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We chat to Dan and Jack, Head of Ops and MD of the Archilime Academy, for a look behind-the-scenes into how a lifelong love for Architecture evolved into the creation of a leading academy teaching the art of visualisation.

How did you get started in the CGI industry? Why are you passionate about “creating your world”?

Dan: For me it all stems from a love of Architecture. Hours spent playing the Sims after graduating from Lego sowed the seeds for an interest in the built environment, which naturally culminated in a desire to study Architecture at University. 

Uni was great in exposing us to the different roles that an aspiring architect would have to play. It was more than simply teaching us how to design, but how to create your vision so that others can buy into it. ‘Communications’ was one particular module that introduced us to the different techniques and technologies that we could use to present our work.

Personally, the 3D modelling aspect of this really piqued my interest. Coincidentally, Jack and I met during one of these lessons, and ever since then we have fed off this joint interest in visualising the world around us.

As a visual thinker myself, the ability to create my ideas in 3D and then intuitively edit them to my liking was just what I needed. In its most basic form, the only things needed were a laptop, an idea and a few hours.

The real watershed moment for me was when we discovered that it’s possible to take our cartoony SketchUp models to the next level by bouncing light around our models using ray-tracing programs like V-Ray

As we approached the end of the course, I discovered that my passion to visualise overtook the drive to design, which explains why when the opportunity came to join Jack and become a full-time CGI artist, it became a no-brainer.

Jack: My passion for Architecture came when I was thrown into a two week work experience stint back when I was in year 10 to keep me out of trouble!

My head teacher originally signed me up to get a work experience placement working as an elf in the Peacocks shopping centre in Woking which I regretfully had to decline (true story).

I loved to paint, draw and the shapes of architecture which always flowed through my art but I never knew what path I wanted to pursue.

There was no motivation or drive to really pursue any of my artistic passions so just stumbled along in school. I was then offered a placement within my first ever Architecture practice in Guildford called The Hall Design Group.

One of the directors that took me on is now a client of ours and the feeling is incredible to have been able to go full circle!

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I came to my final year of University and tried to apply to about 100 Architects practices all over Devon to absolutely no avail… Realising that there were too many students looking for the same position, I decided to see what else I could offer an architect that maybe another student didn’t have in their locker.

This seemed to be the ability to offer 3D modelling that the Architect could then take on a small cost and return to the client for a high value result. I started re-approaching the same contacts that never got back to me and soon started to get a response. It was slow at first but it was something I knew could grow if I was consistent.

To this day, we still have clients of Archilime that were Architects I approached for part time office work 9 years ago. The rest is history, we grew according to the ongoing clients needs.

When did you spot the need for an Archilime Academy?

Dan: Primarily as a visualisation company, we are massively lucky to have clients who really see the value in 3D modelling and CGI. We were often asked for tips by proactive and inquisitive clients who would like to try their hand at visualisation. So, the tips that we offered, quickly turned into mini sessions, which then evolved into full-fledged courses as they gained popularity!

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Something which is often overlooked is how we ensure that our standards internally are always met with multiple artists working on projects together. Besides the evident need for strong team chemistry, workflows need to be standardised to some extent so that any member of our team can pass their project to another without the quality of final output dropping. 

I guess you could say that the Archilime Academy is a product of both external and internal drivers which fundamentally teaches the same workflow to ensure cross-compatibility to the point of photorealism.

Jack: I always knew Dan and I had a very similar thought process about focussing on some sort of community. We both agree that natural skill can be found from anyone, it just needs nurturing and sustaining so that person has the best opportunity to flourish into the person they want to be. Ensuring their ownership and career journey being the most important part of the company growth.

We carry that exact same philosophy to the way Archilime hire staff in the way that we find positive, good attitude, productivity and coach the industry skills across over the space of 2-3 years. 

From this we wanted to form a friendly community that could offer support to any creatives that surround our industry. Dan has always had experience with coaching people especially younger kids and it’s a really natural gift he has.

The discussion of bringing an Academy to the business was had between the two of us and then Dan immediately started to build the foundations of the courses whilst generating ideas and scope of how this would run operationally.

