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Sketchup & it's rendering plugins
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* January 29, 2018, 04:31:08 AM
Wow, this is a sleepy little backwater of a sub-forum.
I've just been reading about Saginaw in the US, made famous when Paul Simon took 4 days to hitchhike out of it so he could 'find America'- this must be DCad's 'Saginaw'!

I've gone on about how useful Sketchup is as a 3D display tool before - I don't use it to build 3D models (even small editing endeavours are painful to me in SKP compared to DCad) but it is very good at displaying and moving around in large files very smoothly. The 'real time' shadows it produces are also indispensable now for me as we now have to produce detailed shadow maps on all commercial & condominium projects in order to get environmental approval.

And it's free! (Sketchup Make)

It's rendering ability is better than DCad but it is still not great, so I recently bought a rendering plugin - Shaderlight - for it which produces stunning results for the money.
As I mentioned, Sketchup is free but I paid about $300 for a licensed copy of Shaderlight (still way cheaper than other photo-realistic renderers) and because it's a plugin for SKP you can take advantage of their massive selection of 3D models which I use to populate my 3d models.

The attached render started as a DCad drawing (724kb size) which I exported to SKP - I geographically placed it in position in Google Earth so the shadows would be correct (my client is very worried about not getting sun in the living rooms, in Thailand sun is bad, very bad).
I then furnished the entire house, added trees and potplants, even wine bottles & a coffee machine in the kitchen. This expanded the SKP file from 440kb (a bit smaller than the DCad file) to about 95mb and it is still easy and smooth to manipulate.

The 'camera' controls are much more intuitive than DCad's controls (ask Doctor Phil what he thinks about that!) with typical 'real camera' controls like focal length. There is a 'walk around' option that allows you to pull yourself through the house, bumping into walls and furniture (but not going through them) you do tend to 'jump up' onto the lower furniture though but it happily 'walks' you up and down stairs.

Shaderlight plugin lets you place all kinds of lights including 'IES' lights which allow you to download light maps from the bulb manufacturer so you can place the actual bulb you'll be buying from your local shops. It's transparency and reflective material options are impressive, I've finally mastered how to get underwater lights in a swimming pool to display the way I want (hint, you need to make the pool tile highly reflective and bump up the wattage of the bulbs massively).
They even get the refractive property of water right, making the pool look very shallow, just like in real.

This render at 3600 x 2025 size (& best possible quality) took about 28 hours to generate, although you can get very usable images at 1800 x 1012 pixels after a couple of hours - before that they are very grainy.

With this type of rendering ability within our grasp, I don't see why DCad should spend any time trying to improve its rendering beyond 'functional', that is, good enough to view the model while you are building it.


January 29, 2018, 05:56:34 AM

You had me until the 28 hours to render part. Cinema 4D may cost 10 times more (the Studio Bundle) but it'll render that image in about 3 minutes, and that's with every conceivable effect possible (but not every one applied, of course). That short render time is really appreciated when the renderings is done and you now realize something is not exactly correct about the image so you have to fix and re-render. When doing animations it renders frames in like 10 seconds for 720p and lower. Any slower will takes days to render a few minutes of animation. 1080p frames could average about 15 to 20 or even 30 seconds each. That's like 10 minutes to render 30 frames, ie, 1 second of animation. I shudder to think what a 4k animation will take.

With this type of rendering ability within our grasp, I don't see why DCad should spend any time trying to improve its rendering beyond 'functional', that is, good enough to view the model while you are building it.
I disagree. Exporting always requires loads of extra work, such as edges that were hidden in dcad (either automatically or manually) shows up when exported. May not be important for photo renderings but a pain for outlined renderings. Also, dcad is real good at at saving images of any shape or size and has a nice talent for inserting those images back in the drawing, exactly where I want them (well, except for its wacky front and rear cutting planes which causes close and not-that-far-away parts of the scene to not render, in perspective modes mostly).

