3D Shape modelling tool FormIt

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I came across FormIt as a link in Revit 2019 when I started working with Shand Shelton Architects. I thought I’d give it a look.

I am using the on-line free version to test out. Go here.

It seems to be a SketchUp/ BricsCad Shape type product with Push Pull for Shape forms (so a pain to use if your used to modelling programmes like Revit in my opinion- you need different methods to adjust things).  It has a free on-line tool and a pro version , that is a bit of a con in that you have to buy the whole suite of tools (Revit , Acad etc) just to get FormIt pro. I suppose the idea is that it is a support tool to the other packages and not that useful as a stand alone package.

The video below shows an interesting way of importing a satellite view into FormIt (from about 13 minutes in) that is quite nice and it scales it well to the satellite image scaling I think. Which is quite nice.

I do a basic black box test drive and then look up stuff when I need to.  From a sketching programme point of view, its something you’ll pick up and put down rather than using continually, so it should be reasonably intuitive.

Trying out the import had a few challenges. First of all, finding where settings are to change units to metric (the rest of the world has moved on from imperial lads- but lets default to imperial!!). Finally found in the top ribbon. Not really the most obvious place in my opinion (usually settings top right corner somewhere or in file menu on top left).  Also its set to meters, and I usually work in millimeters, so that is a bit irritating, the fact that there is only one option. Maybe the idea is that you are only roughing things out so having meters as the scale means you do not have to be too concise (I wouldn’t have thought allowing different choices in the selection would have been too difficult especially if you’re supposed to be flicking between FormIt and Revit).

The nice thing is there are some keyboard shortcuts. Unfortunately not all of them are that logical so you need a list or to memorise them.

If you click on the location icon button it’ll pop you into a world map view

To get back to your original screen hit the blue arrow “Set Location Only”. Otherwise type in an address, an icon will appear on the map and zoom into it. When you see the icon at an adequate scale, click the Import Satellite image button at top right.

It will gray out the map and show partial satellite view, you can zoom in/out to get the amount of surrounding area that you require. Then hit the “Finish Importing” button at top right.

It will bring in the image. Apparently correctly oriented to North  (at top of page) so your building will be skewed to the background grid.It comes in in plan view (blue box at top right, zoomed out to the whole of the imported map. If you click a 3D view and then try going back to the top view it zooms right into the image.

One thing to note with the imported image. Its a bit duller than the initial view that you saw when you were importing it.

In the 3rd cluster of icons on the right, the magnifying glasses. The middle one is zoom all. In top view (plan view) it just zooms right in, the zoom all does not seem to recognise the image at all.

So you need to go to a 3d view, zoom out and use SHIFT and Mouse Wheel to try to get to a full view around the image, then draw a couple of lines along the edges of the image Then when you go to top view (plan view) and zoom all it zooms out to the actual image overall. All a bit tedious.

Right click mouse on the image and the wheel pops up. Select the grid as shown by the red arrow.

A grid appears with the points highlighted. Move the point 1 to where you want to set your “0,0” axis and then rotate the RED line (doesn’t seem to work with the green one) and rotate to the angle that you want. I was watching where the green line was so that it aligned with the long roof edge, you can pull the bubble at the end of the green line to extend it if its too short.

This then aligns the grid to the axis, so that you can use the snap to grid settings. You can also turn off the grid with DG keyboard shortcut to prevent snapping to grid if you want to be more accurate. 

There is a basic component library, most probably you have to go to pro to get more than a coffee table.

Getting the basic form as a rectangle and then extruding it was simple enough, and also applying the materials, although no weatherboards and no tools in the free version for building that up (unless you can import a swatch).

There is also a material library, limited but with pro there are a few more items. I suppose you could have a free autodesk account, use someones pro-version to load up some materials and save to your account. I’m sure they’ve figured that one. 

Resources

FormIt has a blog: https://formit.autodesk.com/blog

It also has a lot of videos on people using it:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdZJr6Bo4pwBu3lQqcxlDsw

I’m sure there are a lot more resources out there.

End comment

On the pro icon on the screen it is referencing Revit 2019.1 which is the latest version out at the moment.

Its interesting to see these tools, and I suppose people who are working on the front end doing basic massing its a good tool. I see there are , in the pro version analysis tools. I suppose this is basic conceptual stuff for comparison.

If, to get the pro version you have to have architecture, engineering & construction subscription with Revit & AutoCad why would you bother with this? The modelling process is not even in line with either autoCad or Revit, so its a front end tool where you can do basic stuff.

I was interested with the Revit linkage, such that you could pass things in a bi-directional manner, and if FormIt is compatible with Revit imports/exports than it may be useful to do some early testing with it. My thoughts are, if you have someone who only does concept stuff in FormIt then you’ll have to remodel the model in Revit anyway. For passing it from Revit to do sun studies or Energy analysis. There were tools in Revit that did those (I think the energy modelling cloud connection for revit was stopped a couple of years ago, although I thought that was a good tool).

I may try pushing a Revit model across into FormIt and see how that works.

I didn’t user Sketchup, or Shape from BricsCad and FormIt does not seem to offer anything apart from basic push pull of forms.

No printing capability, basically just images. Also limited line/visual styles, based on pre-sets. They are reasonably versatile, but limited.

I like:

1/ The Satellite map capture.

2/ That you can save locally, although I don’t really recognise any of the formats. The save to 360 Drive is just AutoDesk trying to moniterise  their storage under the idea of collaboration. Good luck with that.

3/ That it (hopefully) plays well with Revit

4/ Use dynamo, although if your writing dynamo scripts why wouldn’t you do it straight in Revit? And you can render in Revit too.

Overall, just picking the programme up and fiddling with it I did not find it easy to get up and running with it very well. There is a large resource of videos, but they are just lumped together, there does not seem to be a slow build-up of tutorials, which is what I liked about the BricsCad Shape tutorials, short, sweet, basic. They gave you the fundamentals quickly. That way you could judge whether the programme was useful. For what it is, I have not found FormIt a tool that I’d go to without threats.

Reflecting on its use. I think this is a product that AutoDesk bought out and then tried to merge in with its other tools. I don’t think they put that much effort into trying to align its interface with any of its other products (eg placement of its settings icon??). I think it just brought something that would do the equivalence of Sketchup and Shape to try and cover that part of the market.

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