Tagged: Workflow

What Dynamo Needs?

So having dabbled in Dynamo on an off for the best part of the year, I am in no position to greatly comment on what Dynamo needs. It is a complex animal and seems you need a good bit of Python to tweak what is on offer. There is a good smattering of custom packages out there that can really aid in productivity and open avenues within Revit that were seemly impossible to do.


From newbie with no virtual computational experience, to having created a number of successful graphs either interoperating with Rhino and adaptive components, placing complex railings equidistant over a curved floor perimeter, or generating site plans with Open Street Map data, I am now in a position of understanding, yet having frustrations both at the same time.


It is a great feeling to nerd out and get a graph to function, minimizing the nodes and playing with Dynamo’s logic. It is frustrating to see those little yellow error messages appear without explaining very much, or that the definition seemingly works, only to find out the next time you run it, it inexplicably doesn’t; trying to locate that node to do something simple or that the Revit API isn’t exposing itself.


Arghh! Those error message, deprecations and unresolved statuses


My colleague Dane Stokes, a Grasshopper whizz and Rhino jockey, gets easily frustrated with Dynamo. He likens Dynamo to a British car: finicky, powerful but good luck getting it started and seemingly in the shop most days. 

The functionality and polish of Grasshopper attract many graduates, who typically aren’t constrained to producing construction documentation. Given a choice, most simply gravitate to Rhino and Grasshopper for their needs, leaving few that can aid with Dynamo in the professional setting.


Dynamo is a great tool to Revit, but best practices, workflows or documentation have not been developed in industry. The standalone Dynamo Studio is being used with FormIt to create geometric shapes and change their properties. Josh Goldstein at Autodesk has provided tools that generate louvers on a building or create a staircase in FormIt. Yet this added functionality provided by Dynamo already exist in the Revit product with parametric families and tools. So when is it appropriate to implement Dynamo with Revit? What are the best workflows if you are pushing data back into Revit in a Work Shared and live model? How can we share and document our custom graphs that we create?


Dynamo Studio Properties in FormIt


Dynamo Player has arrived as of Revit release 2017.1 which helps, but varying inputs need to be incorporated for the Player to function effectively. When we get input functionality, should we create a Dynamo graph or create a dedicated Add-in tool using the Revit API? I feel Dynamo works well for custom situations that require hacking Revit’s stubbornness, yet if there is a repetitive task or a function that is being used consistently on all projects, it is probably wiser to create a tool using the API to share with your entire firm or industry.

I realize that you have read all the way to here and I haven’t addressed what the title of this blog asks, What Dynamo Needs?:

I feel Dynamo would benefit by:

  • Improving search functionality speed.
  • Filtering a list of compatible inputs from an output.
  • Make error messages make sense.
  • A Python debugger.
  • Inputs to Dynamo Player in Revit – akin to the how Dynamo Studio interfaces with FormIt. I have been told by sources that this is coming soon!
  • Dynamo Studio communicating with a headless Revit in the Cloud.
  • Increasing mobility with an iOS application.


Kudos by the way to the Dynamo team to having done a great job on the Dynamo Dictionary and the new list level functionality. I look forward to future developments. It is fun to get under the hood!


What FormIt wants?

What has informally been dubbed the “SketchUp Killer“, hasn’t quite delivered up to its full potential. Certainly within our office, Trimble SketchUp users that dictate early schematic design workflow have casually rejected the threat.

The ease of modeling that the designers enjoy, frustrates those that are working further downstream. The SketchUp model cannot be used effectively and remodeling efforts undoubtedly occur. This is true the reverse direction, when the updated Revit model is imported back for further iteration within SketchUp. There is no-live linking within SketchUp or sharing of efforts. Even materials do not talk to one another.



SketchUp design model


SketchUp model linked into Revit – where did the materials go?


Linked SketchUp model does not cut in plan?


So why is SketchUp still a market force? It has been around a grand old time, over ten years in my career, which in software terms is a lifetime. It has had multiple development cycles and the financial support of Google. What makes is so compelling is the ease of use, even my father of 79 years is a keen user! However things shift and newer kids on the block want in. My 10 year old son every morning fires up Autodesk FormIt on my aging iPad. Tweaks and builds his fantasy baseball stadium at Rat Field. Even his 6 year old younger brother is competing, modelling his police cars and bus stops, although scale can still be somewhat of an issue!

For me, I want an intuitive and efficient workflow that really talks to Revit, our tool for documenting and modelling our designs. It should maintain parametric data and interoperability, not wasting effort in remodeling or sharing assets. If this can be done on a mobile, non complex application that can create forms that make designers happy, we have hit the jackpot. We may not be there yet, but not having to think of file format or be restricted by what the tool can and cannot do, is something we should ask software developers in the AEC industry to produce.

I think FormIt has potential. I really do. It is no Rhino for modeling or SketchUp for intuition and speed, but it does provide a cheaper, nimble, efficient, mobile, analytical, iterative (combined with Dynamo Studio) platform that in someway can inter-operate with Revit. It is relatively young and needs some work to be a mainstream architectural application. For that to occur, FormIt needs to seamlessly work with its mature uncle: linking between one another and sharing the same resources.


A potential FormIt workflow to Revit?

I don’t think it is too much to ask to have our multi-generational teams work in the same sandbox, never having to remodel, work in isolation or be dictated to by the tool’s functionality.