What Is Unity?

8m 29s

In this course, David Tracy will show you how to use Unity as an interactive architectural visualization tool.

First you will learn interfacing with Unity and how to import and export your project within Rhino and SketchUp. Then, you will learn how to use shaders, materials, textures, and lighting for your project. Finally, you will learn how to create scripts to enable you to interact with your scene.

When you are done with this course, you'll know how to navigate Unity to start building your own interactive walkthroughs and visualizations.

Unity, while it isn't included in the normal set of tools that are taught in architecture school, it's increasingly becoming a very powerful and flexible platform for generating real-time architectural visualizations. Unity is actually a video game development environment. But it is actually very well suited for Arc VIs. So beyond just producing static renders, which it's actually capable of, it's great for actually creating visualizations that you can walk through, that you can interact with, you can change the time of day, effect elements in the scene, switch out material, palates and options, enable or disable different furniture, and architectural options, all on the fly, in real time.

Which makes it pretty powerful.

It also ties in really nicely with this new generation of virtual reality hardware. So with support for Google Cardboard, Occulus Rift, HTC Vive, Samsung Gear, which gives it another powerful application which is bringing a sense of immersion and scale to your visualizations. So we're gonna jump right in. Once you have downloaded and installed Unity, you will open the application, and you're gonna be greeted with this project screen.

So the very first thing that we're gonna do is we're gonna create a new project. So today we're gonna be going through the process of creating a visualization walkthrough of the iconic Farnsworth House. We're just gonna call our project Farnsworth. And just for the purpose of this course, I'm gonna throw this on the desktop, so what this is gonna do, is this is gonna create a project called Farnsworth on the desktop.

So Unity is a directory-based system. So instead of saving out a Unity file, you're gonna be saving out a directory full of assets, scenes, materials, textures, 3D models. And those are all gonna be dynamically linked into your project.

Which makes it really nice for managing and adding and removing assets on the fly. Once we've set up our project name and the location, we're gonna make sure we're set to a 3D project type. So as I mentioned before, Unity is a video game development environment, and of course, there are multiple types of video games, but commonly there are the 3D types of video games, and then there are our old-fashioned, 2D, top-view or side scroller games. We're not gonna be doing those types of visualizations, although it would be fun for Arc VIs.

We're gonna stick to our 3D environment. So once we're ready to go, we're gonna create our project. We're not going to worry about adding any asset packages at this point, but once we cover that in the course, you may want to add some of those things when you're at the onset of a project. So let's go ahead and create our project. And Unity is going to create a folder structure at the location that we specified. And once it's done that, we're going to be greeted with this window.

So this is the Unity editor, and the window is parceled up into a few different pieces, there is our hierarchy window. So this is gonna describe all of the pieces that are actively in our scene. So you can think of a scene in Unity as the current view or the current working space. So in video game terms, think of this as the current level that you're working on. So if this is the very first part of our walkthrough, this would be our level one.

Right now in the hierarchy, all of the pieces that are active in the scene, are listed under the yet-to-be-titled scene and we start out with just a camera, and a directional light, which can be considered our sun source. So, very stripped down scene, and this hierarchy is going to be an active list of all the things that are going on in our scene. And we'll talk a little later about managing the hierarchy and working with the hierarchy.

So next we have our project browser. So as I mentioned before, Unity is a directory-based system, so everything we have in Unity, is going to be mirrored in our file system. So right now if I were to go to my Windows Explorer to the desktop, into this project folder called Farnsworth, I'm gonna see a series of folders and a visual studio solution, which we'll get into a little later.

But we're gonna be concerned with this assets folder. So the assets folder is where all of the stuff for our project is going to live. And it's really important to be very organized and systematic about the assets folder, because architecture projects tend to get complicated really quickly with lots of different pieces and textures and models and meshes from all over the place, so we're gonna build a structure that we'll use to stay organized.

But this is where we'll do that. So one of the things that Unity does in our project browser, is it has a link to the local file system. So if I were to create a new folder in this assets folder in Windows Explorer or in Finder for OSX, that will be reflected in Unity. So let's first create a folder that's just called underscore mesh.

The reason I typically add an underscore to all my user-created assets folders, because when I sort my directories, all my user-created directories will stay at the top of the listing. So I create a mesh directory in Explorer, and now when I go to Unity, I can see that folder here. I can also create directories and files from within Unity. So I'll right click in my assets browser here, go to create, and create another folder called textures.

And so, as you might imagine, I'm starting to build out a folder structure. All of my 3D meshes are gonna live in the mesh folder. And all of my textures, that I'll use for materials, are gonna live in the textures folder. We're gonna be building out the project directory a little further as we get into the course, but just to give you a sense for what the project directory is doing, we'll just set up those two folders for now. And on the right side of our screen we have the inspector.

So this is what we'll use to actually affect properties of objects in our scene. So if I were to select my main camera, we'll see that I get a bunch of information about this object in my scene. So Unity uses a paradigm called actor component. And so basically what this means is that at a minimum, everything in our scene is nested under what's called a game object.

So all that is, is just a blank designation. Think of it as an empty container that stores a position in space, a rotation, and a scale. Anything else that's included in this inspector, is considered a component. So we can build up pretty complicated game objects, by adding components. So right now this is our main camera object. So what this has is this has a position in space, it has a camera component attached to it. And then it has some other components, a gooey layer which can be used to put user interface things like menus, and notifications, in front of the camera.

A flare layer, which is for doing things like flares from the light sources. Then it also has an audio listener. So think of this as a microphone input. So if there's sound in your environment, the camera will be listening for those types of things. At a minimum, what we have is its position in space.

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From the course:
Unity for Interactive Architectural Visualization

Level 1

Duration: 3h 3m

Author: David Tracy