Catchup 19

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CatchUp LumenRT 4 eon breaks new ground

Thea Presto GPU rendering for SketchUp


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Welcome As you can see from our cover we have a big announcement for the PluginStore that is sure to blow your mind! Months of dev work are behind this and what was planned as a June release was delayed and delayed again. But today we are very proud to release PluginStore 2. We have also some great articles inside that are sure to whet your appetite. Pete Stoppel’s review of LumenRT 4, we look at Thea Presto with GPU rendering for SketchUp and Daniel Tal’s latest book on rendering all get the CatchUp treatment. Plus lots of other news and previews.

Front Cover contains an image from rockstargames used for display purposes only and not to be considered related to rockstargames or its merchandise in any manner


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realityPaint PhotoShop for your 3D models When it comes to texturing complex forms in SketchUp you either resort to some type of projection mapping, use a plugin or extension to export your mesh to some external application. If you choose the last option then you know there is still a degree of work involved to paint your model in an image editor like PhotoShop or GIMP. Bottom line....time consuming!

Why not just paint the mesh itself?


few years ago I spent time trying to source the perfect tool to speed up my work-flow when it came to texturing my SketchUp models. Ultimate Unwrap 3D was my first go to application. Then came UV LayOut and finally Blender. All 3 applications do a great job unwrapping textures but at the end of the day you are still left with a 2D image that needs tedious rework in your image editor. At the time I remember seeing an application called Blacksmith 3D by a Canadian programmer named David John Fielder. Blacksmith 3D was the texturing tool for the 3D/Poser industry. All those wonderful character models with the incredible texturing were mostly painted with Blacksmith 3D. Unfortunately Blacksmith 3D did not play nice with Sketch-


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Up models. Primarily this is because of how SketchUp uses N-Gons. When you export a model that has N-Gons these faces need to be triangulated. Depending on the number of edges you can easily generate hundreds or thousands of triangles. To sum up - to makes things work in Blacksmith 3D I needed to spend more time making my model compliant. We all know time means money. But what really excited me about Blacksmith 3D was how easy it made painting models. The only way to describe it is that it is PhotoShop for 3D models. The videos David made to train users really said it all. With the proper textures and skill level you could quickly paint just about anything...except SketchUp models.

Top: Dante by StudioArt Vartanian Bottom: Tempest by Gypsy’s Angel

So, do we finally have a tool that makes texturing easy? Fast forward about 3 years and BlackSmith 3D has evolved and is now called realityPaint. I’ve spent the last 3 months taking it for a test-drive to see if it now makes texturing complex and messy models easy. As mentioned already realityPaint is a 3D suite of tools for painting meshes in real-time using typical 2d image edit tools to interactively paint your models. So if you are currently using PhotoShop to create texture maps from exported UV maps then you will feel right at home. What is notable when you initially launch realityPaint is the complete absence of any visible toolbars. Everything in realityPaint in contained in an area surprisingly called Menu. This is the hub where you change the vast amount of options available to you. Since we’re dealing with SketchUp models in most instances it is best to get straight to point. Firstly, realityPaint DOES NOT import SketchUp files it only deals with .OBJ. That means you’ll be exporting and importing meshes but this is pretty much common practice for anyone that is doing higher level texturing. With your mesh imported you have a variety of functions in the Manager area. This is where the very strong resemblance to PhotoShop begins. Anyone who uses PhotoShop will be very familiar with its Layering system. Within realityPaint you can apply the same layering to your maps. You also have access to various Blending modes like Overlay, Burn etc., that makes it very efficient to create complex texture maps 5

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without being destructive to the original map. As you can imagine this is a very involved process meaning that if you are a novice SketchUp user then the learning curve is considerably high. But if you have spent hours in an image editor tweaking UV Layouts then the adoption process is relatively quick. Looking at a typical import/ load scenario of a .OBJ file into realityPaint it is expected you are familiar with exporting to .OBJ and setting up your mesh correctly. Isolating objects into groups makes painting them in realityPaint much easier. Any associated image maps are also imported and if realityPaint detects they are missing it prompts you to locate them manually. If you are importing untextured meshes into realityPaint with no UVs then you can use the Paint Setup Wizard to automatically unwrap your mesh. The result is somewhat unconventional (see opposite) to normal unwrapping scenarios but this is because realityPaint can utilize the 3D painting environment to ignore UV placement and allows you to paint across UV seams with ease. While realityPaint does import .OBJ files quickly knowing how to set up your SketchUp mesh to best fit into this workflow does mean adopting a slightly different approach. So we know it can load and unwrap but if your like me you will want to know how does the painting side of things pan out?

Top: realityPaint UI with Action Centre Middle: Unwrap result after using Paint Setup Wizard Bottom: Tempest by Gypsy’s Angel

The Good and The Bad Pros Easy UV mapping modes that make setting up meshes for texturing a quick process Layering and Blending systems give you more control over the texturing Mesh Transformations add the ability to sculpt, subdivide and morph models Incredible amount of painting options Relatively inexpensive

Cons Occasional freezes while painting Unintuitive menu system that buries options in unrelated areas Very much geared towards character models rather than AEC arena No user manual only videos and online text based tutorials Disorientating navigation Limited import/export options

Top: Lo-poly CAD workflow Middle: Fixing UV Seams with Clone Brush Bottom: UV map and texture in under 2 minutes


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Top: Typical SketchUp triangulated export Left: Paint Brush parameters David put together a very informative video that shows a typical 3D Warehouse import and the issues non uniform meshes can raise when painting. In fact the the scope of tutorials on is considerable and highly recommended for anyone interested in texture painting in general.

