< Piro >
Wednesday - March 8, 2006
It's funny, but I haven't really sat and thought much about the fact that three or four years ago (i can't remember when anymore) the software environment i had spent almost 12 years living in changed irrevocably. No, i'm not talking about my switch to macs, i'm talking about when i stopped working full time as an architect.
What does this have to do with software environment? Plenty, actually. When i graduated from college the use of computers and CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) was a new thing in most architects offices, where most construction documents were still being drafted by hand. Most of this had to do with the fact that CAD drawings felt really cold and mechanical, and there always seemed to be more life in the hand drafted documents that better expressed how buildings should be put together. There are actually a lot of similarities between construction documents and comics -- both use images and words to convey information, and there is a real art to how you have to balance words and images to convey clear and clean meaning (but that's another rant :P)
I remember being a part of the eventual switch from hand drafting to computer aided drafting. I remember trying to work with different pen weights on the plotter in order to create better looking drawings, mimicking hand drafting techniques in a digital environment. I remember Autocad ver. 9, with dual screens (a VGA monitor for the graphics, a monocrome monitor for the command screen). I remember programming in LISP, i remember moving things to a Windows environment, I remember trying to use Microstation when i worked at an office in Atlanta for a year. I lived in CAD programs (mostly AutoCAD) for almost 12 years.
Then, all of a sudden, it stopped. I started doing Megatokyo full time. I haven't touched AutoCAD since. Suddenly programs that were a mere hobby to me like Photoshop and Illustrator became my main work environment. Have i missed it? No, not really. AutoCAD is NOT the most intuitive drafting program on earth. But then again, there have been many times over the past few years where i've felt that there has been a tool that i've misplaced.
What's the big deal you ask? Well, a few things. One thing about CAD is that unlike most graphic software, you work at a much larger real size. If you draw a line that's 8 feet long, it's 8 feet long. In Illustrator, you have to convert and scale things as you work. Usually when i have an idea for a space i sketch it out loosely, i don't go into illustrator and try to lay it out (for example, i just recently sketched out the layout of the fictional Anna MIllers restaurant in Meguro (special thanks to Larry for his excellent pictures and write up on the Anna Millers in Hiro-o) Yet this inability to draw things to scale in a 2d environment is something i really feel i've been sorely missing. I decided it was time to maybe look into getting a CAD program for the Mac.
Not an easy search, really. One of the primary CAD software packages for the mac is ArchiCAD but with a seat cost of almost $4k, it's a little much for me to consider. (I'll sink that into Maya or something before i'd put that into CAD software (OMG, i just remembered... Autodesk, the maker of AutoCAD, purchased Alias... I forgot about that 0_o;;;). Anyways, i started searching. There are some good lists of software to look at here and here.
Now, i'm in the process of playing with some trial versions of Graphite, TurboCAD, HighDesign and the most curious of the bunch - a Illustrator plug in that gives you CAD like tools called HotDoor. The prices of all these range from $1000 to $100, and i'm still not sure which one i'm leaning towards.
There is one program that i came across that i would have killed for when i was working as an architect - and one that i'm going to start working with. It's called SketchUp, and it's a rather unique program that is like a 3d sketching program designed primarily with architects in mind. The best thing about it is how easy it is to learn how to use, and how quickly you can throw models together. As you may recall, i've talked in the past about how i have dabbled with 3d programs with the eventual intent of building some of the environments that my characters live in (like Maya, Lightwave, Blender or With SketchUp, i might just be able to do it and not have to spend 3 months learning how first. :)
If you have any thoughts or experience with CAD software for mac, i'd appreciate your input. It's just another tool that i'm looking forward to putting back in my toolbox. :)