There was definitely a massive need for creative professionals to learn how to showcase their proposals and designs in 3D form and this stretched across lots of SME’s within the creative industry, the main few being Interior Designers, Architects and Landscape Designers.

If we could add value to their service and provide them with a skillset they could then upsell to their own clients, we knew that it had a place.

What is the most rewarding thing about getting delegates through your courses?

Dan: Looking back and seeing how far they have come. For me this is evident especially on our 3-Month Dev. Programs, which (as the name suggests) spans several months, which highlights the increase in quality of output greatly from beginning to end.

First and foremost, it is a pleasure to be able to help anyone learn anything – so to have the opportunity to teach or coach concepts which we absolutely love is a huge honour for me personally and us as a whole.

Jack: Agreed with Dan on this really, the reward of seeing someone succeed after trying so hard to better themselves. That’s the point of why we are doing this. Yes, to help them find more value within a business service offering but also to offer support to companies and freelancers who wish to expand their know-how.

What has been your biggest challenge since starting up the academy?

Dan: I feel that Jack and I would give very different answers here, but my biggest challenge would be the number of different hats that I need to wear on a daily basis! Besides coaching and managing our amazing visualisation team, we need to keep an eye on how we market the Academy and look for business development opportunities outside of the daily duties that take up the majority of our time.

We are all learning lots as we grow the Academy ever more in 2022 as this presents plenty of opportunities for growth; both as a company but also professionally.

Jack: Definitely the most recent change in business climates damaged us and threw us a few obstacles to overcome, just like everyone else in some way. We invested a lot of finances into building a business plan that was then shook by Covid and forced us to essentially redesign the whole business model.

Going from a face to face, on-site coaching academy to shifting the business online to offer a single ‘zero to hero’ master class for anyone worldwide has taken a long time re-building this.

The effects of Covid pretty much froze the Archilime Academy for almost a year whilst the visualisation & design departments had to take priority for cashflow reasons. The silver lining to all of this is that it has allowed Dan and I to seriously re-sculpt the business model and do this again but learning from everything we had done before. Looking back, Covid has forced us to plan for the next 2-3 years and really look into how this could scale up. 

What do you find to be the biggest challenge in your industry when it comes to educating artists?

Dan: I love this question! For me it comes down to adoption. 

Everyone appreciates a beautifully composed and high-quality image, but an awareness of the know-how to be able to create it requires investment in time and money – both of which may be limited when it comes to the fields of property marketing & architecture.

We have noticed that since the first Covid lockdown, the world has seen the value in CGI and embraced the industry out of necessity – mass adoption will continue with the emergence of VR, which from our point of view is a hugely positive sign.

Jack: I honestly don’t see it a problem when educating artists about what we can offer from the Archilime Academy. I believe in what we are doing – we add value for the delegate to pass onto their client. The most tricky aspect of sharing the value is trying to understand how the course can benefit individuals.

Every delegate will use it differently but this is exciting for me. I love the business development process of doing this! A lot of Architects use Revit or similar – what we are offering is something to come hand in hand to that. We aren’t aiming to to replace their already adopted process.

Can you tell me 3 words each that underpins the WHY of the Archilime Academy?

Dan: Market your ideas.

Jack: Learning, creative community 

Lastly, what are your hopes for the future of the Archilime Academy?

Dan: To reach a wider audience and expand our offering. 

We know how popular CGI is currently, and how widespread VR will be in the coming years. We genuinely feel that we are uniquely placed to be able to help people into these industries as new technologies become available and widely adopted.

Jack: What Dan said! To try to be the support arm of many creative industries looking to develop their technology offerings and add value to their client services. 

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A look back at the past year and a preview of what’s ahead

It’s a new year and we’re excited to take a look back at the past year at Archilime Academy. We’ve had some amazing milestones, completed lots of projects in our CGI “lab”, and have been planning for 2022. Ultimately, creating more amazing content for our delegates. 

As the World felt like it was closing in,  Archilime Academy broadened their offering:

Moving our courses to being completely online, we began hosting live Q&A’s and are now preparing pre-recorded content for our Archilime Academy Masterclass to be released in the Autumn. We made our courses accessible to anyone with an internet connection and tried to utilise working-from-home. Did you know over 50% of our audience are based in the USA? So going “online” is perfect -whilst also not forgetting our native delegates!