Find your inner Da Vinci Painting in realityPaint is pretty straight forward. Pick a brush type, color and texture and apply strokes as you would expect. It is the number of painting options which takes things to the next level. The Paint Tools have 15 painting modes from the standard paint brush to the texture transfer brush. Each of these can have custom brush tips loaded which affect how the texture is applied. It is also possible to load actual textures as brush tips so you can paint seamless textures onto objects effortlessly. Each brush can be customized based on size, strength, hardness, spacing and density. But the smartest feature related to the Paint Tools is the Hidden Surface Removal/Brush Controls options. 7

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These basically control how paint is applied to what is visible or to paint through the mesh. You also can paint per vertex, polygon or pixel. The Per Pixel painting option is the new painting mode to realityPaint and this is what now enables it to paint lo-poly SketchUp models. Using pixels to paint means applying textures to heavily triangulated meshes in which there are long triangles does not throw up the problems you would encounter with vertex or polygon painting. In the top right image you can see how SketchUp will triangulate on export. 3D Painting on a mesh like this is problematic when you only have polgon and vertex painting available. But realityPaint’s Per Pixel option overcomes this.

One point that stood out during my time with realityPaint was that it relies heavily on keyboard input. Assigning hotkeys is straight forward but the absence of toolbars adds to the learning curve. I can see why the need to de-clutter the workspace is vital in a painting program but because the Menu system is so dynamic it takes considerable time to learn tool/option locations. If menu hunting or hotkeys is not your way of operating then it is safe to say realityPaint isn’t for you. Whilst realityPaint is primarily a 3D painting tool it also offers a glut of mesh transformation tools. Everything from subdivision to sculpting is possible! These Deformation tools allow for a wide range transformations to your mesh. Ideal when you have UV stretching or want to introduce irregularity in meshes. When you mix the whole layer-

ing with blending options, color or texture painting and deformation tools together you get and very strong toolset for 3D artists. Adding the level control you get with each tool and the new ability work with lo-poly meshes it is a new direction for the team at realityPaint. Overall, it is a quirky program that requires you to self learn. The documentation is lacking and the navigation and menu system is unlike anything out there. Personally I didn’t adopt to realityPaint fully. Those in the CAD industry who swap from UV mapping apps to 2D painting apps should at least take the time to watch some of the videos on realityPaint in action and judge for themselves. A worthy texture painting program with tons of potential. realityPaint is available in either Standard for ~$80 and Pro for ~$160 with a free licence for Blacksmith3D v4 included. You can also find a trial of realityPaint here. by Rich O’Brien


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Layer in Layers? Sketchup Inception... Jiminy Billy Bob’s latest plugin for controlling Layers in SketchUp is an astonishing piece work. PhotoShop-type control in an intuitive interface. Jiminy Billy Bob aka Thomas Hauchecorne released Layers Panel a few weeks back and it has quickly become a instant hit with SketchUp users everywhere. Anyone familiar with PhotoShop Layers will instantly see the usefulness of Layers Panel. Being able to drag and drop layers in SketchUp is one of the most requested features from users. Now, not only can you re-order layers, you have the added ability of grouping. Layer Groups are a great way to control your scenes. In the past you may have used some type of naming convention to isolate similar layers. Prefixing VEG to all vegetation Layers or GRD to all ground layers would be a typical example. Now you can simply create a Group and drag the layers into that group. One click and you toggle them on or off. Simple! Locking layers is also a new addition to Layers Panel. Locking allows you to purge unused layers but the locked layers will not be considered as part of the 9

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purging process. For anyone dealing with pesky AutoCad imports this is a big timesaver. Removal of layers is handle via two options. Delete Layer and Contents and Delete Layer and Move Contents. Another extra feature is the Add layer only visible in this scene option that is exposed when you keep the left mouse button held down when creating a new layer. Overall, Thomas has created a tool for SketchUp that drastically improves the way you work with layers. A simple to use interface with some very powerful features. You can grab Layers Panel from the PluginStore.

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SketchUp Extensions revealed

Bonnie Roskes latest book covers everything you need to know about Extensions and Plugins in SketchUp 2013. Aimed at beginners is it all about introducing SketchUp users to amazing new tools and explaining their use. Bonnie Roskes of 3DVinci is renowned for her educational ebooks for SketchUp. Having used SketchUp since version 2 she has a deep understanding of every aspect of our favourite drawing tool. In her new ebook SketchUp Extensions Hands On you are introduced to various plugins and extensions for SketchUp that enchance and improve your workflow. The ebook itself is well documented and illustrated with each tool mentioned getting thorough explanations. Someone looking to find out about tools before installing, whether free or commercial, will gain

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a lot of information about the more popular tools out there. Geared towards beginners it is a great introduction to plugins and extensions in general. So whether you use the Extension Warehouse or our very own PluginStore you will get the full lowdown on the tools you need to improve your SketchUp workflow. Weighing in at over 60 pages and covering over 30 of the most needed plugins it is. Our Premium members can buy it for $19.96 in the Book Shop.

