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My personal notes from the Revit Technology Conference 2013 in Auckland, New Zealand

“Sorry, you can’t fly!”

There were two moments during this trip when I thought that I was not going to make it to the event. The first time was at the Miami airport. At the last minute, I had to change my itinerary. The reason was that I had misunderstood some information, and did not apply for a transit visa for Australia. I paid a lot of attention in getting a work visa for New Zealand, but I overlooked the need for a transit visa for staying just three hours in Australia. My mistake. I remember having read that one could simply stay at the airport during that short time, without having to hold a transit visa. Well, that is true, but the fine print says that it is true only for citizens of certain countries. For those of us who are citizens of other certain countries, we cannot just stay there quietly reading or writing on a corner for three hours; we do need a transit visa. In other words, if my passport was blue, I wouldn’t need the visa, but my passport is brown, so I do need the visa. I thought “Oh, no, will I have to teach my classes online, from Miami?!” That would have been not only unexpected but embarrassing. Fortunately, after some time and some research in the computers, a representative from American Airlines was able to find another flight for me that did not have to stop in Australia to get to New Zealand, going Miami-Los Angeles-Auckland. Well, issue solved. Fortunately, there are great chances that my passport turns blue within one year, so I might not need a visa to attend RTC 2014 in Melbourne, Australia. But even if by May 2014 my passport is still brown, I promise to do this more carefully so that I don’t have any issues. Because I don’t want to miss Melbourne next year!

“Change your shared coordinates!”

The second time I thought that I may not have made it to the event was during the early hours of my first day in Auckland. I went out of the hotel early in the morning, crossed a lonely Queen Street, and walked to a supermarket at the corner. I bought something, and then I walked out. I looked to both sides of the street and started to cross. I looked up to see a balcony, up on my left side, and the next thing I felt was a car that just stopped close to me all of a sudden, on my right side. I was scared, and all I could do was extend my hands like trying to stop a car that had already stopped, and say “sorry!”. Then I walked in shock to the other side of the street. Nothing happened, but, I was thinking… “How could this happen to me?”. Well, I was not expecting a car to turn the corner towards the left and stay on the left side of the road. That was totally unusual for me, but there I realized that I had not reprogrammed my brain yet for a left-driving country. It if takes you some time to get used to it, feeling a car stop suddenly some centimeters close to you is an experience that reprograms your brain immediately for the next days in a left-driving country.

RTC Day 1 : Thursday, May 16

The keynote addressFrom what I remember, Wesley Benn had the difficult task of breaking the ice and inaugurate the event. Wes gives instructions with a sense of humor, such as “Wear your badge all the time. We can scan your badge and get all your information, including your bank account!”. Then, we had a representative from Canon, and we saw a video telling the story of the company, including a story of Oce, and how Oce has now become part of Canon. At the end, we had the main speaker, Nigel Latta. By reading his bio, it is incredible that someone with so many professional degrees in his brain can keep a sense of humor. He is very expressive, can talk for a long time, and can say many, many words per minute. His speech was very entertaining. At the end, he showed a video that made everybody laugh. Three men go to the men’s room, (well, in parody mode, of course) and… well, watch it by yourself:

Lecture: “Show us your toolbox! Practical uses of the Revit API” by Brett Burling

I did not attend all the classes that I had in my schedule. Simply because some of them were in the afternoon after my own labs, and I was very tired at that moment. So this was the first class in my schedule, when I was still fresh, with a good sleep the night before, and able to pay attention. Brett started saying that he was not a programmer. I liked that introduction, because that made us feel that if he could create some APIs, we could do it, too. That was a good start. Then he showed a series of tools that he has developed for his work. Almost all the tools are dedicated to speed up certain tasks for modeling structures, such as changing the type of a slab with one click to fill a gap between two other slabs, or going quickly to a floor plan by selecting a slab in 3d, etc. He went a little quickly throughout his material and ended the class before time. Perhaps he could have used the introduction part to show us how to start, how to write the first “Hello, world” exercise using Microsoft Visual Studio, and then proceed to show the examples. Anyway, it was an interesting class for me, and it motivated me to try this in the future. One of the tools that caught my attention is shown in this screen capture from Brett’s handout. There’s a tool that refers to the company’s drafting standards. If a new employee wants to know how the company expects him to document structural walls, the user will click on this tool, and then click on the structural wall. Immediately, the company’s manual will show up on the screen, exactly on the page that describes how to document structural walls. Cool, is it not?