Human to human interaction is still key:

It’s no surprise that online learning is great in terms of accessibility, reach and convenience. However, we really wanted to ensure we had real-time human to human interaction, ensuring everyone felt supported. With an aim to be as hands-on as possible, we’re often praised for our attention to detail and guidance. Getting involved in our community and creating a sense of belonging is also key for any course we deliver.

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The industry is constantly evolving, be open to change:

We’ve been working behind the scenes on a brand new course and as we did, trends in CGI evolved. We quickly adapted and pivoted our content to be bespoke to the new V-Ray for Sketchup update which will be released in September. Working alongside Chaos, our new offering will be one of a kind, world-class and will contain decades of industry knowledge packed into one masterclass.

Upgrade marketing efforts

In the fast-paced world of CGI and property marketing, it’s becoming crucial to invest in marketing and really showcase the academy, tutors and software. More importantly, what it can do for our delegates and how you can use skills learnt in “real life”. From festive scenes to a slight brand refresh there’s so much in store for 2022.

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It’s true when they say Keep Calm and Carry On

It’s been a tough couple of years for most and the world has seemingly lost the plot! However, our delegates have been more dedicated than ever and their drive has pushed us further.  We are truly committed to bringing you the best in V-Ray for SketchUp training, support and know-how. From snazzy new renders to pushing the boundaries of SketchUp, we are working harder than ever before to ensure that our delegates can do the same. 

If you haven’t already heard, there’s a discount code running through January! Just input JANWITHDAN22 at checkout for any course booked during January.

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If you’d like to be kept in the know about upcoming courses, projects and events sign up to our newsletter here or give us a shout!


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Improve your V-Ray Textures using these 5 top tips!

We are often asked for guidance on how to improve the quality of V-Ray textures, so we want to give you our 5x top tips which will supercharge your workflow and boost the realism of your work!


1. Never leave the reflection colour as black

Reflections are visible in almost every material – there are very few exceptions to this in the world around us.

Improve V-Ray textures | Reflections are present on every surface.

Consequently, as CGI artists, we need to represent this within our work and ensure that our materials are always programmed to reflect light.

Improve V-Ray textures | We must program our materials to reflect light

As you can see, when we have our reflection colour set to black, we do not see any reflections…

Improve V-Ray textures | Reflection colour of black gives us no reflections whatsoever

Whereas when we set our reflection colour to white, we see really intense reflections.

Improve V-Ray textures | Reflection colour of white gives us intense reflections

Note the difference between reflection intensity and reflection glossiness

There is a difference between reflection colour and reflection glossiness - note the difference here

We cover this on our Access into V-Ray for SketchUp courses, held at the end of every month over Zoom!

Key takeaway to improve your V-Ray textures: always change the reflection colour from black

Improve V-Ray textures | Never leave reflection colours as black

 


2. Pay attention to repeating textures

There are few aspects to life as inconvenient as repeating (or tiled) textures…

Improve V-Rat Textures | Tiled textures are lacking in realism

An great material could be ruined if it repeats itself too often, and you can see visible repetitions within your work

Improve V-Ray Textures | High quality materials can be created in V-Ray, but we must address how these are applied (or wrapped) onto geometry within our model

It is fair to deduce that we must take measures to prevent this from happening… there are a few things that we can do.

Try and use the largest scale images possible for your materials. Think large-scale!

Improve V-Ray textures | Always look for large scale textures where possible

This fundamentally reduces the number of times that a material must repeat itself on a given surface.

We can also use something called Stochastic Tiling

Improve V-Ray textures | Adding stochastic tiling is done as follows

Using this technique, V-Ray automatically randomises the positioning of your materials – reducing the tiling effect!

Key takeaway to improve your V-Ray textures: use large-scale maps & add stochastic tiling

Improve V-Ray textures | Recording made by Archilime Academy showing the effects of Stochastic Tiling within the V-Ray 5 for SketchUp

 


3. How to fix glass errors

Does your glass sometimes show up as black, or just generally looks strange?

Improve V-Ray textures | Black glass is fixed within V-Ray for SketchUp by ensuring that the faces are facing the front

You’re not alone!