Buy Now ‘‘The perfect introduction to plugins and extensions for SketchUp’’

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Daniel Tal’s Rendering in SketchUp Rendering application for SketchUp are two a penny these days. But we it comes to becoming proficient it can mean hours trawling the web for some tidbits of information here and there. While recently Alex Schreyer did release a book on Architectural rendering it dealt with the science. So when Daniel’s new book popped through the letterbox I was eager to see how the magician would reveal his tricks.

easy to follow ‘step by steps’. The quality of the images and graphics are excellent with very good notation. Little is left to the reader’s interpretation with the full colour images and screen captures of the various menus that need to be learned about when it comes to what is going on or should be happening on their screen.

SketchUp site. All have free trials, to varying degrees, and the bulk of them are commercial, requiring a license to operate. The book recommends the reader opts for SketchUp Pro but I feel Pro is not essential to get things going, however SketchUp Pro does have many advantages over Make and is well worth consideration.

If the reader / student diligently works though and practices all the indicated processes, he / she will have achieved an excellent grounding in rendering in

Also it is needed if commercial render output is to be the end product.“Rendering in Sketchup” possibly covers all that one would need to know when it

SketchUp and will also have learned some great tricks of the trade along the way. Daniel is not slow about sharing his abundance of tips and tricks.

comes to the subject of rendering in SketchUp. It also covers a number of advanced modeling techniques and further builds on “Google SketchUp for Site Design”, Daniel’s previous book. The chapter on “Detail Modeling” is well worth reading and practicing a number of times as the workflow and tips outlined / demonstrated will stand to the SketchUp user when it come to standard modeling.

Practice makes perfect.....almost! Daniel Tal’s “Rendering in SketchUp” is quite a hefty read with 600 plus pages and two additional online chapters, Chapter 8b - Texture Tools for the Mac and Part 9, “Twilight Render,” details how to use the IRP Twilight Render. If you are a Mac user, I strongly recommend downloading the online Chapter 8b Chapter and have it to hand when you get to Chapter 8. Daniel advises quite early in the book that it is not for SketchUp beginners and rightly so. The reader should, in my opinion,

be at least at SketchUp intermediate level. Having said that, a beginner will get an excellent overview of what is involved when in comes to rendering in SketchUp with a plugin app and be encouraged to get to full grips with all the ins and outs of SketchUp. It should be noted that this book is not written along the lines of a reference manual, its far more a highly illustrated textbook on rendering with SketchUp in quite a friendly ‘hand holding’ fashion. The reader is brought through the well explained processes with

The rendering plugin used or the most part throughout the book is Shaderlight. There is also quite a lot of reference to Podium and Twilight with output examples. It should be noted that there are now upwards of 20 Photorealistic Rendering applications that work ‘inside’ SketchUp. Most of these are listed on the 13 | © SketchUcation Ltd

There is quite a comprehensive section on post-production work using Adobe Photoshop.

...highly illustrated and well explained... 14 | Š SketchUcation Ltd

My initial reaction was that I was not interested in this section as I am not a regular Photoshop user. I use a number of other image enhancers and manipulators. However I decided to take the advise / knowledge in good faith but I feel this section might have been omitted and the book just stayed with SketchUp and one or more rendering plugins.

Tricks of the trade exposed Back to the structure of the book! Its clearly well thought out and presented in a ‘brick on brick’ fashion as each learning session builds further on the previous. It is possible to skip various chapters if one finds they are up to speed on the particular area being covered but not advisable as I found there are some interesting and clever ‘tips and tricks’ mentioned in all sections. Daniel’s advise on texture manipulation / editing and layer management is excellent. Getting to the levels of expertise suggested in these two sections will help the reader / student achieve the required proficiency in rendering and general SketchUp modeling. Photoshop is used for textures but as mentioned there are other options available, some free. The layer system he advises helps the student in no small way to leverage his / her model which in turn helps in producing quality renders. Most importantly Daniel explains why one should use his methods. This makes sense to me, I like to know why I should be doing things in a certain way rather than following along blindly. I can’t emphasize enough that the reader should pour through the book, chapter by chapter and practice the processes and methods shown / explained in order to gain full advantage from the book. Once this is 15 | © SketchUcation Ltd

done and one has made their notes and placed page marks, the book can be used as a reference book and a comprehensive one at that. There are numerous other chapters that I could comment on, the ‘shadow’ section

for example! After all its 600 pages of expertise explained. As I said at the start of his short review, “Rendering in Sketchup” is a hefty read! Its not something that can be properly

read in a day or even a week if one wants to cover all the processes mentioned, let alone the Photoshop post processing techniques. The book is available from Amazon at around $35. This is a most reasonable price Top: 47 minutes of presentation on the book’s concepts Bottom: 46 minutes covering obtaining, managing and rendering vegetation

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for such a ‘bible’ on rendering within SketchUp. It crossed my mind that I would prefer to see the book take a different format. I find it tough

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going opening ‘page one’ of a 600 page book with the aim to getting to page 600! In the past this is the way things had to be done, an Author wrote a textbook and had it published. I

don’t think things have to done this way nowadays. For me, small ‘bites’ of information at regular intervals work better as it gives me an opportunity to digest and practice what I have learned. I also feel a video overview of the modules is a great help. The video doesn’t have to be a ‘step by step’, it can be a normal speed work-though of a particular process, even at high speed. The book with text, images and illustrations can be there to explain and elaborate on the ‘shown’ video process / workflow for the reader / student to try things out for themselves.