LAB: “Rotating Elements in all Directions, just by Points”, by Alfredo Medina

(Part A)

Well, that’s me. My first lab of the event started with problems during the first half but corrected its path at the break and on the second part it ended up successfully for everybody. The template that I had brought for the class would not open. It would just display an error message. Later we learned that if we turned off the infamous “Hardware acceleration” setting, the problem would go away. Then, it was the mice. They were running very slowly. Then the tools of the ribbon. At some point, my students could not find the “Place on workplane” tool. I tried myself, in their computers, and the tool wouldn’t show up, well, not until many clicks! The reason for all this, we learned later, was that the Revit software was “in the cloud”. Well, during the break, miraculously, people managed to do some extra clicks to find the “Place on workplane” tool and overcome the situation. By the time the second part started, everybody had been been able to catch up and recover the time we had lost in the first part.

(Part B)

The second part went really smoothly, and fun. All the students were able to complete all the tasks of the exercise, and have the articulated magnifier lamp rotate in all kinds of ways, including some impossible ways in real life. Their troubled faces of the beginning of the first part turned into happy faces in this second part. Not only their faces turned into happy faces, but so did mine, of course!

The goal was to do, from scratch, an articulated magnifier lamp that should have all its pieces (provided in advance) rotate at all the joints. Even the wheels had to be able to rotate individually. Rules of the game: no reference planes, no angular dimensions, no reference lines, no circles, nothing. Just a skeleton of points.

This video shows the final results: all kinds of rotations, and it never breaks!

For more info on this method of rotation, please refer to a previous article in this blog, at this link.

Lecture: Revit Family Modeling Secrets Revealed, by Marcello Sgambelluri

If there is a man in the world who can dare to include 7 topics in 75 minutes, such as how to model a jet’s engine, how to make a helix on a topography, how to get the true length of a spline, how to rotate elements by circles, how to make human faces on pumpkins, and on top of that how to model a cow, that man is Marcello Sgambelluri and no one else. His lecture is like fireworks that keep you awake as if you were watching an action movie. If you think that you have already seen enough, he comes now with the next topic, more complex than the previous one. This is a delicious lecture to watch for any Revit user. I don’t guarantee that you are going to learn how to do these things, though. There is no time to explain; his lecture is more like an exposure of what is possible in Revit, and a strong statement about exploiting the tools of the software, even its loops and holes, to obtain what you want. “Don’t wait for Autodesk to give you the tools. The tools are there, just combine them.” If you are a noob in Revit, you will be left with your jaws wide open and no clue about how to do anything; and if you are an advanced user, you still will be left with your eyes wide open, but you will catch most of the main ideas (not all!). In either case, you will be pleased to see all this. Fascinating lecture. This is the kind of stuff that drives people to attend conferences every year. Marcello is full of enthusiasm and passion for what he does, and that is perceived by the audience, who kindly forgives him for having no time to explain most of these things. But he does explain, though; it just depends on your level of expertise with the program, how much “know-how” you can get out from the lecture for yourself.

Welcome function, proudly sponsored by Lenovo

Eeeh, finally, some socializing, food, drinks, and friends! Here, at the exhibition hall, the first person I recognized was Phillip Miller. He’s the man behind Kiwicodes, author of such products as Family Browser and Project Browser, for Revit. I recognized him for his picture in the RTC website, and for the logo of Kiwicodes. Actually, all the products have the Kiwi in their name. He lives in New Zealand, obviously. If you find him in the next RTC events, visit his booth. He has a good set of very interesting tools for Revit.