You may have glass applied to back faces – V-Ray hates this! Turn on the monochrome face style to check

Graphic of glass applied to back faces - checking with View, Face Style, Monochrome

V-Ray requires 2x faces of glass, with front (or white) faces facing outwards.

Improve V-Ray textures | A gif made by Archilime Academy showing the correct setup for glass
We also recommend using one of the preset glass materials – they work great!

If you follow these rules for glass, you will never have any more issues with glass!

Key takeaway to improve your V-Ray textures: glass in V-Ray requires 2x faces, with front faces facing out. Check this using the monochrome face style

Improve V-Ray Textures | It is crucial that we ensure that we address incorrect glass materials

 


4. Add specular or gloss maps into the reflection glossiness texture slot

Do your textures look uniform and flat?

Flat reflections are a result of adding a value in the reflection glossiness

Have you ever seen one of these maps before?

Create Realistic Textures | A specular map dictates where on the material we will see glossy or matte reflections
A specular map dictates where on the material we will see glossy or matte reflections.

Add them into your reflection glossiness slots to create varying levels of gloss across your material.

Using maps, we can create variances in reflection across the material

If required, you can wrap these gloss maps in a colour correction to enable to adjust this further

Colour corrections can be added to any type of map to change the appearance of a material

We can see the comparison between a material with & without a map inside the reflection glossiness slot.

The difference between using a gloss map and not using one

Check out more on how to do this on our blog on how to create realistic textures!

Key takeaway to improve your V-Ray textures: using maps to control your materials’ glossiness makes them more realistic

Improve V-Ray Textures | An advanced V-Ray material
An advanced V-Ray material

 


5. Add imperfections to your textures

Nothing is ever perfectly smooth…

Surface imperfections are often what tells us that a material is photorealistic

Not even seemingly ‘flat’ surfaces…

No surface is ever truly flat in the real world

Motes of dust, minute scratches or greasy fingerprints – top-level CGI artists look at add these details to our finishes.

Improve the Lighting in your CGI - An interior CGI of The Priory in Tetbury

It is possible to add black and white alpha masks into the reflection glossiness and/or bump slots.

Scratches are seen everywhere in the real world - as much as we hate it!

Wrap these in a colour correction, and tweak the brightness and contrast of these maps to achieve the desired results.

Scratches can be added to surfaces by adding alpha maps into the bump sections of the asset editor

Key takeaway to improve your V-Ray textures: use alpha masks to simulate surface imperfections.

Improve V-Ray Textures | The use of alpha masks to break the uniformity on flat surfaces is crucial for realism

 


Want more tips like this?

Join our mailing list for professional, technical content like this as well as offers on courses, updates about upcoming webinars and prize giveaways!

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Brought to you by the Archilime Academy

 


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5 time saving techniques for SketchUp or V-Ray

1. Hotkeys

When extrapolated for the full working day; the everyday SketchUp user may spend upwards of 10 minutes simply searching for the correct tool to use.

Introducing Hotkeys.

Also known as shortcuts, hotkeys are a defined as:

A key (or combination of keys) which give you quick and immediate access to a particular function within SketchUp.

The particular function that the definition above refers to would be different for each SketchUp user – meaning that we need a way to manually assign certain shortcuts to assist us with very specific tasks.

Head over to your preferences window, and click on the shortcuts tab.

Simply search for the tool that you use frequently, and tap the key (or series of keys) that you would like to assign to activate the function.

A simple concept – but within a week, we guarantee that this will make you feel more fluent within SketchUp.

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If you would like to hear about other ways that you can feel more fluent within SketchUp, why not try our Access into SketchUp course?

2. Components

The second of our 5 time saving techniques for SketchUp or Vray is, in our opinion, components are THE best way of advancing the quality of your 3D scenes in the most time-effective manner possible.

How do they work?

Right-click on one of your groups within your scene, and ‘Make Component’

This simple process now gives this entity new editing properties. When you make copies of this component, you will notice now, that editing one of them enables all of the others to be edited simultaneously!

The sky really is the limit when it comes to the applications that this offers us.

How do we use them?

Vegetation.