I think there could be a further advantage to what I suggest. Doing things in what I will call, module books, would allow the author to ‘put and take’ sections! Say for example, “Rendering in Sketchup” wants to cover an image manipulation process in something other than PhotoShop, this could be done. The collection of modules could continuously grow as new features appear in SketchUp and new plugins appear on the scene. A textbook over time can easily become outdated as the cene changes but a collection of book modules could be kept up to date and more relevant.

I would like to see all of Danel’s systems, processes and tips that appear in “Rendering in Sketchup” published in possibly 5 books, each with an accompanying video. Even if this collection of module books / videos cost a multiple of the current price, it would still be good value and a better way for me to get to grips with things. Of course these smaller ‘bite size’ books / videos could be downloadable which would also help to keep cost to the reader / student down.

Back to the book to hand! Is it worth purchasing by someone interested in learning about rendering within SketchUp? Most definitely YES.


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The Quest for the ideal SketchUp input device Could it be the gStick? Since starting to use computers back in 1985, I have been continuously on the lookout for a good pen-like input device. While the mouse is fine for general input it just does not, for me at any rate, offer the freedom of pencil drawing. For my rough doodles I use my trusty Lamy Scribble. This chunky little clutch pencil with its 3.5mm lead feels right in the hand when sketching. What I am looking for is a digital version of my Lamy! Some weeks ago I came across the gStick mouse on Kickstarter. In short the gStick is a computer mouse input device with the form factor of a pen, is Win and Mac compatible, works for right or left-handers, is USB wireless plug and play and has a 1200 dpi optical scroll-rolling ball tip. After watching the intro video and reading the specs on this clever little device I quickly signed up for my $35 pledge. The advised retail price is to be in the region of $70. It looked to be a good deal. At the time I thought the project would be an overwhelming success and easily pass the $57K goal. Alas this was not to be as the project topped out at $10K short of the target figure but more about that later as all in not lost. After pledging I contacted the developer, Gordon Steward, originally from the UK, now 20 | Š SketchUcation Ltd

living on Anchorage, AK, and got to chatting about various aspects of the gStick, particularly the click-ability of the scroll wheel as I thought this would be ideal for SketchUp users.

Gordon advised that he would get his SketchUp using friend, Kerby, to make a couple of demo videos showing the gStick in action with SketchUp to accompany the current videos showing its use with Tux Paint and StarCraft. This he did and also included videos showing the gStick being used with Pho-

toShop. As can be seen from the demo videos, the gStick would appear to work well with SketchUp, even orbiting! Left and right clicking is via the two shaft mounted buttons and the scroll wheel is conveniently position between them. All in all a very compact setup that is operated with the forefinger. For me one of the main advantages with this type of device would be that it allows for fine finger

motor skills that most people have been practicing since early childhood. I also think that there would be much less unnatural wrist movement that can result in Workplace Musculoskeletal Disorders, common enough with heavy mouse usage. While the gStick is at pre-production stage, a lot of the possible operation and maintenance niggles have beenaddressed.The gStick uses 1-AAA battery

Above: Kerby using the gStick with SketchUp Middle Left: Button and scrollwheel layout

so weight will most likely not be a problem. - The current version uses a USB dongle but the production model will more that likely be Bluetooth. - An easy way to clean the roller ball is to be incorporated into the design. This can be a problem with integrated roller balls. - The production units will be very similar to the prototype in the video but will have a more polished finish available in multiple color options. The buttons will be smoother and the scroll wheel will be rounder on the edges for extra comfort. The production gStick will have 4 flat spots on the edge to prevent it from rolling off your desk. - A cradle is being designed and maybe included in the basic price.

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- Ball pressure sensitivity is being worked on and is a possibility for future a version. However this feature is not necessary for SketchUp use. The good news, as I write, is that the gStick relaunched on Kickstarter and in a few days with a reduced goal target of $45K it met its target quite quickly. So those that backed the gStick will get hands on with the device in December. Looking forward to receiving mine to see if we have a new way of sketching in SketchUp. Mike Lucey

The long awaited release of Thea Render v1.2 brought some big surprises for users. A revised UI, a new ‘Field Mapping’ rendering option and of course GPU rendering. We take a closer look at the latest release to see what has changed. Solid Iris, the greek company behind Thea Render, have teased for over a year about introducing GPU powered rendering inside SketchUp with its Thea for SketchUp plugin. A few weeks back they finally made its users wishes come true with Thea Presto. Thea Presto for Thea Render is an addon that unleashes the power of GPU rendering with nVidia CUDA enabled cards and allows this to happen directly within SketchUp using its Thea for SketchUp plugin. Not to long ago we wrote about using proxy models inside SketchUp to render millions of polygons in Thea Render. Less than 6 months later you can now render your scenes in minutes rather than hours using your GPU.* Before we even get to that we need to look at this whole update to Thea Render itself. Anyone coming from Thea Render v1.1 will agree that v1.2 feels like a whole new application. The revisions to the UI make navigating around Thea a much more improved experience. Thea Render’s layout was always highly customisable but v1.2 has brought further refinements that make scene setup 10 times quicker and make prominent the important features.