The second online friend I had the pleasure to meet personally was Alex Page. His company’s name is RevitWorks. He was showing me one of his products, the “Door Factory“. It is an amazing “machine” for creating door families. The code of this product was written by Phillip. After you go through a dialog box and make all the possible choices you can think of, at the end, you push a button that says “build” and there you go, you have a new door family ready to go. If you see Alex in other RTC events, visit his booth. He will show you the Door Factory along with other interesting products. Alex lives in New Zealand, too. He is married and has one beautiful little daughter. Here’s a picture of Alex and me at the exhibition hall. We both agree on something: Revit works!

I started making friends with the people who attended my first class, the lab about Rotating elements. Among them: Sarah Hills and Anthony Massey, from Opus Building Structures; Anita and Thiago, from Brazil, both working in Sydney, Australia; and Manoel Morel, from France, and Peter Jeffs, both working for Architectus, in Auckland, NZ.

By coincidence, Both Anita and Manoel attended all my 3 classes. Was Manoel following my classes or following Anita? (Just kidding…)
Anita said: “In this conference, we go to Marcello to see what we can do; then we go to Alfredo to see how we can do it”.
Someone else who attended all my 3 classes was Ian Nelson, owner of Architecture HDT, in Auckland. By coincidence, Mr. Nelson had also read my article in the AugiWorld magazine of May 2012, and he had printed out the article for future use. When he saw my class on roofs, he thought he had seen that stuff and that face before… Then he realized that the topic and the instructor were the same as in that article.

In this picture from Friday, from left to right, Anthony, Anita, Thiago, and Manoel.

RTC Day 2 : Friday, May 17

Lecture: “Adaptive Repetitions” by Alfredo Medina

Well, that’s me, again. After having presented this as a rehearsal, in San Francisco, at the Autodesk office the week before, and after having presented it quickly to my friend Kelvin Tam at the speaker’s room. I tweaked this presentation the night before, adding and removing some stuff, and changing the order of my parts, until I thought it was perfect. Well, my efforts paid off, and the lecture went really well. It was presented in a way that was both interesting and clear. I moved the Concepts part to be in between the first series of examples and the second series, instead of following the more traditional approach of presenting all the concepts first and then all the exercises. That change really made a positive change in the lecture. Because the first part showed some 6 exercises, without explaining much, then I explained all the concepts, and then I showed the other 6 exercises. That means that when I explained the concepts, the information was already related to what the audience had already seen, and therefore the concepts made a lot more sense.

There were like 12 exercises in the lecture. This video shows just one of them:

If you are interested in reading the steps about how to do this, please visit Revitforum.org at this link.

My break

I was supposed to attend other two classes in the morning, after my lecture, but sorry, I could not attend. I had not slept the night before, and I still had to do the two hour lab in the afternoon. During this time, I guess I simply went to the registration desk to make sure that the latest versions of all my templates and materials for the next class were uploaded to the website. I will catch up on these two classes by reading the handouts. These were “Using Laser Scanning Technology Today” and “BIM Execution Plans: Avoiding the Noose”.

Lab: How would you model this roof? by Alfredo Medina

(Part A)

Well, that’s me, again. In Part A, I had the honor of having, at the front row, another “online” friend, who I had not met before: Andrew Millburn. Andrew is admired in the Revit community for having the most beautiful and creative blog there is. You know, there are some blogs that post original content, and there are some blogs that just reproduce what others wrote somewhere else. Andrew’s blog is not only original, beautiful, creative, but prolific. He posts a nice new article at least every week. If you have not seen it yet, I highly recommend you to visit Shades of Grey. Not only is Andrew a good blogger but mainly a creative active architect in Dubai, and an artist in drawing and music, as well. Some people get all the talents together! I said to him that it was an honor for me to have him in my class, that maybe we should switch seats. He said “No, we all learn from each other”. Then, he said to me that he was going to be for just half an hour or so, because he had just that time before going to prepare his own lecture. After half an hour he left, but before leaving he said: “I have to go. This is good stuff. I like the way you have put it together. Feels very consistent, like a method, I like it.” During this first part, we completed some 6 exercises, most of them related to the thin shell roofs types of Felix Candela.

