Have you guys ever wondered what that little Revit teapot render button signifies? I’m talking about the small icon down below the View Controls (where you set the scale and set view options) that appears in 3D views.
Clicking on the teapot icon takes you to this render dialog box (see fig. 1):
The first time I used it, I said to myself…that’s very clever of Autodesk! Of course it’s an appropriate symbol for render options! It’s based on a renderer’s habit of heading out to get coffee or tea the moment he hits the Render button! You know who you are and you know what I’m talking about. Even with today’s fast computers, there’s still rendering times we have to contend with (except if you have a second computer that you can use while waiting!).
After deciding to get to the bottom of this, I did extensive (ahhemm!) research on the internet concerning this teapot icon whose meaning I couldn’t find anywhere in any of Revit’s manual! I’ll give you links about this subject but in a nutshell, here is what I found out:
In 1975, 3D polygon modeling was new. To do simple shaded rendering of curved shapes required approximation of a large number of polygons. Back then, the computers have very small memory capacity. At the University of Utah, a British-born computer scientist by the name of Martin Newell presented his PhD dissertation to show how curved shapes can be represented as smooth objects by using bicubic Bezier patches. Beziers are basically mathematical splines defined by a set of control points used in the early stages of computer graphics, computer-aided design and finite element modeling. Part of Newell’s thesis was to present samples of computer models which he didn't have enough of. At one point in time while he was having tea with his wife Sandra, she suggested to him that he use their tea set as his models. He got some graph paper and a pencil and sketched the tea set. He then went back to the lab and manually edited the Bezier control points on a Tektronix storage tube (a special monochromatic CRT back then whose screen has a kind of 'memory', hence the name). He was then able to digitize the pot, spoon, cup and saucer which he used as part of his dissertation.
Since then, the teapot has become a benchmark model for computer graphics programs in the SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group on GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques) research community. Here is a copy of an actual photo from the Boston Computer Museum where the teapot was on exhibit (see fig. 2):
Along with other computer-generated renderings hanging on the wall, the original teapot (inside a case on the bottom left) was shown side by side with the computer generated version shown on the monitor to the right. Martin Newell’s original rendering print can be seen too on the third from the left on the top row.
Here is a screen shot of that print (see fig. 3):
And here is the original teapot which later came to be known as the Utah teapot (see fig. 4):
This was manufactured by Melitta (makers of Melitta coffee, coffee makers and filters) in 1974 and purchased by Martin and Sandra from ZCMI, a department store in Salt Lake City. It was eventually donated to the Boston Computer Museum then relocated to the Computer History Museum in Mountainview, California. It is cataloged as “Teapot used for Computer Graphics rendering” (catalog number X00398.1984).
If you notice, the actual teapot is a little taller than the computer model. That’s because Newell’s frame buffer (video output device that drives a video display from a memory buffer containing a complete frame of data) used non-square pixels. Rather than having a distorted image, Newell’s colleague Jim Blinn (known for creating animations) scaled the geometry to cancel out the stretching.
Versions of the teapot model are now being used by nearly every rendering and modeling programs including AutoCAD®, Revit®, Lightwave 3D®, POV-Ray®, OpenGL, Direct3D and Autodesk® 3ds Max®. Teapot views are commonly used for renderer self-tests and benchmarks.
So there you go!
Now the question is: Can this teapot be easily created as a Revit family? Absolutely! The Revit family editor has all the necessary tools to create this seemingly complex model. But first, let me show you a rendering done by a student of University of Auckland back in 2001. His name is Jing Li and while he was taking a course in Advanced Computer Graphics, he recreated a rendering of the tea set from Martin Newell's original computer data set (see fig. 5):
And now, ladies and gentlemen, here is my Revit version of the tea set using the teapot I modeled and cups, saucers and spoons from my Kitchen-Dining product line (see fig. 6):
Please click on the button below to view a short movie clip of the teapot.
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