Where, When, and Who: the Starting Point of Visualization


I took this photo on September 2nd, 2015 at 10:00 am in the morning. When I got back to my computer a few minutes later, I realized that there was a lot more to it than just a decent image of an almost complete project. With a little help from the internet, I could reverse engineer this image into a rendering.

Since the photo has a time and date stamp, I can set the sun in ARCHICAD to the exact time and date of the photo. And I can set the Project Location to the exact latitude and longitude of the site; there are a ton of websites which will tell you the coordinates of any location on Earth—you can even just right-click on a location in Google Maps. Remember that the latitude and longitude in Project Location are the Project Origin. So build your site with an intelligent relationship to the Project Origin and make sure that the Project Origin is the point you find on whatever mapping website you use. While you’re in the Project Location dialog box, set the altitude above sea level as well. This is also something that’s easy to track down via the magic of the internet. Finally, don’t forget to set Project North either dynamically on the plan or in the Project Location dialog box. Don’t mess up your visualizations by forgetting to put north in the correct direction! For more about the Project Location dialog box, click here.

If you aren’t exporting this data for others to use and you can’t be bothered to find the exact numbers, you can select the location from a number of pre-defined cities under Project Location and also make a guesstimate of the elevation. But knowing how to find and include the correct numbers for a project’s site is a good skill to have and adds value to your BIM.

Beyond setting the location and time based on a photo, there’s something else the photo can tell us—or at least remind us of: the height and location of the viewer. I’m short, and held my camera such that it was roughly five feet above the ground. I can set my Camera Z in ARCHICAD to match that (remember to set the Z relative to the ground below the camera location, not Project Zero). I can also move the camera in plan to roughly where I remember standing. The photo gives me clues, and if I wanted to be really obsessive, I could have measured my location when I took the photograph. That actually isn’t a bad idea. Imagine you are taking a photo of an existing site, before design begins. If you document your photograph locations properly, setting up analogous cameras in ARCHICAD will be that much easier.

Having digital approximations of your physical camera locations will add value throughout the life of the project. You can return to those spots throughout the design process and document the evolution. Treating photograph locations as an extra data stream for your BIM is one more example of documenting both visible and invisible forces affecting a site.

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