Real-Time Renderings Become Reality with Vectorworks and Lumion LiveSync

Words: eric berg

Words:Eric Berg , landscape architect and senior associate at Pacific Coast Land Design, Inc. (PCLD)
Photos: Pacific Coast Land Design, Inc.

As designers, it is our job to bring our clients’ visions to life, and in order to do this, we need the right tools. Let me share how the Lumion LiveSync plug-in available in Vectorworks software will help you provide clear and beautiful designs, while cutting down on time and improving your workflow.

In March 2019, Vectorworks, Inc. introduced Vectorworks 2019 Service Pack 3 (SP3), which included the Lumion LiveSync plug-in that allows you to do real-time rendering while making design changes in Vectorworks software.

Caption: The Lumion LiveSync plug-in allows us to quickly transfer data between Vectorworks and Lumion and produce high-quality visualizations.

I agree with a recent statement Dave Donley, director of product technology at Vectorworksmade about this plug-in, “Lumion is highly respected in the AEC and landscape design industries and has been incredibly popular with our users as a stand-alone visualization tool. Offering the live-sync rendering connection within our software shows our commitment to equipping designers with access to the best tools, so they can easily and quickly complete their work while still providing top-notch quality presentations to their clients.”

As a Vectorworks beta tester, I have requested this, and I can already tell it’s going to be a huge help to any Vectorworks user out there.

Once you set up your live, real-time visualization between Vectorworks and Lumion, you can change the shape and position of the features within your model and see the changes take place immediately in Lumion’s life-like environment.

Since adopting this new feature into my workflow, I have been able to share much more detailed renderings with my client, especially when applying any of Lumion’s high-definition materials to constructed objects like walls, columns and paving, which can be tweaked throughout the entire design process.

St. Julie Billiart Catholic Church 

Overall, my experience with this new feature has been great. I most recently played around with the new plug-in while creating renderings for a renovation of an existing church — St. Julie Billiart Catholic Church — located in Newbury Park, CA.

We have been working on this project for a while now, and it is still early in development, but were able to easily transfer the project over to Lumion as we moved on to the next phase of the project. We are including a beautiful new plaza at the front of the church using four or five different styles of Belgard pavers.

Caption: In Vectorworks, we use the Slab Style to define precise cross-sections for different pavement types. In this example, two different color variations of the same concrete unit paver are provided by Belgard. The thickness of each paver can be saved in a unique "style" to account for different excavation and base depths.

Caption: Some of the renderings that are capable using Lumion can effectively communicate design intent, illustrating different unit paver types and patterns, masonry constructions, and the overall aesthetic desired for the project.

Luckily, Vectorworks seamlessly organizes different hardscapes and their paver patterns. Coordinating all of these different patterns and figuring out a detailed layout that works within the color schemes can easily be done when brought into Lumion, which I think is very cool. Here is my step-by-step process of using Vectorworks and Lumion together.

  1. The process starts with the proper modeling workflow in Vectorworks, where we draft an idea, usually beginning with traditional 2D line drafting.
  2. We then quickly convert that design into a 3D model using Vectorworks’ outstanding suite of plug-in objects (see example of slab styles above) and other modeling tools. During this process, we pay close attention to the texture or color map assigned in Vectorworks before sending our design to Lumion.
  3. From there, it’s off to the LiveSync plug-in where we simply open a new or existing Lumion file side-by-side with Vectorworks, open the LiveSync Plug-in and press “play.” The model syncs to Lumion maintaining a 1:1 relationship between the textures mapped in Vectorworksto the textures in Lumion.
  4. Once synced, we can start to alter the textures to provide some more realism or re-assign them using one of Lumion’s large library of preset textures. Things like water or fountains quickly come to life during this process, as Lumion has a dynamic way to represent them.
  5. With textures set, we can quickly populate the scene with our plantings. This is where Lumion really pays off for us. Their library of fully 3D plant material is astounding.
  6. The last addition to the Lumion model is the entourage. Again, people and vehicles come directly out of the Lumion library to provide life in the scene and a sense of scale.
  7. Once all of the additions and alteration desired in Lumion are complete, rendering out images, animations or even virtual reality scenes is a breeze. You just simply store the view(s) you want in their rendering images and hit export. Depending on the size and complexity of the file, a single HD image can render in less than 30 seconds.