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The new tabbed interface, as shown on the next page, highlights each distinct area within Thea Render. Whether you need to tweak materials, change an IBL or refine the render type it is now a lot quicker to find and changes settings. I really like the UI changes as it brought that application together better. In the previous version I found you need to dig to get to a particular settings and when dealing with an involved application it takes time to learn parameter locations. But this new approach has just elimnated that digging mentality completely. So hats off to Solid Iris for introducing a nice UX to the program. Also in the previous version you could cutomize render settings and save these as custom loadouts for future use. But this did mean having a deep understanding of Thea to begin with. Now, in v1.2, it comes with over 20 render presets that reduce the learning curve significantly. There is also the new Field Mapping biased rendering engine added that is a proprietary rendering solution unique to Thea Render. This new method is dramatically faster than previous biased methods and the results are nothing short of stunning.

Thea Presto brings GPU rendering to SketchUp

Pushing the limits of fast interactive rendering The fact that Thea now comes with so many render presets means the user gets great results much quicker without the need to adjust any settings. So far so good with v1.2, new biased engine, new UI and speed improvements. But the big talking point is the GPU element and what that means for Thea and SketchUp users. Firstly Thea Render has an add-on called Presto. This is a separate download that enables GPU rendering for Thea Render. This is because currently the GPU rendering abilility is limited to nVidia CUDA enabled cards only. Those on AMD cards have a longer wait. With Presto installed you now

ave the ability to use the Presto rendering engine and the power of your GPU to crunch out the renders. Even on somewhat modest video cards the speed of rendering is noticably quicker than with CPU. For most of my testing I used a GeForce GTX 660M and found Presto to be blazingly fast. With a more dedicated setup with multiple GPUs and nodes you would crank out fully rendered animations in a very short period. The fact that this occurs within SketchUp is hard to believe. We have seen other rendering applications, Thea included, use the word interactive rendering for a while but, with the power of your GPU, interactive has a

* GPU rendering is not possible on proxies currently

whole new meaning. You can load up any of the sample files included in Thea and test it for yourself. In my tests the Cornell Box on CPU did 12 passes in 20secs and 100 passes on GPU in the same time. What I found most interesting was the new Field Mapping engine rendered a completely noise free image in less than 40secs. While this wasn’t any type of benchmarking test it was notable to see first hand the speed of this new engine. It really is hard to find a kink in Thea’s armoury. It offers a rendering solution for 3DS Max, Blender, Modo, Soft Image, Cinema 4D, Rhino and of course SketchUp. It integrates with Collimo Motiva so editing materials after rendering also covered. It uses both Biased and Unbiased engines

and now has GPU rendering capabilities. Plus, it’s user community is one of the most helpful and knowledgeable around. For pricing it is still one of the cheapest studio renderers around at ~$390 or bundled with the SketchUp plugin it is ~$425. So for ~$500 you have a powerful rendering solution that is up there with the big boys like Vray and Maxwell. If you are in the market for a new rendering solution that is quick, powerful and cost effective then Thea Render is hard to ignore. You can try Thea Render and Presto for free to see for yourself by Rich O’Brien

Top: Thea Render Studio v1.2 Bottom right: New tabbed layout Bottom left: Cornell Box tests 23 | © SketchUcation Ltd


Coming in December Solid Iris also recently showcased what is coming in the next release of Thea Presto due in December. In the preview there are heaps of new additions and improvements but primarily I am excited to see the Instancing support for GPU and the combined GPU/CPU rendering. New Physical Skies GPU speed improvements up to 4x faster Camera Z-Clipping Instancing support for GPU Sub Surface Scatering on GPU GPU + CPU speed boost Micro Roughness Thea Presto 1.3 will be a free upgrade for anyone on the current version

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<Snippets> 3D news from around the globe

mensional, edible confections in real sugar. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Artlantis 5

Abvent has released Artlantis 5, the latest update to its architectural rendering software. Some of the new features include a new UI , new media catalog, new preview options for shaders and textures, a guide system to help position the direction and falloff of lights more accurately, and better support for volumetrics.

The Sugar Lab adopted 3D Systems’ Color Jet Printing (CJP) technology to print on a sugar bed using different flavored edible binders that meet all food safety requirements. 3D Systems plans to immediately integrate The Sugar Lab 3D printing technique into its professional and consumer content-to-print platforms with a variety of production-quality applications as well as the ability to 3D print indulgences at home.

Rename by Layer

3D Systems has acquired The Sugar Lab, a start-up micro-design firm, dedicated to 3D printing customized, multi-di26 | © SketchUcation Ltd


An amazing new technology was present at Siggraph called 3-Sweep. This new project allows you to create 3D object from a single image. Developed by Tao Chen, Zhe Zhu, Ariel Shamir, Shi-Min Hu and Daniel Cohen-Or, 3-Sweep builds meshes from profiles defined in the image.

