Since Autodesk announced at AU 2022 that Epic Games’s cost-efficient archviz tool, Twinmotion, would become bundled with every license of Revit, there has been a lot of confusion on social media regarding whether Autodesk had purchased Epic Games. Autodesk did not purchase Epic Games or Twinmotion, but they have formed a strategic partnership. This partnership allows the AEC community to freely dip their toes into the world of archviz more than ever before. Even if AEC companies decide to purchase a full commercial license of Twinmotion, currently at under $500 USD, they may be hesitant to do so as they may already be paying similarly for another archviz product called Enscape. Since many companies will soon find themselves having both programs and trying to decide which provides more benefit, I have compiled a few main points between the two that may help companies decide which is best for them.
Enscape is a “live renderer” that ‘plugs in’ to various design-authoring programs such as Revit, Sketchup, Rhino, and a few others. To use Enscape, both it and that other software needs to be running at the same time. Basically, Enscape is a sort of fancy “rendering window”, in this case, for Revit. It cannot operate independently.
Enscape uses Revit families and materials as a base, however it does provide a growing cloud-based library of higher-quality assets for rendering that can be downloaded. The drawback here is that these assets also turn out to often be much larger “family” files than what Revit users are typically used to. In addition, they are only good for rendering. They are not typically of good use for construction documents. Therefore, a Revit user must contend with unnecessarily having very bloated Revit project files, that have many assets in them, that are used only for rendering, and then having these assets turned off in all views that aren’t being used for renders. On the other hand, they may decide to have two ongoing Revit projects. One they use for CD’s and the other specifically used for renders. Neither of these workflows are ideal for Revit projects that have tighter and tighter schedules. Not to mention it being a virtual nightmare for Revit users who happen to be Interior Designers or Landscape Architects. File management aside, all lighting settings for Enscape must be set up in the Revit project with regards to Project Location and sun settings. These are non-negotiable unless Enscape HDRI’s are used.
Then there is the actual workflow. Enscape bills itself as a “live renderer”, and it is. However, the most common workflow with Revit users is to “pause” the live renderer while actively adjusting the Revit model. Then periodically pressing “play” to check the updates in the Enscape viewer. Not terribly unlike a common worksharing workflow, whereas a user would “synchronize with central” at intervals. I like to call this “semi-live”, or even “pseudo-live” in reality. This is because Enscape can be very heavy on computer resources with many Revit projects. Not just because of the renderer itself, but again, if Enscape assets are being used, the machine is doing higher levels of calculation. And let’s face it – Enscape users are absolutely going to be using the higher quality assets from that software. Therefore, they will absolutely be pressing “pause” for much of their Enscape experience, to some degree negating one of Enscape’s biggest selling points.
Twinmotion has a ‘live renderer’ function similar to that of Enscape, via plugins, for design authoring programs such as Revit, Sketchup, Rhino, 3D Max, and others. This function is only part of the ‘Datasmith’ plugin that Twinmotion uses. This plugin also allows users to export a specific file type to both Twinmotion and Unreal Engine (a much higher-end software, also by Epic Games, that Twinmotion is based off of), called udatasmith. It is similar to the FBX export often used by Revit users for high end archviz programs. However, it has much higher fidelity in capturing the Revit mesh, material, and metadata (such as the typical Revit properties) than typical FBX files. Therefore, this is the file format “export-of-choice” when not using the “live rendering” function of the Datasmith plugin.
Why do I point that out? Because since Twinmotion is a completely stand-alone software, the user has a choice of whether to use it as a “live renderer” or as simply an easy archviz tool by itself. In this case, Revit, and other, models can be imported as synched or ‘exported files’, such as the datasmith ones. Then Revit can be closed when not actively needed, leaving only Twinmotion running. This can save on computer resources quite a bit and possibly help prevent Revit file corruption. You wouldn’t want your multi-million dollar, tightly-scheduled Revit project to become corrupted over rendering, would you?
Once inside of Twinmotion, individual or groups of Revit content can be quickly and easily swapped out for higher quality assets meant for rendering alone. In fact, if you find that you use the same materials over and over again between both Revit and Twinmotion, those can even be auto-mapped to the higher end Twinmotion materials, upon import using the included Substitution Table. So users, especially Landscape and Interior designers, can work on their Revit construction documents with ease, and not have to worry about having to unnecessarily bog down their project files with render-only assets. Twinmotion assets stay in Twinmotion.
Speaking of assets, Twinmotion easily exceeds both the quantity and quality of assets that can be accessed within the software. Twinmotion employs its own cloud-based and user-generated custom libraries, similar to Enscape. Twinmotion also gives users access to the largest online laser-scanned resource library of its kind in the form of Quixel Megascans. Still, there’s more. Twinmotion also gives users ‘in-software’ access to the online content community known as Sketchfab, where over free 700k assets alone, are available at their fingertips; millions more are available for small fees to the content authors. Twinmotion is not at all shy on high-quality content available for its users.
Twinmotion’s initial imports from Revit, whether synchronized or datasmith files, rely on the orientation of the 3D view being brought into the software. If the Revit user chooses to use Project Location and Sun settings, that’s fine. However, it is unnecessary as this can be easily set inside of Twinmotion to whatever lighting settings the artist wants. From full day/night cycles to entire seasons and all of the weather conditions in between.
This is all contained within the Twinmotion software, so the Revit project file can continue down traditional workflows to ultimately become construction documents, while allowing the Twinmotion project to be used specifically for renders, videos, panoramas, and even virtual walk-throughs that include project phasing and design options to ultimately allow your multi-million dollar, tightly scheduled Revit project to become a digital experience, in and of itself. Any updates that need to occur from the Revit project to Twinmotion, can easily be handled by “synchronizing” the files periodically, much like you would in a typical worksharing workflow. Only those things that changed in Revit are changed in Twinmotion.
All in all, while Enscape and Twinmotion have very similar capabilities in some regards, the practical use of those abilities is just currently far better in Twinmotion. And you can’t beat the price-point of being “free with Revit”, either. In my humblest of opinions, of course.
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