(Part B)

In Part B, I presented the idea of the parametric polygon in an adaptive component template. A divided circle, which can be used to create any roof that follows a certain repetition along a regular polygon of any number of sides. I provided two files, the “item for the parametric polygon”, and the “parametric polygon gma” (generic model adaptive). Using this, and tying the parameters of these two families, all the attendees were able to complete the next three examples of roofs with curved hypars, that can be done as parametric polygons of 3, 4, or 8 sides. After that we made a double curvature roof by Antoni Gaudi, and finally a Gaussian vault by Eladio Dieste, which is shown in this sample video:

My break

I was supposed to attend Aaron Maller‘s lecture on “Rethinking your deliverables”. I had put it in my schedule long time ago, but after staying up all night tweaking my materials for my classes, and teaching 1 lecture in the morning and 2 hours of lab in the afternoon, all I wanted to see at this moment was a sofa. I went to the speaker’s room and found a cozy sofa, took my shoes off, and took a nap. Sorry, I had no more energy left for BIM. I will catch up with Aaron’s lecture by reading his handouts, which are always very informative and comprehensive. My friend Kelvin Tam, one of the speakers, attended this lecture and thought that it was very good. Aaron is always original. In Twitter, somebody said that Aaron started his lecture showing a video of an advertisement for a car. Maybe a Fiat. I missed that. For more information on Aaron Maller, (Twiceroadsfool in forums) please visit his excellent blog: Malleristic Revitation. But stay here, because you still need to see Aaron’s socks…

Competition entries

Speaking of Aaron Maller, from all the competition entries, the one I admired the most, for its difficulty and level of detail was one that was submitted by Aaron. I voted for that entry as my most favorite, without knowing that it was his. It was not this image that I am showing here, but it was similar, along with other details of the construction and a cutaway section. This image is from Aaron’s blog, to give you an idea about the quality of the competition entries that I saw at the hallways of RTC:

Friday Evening Dinner, proudly sponsored by CADPRO Systems Ltd (at The Warf)

Well, we took a bus and went to this place and we had a great time there, having the opportunity to share some beers and food with everybody we could. Here, Anita and Thiago found Gabriel, from Venezuela; and they said “Hey, with Alfredo, we are the Latin American Community of RTC this year”. Well, some time later, we found another Venezuelan, Bruno; and we invited him to join our newly created “community”. So, this was our small regional group; in this picture, from left to right: Gabriel, from Venezuela, Anita and Thiago, from Brazil, and Bruno, from Venezuela, all of them living a new life in Australia.

…and then I had to have a picture with Andrew Millburn !

RTC Day 3 : Saturday, May 18

Lecture: Global Parametric Control in Revit with Chameleon and Grasshoper by Andrew WillesAs you see, the only classes that I could attend, decently, were the lectures that were in the early mornings. This one was very interesting, and it was something I wanted to learn more about. I sat next to Tim Waldock, one of the great speakers this year, who was also very interested in these topics. To learn more about Tim, visit his blog: RevitCat. From what I understood, Grashopper is a tool to make something like the adaptive repetition variations that I talked about in my lecture, but of course, in a graphical, nice, kind of automatic way. After you design the relationships between the parts and their parameters, you set the values that vary by moving some sliders and indicators. Very cool. This is inside Rhino. Then, to carry this into Revit, you need an additional tool. According to some tests done by Andrew Willes, the tool that connects better and faster is Chameleon.

Cool stuff. I liked this class. Here is a screen capture of Andrew Willes‘ handouts:

LAB: “Rotating Elements in all Directions, just by Points”, by Alfredo Medina (repeat)

Yes, me again. I was asked to repeat this lab class because there were enough people on the waiting list to run this class again.

