Unity and post processing in Adobe products.
From the beginning I’ve been trying to build something flexible enough to work for a team like Civil FX and, as such, it needs to be similarly non-proprietary. This is something I’ve observed with successful architectural visualization engines- they don’t tend to require data from a particular platform but work with almost any.
I was recently asked why a LumenRT user should consider switching to Beyond CAD. Often my answer to these questions is that it doesn’t have to be either/or- Beyond CAD can be another tool in the visualization toolbox for the projects it serves best. I also couldn’t answer with my typical ‘LumenRT may not work well with all platforms’ since this individual was already in the Bentley ecosystem.
One of the earliest Beyond CAD supporters is looking to switch his visualization team from a LumenRT focused visualization workflow to a Beyond CAD centered one. I’ve never used Lumen RT so didn’t feel qualified to answer the LumenRT vs Beyond CAD question so I reached out to this friend to see why he is investing in the switch. Here is his response:
“BC is generally more capable and is less expensive per subscription.
Smarter traffic animations- BC has signal controlled intersections and will have controlled RABs – LRT doesn’t.
Smarter ped animation and bicycle riders with helmets – LRT does not have helmets. The peds used to be able to come to a stop in animation. Now with latest version, they don’t. Why remove that capability when you’re doing people animation while walking roads and crosswalks?
BC has a better handle on VISSIM integration and is improving.
Smarter POV displays for showing design that uses the view or third person or vehicle – LRT just has the interactive LiveCube that is cumbersome to load on other computers, especially government ones and is intimidating to use by non-experienced staff.
BC has a built-in demo/presentation mode that can easily show options thru layer management. LRT doesn’t have anything like that.
BC has wonderful built in animated movement arrows that have all sorts of options in type and colors – a must have for Transportation visualization! We currently have to edit that in by hand in Premier.
BCs camera action setups for animation are much better than LRT and are improving.
BC has a better built-in video editing system, there is just more deliberate, built-in options. Example: BC can easily make an orbit animation. LRT doesn’t do that at all – it has to be tricked to pull it off, which is not a workflow to be proud of. Eventually BCs video editing will replace having to do final edit in Premier.
BC has groundcover materials, LRT doesn’t. I feel the general lighting system is better in BC too, especially for trees, plantings.
BC file import accepts more that LRT, it is CAD agnostic, and getting better. LRT hasn’t updated file imports in a long time.
These are just a few thoughts. The main thing is that anyone will have the ability to tell much better visual stories and will be able to maintain a much better stream of knowledge sharing over time with clients when using Beyond CAD vs. LumenRT.”
LumenRT has been responsible for untold numbers of important image, video and interactive renders over the years and I respect this and every other visualization engine available. I also don’t know their target user nor their plans for the future.
That said, with Beyond CAD we are looking to tackle the most challenging problems faced by engineers, designers, contractors and project managers in transportation and other infrastructure projects and make those solutions as efficient and attractive as possible. None of this would be possible without the existing power of Unreal Engine and the talents of our incredible development team and the future will only find Beyond CAD better and better for these types of challenges.