Rhino and Air Space


This page contains tips for using AIR Space to shade and light models created in Rhino 3 or Rhino 4 for rendering with AIR.

AIR Space, the standalone shading and lighting tool included with AIR, provides a fast, powerful means of rendering your Rhino models with AIR via a simple, flexible workflow:

1.  Export your Rhino scene in Wavefront OBJ or RenderMan RIB format.

2.  Create a new project in AIR Space from your exported model, optionally importing existing lights, materials, and camera.

3.  Interactively adjust shading and lighting in AIR Space while viewing a high quality preview that automatically updates as you make changes, with unlimited undo and redo.

4.  Click the Render button at any time to render a final image with AIR.

5.  Continue to model in Rhino while AIR Space runs alongside and AIR renders in the background.  Revise your model in Rhino as needed.  Re-export and click the refresh model button in AIR Space to update your AIR Space project, preserving all existing settings.

Before You Begin

In order to import materials and lights from Rhino you will need to add Rhino-specific shaders to your AIR installation.  Download the following archive and unpack it to the shaders directory of your AIR installation:

    Rhino Shaders

Object Names and Rendering Properties

AIR Space stores shading and lighting information independently of the geometric model.  AIR Space matches properties to geometric objects based on an object's name.  It is recommended that each object exported from Rhino have a name assigned.  Multiple objects can share the same name; all objects with the same name will have the same material properties in AIR Space.  If your Rhino project is organized so that objects are assigned materials by layer, you can easily assign object names by selecting all objects on each layer and typing a name in the Name field of the object properties dialog in Rhino.

AIR Space will automatically assign a name to any object that does not have one.  However, if the model is later modified by adding or removing objects, re-importing the model in AIR Space may result in a different name assignment to a given unnamed object.  For that reason, we recommend that all objects be given a name (which can just be a name corresponding to its material).

Exporting a Rhino Model for AIR Space

Rhino models can be exported in Wavefront OBJ format or RenderMan RIB format for use with AIR Space.  For Rhino 4 we recommend using RIB format since it includes lighting and camera information that OBJ files do not.  The Rhino 3 RIB exporter has a bug that produces incorrect export of some trimmed surfaces. 

If you find that some objects are not exported properly in RIB format, try using OBJ format instead.  When exporting an OBJ file, check export as NURBs in the export dialog.  Also be sure to export object names, as well as materials if you wish to import materials.

Using AIR Space

The AIR Space user manual, included in the AIR distribution, has a detailed tutorial on creating a project and performing basic shading and lighting tasks in AIR Space.

Surface Representation in the View Window

AIR Space includes a View window that presents a realtime view of the current scene.  The surface representation you see in the View window is not the same as that used for final rendering.  AIR Space creates a simple efficient representation of each NURB surface for previewing.  Final rendering computes a high-quality surface representation based on the NURB surface description.



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