Architectural Pipeline?


I used to do architectural few years ago and usually the architect used to gave me the 3d model in dwg , and then i had to import it on 3dstudio or any other converter to covert it to *.obj and then import it to maya to then do a lot of cleaning welding and normalizing in order to have a clean model to texture and then render.

Recently i got a freelance offer to do 3d for architecture, so i was wondering which pipeline is the most common used in the field nowadays. Because i would like to work my way around the mess that is cleaning the dwg after being imported into 3ds and all the zillion layers most cad softwares create.

i wanna point out that i havent used maya since autodesk bought it and i was wondering if maya reads max models now?

any help in this area would be much apreciated.


Most common pipeline (in my 14 year experience):

2D AutoCAD from architect, modeled correctly by you in 3DS Max, render with Vray or MentalRay.

Less common, but probably more likely in the future:

Revit to 3D AutoCAD, to 3DS Max. Get ready for a heavy model requiring cleanup, unless whoever exported the .dwg file from Revit knew what they were doing (50/50 at best).

Sometimes, you will get a 3D model exported from FormZ. You will probably will have to rebuild most of that model to make it useable in production.

CAD software doesn’t product zillions of layers, poorly trained or inexperienced users create zillions of layers (this includes Revit exports, if you know what you are doing, only the necessary info can be exported).

The biggest problem to watch out for is careless CAD drafters drawing elements with different “z” elevations. Few things will drive you crazy faster than trying to snap to an intersection in plan view when the elements are 200’ apart in elevation.

I’ve never used Maya, so no suggestions there.


Check out the new 3DS MAX 2010 extension package offered to subscription users. We haven´t tested it yet, but it promises further integration of AutoCAD files into 3DS Max.

I you try it, remember to tell us how you would rate the package




I usually get 2D plans from architects. If I get 3D they suck most of the time and require lots of cleaning. It might be even faster to rebuild froms scratch.

So my workflow goes something like this most of the time:

  • load 2D plans in Illustrator.
  • clean up plans
  • save as Illustrator v8 file
  • import in 3D package
  • model, texture, light, render etc…

Cheers, Florian


2d CAD file from architect
Convert in AcmeCAD or Illustrator to suitable format for import to 3d software
Import into 3d software, convert to correct scale
Use CAD data as reference to model 3d building


sketchup file from architect
convert to usable format for 3d software
import into 3d software, convert to correct scale
use model as reference to build decent 3d building

I’ve yet to know an architect that realises that AutoCAD can produce 3d models so you’re pretty lucky. I wish that they could work in 3d because it would prevent them from supplying elevations that don’t line up. I’ve had 3d models from AutoCAD for engineering projects and they’re quite nasty, I’ve used Rhino to convert them but the meshes are still very dense and require some clean-up.


Clean up dwg file -> file link mngr. to 3ds max (not sure what all the need is for converting files formats) -> model -> uvw -> text’r -> light -> render.

I can certainly imagine working freelance you’ll see a vast array of quality of dwg’s. I work in house for an architect, so any of the stuff I’m working off of was done either by myself or a co-worker. So if there’s “crap” they’re going to here about it. If it was my ‘crap’, well, of course I’d keep that to myself. :wink:


Its been my experience that architects can’t make elevations line up, no matter what tools they use…


They just need to hire drafters that give a crap about their job. It’s just a symptom of people being lazy.


Oh, I agree completely :smiley:


I work in a very busy architect’s firm. I could work 150 hours a week if I wanted to. I do 3D as well as drafting. Doing viz is like being on vacation compared to the crazy schedule the insane amount of revisions imposes on the drafting pipeline. Sometimes there’s just not enough time to get everything in sync, and anyway the only one who’s going to notice it is the 3D guy.


Are we talking about the “placement” of the elevations not lining up, or the elevations not lining up as in being incorrect. If you guys are talking about the first, who cares & get over it…there’s plenty of reasons drawings would be laid out as such.

If we’re talking about the second, I have to disagree. Incorrect drawings aren’t going to only be noticed by the “viz” guy. I understand if you feel there’s simply not enough time to have done the job correctly sometimes, but it’s still either your fault or your managers. For the team as a whole there’s no excuse to let 1/2 ass work out of the office. In the long run it’s always going to be better to tell a client no than end up having to give them junk (which will reflect poorly on you when other people see it).


And perhaps the…well…builders? You know, the people the plans are ACTUALLY for.

Making certain your sections, plans, and elevations line up is the responsibility of the drafter. Its their job.


Wouldnt that be great if it was that simple :rolleyes:
Of course, if a window shows up on an elevation and doesnt on the plan, that’s not good. But that’s not a problem of alignment. Sometimes a window will slide an inch on the plan and there’s no time to sync the elevation. Nobody cares or notices it.
Now as a 3D guy, I only have to deal with the architect and the client’s deadline. As a tech, I have to deal with the structural engineer, the mechanical & electrical engineer, the landscape guys, the land surveyor, the city’s people, the contractor and everyone who furnishes things from door locks to paint etc, not to mention all the different stages a project goes thru will their respectives deadlines (prelims, preparation, submission, addendum, construction, modification etc) and the ludicrous amount of revisions a project goes thru throughout it’s course (sometimes up to 5-6 years). And I’m not talking about residential architecture here. So it might be a tad more complex that some comments here are implying.
What bugs me is those grotesquely simplistic generalisations that show up here now and again that architects and techs are dumb and lazy. Being part of both sides, I have to say that the viz part is by very far the easy one.


Been a PM for nearly 12 years, believe me, I understand. Just saying, incorrect drawings are incorrenct drawings. If someone ‘didn’t notice or didn’t care’, yes I see that as a problem…more especially the latter. Nothing grinds my teeth more than seeing silly mistakes (even if they may be inconsequential) that happened because someone ‘didn’t care’. Obviously, if you’re going to include the construction process in entirety, discrepancies will be created as a result of the vast number of ‘cooks in the kitchen’. This however is typically long after the drafter (& viz guy) have already moved on to the next job.

That said, I agree entirely with you last scentence.


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