Batzal Software’s roof designer is a plugin for 3D Studio Max that allows a user to create three dimensional tile roofs with relative ease.
There are two ways to start with the program: The first way is to create a flat editable poly that contains the different faces of the roof, and allow the program to specify the heights and slopes of the roof (the included tutorial walks you through this process) and the second, which is the method I use, is to import already modeled geometry to use as a base for the plugin to work from. The only catch to using imported geometry is that it has to be single faces for each roof surface, and it may need to be converted to an editable poly or mesh.
Once the base geometry is there, the plugin is simple enough to use. Essentially, the plugin will automatically create tiles for the roof surfaces based on preset or custom styles, and if you want to add edge tiles, you go into the plugin, choose which edges you want tiles created on, and have the plugin in regenerate the tiles, with the included edges.
Two things that confused me a little were that the first time you apply the Roof Designer modifier to the editable poly, the entire thing becomes flattened. Don’t be alarmed though, all that has to be done is click on the “get shape from stack” button, and the roof will go back to normal. This is the plugin’s way of reading the geometry so it can figure out what goes where. The other thing that was a little strange was that if the “put shingles” radio button is checked, the geometry disappears until you click on the “Build Covers and Shingles” button, to actually generate the shingles.
The plugin has a lot of preset shingle styles to choose from, and the width, depth, and height can all be adjusted to suit. You can also set the curve segments of each tile to increase or decrease the amount of geometry in each tile. The other nice feature is that the plugin allows random material ID placement on the tiles, so it’s easy to create a mix of colors in the roof.
My two main complaints with the program are these: Once the roof is created, it creates a huge amount of geometry, which obviously slows the program down. I can’t really fault the plugin for that, but once the roof was created to my satisfaction, I collapsed the object to an editable mesh, and chose the display as box option on the object to speed up the program.
The second complaint is the way the plugin deals with slicing the tiles at the edge of the roof planes. By default, the plugin slices the tiles “plumb” and not “square” to the roof plane at the base of the roof, which is never how these types of tiles work. There are workarounds to the problem: you can offset the base tile until it doesn’t need to be cut anymore, or adjust the size of the tile so it mathematically works, although I wasn’t able to get it to work as perfectly as I would have liked.
All in all, this is a great plugin for these types of roofs, and the $55.00 price tag makes it a very reasonable purchase. My only minor complaint is how the roof edge is dealt with at the base of the roof. With the purchase of the program, Batzal has also included the Siding Designer, which works the same way, but allows the placement of tiles on vertical surfaces – a useful feature for cedar (or concrete) shake walls.