see also: LEGO CAD Technical Tips
Q: I've heard that the whole program comes on two 3-1/2" floppies. How can it be any good?
A: It fits (compressed) onto floppies because there no pre-cooked images stored on these disks. Executable program files just aren't that big. Unlike many programs today, LEGO CAD is based on true CAD technology, in which the parts are drawn and rendered on the fly, rather than coming from (megs and megs of) images loaded off your CD or disk drive. Not only does this make the program much smaller, but allows your models to be viewed from any direction, not just a few that have been pre-rendered.
Q: Yeah, but still, how may different LEGO parts can you fit onto two floppies?
A: There are in 68 different LEGO parts (elements) included in this first product, LEGO CAD: Simple Machines. These include a number of complex gears and other machine components, as well as the traditional bricks and beams. Because we use a very efficient file structure, even these 68 parts only take up a half a meg of disk space (much less than a single 3-1/2" floppy). These compress to about half this size for distribution. This means that if the parts remained at the same complexity, we could fit about 400 different parts onto a single 3-1/2" floppy. Actually, what takes up more space than anything else on the disks are the five and a half megs of ASC files which are used to convert to 3D Studio format.
Q: Why isn't the program faster then, since it's so small?
A: It depends upon how you look at it. Although important, speed was not the primary consideration. It was even more important to make the LEGO elements behave properly, and to create a single interface for both modelling and viewing, to best simulate the real process of building with LEGO. Consider that the entire model is fully rendered (i.e.- solid) at all times, during both viewing and editing. Consider that if you try to put a Hub onto and Axle the wrong way, it orients itself properly and goes on anyway. Consider that you can rotate an element (or several) around the point to which they are connected to the model (or the hole that an Axle goes through). Consider the way that chain links jump onto a gear. Consider the way that Belts, Rubber Bands, and String behave. It was more important to get these right than to spend all of our time on the rendering engine. Speed will come.
Q: But LEGO CAD isn't even optimized for 32-bit Windows 95 operation. Why not?
A: As a LEGO Dacta product, LEGO CAD was developed primarily for the educational market. As developers, we were faced with producing a program which would run on everything from MAC 68040 machines to Windows 95 and beyond, in a limited amount of time, on a fixed budget. This means a single code base with different front ends compiled for the various platforms. Sacrifices were made in this initial release which did not allow us to optimize for specific machines, or to take advantage of platform-specific technologies, such as MMX or Direct 3D.
Q: So when will there be a 32 bit Direct 3D version for Win95 (or Win98)?
A: We are hopeful that the folks in Denmark will allow us to pursue this opportunity. Certainly if they authorize a retail version, we will incorporate these technologies and optimize, optimize, optimize.
see also: White House Technical Tips
Q: It seems like I can go almost anywhere and look in any direction. I have spent hours walking around the White House in this program and haven't seen exactly the same video footage twice. How did you get so much footage of the White House, and how does it all fit on one CD?
A: Actually, the only real video footage on the CD are the 48 clips which are accessed from the Video Button on the various tours. The QuickTime VR that you see in the Main View Window isn't really video at all, even though it uses a certain amount of video technology for display purposes (Apple QuickTime). In reality, there are 217 individual locations (nodes) from which approximately 2600 individual photographs were taken to create the single connected QTVR "movie" which allows you to wander around.
At each location, a camera was set up on a tripod, and 12 individual photographs were taken with a 15mm lens mounted vertically (portrait orientation). The first photo was taken with the camera lens pointed due south, then the camera was turned 30 degrees to the next location, another photographs was taken, and so on. The negatives of these 12 photographs are scanned onto Kodak Photo PC, and then 'stitched' electronically into a single 360-degree panorama. This panorama is eventually hot-spotted to allow clickable items and links to other nodes, then converted to a special video format to allow you to look around. It is notable that the nature of the 360-degree photography does not allow for any of the additional lighting traditional in architectural photography. Quite a bit of effort went into scouting each location for the best time of day to photograph it. The Oval Office, for example, was shot just at dusk for the best light balance between indoors and outdoors, in order to most accurately communicate the degree to which the area of the South Grounds outside this room can be seen from within.
The photography was done by photographer Mel Curtis over a six-week period, with unprecedented cooperation and assistance from the White House Ushers' office, and the stitching, linking, and so on was done by CyberToys. For further information, see the article Designing a Virtual Tour of the White House in Autodesk's publication, Education by Design, or visit Apple's QuickTime VR sample site.
Q: I've noticed that the quality of the still images is better on the MAC, even though my PC is set to 24-bit color. Why?
A: This is because the program was developed in an environment (Macromedia Director) which requires an Apple-supplied driver to run the QuickTime VR under Windows. Since this driver (QTVRW.QTC) is only available in a 16-bit version*, we were stuck using the 16-bit version of Director, which only supports 8-bit color (256 colors), which is not optimal for some of the images, most notably the portraits. However, it should be noted that the QuickTime VR itself (and the QuickTime movies) play at whatever color depth your monitor is set to, even though the rest of the program (and images) are at 8-bit. This problem does not occur on the Macintosh platform, because of the difference in the way that QuickTime VR is implemented. There, the images are displayed at your monitor's color depth. Most of the images on the CD are stored as 24-bit images, and will display at that depth on Macs, and will print from the Treasure Box using 24-bit color on either platform.
*Just to be clear to those sceptics who know too much already - there is a 32-bit driver, QTVRW32.QTC, which works with stand-alone QTVR files, running in the 32-bit QuickTime Movie Player, but it doesn't support the Director environment. We are exploring what can be done with QTVR 2.0 (or even 3.0) for the next time around.
Q: What if the information on the CD becomes obsolete? How can I keep up to date?
A: All of the text data in the program is on your hard disk in a set of three database files. These files can be updated as needed by downloading new versions from this site. Currently, we are working an new version with a few minor corrections. Check back here from time to time to see if it has been released yet. In the meanwhile, if you have noticed any factual errors, typos, or other mistakes, please let us know, so that we can include as many corrections as possible. You can e-mail us here.
CyberToys, Inc. | The White House Is Our House | LEGO CAD | The CyberToy | Design Thingy | Home Page
©1998 CyberToys, Inc. · 1932 First Avenue, Suite 928 · Seattle, Washington 98101 · (206) 269-0579 fax: 728-2341