Ricoh Theta

The Render edition of the software costs around $660 and the Studio edition around


Currently it only shoots in LDR so no pocket HDRIs yet.

The speed is not nothing short of amazing just click the image above to see it in action or visit here.

Artlantis 5 is available now for Windows and Mac OS X. The software imports DXF, DWG, DWF, OBJ, FBX and 3DS files, and there are direct import plugins for SketchUp and a range of CAD tools.

Sugar Lab

icated free app. The app also allows images to be pinched, swiped or rotated to edit size, shape and composition.

Rename by Layer is a new plugin by SketchUcation regular Renderiza. The premise behind the tool came about from a discussion on the forums about layer workflows. The tools allows you to rename groups or components based on the layer in which they reside. You can also suffix or prefix numbers to the names to help with organising your scenes.

Ricoh has just announced the world’s first mass-produced imaging device that encapsulates fully spherical scenes with one shot. The handheld device, to be sold at a base price of USD 399, will be available for preorder this month in France, Germany, the UK and the US at The device is synchronized with smartphones, where images can be immediately transmitted via Wi-Fi and viewed with a ded-

SightSpace Free

All users of SightSpace 3D (and Free-D users who purchased a full version) on Apple and Android can access a free 14-day trial of SightSpace Pro features. SightSpace Pro is a monthly subscription that unlocks the advanced features and capabilities of SightSpace 3D including connecting an external GPS for accurate Augmented Reality, location markers for Augmented Reality that are ideal for indoor use, photo markup and annotation, animated bookmarks, dimensions, and more. With SightSpace you can turn any SketchUp model into a mobile Augmented Reality experience.

Plant Factory comes in 5 flavours and pricing ranges from $495 to $1495. You can check out the various options here.

V-Ray 2.0 for SketchUp is compatible with SketchUp 8, SketchUp Make 2013 and SketchUp Pro 2013.


61 Solutions Inc has released Mischief. A sketching app that uses a revolutionary new stroke representation system.

You can find out more here.

Plant Factory

Get the richness of pixel-based brushes and the scalability of vectors. Zoom in to any size and get a perfect edge.

Plant Factory from e-on software allows users to create any kind of vegetation, from simple grass to complex trees by painting, assembling objects or via a node compositor.

Mischief handles a zoom range of 50 trillion to one allowing you to create artwork with extraordinary levels of detail.

You can generate procedural geometry and materials and animate objects using wind and breeze effectors.

You can trial Michief for 15 days on both Windows and Mac or purchase a license for $65.

Export 3D vegetation to any 3D application as standard .OBJ, .3DS or animated in .FBX. Or render stills and animations for compositing jobs or for use as billboards.

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signer’s ability to quickly manage complex scenes with highly detailed models.

Vray 2.0

V-Ray for SketchUp provides designers with faster rendering, better lighting tools, and the ability to create and visualize complex scenes. This designer-friendly rendering solution for SketchUp features dramatic improvements to visualization workflow, image based lighting quality, and a de-

Aerial Drawings

Jim Leggitt of DrawingShortcuts published a really unique tutorial showing how he combines Google Earth imagery with hand drawing marker coloring. You can read more about Jim’s technique on his blog.

LumenRT 4 It’s a game changer! Live Cubes just took on a whole new dimension eon Software continue their successful march towards client immersion into ArchViz interaction with the latest update to LumenRT. I remember the first time LumenRT was unveiled at SketchUp BaseCamp in Colorado in 2010, and the first time I heard the word “live cube”. A great presentation from Dave Burdick, who also discussed E-on’s Vue exporter and integration with Sketchup, showcased the early possibilities of LumenRT. At the time I was very fortunate to be given a working beta months before the May 2011 release. I also remember there were, as expected, many glitch-

es, limitations and stability issues. I even believe I mentioned that maybe E-on is a little too ambitious with their rhetoric and maybe was out of touch with the industry as “who would even use a Live cube?” I wondered... Fast forward to 2013 and the new version of LumenRT. If you are not using Live Cubes in your presentations then you are missing out on huge opportunities and potential new business.

What is a Live Cube I hear you ask?

whole animated scene without the ability to edit the model.

Without getting into technical jargon the simple answer is that a Live Cube is the entire model with environment, sun, lights, animated vegetation, cars and people in one executable file that can be shared with your client who, in turn, can open it up and freely navigate the

This review is not about what LumenRT is as that has been very well documented in a previous Catchup review by Dale Stephens. Rather this is about the new improved release of version 4.

If a picture is worth a thousand words a Live Cube leaves a client speechless.