Time Saving and Improved Workflows

In my experience using LiveSync so far, I have been the most successful in my rapid prototypingas I can now quickly and efficiently create vignettes. And contrary to the belief that creating a ‘quick and dirty’ design may lead to a sloppy finished product, Lumion makes everything look so nice.

Recently, another client of ours asked us to identify any possible trip hazards in a project. By tweaking tiny details between Lumion and Vectorworks, I quickly pulled together nine renderings that demonstrated different possibilities. I then wrote and sent a report to them within a couple of hours. Previously for these types of projects and before LiveSync, we utilized an export/import function between the two software packages. This would quickly become cumbersome and redundant, especially during an iterative design process. With LiveSync, we can reduce file clutter on our server and completely eliminate the repeated export/import process. This saves us approximately 20 minutes for every major change in the design that quickly adds up to several hours on any given project.

The ability to quickly visualize detailed masonry materials and how they interrelate with paving patterns is going to be crucial for our workflow. Before, we may not have worked on much vertical masonry work, but with Lumion LiveSync and Vectorworks, we can create 4D construction documentation and animations. These complex details of how the features will be built saves us time when presenting our renderings to the clients, as it makes it easier for them to visualize the material proposed in our designs and give feedback.

Caption: Here you can visualize how three different paver types come together next to both stone veneer and stucco veneer masonry pilasters and walls.

Another time saver is the memory between the two software platforms, so that if I map certain materials in one, it will remember it in the other. That is key in terms of saving time, so you're not reapplying materials to your rendered scenes in Lumion over and over again.

Westview Village 

All of our projects have challenges that Vectorworks has helped us overcome. One project in particular, which I have been working on for the past five years, is the Westview Village redevelopment. We’re going for a LEED neighborhood development (ND) certification for this affordable housing community. Over the course of the past five years, our workflow has beensplit into four different phases. The first phase is currently under construction.

When creating 4D versions of the Westview Village trench grate and stormwater planter, we were able to get incredibly intricate with each layer of the design, from the base of the trench grates and planters, to the planting of trees that bring our environment to life.

It is crucial to convey construction detailing to the contractor for each phase. While they're constructing phase one, simultaneously we're detailing and designing the second and third phases of the project right now, so we’ve been juggling a lot of different parts, and Vectorworks has been critical to keeping all of that straight.

Caption: We can use Vectorworks to cut illustrative sections like these, which depict conceptual designs for CMU unit masonry walls with a succo veneer and top cap to frame the project entry.

How Vectorworks and Lumion Can Help You

Vectorworks has everything you would need to stay as simple or get as complex as you wantwith your designs and having all that in one place is very valuable. I think a lot of designers use it for its simplicity because that's all they want to get into, but, when you need to get to a higherlevel of detail to create complex BIM and other 3D modeling projects, Vectorworks has the power to take you there.

And once you integrate Lumion into your workflow, you will realize that this software allows you to see your entire project in a crisper setting, move things around, and make changes in much less time than you were doing before. The quality just happens to be an added benefit.

If you’re not already using Vectorworks and Lumion together, now is the time. Get Vectorworks 2019 and Lumion 9.3 today.

About the Author

As a senior associate with Pacific Coast Land Design (PCLD) in Ventura, California, Eric J. H. Berg is an integral part of the small, successful regional landscape architecture practice. He combines his passion for technology and design and a love of the outdoors and built environment to design beautiful, site-responsive and sustainable spaces. His professional experience ranges across the scope of landscape architecture. He worked as a research assistant for the Sustainable Sites Initiative, spent five years with a design/build landscape contractor in Bozeman, Montana, and has teaching experience as an adjunct professor of landscape design at Montana State University and at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Learn more at

*Images courtesy of Pacific Coast Land Design, Inc.

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