SketchUp captured the
design world's imagination by doing two very simple -- and
much needed -- things.
First, it created a modeling paradigm that closely emulated
the way that designers work with modeling materials, and
secondly, it enabled the communication of those ideas in
ways that people felt comfortable with -- the 'hand
drawn' quality that it could simulate was and still is very
engaging, especially for clients.
But the inevitable question gets asked: "what
about Photorealism?" Sure, it's always been possible
to export your geometry (and textures, depending on the export
format used) to third party programs, but this has at any
time been accompanied by several caveats. First of all, geometry
doesn't get translated properly (missing faces, wrong smoothing).
Second, textures don't always make the transition properly.
Third, you only want to do a rendering, but have to buy a
modeling, rendering and animation package to use just one
third of it (well, two thirds if you want the animation as
The Use of TurboSketch
Given the preceding, how many of us have thought
how nice it would be to produce photorealistic renderings
right there, inside of SketchUp? IMSI/Design (makers of TurboCAD)
certainly thought so, and came up with TurboSketch, to date
the only Mac-based plug-in renderer for SketchUp.
Studio is basically a collection
of Ruby scripts
for handling model translation and the LightWork
Design rendering engine. Oddly, IMSI/Design have chosen
to bundle the rendering plug-in with a copy of the freely-downloadable
Google SketchUp. However, this has meant that due to licensing
problems with Google, the product is not currently available
for the UK market. This one has us scratching our heads.
Why make the decision to bundle a commercial application
with a freely-available one, if including that freely-available
product means that you close out a large part of your target
market? The plug-in does, after all, install and work fine
with copies of Google SketchUp that are already downloaded,
and also works without any problems with the commercial Google
SketchUp Pro. Answers on a postcard please...
it's installed, TurboSketch Studio notifies its presence
by posting a small palette of nine icons that you can place
anywhere on the screen. These icons represent: Preview Render,
Standard Render, Presentation Quality Render, Save Image:
then come Lighting, Environment, Image and Render controls:
then finally a button to summon the help. (see
You'll also notice that when you right/ctrl-click
on an object, you get two new entries in the contextual menu:
TurboSketch Material and TurboSketch
Light Attributes. (see image
- TurboSketch Studio's palette presents somewhat
weak icons of its key features, with the exception
of the help and lighting buttons.
- New Context Menu Items in Google's SketchUp once
TurboSketch Studio has been installed: TurboSketch
Material and TurboSketch Light Attributes.
Finally, moving over to the Components Browser,
you'll find a new sub-section: TurboSketch Lights where
seven new component light types are installed.
The main claim of TurboSketch is that it emulates
the simplicity of SketchUp in offering one-click rendering.
So how true is this claim? Well, one-hundred percent true.
But is the rendering you obtain any good? Well, by and large,
yes, it is.
I'm sure a lot of us are familiar with the
first results from a render: the anticipation, followed by
profound disappointment at the first results, followed by
the usual round of tweak-and-refine until you get the results
that you wanted the first time. With a few reservations,
TurboSketch Studio largely avoids this and really does delivers
of one-click rendering. We say "largely" because the first
time we tried it we got a jumbled mess. We then realized
that what we were looking at was geometry that was hidden
in our SketchUp files, but was rendering in TurboSketch Studio.
This is a limitation of the Mac version of the program, so
if you've got hidden geometry you'll need to "Save As" --
then delete the hidden stuff. IMSI/Design are working with
Google to resolve this problem.
The standard environment is set up to use the
sun position from your SketchUp file, provides the sun as
the only light source and uses the SketchUp horizon and
colors. The results can be impressive, to say the least.
When the Presentation Quality render option is chosen, the
light and shading quality of the resultant render can be
- With quality set to 'Presentation', and the sun as
light source, one click is all it needs to produce
renders of this quality.
- Another rendering of the same model showing attractive
results. Click on the images to see much larger ones.
There's an almost luminous quality to the sunlight,
and the shading and drop-off in the shadows is extremely
convincing (although the shadows themselves aren't soft-edged). (see
images 03-04). For the presentation quality renders
you will have to wait, however: at 1024 x 768 the render
just over twenty minutes
for our scenes. That's because TurboSketch Studio is unable
to take advantage of multiple processors, which seems a real
shame, especially if you have a Mac
Pro. In this release
animation is also not supported.
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