Top: Bentley Building 28 | © SketchUcation Ltd

LumenRT 4 is a huge step forward. It is Dave Burdick’s 2010 prediction realized, all shiny and wrapped in a very stable package. Now LumenRT 4 is not just a Sketchup 8 and 2013 product as it is now Integrated with Bentley Microstation, Revit and has a GeoDesign plugin for integration with City Engine. Render quality and speed have been greatly enhanced not forgetting that now one can do massive terrains and models without an issue. In the test models I tried out I have yet to experience a crash with the new version. I really like the new animated components 29 | Š SketchUcation Ltd

like moving vehicles and people as well as a handful of animated vegetation. I would however like to see more vegetation in next version as the animated library is a little lacking at the moment. One can now add spot lights and IES lights and even adjust them individually using a setting slider as well as edit animations with the new Animation Editor. So not only can you send a client a Live Cube but also an animation or even high resolution snapshot renders. New animated water materials are now available for accurate pools, ponds, oceans and even lakes. Adding

an even deeper level of realism to your scenes. LumenRT 4 is a game changer and folks that know me on Sketchucation know I do not say this very often unless I truly believe in a product and this one gets a two thumbs up from me. You can trial LumenRT 4 for free at...

by Pete Stoppel

Top: Nick Sonder Home Site 340 and clients interacting Left: IES Lighting, Water caustics and Vegetation

PluginStore 2 Your Complete Guide Indepth look at what is new and improved in SketchUcation Tools v2.0

Things just keep getting better and better for users of the SketchUcation Tools for SketchUp. In this latest release we have crushed more than 50 bugs and introduced some of the most exciting new features yet. You are gonna love it!

New to the PluginStore You like the new look? Well, we do more than just give something a coat of paint and call it shiny and new. We have rewritten the core code from top to bottom to be able to bring you some killer new features.

Social Sharing Firstly, there’s social sharing. Why wouldn’t you want to tell your friends about cool new plugins for SketchUp? Now you can Facebook share, send a tweet or +1 any tool in the PluginStore. For some plugins you’ll see a YouTube icon. This means there is an accompanying video tutorial for that plugin. We’ve tons of videos to add so you will more and more additions over the coming weeks!

Where is that darn plugin gone? Another addition to the PluginStore is the Usage field. Members asked to be able to have an area that listed where the plugin or extension was activated from. Now you have it. Never again forget where that occasional tool is located in SketchUp. Just check the Usage field and off you go. We have a bit of work to do to get these usage fields added for every plugin but with YOUR help we can blow through this in record time ;)

My Plugins for Updates! The biggest addition is the My Plugins feature located in the dropdown filters. This lists what you have downloaded from the PluginStore and checking the box filters outs the plugins that you need to update. How cool is that? This is the first stage of development for the My Plugins section and we do plan on implementing even more features in the future but to begin with this now makes plugin management a much easier task. We’ll let you explore how this one works and be sure to let us know what you think...

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Total Plugin and Extension management Our Plugin and Extension Managers give you complete control over your SketchUp environment. Here further information on using the managers to become a workflow ninja!

Disabling Disabling plugins or extensions with the managers prevents the plugin/extension loading the next time you start SketchUp. This allows you to to tailor SketchUp however you want. Loading a bazillion plugins/extensions is not recommended so we made a tool that allows you to keep it at arms reach.

Enabling Enabling allows to reintroduce any disabled tool to SketchUp. Enabled tools are persistent between sessions so once you enable a tool it will load every time you start SketchUp. If only you could control loaded tools per session? Well.....

Temporary With the Temporary Load feature you have the power to load any disabled tool for that particular session. Select the disabled tool hit Temporary Load and it wil activate for that session only. Next time you restart SketchUp it returns to a disabled state. It would be killer if these enable and disabled states could be saved so you could create custom load outs...... Ask and you shall receive....introducing Sets.

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Sets Sets turn SketchUp into anything! Sets a simple but immensely powerful tool that allows you to save your plugin and extension state as a loadout. Let’s say you disabled those tools you don’t use while setting up your camera positions simple save that state as a set and now you only have your favourite camera tools loading for interupted scene setup. Want a custom loadout for Landscaping? Then save those tools you use for Landscaping as a Set and your are good to go. Next time restart SketchUp you only have those tools you need. Think of it as Zen Modeling for SketchUp! Want to share your Set with a colleague? Simply send him your .set file and they can import it into SketchUp.

Watch this video to see Sets in action.... 32 | © SketchUcation Ltd

The Bonus features....including Uninstalling plugins!!! Autoinstall is an awesome feature for SketchUp. But there are occasions where you grab a plugin from somewhere other than SketchUcation. Under Plugins > SketchUcation > SketchUcation Archive Installer.... you can Autoinstall any .rbz or .zip file into SketchUp locally from your PC or Mac. No more dragging and dropping files into SketchUp.

Uninstalling Plugins New to Version 2 of SketchUcation Tools is the ability to uninstall tools from SketchUp. Because we give users so much control over plugins and extensions it was through user feedback we added an uninstall tool. In principle, it uses the same methodology as the managers and allows you to uninstall and re-install tools. If you dig into your Plugins folder you will see how we perform this unistall function. Files that are uninstalled are renamed to [name].rbx so manually cleaning your plugins of unwanted tools is much easier. Completely removing files from your plugins is not something we wanted to do, that should be left to the user.

That’s It Phew! To think that you have yet to see version 2.5......;)

PS None of this would have been possible without the support from our Premium Members. You have helped put this tool in the communities hands. You have helped fund its development and your continued support helps maintain it. Thank You!

