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Hidden line rendering hacks with Vectorworks

Vectorworks is my primary stage modeling tool for tours and any other work that I do, but I agree with the consensus (a consensus I firmly and un-scientifically believe in) that Vectorworks is a huge, extremely sophisticated and often very-badly-behaved piece of bloatware. It does what I want it to do, but it does so in ways that are un-intuitive, extremely slow, and frustratingly inconsistent. For instance, select a fixture symbol that you’ve dropped onto a design layer, and you can do all the things you’d expect to be able to do: move the symbol around, rotate it, etc. Make that same symbol a “fixture”, however, and suddenly, using the rotation tool no longer works. You can rotate it only around the Z axis, and even then you’ll be informed that you can’t rotate hybrid objects this way in any view other than Top / Plan. Why? Well, there’s no good reason. You just can’t. You’ll have to go into the object info palette, select “Set 3D orientation”, and then you can manually type in your rotation settings via the OIP. (And once you convert symbols to fixtures, the program runs 99% more slowly when you select them.) Insert a truss, hang a bunch of fixtures on it, and then want to rake it? Well you are shit out of luck, hombre, because hybrid fixtures can’t be rotated like that.

Want to change the color of a fixture on your drawing so you don’t wind up with a bunch of fixtures being drawn with black lines? Well, first you’ll have to make a new class, because all things on your drawing get placed in the currently-selected class, but only the top-level container. Even if you make a new class, set a color for it, and then set your newly-placed fixture to that class, the color won’t change. Why? Well, because fixtures are 3D objects with lots of groups and sub-groups, and the fixtures come with inconsistent class structure, like “Lighting – LED”. Or sometimes “Lighting – Moving Light”. Or maybe not, maybe it’ll be set to “None”. You’ll have to change each and every one of the objects in these sub-groups to the new class you created so they’ll take the colors that you picked.

Yes, this is much better.

But today, I want to gripe about hidden line rendering, and how to do it better. Hidden line rendering in Vectorworks has been broken for at least the last two versions, and probably before that. I mean, it works in the technical sense that eventually, yes, your drawing will be rendered, usually. But HL renderings take for aaaaagggesssss to do, because they can only use one core. And that’s a shame, because HL results in some very nice renderings that clients love, the renders show depth far better than a simple wireframe view and you can give a client a good idea of what a set will look like. But for semi-complicated scenes, HL renderings can take literally hours. I’m talking about arena-size sets, there’s no reason it should take hours to cook.

There is, however, a hack that I’ve found that can do the functional equivalent of an HL render in a fraction of the time. One can use the OpenGL renderer to fake an HL render. The downside is that you can’t get colors, but if you don’t need that, this is a great method. To use: set up your drawing in wireframe mode, and then set your rendering style to OpenGL. Then set both your OpenGL settings and lighting settings to the following:

And obtain the following results:

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