Dcad needs to be fully functional, especially since its Plane entities are from a different universe, with the main problem being holes get closed in when exported. Dcad's Solid Surfaces was an attempt to fix this situation but they don't even open up in some export type (DXF, for example). Not to mention Solid Surfaces are foreign even to dcad. For example, you can't highlight a bunch of points and move them all at once (only the point you clicked on will move).

« Last Edit: January 29, 2018, 06:23:16 AM by Lar »


* January 29, 2018, 07:02:53 AM
Hi Lar,
I'm not saying DCad should abandon rendering abilities, I'm only saying they don't need to put time into developing reflective surfaces etc when we have other options that will do the job better because they are specifically designed to do that job and nothing else.
Don't try to be a 'jack of all trades' when you know what the result will be...
As far as the render time is concerned, I had set that at an unusually high resolution and with maximum quality settings.
The same image rendered 720x405 and set at '3 out of 10' fineness instead of 10 out of 10 just rendered in 3 minutes 10 seconds.

That's the sort of render I do to 'proof' the image then if I'm happy I'd produce a better quality (1800 x 1012) and let it run for a couple of hours only.
Because it's running through the Sketchup program which I don't use for design work I let it  run in the background and get on with DCad work with very little noticeable sluggishness in performance.

I'd only do a long render time for publishing quality images (the TIFF file for that HD image is 42Mb)


January 29, 2018, 08:08:15 AM
Those are amazing images, I want to move in tomorrow!!

This must have taken a huge amount of time to get it to this point.

What part of this all would the original Designcad drawing show?

User since Pro-design

* January 29, 2018, 08:49:55 AM
Here you go Rob,
I'd forgotten how difficult it is to get position and field of view set properly in DCad - took a while to try to get in the right position and then it suffers from the disappearing foreground issue that Lar spoke of.

The inappropriate colours (red columns etc) are done partly so it's easy to identify in wireframe (I have assigned colours for different layers) and because it is much easier to assign a texture to a colour in Sketchup than to a layer - it's not possible to make one layer editable (that I know of) in sketchup without turning off all the other layers one by one so you can select what you want, but to pick a colour and then re-assign it changes all of that colour in the model in one go.
The shadows in GDI mode were in a mess and the pool water went black (as often happens if your eyeline is too close to a plane) so I stayed in OpenGL mode.



January 29, 2018, 08:58:31 AM

Adrian, does Shaderlight have a 'reflection depth' setting. Ie, can you control how many times a reflection bounces between surfaces, like if 2 mirrors are face to face. Lots of large reflective areas could cause slow renderings because, for example, a reflection of the glass door in the pool would also reflect those large glass walls and all their reflections. I normally set mine to 3 but for animations I might set it to 1 for especially slow scenes (ie, 20 seconds or more per frame).

« Last Edit: January 30, 2018, 08:33:16 AM by Lar »


* January 29, 2018, 05:37:08 PM
No Lar, not as such - but I expect the 'Render Quality' slider bar (set at 3/10 in the attached screenshot) achieves what you are talking about in a crude way. There are also a number of choices for reflective quality in the materials editor (also attached) but no choices on reflection index in the transparent & translucent options.

I had a quick look this morning and noticed Google lists 17 plugin renderers for Sketchup now - the list gets longer every day:
IRender nXt
IDX Renditioner
Indigo Renderer
SU Podium
Twilight Render

One plugin not listed there is the one I started with, Visualizer. (
That program is now absolutely free - they are not charging because it's been discontinued. It does a very good render but does not have the ability to add lights - so you have to rely on sunlight to illuminate things.
That's fine for external views and it is free so it's worth experimenting with, I don't have it installed any more so I can't show you an example. Visualizer uses the Sketchup name for the materials to decide what they should look like, so it's worth renaming materials to get the results you want. (a material called 'rough concrete' will give a different result to one called 'smooth concrete') Render times are long with that program too...


January 30, 2018, 08:41:42 AM

Looks refreshingly simple. I honestly think C4D's programmers write code in their sleep because the app's endless options has endless options. This can be overwhelming at times but in the long run I prefer it that way.