AutoCAD and Dynamic Blocks for Media Designers

This semester (Fall 2013) I decided to take an AutoCAD course taught by ASU’s Jennifer Setlow. Jen’s course is primarily designed to serve lighting and scenic designers. That said, it’s already proven to be an invaluable experience for a media designer as it’s exposed me many of the models and methods that a lighting designer would use when creating a lighting plot.

As a final project Jen asked that students identify a project that would be challenging intellectually and technically. Ideally, this project would also be useful to the student in some capacity that reaches beyond the classroom itself.

With that in mind, as a final project I’ve opted to create drawings of the projectors that we keep in stock at ASU. in addition to detail drawings of the projectors themselves, I also want to create a set of dynamic properties that allow the designer to visualize the throw distance of the projectors when placed in a drafting of the theatre. My hope is that this will allow for easier plotting and planning not only for myself but for future designers.

One of the problems to consider here is how to dynamically resize a portion of a block in a drawing based on another changing property of the block. In other words I want to be able to shift the shape of the cone of the projector based dragging a the dynamic handle of a drawing.

We can solve this problem with a little bit of digging on the Internet, and some careful work in AutoCAD. My initial starting point was to look at a helpful video from CAD Masters (you can see the whole channel here).

For the sake of this process, I’m going to focus on a simple implementation of this particular concept. To get started on this we first have to create a new drawing. With our new drawing created we need to add a few features that we can use.

Lets start by making a rectangle, and a triangle (to represent our projection cone).

Next I’m going to convert this shape to a block. First I’ll select the whole object, then type “Block” into my command line.

The block command will bring up a dialog box that will allow me to convert this object into a block (essentially a single object). First I’m going to give my block a name, in my case I’m going to call it “Barco1.” For the Base Point I’m going to click on the button that says “Pick Point” and select the bottom center of the projector. Next I’m going to make sure that I check the box that says “Open in Block Editor.” Finally I’m going to click, “OK.”

This will open the our new bock in the Block Editor where we can make some of the more interesting changes to our projector. In the Block Editor we have a new contextual ribbon, and a new pallet (the Block Authoring Palettes).

Here in the block editor we’re going to use a linear parameter as a handle. Let’s place this parameter coming out of the center point of our cone.

I only one a single handle on this parameter, so I’m going to click on the bottom blue arrow, and his the delete key to delete just that handle.

Next I’m going to associate an action with this parameter. From the Actions tab on the Block Authoring Palette, I’m going to select “Scale.” After this I’ll first select my parameter, and then my object to scale (in this case the triangle) and hit enter.

Finally I’ll click on “Test Block” in my ribbon to see if this block is working the way I had expected.

For now this is pretty close.
Coming up, how to dynamically see zoom and lens shift.

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