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Three things Revit could learn from Max (and vise versa)

So Autodesk has put a lot of work into making it easier to move from tool to tool. New UI elements, certain features, and things like the ViewCube all come into play. But let's take things a little deeper, and talk about what Revit could learn from the other big tools of Autodesk's, and vise versa:

What Revit could learn from Max:

1. Robust selection tools. The ability to pre-filter your selections in Max, so that you'll only be able to click on Cameras, or Lights, is very helpful. As is the various ways one can select multiple items and save selection sets. Also the ability to 'loosely" select things, draw selection boundaries, and with organic 'falloff'. Sure, in Revit one can make Schedules to pick multiple specific things, and one can cut-and-paste Element ID's, but both aren't nearly as nice as some of the tools in Max. I still find myself hitting Tab endlessly, or cursing that the Filter tool isn't specific enough, or having to expand out the Family tree in the Project Browser and dig down four levels of branches to get the item I need.

2. Full control over rendering materials. While I understand that it's 'Mental Ray Light' in Revit, and it's been really useful to us here to have a better rendering engine directly in Revit, it certainly would be a lot nicer if we could make more complex materials. The ProMaterials Revit uses are nice and all, but trying to do something a little more complex, like make a 'mist' material or getting a fabric to UV wrap onto a chair properly are both a major pain in Revit. Even just having the ability to make procedural materials, or materials with more than one layer to them, would save us tons of time that we spend now making 'uber' bitmaps in Photoshop. While I don't think it needs to be nearly as complex as Max, the ability to have better material controls in Revit would be a huge help.

3. Modifiers. Man, is it nice to be able to simply throw a Modifier on some geometry, and have it do something fast and easy. Also being able to randomize elements, or non-distructively play with geometry, to auto-optomise a mesh are all huge. In Revit, we can make things Parametric, sure. But then it's still up to use to make it random. Placing random plants is a huge timesuck. I can make different Types to play with the design, but it's more cumbersome and I can only control the things I've planned ahead to control. And optimization? By hand!

What Max could learn from Revit:

1. More and better types of Views. Max can be a mess of multicolored geometry, difficult to navigate, and difficult to understand. Just having something as simple as Revit's Orient to View and Section Boxes would be huge. Or the ability to have a proper, easy to define section. Instead of having to endlessly manage visibility of elements via layers or elements, better views would make it much easier to get at what I need and change it quickly. Also I would never show a client a live Max model, whereas we model live in Revit with clients all the time. This really cuts into our ability to use Max as a design tool of any kind.

2. A consistent UI and workflow. Oh man, I always have to sit in amazement when people talk about how hard Blender is to use, or how the 2010 UI in Revit is 'a mess'. You want to see a mess? Try Max. It's like seven different UI's over the top of each other, there are five ways to do anything, and settings for any given thing are in three different disparate places that are all in floating overlapping Windows. If I worked with Max here, I'd get a multiple monitor rig just to support it. They have made this a lot better with 2010's Ribbon and better Render Window mind you, but it still pales in comparison to Revit's rather straightforward and structured UI and workflow. I spend half my time with Max simply remembering where to go, or searching help files, when having to adjust even simple things like Exposure and the Sky in a rendering.

3. Worksharing. The ability for more than one person to work on the same thing at the same time. It's amazing to me that Max, which costs as much as Revit, doesn't have the innate ability to have more than one person work on the same model at the same time, like you can in Revit. This means that even on project where Max would make more sense for us to use, we're more than willing to put up with Revit's faults just because we can then all work together on the project.

One final 'Shame': That you can't work in perspective views in Revit. This something so basic and that I was doing over 15 years ago in Caligari on an Amiga! Max has always had this too. What's up with that, Revit?

Jeffrey McGrew