Attention Students- What barriers are you facing when learning Rhino?

An active discussion is happening here internally about how we can better support students as they are learning Rhino in School-

We are specifically interested in your experiences related to:

  • videos and social media, is the content we have already useful? What do you like, not like?
  • can you find the content we have available (you tube, instagram, our own help files etc)
    -how are you learning Rhino currently? (formal class at school, self taught from internet etc)
    -we are very interested in an blockages or barriers you are experiencing as you learn Rhino.

We want to help you be successful, what are we missing or could do better?

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if i may add my experience.

i am not sure how i could have learned Rhino better other than by actively working on projects. i had some introduction course at my university studying architecture, that thought the basics of the Rhino CAD paradigm like command line. coming from graphic design being a power user there with some good knowledge of c4d, Rhino was quite a different kind of beast and an annoying one at first where even laying out simple curves was so totally completely different that i was seriously thinking about making architecture with illustrator at first. it has similarities to autocad so these people will sure be ok with learning Rhino additionally, for everybody else its quite a plunge i believe.

it helped me a huge amount to be proactive in the forum, looking for issues on how to model or solve this or that, even if i did not know how to solve it at first, but sitting down and trying to crack the puzzle gave me a lot of experience which is is probably a universal method. if you want to get into it then there is no other way, make it happen yourself → learning by doing

that may not be what you want to hear but i think that is also an important aspect.

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A million times this - the first thing I tell people - find a project that you are invested personally in doing. Maybe you can’t do the whole thing at first, maybe you just learn how to complete portions of that project at first, but there’s no substitute for seat time when learning CAD, and nothing will keep your butt in that chair like working on something that has value to you personally.

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I appreciate perspective from the pros, ( and I agree with your sentiments)

but I’m hoping some current students will jump in-

Perhaps my entry is more “valid”. Formally, I am not a student, but a hobbyist, mostly self-taught excepting some really exceptional help from members here.

I think one of the main problems I encounter is learning around Rhino’s ‘isms’ that are plentiful.

For example, if you come here and ask, you magically learn that sometimes there is no need to battle with 2003 Filleting kernel, and you can use “pipe trick” to sort fillets and blending problems.

Or, there are things that come naturally in other programs; but in Rhino, they are either missing, or you must somehow discover that Pascal is camping (in a nice way :)) on about 100 useful scripts, I am sure half of which should be integrated formally. The same goes with little tools that are really useful like GEC. Again, this is another tool that even in whatever form it is in, really should be in Rhino by now.

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can you expand on the “isms” idea? what would help reduce that pain point for you?

I think a lot of it is logical workflow. For example, only yesterday, having upgraded to R8,I wanted the ExtendFromMid function from Pascal. This function should be part and parcel of curve modification.

This is a function that PowerNURBS (3DS Max) had 13 years ago, and it appeared automatically as a slider function as part of a generic set of modifiers in a panel when any curve was selected.

There are natual tools that we know should be just how Rhino works (Cyberstrak, Xnurbs), that other programs will either provide inbuilt alternatives, or give you additional tools. Just being able to slide my CVs around using the Cyberstrak style has really helped me learn much about what the surfaces are doing.

I think the problem is this. As fundamentals are important, sometimes the tools are good enough and work naturally such that using the tools and learning are one and the same thing; they help me understand why surfaces are or are not working. GEC is a perfect example of a wonderful tool. Conversely, EdgeContinuity is a blocker for learning anything other than how to pair awful colour triplets and generate numbers that make little direct sense. It was like stepping into a new realm of wonder with GEC.

Why has Peter Salzmann developed a tool, integrated entire display modes, and solved point moving, all by himself(?)… and yet… MoveUVN!!. This goes back to the fact that why learn how to do things the MoveUVN way, when you can just do it the correct way?

The material on the Rhino site is really nice, and there are obviously many videos demonstrating really great uses of Rhino (your SubD videos, for example).

I think in addition, while there is certainly a lack of understanding at a basic level from people new to Rhino (myself absolutely included), there are now enough examples flooding the forum where someone is legitimately asking “why can my mate do this in Solidworks/Plasticity, and I can’t do this in Rhino?”.

Another ism(?)…

I remember when I was in university, and Python was the hip, new, and cool language to learn. However, we had to learn Pascal. For a student, Rhino probably comes across like Pascal. It will do it, and it will do it well; and it is more fundamental. But let’s be honest, not having the TAN() function, because you can use SIN()/COS() instead just isn’t what you want to be doing in the 21st century. Moreover, I am not sure students should be needing to be learning this anymore.

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what I’m hearing from this is you are missing features that you want, which is 100% valid for a different topic.

what I’m asking is what gets in your way of learning rhino. In my mind these are two different things.

the above quote is a good example. what is it you need to do that you can’t and what is blocking you from learning that?

