IN the “What did we ever do before we had …” category, room-diagramming software claims a spot near the top of the list. And in this arena, no programs have given event pros a better tool both for creating winning proposals and for avoiding design disasters than those that produce 3-D room renderings. Here, software makers reveal how planners can use their products to create picture-perfect events.

TIP: Be resourceful.

Sure, Toronto-based Cast Software's Vivien Virtual Event Designer offers the ability to create two-dimensional floor plans, virtual views and 3-D images that resemble photographs rather than renderings. And, yes, Vivien works with a CAD (computer-aided design) engine that is, according to Cast Software's Litsa Rorris, “completely compatible with other CAD software products,” allowing users to open and convert existing venue CAD drawings.

But the real power of the newest version of Vivien lies in the program's resource tools. These include a Tent Wizard as well as a Pipe and Drape Wizard, both introduced last year, and a Projection Wizard and Import Floorplan feature, launched in March as part of Vivien version 1.2.

Then there are Vivien's many libraries of event supplies and equipment, such as tables, banquet fixtures, lighting, trussing, stairs and doors. Used in a variety of combinations, Vivien's tools enable “the automatic creation of seating arrangements, venue design and room layout in just a few steps,” Rorris says.

And because “Vivien automatically produces all the components needed for professional presentations and proposals” — including 2-D and 3-D plots, renderings and bills of materials — clients “have a better grasp of the vision and are more likely to grant the contract,” Rorris says.

TIP: Build it to scale.

After five years on the market, MeetingMatrix International's 3DVR SpaceRendering got a major update in May. The new 3DVR version 7.4 “takes clients on a virtual walk-through of the space complete with setups,” says MeetingMatrix's Christine Washburn. What's more, “With the new enhancements, the level of virtual reality represented is to scale and reality,” she says.

Using the newest 3DVR program, event designers can customize an event space with a preferred setup, identify sightline problems, and add staging, plants or technical equipment. As Washburn puts it, “The possibilities are limited only by facility, inventory and imagination.” Meanwhile, the software allows event professionals to e-mail the virtual setup, “so anyone, anywhere, can view the room without having to purchase the software,” she adds.

On the client's side, 3DVR version 7.4 provides an opportunity to experience the feel of an event from various perspectives, Washburn says, ranging from an onstage podium to a seat at the back of the room. This feature helps event and meeting planners “improve their events and meeting services quickly and easily,” she says. At the same time, Washburn notes that venue managers can “showcase {a} facility's best attributes” — a particular advantage for facilities that are still under construction. As a result, the venue manager can “let event planners see your rooms before they are even built.”

TIP: Plug in and play.

“Unlike most other CAD programs, VectorWorks Designer with plug-in RenderWorks offers a comprehensive range of 2-D, 3-D and production management capabilities that benefit all phases of the design process,” says Michelle Ervin of Columbia, Md.-based Nemetschek North America, manufacturer of the VectorWorks program.

Noting that the software is suited for “any type of event that requires lighting, scenery or general layout design, technical planning such as video projections, or audio reinforcement and other services, as well as facility design or exhibit fabrication,” Ervin says VectorWorks' winning feature is its full-service functionality.

For example, “Built-in worksheets enable users to quickly tabulate equipment lists, generate seating layouts and calculate costs,” she explains. In addition, rendering modes allow users to present everything from a sketch that looks hand-drawn to a “watercolor” artistic rendering to a photo-quality graphic. And if that's not enough, VectorWorks technical support is free, software updates are free, and software upgrades are “reasonable,” Ervin says. “There are no hidden fees and no subscription costs.”

These features, she says, make VectorWorks Designer with RenderWorks “the ideal solution for multidisciplinary firms and designers who do it all — such as event planners and trade-show booth or exhibit designers.”

RESOURCES

MeetingMatrix International, www.meetingmatrix.com; VectorWorks Designer, www.vectorworks.net; Vivien Virtual Event Designer, www.viviendesign.com