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BuildEdge 3 Sneak Preview Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger....


aron Dietzen, BuildEdge developer, released two enticing videos for the next version of BuildEdge Plan which showcases some new automation and dynamic component insertion.

Version 3 looks to be the strongest release to date. The auto wall and roof generation will save a heap of time and the dynaic component insertion has lots of potential. Scheduled for a release in the next two months Aaron is looking for as much feedback as possible so if you want to share your thoughts now is your chance. You can try BuildEdge Plan 2.0 for free at...

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Click to view

Click to view

CF101: Part 3 - The Preliminaries

The Preliminaries are a set of scaled plans, elevations, and sections – refined from conceptual sketches and schematics – that become the first drawings in a set of construction documents.* These documents include details and specifications that become attachments to a legally binding contract and the basis of the building permit authorizing construction. In other words, the documents are actually drawn for lenders, attorneys, and code officials.


Dormer Roof Bedroom Extension

EAST Covered Entry

Reference north for the Elevations differs from true north and actual solar orientation


A Line in the Sand The challenge for designers and builders on both sides of these construction documents is that a multidimensional process must be reduced to a collection of two-dimensional diagrams, symbols, signs, and notes. This limits the designer’s ability to suggest operational details for the construction and forces builders to translate abstract images into actions that are much more involved than two or even three-dimensional interpretations.

It’s Not About Design Shape and form may have a place for some, but what’s most important to a builder is process. In construction, process is “means and method.” It’s how a particular builder intends to actually put the building together and what makes one builder more competitive than another.

Hip roofs lower the profile of the house and reduce lateral wind loads

Existing house to be protected during construction Roofs are a resource to collect alternative energy

Shed roofs lower the profile of projections from the main roofs

Solar Roof

Retaining Wall


EAST WEST Passive Solar


Living area is open to the loft

Gable roofs heighten the visual impact of the house Skylights and glass ceilings add daylighting and radiate interior lights at night

NORTH SOUTH Dormer windows at loft

What’s important here is that seasoned builders can estimate the cost of construction by simply looking at the Preliminaries without carefully thinking through either means or method. To do this, builders apply a rule of thumb, or unit cost based on current market conditions and their own experience with similar buildings. If there’s anything unusual they simply adjust their prices intuitively. **Unfortunately, because of professional liabilities the plans and specs could not be included on the book’s CD

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Crawl space to access building systems

Retractable Stair

Rules are All Thumbs Estimating by unit cost is only possible because every trade on the project uses their own rule of thumb. Carpenters and finish workers count square footages, masons count bricks/blocks and cubic yards, cabinet makers linear feet, plumbers fixtures, and electricians count outlets. This seemingly relaxed approach to estimating the construction cost follows a time not long ago when builders worked without the formalities of plans and specifications. Castles were built from oil paintings, high-rises from inked linen, and builders as designers were confident that they could figure things out as they went along. Today of course, this openended approach sets the stage for trial and error, conflicts and conditions, and corresponding cost overruns and delays. Dormer roofs increase space and headroom.

Covered porch protects the entry door.

Site Utilization Plan Even the smallest project affects its neighbors by increasing noise and congestion, changing drainage patterns, and generating dirt, dust, and smoke from the construction. Dust, sound and chemicals radiate from the site during construction

Shades and louvers screen the sunroom.

Offsite parking & storage

Jobsite access routes

It’s Not Rocket Science But the point is that the cost of construction can be determined from the Preliminaries without carefully considering either means or method because the details, notes, and specifications in the contract documents for most buildings follow standard practices. That’s why CAD files, boiler plates, and sticky-backs can be cut and pasted from one set of drawings to another. Construction is not rocket science.

This means the neighborhood that surrounds the construction project is an integral part of the jobsite. This includes pedestrian and vehicular traffic, children at play, and the residents and workers occupying adjacent homes and businesses.

SketchUp Simulations What’s interesting is with a few dimensions clarified in the field (next article) and a quick glance at the illustrations shown here we can actually simulate a virtual construction

Existing small house on an oversize residential city lot

Outline of the construction adjacent to the existing house

These are self-contained NESTs*

**NEST: Insitebuilders’ self-contained Natural Energy Systems Test house

What you’ll see in this house then is not that its construction is so difficult, but that it’s so far removed from the norm. I designed the house to combine a number of different construction practices. This includes a variety of field conditions that are similar on many projects – residential or commercial, wood or steel, but the building itself is atypical and would be a challenge for many builders to build. That’s because the process drifts so far from previous experience and enters unfamiliar territory for each of the trades involved in its construction, requiring additional management and attention that cannot be easily broken down into a unit cost. Important though is that any good builder will still begin a cost estimate with his or her rule of thumbs.

To Be Continued....

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In other words, we can think through the assembly of this (or any) building with a piece-based construction model in almost the same way it was once done by early masterbuilders, from the ground up. In this way, construction models suggest an interactive document that might better serve builders working with the variables of the real world. What such a document might look like as a contract remains to be discovered, but the idea of using multidimensional programs like SketchUp to represent each step in the construction of a building is exactly the point of this series of articles. The material presented in this series has been taken from our book, “How a House is Built: With 3D Construction Models” The book includes annotated illustrations, captioned text, videos, models, and the 2D Preliminaries. See: