Simple Visualization: 3D DWF and Motion Path

In a few days, James is going to tell you more about the new corridor rendering tools using Code Set styles in Civil 3D 2008.  What I want to show you is what you can do with that corridor to make some easy visualizations.

Now, these are not the most excitingly realistic “Finding Nemo” style renderings you ever saw in your life, but considering that the 3D DWF takes about 10 minutes to prepare and 10 seconds to make- they can have a pretty big impact.  The Drive Throughs take another 5 minutes to queue up for this simple road example, and depending on the visual style and render material you’d like to use they can be processed in a few minutes or over several hours.

Click more to find out what they look like and some tools to make them…


This is one of my favorite tools for a few releases now, and WOW has it gotten better in 2008.  I am pretty sure it would never take a corridor out, only the resulting surfaces.  Also, instead of DWF viewer, Civil 3D 2008 installs Autodesk Design Review (formerly known as DWF Composer).  Simply apply your Corridor Code Set, any render materials to your surfaces and pipes, and throw in some stock multiview blocks as point objects.  Then type 3DDWFPUBLISH in the command line.  Once the DWF has processed, it will prompt you to open the file.

Last I heard, Design Review is a free download, and if I am mistaken, there is certainly a free viewer.  Check out for more information.  What this means is that you can send your non-CAD user clients both traditional and 3D DWFs for their inspection.  I find only the most savvy clients can really visualize a site from a contour drawing.  Send them a 3D DWF and anyone will truly understand the site.

I’ve also used this file as a chance to try Autodesk Freewheel (, which is a web interface for sharing DWF that does not require your clients/friends to download Design Review. 

It’s a free service that allows you to upload your DWF file and embed it in webpages, give out a URL and more.  It is a little bit clunky and strange to navigate, but there is major potential here. I only just began exploring it and I find it very cool indeed.


This tool takes a little trial and error to get a great result, but once you do it a few times, it works really nicely and can give you a very effective presentation. 

Extract a 3D Polyline from your Corridor and move it up, say, 15 feet higher to start with.  I use MOVE from 0,0,0 to 0,0,15 do do this.

Using the View>Motion Path Animation tool, choose that 3D Polyline as your path, and use these settings to try your Motion Path as a Wireframe first. 

This will take less time to process and give you an idea if your path is meaningful.  Also, the wireframe drive through can serve as a great visualization tool on its own.  On my machine, the sample wireframe below took about 5 minutes to process.

Here is a YouTube upload of this Wireframe Fly Through (note YouTube degrades resolution but in this case, it actually isn’t too much different than the actual output AVI)

If you like the results, try changing the visual style to “rendered”.  If you use all of the same settings as the dialog box I show above (except apply “rendered” instead of wireframe) a simple corridor shouldn’t take too long to process. 

Here is a YouTube upload of the rendered version (note that I didn’t apply any lighting or anything to this one, I just did it with default lighting).  The resolution is a bit more degraded on this one, and You Tube makes it seem darker than it really is)

I run an AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 2.01 GHz with 2GB RAM, 256 MB ATI FireGL V5200.  Rendering with the above settings took me about 30 minutes.  When I step up the frame rate to 20 and up the resolution to the maximum, it takes about 2-4 hours depending on what else I am up to.  I usually set this to work overnight or when I am about to work in Word or something for a little while. Something of interest: while Civil 3D itself doesn’t seem to take much advantage of my dual core, the rendering process, which is driven by AutoCAD, does take advantage of the dual core processor.

Tip- In my experiements, it seems that any surfaces you’d like to render need to be have a style that shows triangles in 2D and 3D.  I had a border style that was border only in 2D and triangles in 3D, but it wouldn’t render unless I made it triangles all around.

These are some simple examples- there is so much more we can do here!  All of the reseller AEs who attended TechCamp this week did an exercise with Visualization for their TechCamp prework- so next time you see your neighborhood AE- ask them for some tips.

(Also note that both 3DDWFPUBLISH and the Motion Path Animation tools work in Civil 3D 2007.  There are some small differences, but try it!)


  1. P.S. I figured out some sky settings, some shadow settings and more… I just sent it to render at 10:10PM here and it should be done by the time i get up in the morning. we shall see what this looks like- i’ll post it.

    i’ve been having some issues with the link let me know if you have success/failure.

  2. ok, so i yanked the screencast link. apparently i’ve gone over the bandwidth limits for my trial account, so until i get un-cheap or figure out a way to pay for it, we’re stuck with youtube 😉

    BTW my rendering with sky and shadow is still going- one hour 11 minutes and 40 seconds to go!

  3. Nathan says:


    What has happened to the YouTube links? 🙁

  4. You Tube should be fine. got shut down- i exceeded the bandwidth for my free account

  5. Mark Pomraning says:

    I keep having issues with surface tins busting through materials. Is it a masking issue. I am obviously missing some steps in my render. Any help out there?

  6. Grant Brewer says:

    A little late I know, but I am new to here, and if any in the future might find it useful to know here is a bit that I have learned trying to render surfaces in civil 3d.

    If you have individual surfaces, you must create “Hide” surface boundaries on the base surface that is “busting through” the surface above it. Use the “Outer” boundary of the top most surface to define the “Hide” boundary in the surface below.