Make Rhino like “____” insert name of software here. Isn’t a block to learning per se, but “_____” insert software name here, can do this workflow or function, how do I replicate that in Rhino? is a legit question, and more like what I’m hoping to get in this thread-

So, let’s take a common example, “why can’t Rhino fillet like Plasticity?” What model, what fillet, what continuity etc is needed before we answer that. Let’s assume for the sake of this example you actually can fillet the model to look like you want it to look in Rhino.

What is blocking you from learning the “rhino way” vs the “other” way?
THAT is what I’m hoping to figure out here.

Yes… and also no.

Missing features and the learning process are highly connected I think. The features and software capability form part of the approach, method, and therefore must form part of the learning process.

I think there are many things that are and should be different in Rhino, and I appreciate that.

What is blocking you from learning the “rhino way” vs the “other” way?

This to me is the premier problem. If you are wanting to attract people to the right software to the job, you don’t want ex-students running a million miles in the other direction because it takes them an 10 minutes to do what Plasticity does in… a click? A pull?

Actually, in that video Steve posted, that video gave such contrast where a few operations I think Rhino would either do it faster and even do it better.

But I think with that comes the really, really massive issue that these programs are doing slick things that is the right method, and the right way to learn. Despite the advantages of Rhino, this then makes the other guy’s software the right software, objectively.

So to I hope give a clear answer, what often blocks me from learning the Rhino Way is the fact that instinctively and objectively, I know that it is the old or even wrong way in 2024. It feels like the wrong way. Especially if you know you may have an employer who doesn’t want you to take 25 minutes to make a G2 Y blend.

10 seconds in, this remarkable surface change… can I learn to do this in Rhino?

Another interesting example

Features starting at 4 mins in…

Wait a minute, if you happen to have seen @sgreenawalt video… you can find a bit of the functionality. This is fundamental stuff to learn and be integrated.

Oh no! It’s still in a YouTrack!
https://mcneel.myjetbrains.com/youtrack/issue/RH-54659

I think the point here is that anyone, not just students, should learn with the right tools if they are going into a competitive world. The videos are really great, but the tools are dated, and often for students, dated really matters.

I absolutely beleive that the questions are correct. But not for this version of Rhino. With some of these tools, it’s almost like if McNeel spent time on the topics:

  • Fundamental surface manipulation at the CV level (Cyberstrak has already 80% done this, in one function)
  • Surface matching and blending
  • Functionality of Filleting functions

that would solve sooooo many problems, and make Rhino easier and less painful to learn; and we could skip directly to Rhino 10.

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I’m going to jump in here, Kyle, and just say – for anyone who doesn’t know this-- McNeel offers private lessons with staff members. As you know. I have found them very helpful.

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As like the others have said, doing projects is key. You can watch videos until blue in the face and never learn anything. You got to do to learn. —-Mark

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I learned rhino in the R5 days. I don’t think I became truly proficient until around late R6 early R7. When I was learning as a student, one of the most helpful parts was the indepth first party information. I found that I could google a description of what I wanted to do, then typically some kind of rhino command documentation would come up. This was very helpful, but now feels old. In fact the Rhino 5 documentation is still the version that comes up for these types of searches. This documentation also isn’t very user friendly, pages are missing back links, hyper links, sometimes these links are outright bad, the command has changed slightly now that we are in R8 vs R5. First and foremost documentation needs to be up to date and needs to look up to date and maintained. It should be easily accessible, and comprehensive.

I got more advanced, it was harder and harder to know how to talk about the problem. One thing missing (or at least is not conspicuous) is definitions on what is a “Curve”, “point”, NUBS, poly line vs poly curve vs curve vs line, what do surface degrees mean, how do they affect a surface. These definitions don’t live inside the same space for command documentation. That makes it hard to find and use.

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thanks! appreciate your insight-

I am teaching rhino to students at an Australian university. I teach 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th years and offer support to 5th years.

Students pick up basic commands very easily.

Biggest issues are - camera and plane control, unworkable model size and millions of curves coming out of Make2D.

1st year: Initially, they have trouble with the camera, and learning to draw on the correct plane or area. I must remind them for at least the first year to ZS (Zoom Selected) on objects they want to model.

2-3 years: By third year they have issues with model size - over the past few weeks I have been teaching them to rebuild surfaces and curves with less control points, as they have unnavigable models - up to 3GB.

Masters: My 4th year design class has issue with huge ‘make’ 2d drawings: in some cases cleaning up hundreds of thousands of curves and edges per drawing. A process that takes weeks. Bonus to this is that the spend weeks on plans and sections, so they get a good feel for the way it works.