From this class, I just want to talk about something special that happened. There was this young man, Cabel Lau. He wanted to get in this class, but was afraid that the class was classified as “Advanced”. Well, can you ask any Revit user to assemble a family for an articulated magnifier lamp that rotates at all the joints, including every wheel independently from each other?

Well, this young man, who lives in Christchurch, NZ, wanted to be part of this class. I noticed that he needed more help than the others, but at the end he managed to have the articulated lamp with multiple instances in the project, rotating in all directions. I had asked him a couple of questions quietly, and then I asked him to please come with me to the front of the class because I wanted to ask him the same questions out loud in front of the class. This was the dialog:

Caleb, how long have you been using Revit?
“I just started, one month ago”.– How many Revit families have you done before this class?
“None”.– And…, look at his computer, he has completed the articulated lamp, with all the rotations!
– Caleb, congratulations, please save that family! Now you can show off and impress people!
Caleb was happy, and I was happy, too.

What do you think that happened here?A. The method of rotating elements by points is very good.
B. The student was very good.
C. The instructor was very good.
D. All of the above.

This, for me, was the highlight of all my RTC experience. To be a bridge between the knowledge and the student who makes an effort to travel and pay for this event, who attends a class that looks interesting but scary at the beginning because is classified as advanced; and at the end, to guide that person to a successful training experience. Now he feels that he can do this! That’s the ultimate goal of training, to create that confidence to say “I can do this”. This was great !

Lecture : Team and Technology: The Wellington Town Hall Strengthening Project by Tony Fitzwater

This lecture was very interesting. In summary: New Zealand is in an active seismic region. There have been two strong earthquakes that affected the South Island, and especially the city of Christchurch. One was in September 2010 and the most recent was in February 2011. This last earthquake killed 185 people and destroyed a significant portion of the city, including important landmark buildings. Lessons learned, the government is undergoing a project for strengthening the most important structures. This lecture shows how this team of professionals is using a combination of tools such as: Point Cloud, Scan to BIM, Cost-ex, Revit, and Navisworks, in the project of strengthening the Wellington Town Hall building. Here is a screen capture of Tony Fitzwater’s handout:

Gadgets and Tips & Tricks

Simon Whitbread and Wes were presenting some videos of interesting gadgets; some of them impractical inventions, some of them great ideas. After that, Steve Stafford and Aaron Maller took turns to present the session of Tips & Tricks. Here, everybody had the opportunity to see a little interesting piece of information extracted from almost all the classes. This session was very interesting and very useful, especially considering that it is impossible for anyone to attend all the classes. I hope they keep including this session in future RTC events.

Gala dinner, and more pictures

All things come to an end. There was a nice dinner Saturday night. I sat next to Simon Whitbread and his family, Thiago, and other friends. Some pictures:

My picture with Simon Whitbread, co-author of the “Mastering Revit MEP” book series, and author of the “Learning MEP” videos.

My picture with Tim Waldock :

My picture with Gary Page and Steve Stafford :
Gary, thank you for letting me know that my blog is read in New Zealand!

My picture with Natasha, Nicole, Marissa, and Silvia:
Thank you!

…and the picture I took of Aaron Maller’s colorful socks ! :
“Where are my shoes?”


After the event, I finally had the time to do some sightseeing, and enjoy a nice trip around town in the nice company of speaker Florian Neumayr, his wife Gaby, their lovely little daughter Rebeca, and speaker Kelvin Tam and his wife. Thank you all, especially Florian for his kind invitation and hospitality.

The next day I had the chance to travel by NakedBus to Hamilton, to visit my Colombian friends Lucho and Carmen Lorena, and stay with them, and enjoy Carmen’s wonderful “ice cream with maracuya”. The next day they took me to visit the University of Waikato. (Did I spell that right?) Beautiful buildings, especially the library.

Thank you, Lucho, thank you, Carmen Lorena.

Thank you, New Zealand.

See other reviews and comments about RTC AUS 2013 :

See you in our next blog…

2013 Planta1.com, inc. , Alfredo Medina | permission to reproduce this article is granted if the name of the author and the URL of this article receive proper credit.


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