Understanding: Vectorworks

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by NateTheRiddler, Sep 14, 2019.

  1. NateTheRiddler

    NateTheRiddler Well-Known Member

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    Occupation:
    Local PAC LD/ALD
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    Arizona, US
    Good afternoon/evening, y'all!

    It's time for Newbie Nate's Question of the Day! I know, you all must be quivering with excitement considering it's been a few months since my last one. (At least I hope it's excitement... o_O )

    So, I've just started learning Vectorworks, and I'm currently plowing through their free online tutorial series, yada, yada. I've run into an issue, though. Outside of RTFMing, I can't seem to find any way to supplement my learning. I'm not new to CAD in general--my father is/was an architect, so I've got some inherent background. But putting Vectorworks skills to use seems to demand assignments, supplementary knowledge, or practical application to ever be useful.

    So, do such materials exist? And for a reasonable price? Remember I'm college-student-eating-ramen levels of poor, so $900 classes are beyond out of the question. And if we're going to talk textbooks, well, let's just say that visual aids would serve me better than another slog of text to read. The manual's a fresh and fancy-free hell all on its own in that regard.

    I'm also open to anyone willing to personally mentor or guide me, who enjoys academic instruction and doesn't mind being paid in a 6-pack of horribly cheap beer or complimentary warm and fuzzies. I also won't be offended if such a horrible wage results in me getting lots of "**** no" answers, too. Fair is fair.

    Thanks in advance for any ideas!
     
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  2. Benjamin Fink

    Benjamin Fink Member

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    I taught myself Vectorworks mostly from Kevin Lee Allen's Vectorworks for Entertainment Design book. It's from 2014, so some of it is outdated, but there are a handful of projects he runs you through in the different design disciplines (If I remember correctly, he has you model the theatre, then a set, then a lighting and sound plot) that can help you familiarize yourself with the basics of the program enough to get started. It is a textbook, but it's written and illustrated in a way that's pretty helpful. When I was at USITT two years ago, I asked at the Vectorworks booth if they knew of any other resources for theatrical use, and they didn't know of any aside from this book and their online tutorials.

    As a lighting designer, you can also check out the Vectorworks Tips and Tricks group on Facebook. It's run by Cory Pattak, who has also taught some Vectorworks training classes for USA 829 (the design union). Most of the posts are about slight tricks and optimizations to use once you have some experience and knowledge of the program, though.

    I've found a couple of useful videos on Youtube for specific problems, but nothing specific I can recommend.
     
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  3. RickR

    RickR Well-Known Member

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    There are a lot of tutorials and videos on the VW site, but can be hard to find. Tech tips, one shot webinars, new feature demos can all help fill those knowledge gaps, if not in an organized way.

    The VW forum is great source as well. Search a few terms or just ask questions.

    This is a few versions old, but useful! https://courses.cit.cornell.edu/pma3626/VWtutorial2015/titlepage.html
     
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  4. Colin

    Colin Well-Known Member

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    Yes. I taught myself starting with Vectorworks 11 (2004) and just slogged away at it for hundreds and thousands of hours working on real shows having committed to finding the extra time in my days and nights to figure things out as thoroughly as possible as they came up in those real applications. It was a major time suck and I don't want to think about what my "hourly wage" wound up being for a couple years, but it worked for me and now I can teach other people pretty well too. I still take the time to learn a few new features in my first one or two shows with a new release. I'm sure there are multiple routes to learning VW according to a person's resources and learning style, but doing that homework relentlessly is crucial always, and nothing makes it stick like having a real production application (that's the only way I can envision tackling it personally).

    So I don't have any brilliant resources to point you to, but I think you should seek opportunities to bite off small chunks in real applications with low-medium pressure and generous time frames. Does your PAC need a spruced up ground plan, rep plot and section? Community groups that could use a LD?

    It's really crucial to commit a lot of processes, menus and keyboard shortcuts to memory such that you don't have to apply your conscious brain powers to them anymore. Definitely make that a priority so you can stop fighting with the UI as soon as possible and focus on exploring the functions and flow. Again, there's nothing like real world repetition for that.

    Most common thing out of my mouth to my students: "Get a real mouse!" Please, if you're on a laptop trackpad or using one of those "Mighty Mouse" abominations on your iMac, stop it. You'll be so much happier. Promise.
     
  5. NateTheRiddler

    NateTheRiddler Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for that. My PAC doesn’t have many current needs HOWEVER some clients coming in and out of the venue regularly could use the updates, since communication can often be a challenging obstacle at our college-based PAC.

    The advice on processes and keyboard shortcuts is particularly useful- I’ll be committing as much to memory as I can. I’m also trying to just “design” stages as I go through the VW web tutorials, trying to practically apply theory as much as I can.

    I think my greatest challenge will be overcoming the “Vectorworks cycle”: We’d like to hire you to do this job and use Vectorworks. Can you use it? “I’m a beginner.” Oh, ok we don’t want to hire someone without practical VW experience. “Oh.”

    But hey, I’ll make it work somehow.
     
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