The workflow for advanced students is paper or cardboard modelling, scanning this in as mesh, and then rebuilding it as workable surfaces. Lazy students just leave it as mesh, however students are generally really excited by the speed that they can model something up in paper, and scan it in and quickly render it.

I’d recommend to Mcneel to look into better ways to translate objects from physical, into 3D. What about a Rhino 3D scanning app? It helps them to learn how to model complex objects in rhino that they would never get to, or actively avoid.

Improvements in make2D and plans or sections would also help. Perhaps some way to approximate fills and edges, within tolerances.

That’s all.

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There is a lot of theory behind surface-modeling.

Neither the existing official tutorials, nor many teachers themselves properly address it IMHO

One useful thing to have is a complete cheat-sheet for corner fillets and blending situations. If I would guess, there are at least 20 different types of corner blends you can model, without any plugins required.

Creating a continuous shape is what is the most challenging part even for professionals.

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Have they tried a 3d mouse by “3Dconnexion”? It’s a huge deal when it comes to navigation in the perspective viewport. Even the cheapest 3d mouse has a hardware button to zoom to selection (also can be set to open a customized radial menu with multiple options).

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Thank you for detailed answer. Really great summary.
Rhino 8 might have addressed some of the issues you mentioned. Please let us know if features like “Auto CPlane” (to orient where to draw) and “Clipping/Sectioning” (to create and extract dynamic section and elevation drawings) are helpful features to speed, or at least streamline some of the workflows you mentioned. Also, iRhino has scan feature. Is this helpful?

I’m going out on a tangent here from the OP, but it’s worth it…

In the rhino 3d app there is a room scanner that allows you to scan an interior.

this outputs a mesh object.

you can run meshtonurbs to convert these meshes (generally very low poly) to a nurbs object.

you can then run mergeallcoplanarfaces to get really nice, workable nurbs models that are suitable for dimensional refinement, redesign, iteration etc…

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Hi Kyle,

I just graduated from my M.Arch, and I think on my end one of the biggest things for me and some people I know was learning to use rhino efficiently. Many of us would complain initially about spending 12-18 hours a day trying to keep up with work expectations doing things that I am now able to do in an hour or so because of inefficient workflows, not having set up shortcuts, etc. I remember one instance where I was furnishing floor plans and telling my prof it wasn’t really doable time-wise and getting a blank stare, which i now understand because if you have a good workflow and premade blocks this is quite easy.

But I think in many architecture programs you are expected to learn software yourself without being given too many tutorials so having primers that allow students to quickly get to a point where they’re not wasting time on sloppy workflows would have been useful for me personally. I have one video made by some students that was quite good that I can share as an example.

I also now know that there are great resources by mcneel but that was after my come to Jesus moment deciding to focus daily on efficiency… ha.

But to answer your questions

  1. Social Media: I don’t know where to find Rhino… on instagram Robert Mcneel has no posts. There’s an account called Rhino3D but everything seems to be in Arabic. Brian James makes awesome pottery. There’s an education account but it seems to only be promoting the RhinoZine, so it definitely seems like there is an opportunity for improvement here. It is cool how with other software companies like Adobe when they release a new feature it blows up on social media so everyone knows about it, I think with Rhino you have to be seeking it out. I will say I do really like the email newsletters from Rhino.

  2. Videos: I think there are awesome YouTube videos promoted and made by McNeel. Looking at the architecture ones I do wish they were a little better sorted and categorized, like I don’t know if I’m going to be sinking 2hrs into learning something I already know. I wonder also if here there is potential for partnership, consulting, or curricular development with established architecture programs, that could then become publicly accessible? It seems like this could be a good way to develop and refine material for beginning students that is very synchronized with what they need to know.

  3. Content finding: I did eventually find a decent amount of content. On Instagram I still don’t know who to follow, as I mentioned. I think the McNeel website itself is awesome for learning the commands quickly and easily, better than most other programs.

  4. How I learned: I learned rhino through a mix of other students, sinking hours into online tutorials googling thing like “how to get faster at rhino” “how to get more efficient at rhino” etc. going through the command list and trying things, visiting the forums, experimenting a lot, and eventually watching things on the YouTube channel. I would be curious to know if there’s a way people at McNeel assume other people learn Rhino?

  5. Blockages: I think when you start as a student you don’t know what you don’t know. I did not have like a “Bootcamp” or anything to teach me Rhino, like I was probably 4-5 months into school when I discovered the “Lock/Unlock” commands, I was using a trackpad, and I was miserably inefficient. When I started really learning to use Rhino it was because I hated rhino so much that I wanted to get out of it as quickly as possible. Now that I’m fast I like it, but I do wish there had been something to get me there when I was starting out. I have passed on my personal shortcuts and useful resources to other beginning students but I think there is potential for a lot more of this to be readily available and clear to beginning architects.

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