Make loads of copies of a piece of vegetation; randomising the rotation and scale as you go…

Here, we’ve used something called a V-Ray Proxy – which explains why our ‘vegetation’ looks like a box! When rendered, this box in-fact looks like a small patch of meadow grasses.

As you can see, the same principle still applies – an edit made to one of these affects each and every other instance!

We cover components in great detail on our Access into SketchUp courses, which tend to run at the end of every month. Click on the link to find out more!

 

3. Parametric Modelling

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way where, as if by magic, you could pre-program a set of rules into an intelligent program, which could generate a whole host of different modelling elements, with minimal input from the user?

Well, I’m very glad that you asked…

Rather than manually modelling, duplicating and generating profiles and components, take a look at parametric modelling plugins such as Skatter and Profile Builder.

When it comes to creating realistic vegetation, Skatter is the sharpest tool of the lot.

As the name suggests, this intuitive plugin allows you to scatter vegetation components around your model, allowing you to randomise the distribution in ways hitherto impossible using SketchUp’s native toolset.

As the name suggests, this intuitive plugin allows you to scatter vegetation components around your model, allowing you to randomise the distribution in ways hitherto impossible using SketchUp’s native toolset.

We have been using this plugin for years, and it truly is the cornerstone of our landscaping workflow, which enables us to apply and produce complex and detailed landscaped imagery.

Building complex, parametric models is achieved through Profile Builder 3‘s intuitive interface, which gives you the power to construct detailed and future-proof assemblies with labour-saving in-mind.

 

Download preset assemblies or create your own – we really do vouch for the efficiency of this powerful SketchUp extension!

We are often asked for bespoke training in these plugins – take a look into our Top-Up courses if you would like to know more.

4. Test Rendering

If you have done some rendering in the past, you will be well aware that this is not instantaneous… unfortunately.

That said, there are certain techniques that you can use to speed up this rendering process, depending on the quality of the output that you require.

When ultra-high quality is not necessary for the early stages of a project, using a Denoiser in conjunction with a low-quality draft enables you to understand the design without waiting a long time for the render to finish.

After running a few tests of our own – adding a Denoiser to lower quality drafts buys you time to spend elsewhere.

Another pro-tip is to use region renders whenever possible – as the name suggests, this allows you to test-render only a small portion of the overall image.

The same principle applies when interactive rendering when using the ‘follow-mouse’ technique. After pressing the icon highlighted below, the render engine will focus its attention on the position of your cursor – another very useful technique if you need a quick solution.

We cover rendering techniques in great detail on our Access into V-Ray courses, held in the middle of every month – check out the link to find out more!

5. Distributed Rendering

This time for V-Ray not Sketchup, one of our 5 time saving techniques Many hands make light work.

Imagine being able to harness all of the computing power of your office or home, enabling you to ‘borrow’ computing power from all the machines within your local area network…

Introducing the V-Ray Swarm.


Intelligent render engines like V-Ray allow the user to break-up and ‘distribute’ the rendering workload across many machines.

Depending on the number of cores within your CPU (the brain of your computer), you will have varying amounts of buckets (which are the small squares that can be seen above). 

When you add another machine to your V-Ray Swarm, you will notice that the number of buckets increases – which means that your render will finish much faster!

Let’s have a look at a real-world application for this…

Whenever anyone purchases a new V-Ray license, you automatically receive a free V-Ray Render Node accompaniment.

Imagine that we have two machines in the office, one that we will work on, and the other that will act as our render node.

We then install V-Ray on both the primary machine, and also the render node.

Once we are ready to render, we then turn on the V-Ray Swarm at the bottom of our Asset Editor, and then go to add a new node. You reserve the right to name your nodes anything you like – if you are cool like us, you can also name all of our machines after characters within the Marvel cinematic universe!

We truly believe that these time-saving techniques are useful to anybody, regardless of your level of SketchUp and V-Ray – which is why we cover all of the above on our Access into SketchUp and Access into V-Ray for SketchUp courses – head over to our shop to find out more!

All of our courses are now held online, and we truly believe that the quality of the course is only improved by being able to attend within the comfort of your own home or office.

Archilime Academy online course provider 3d modelling visualisation cgi

Brought to you by the Archilime Academy

 


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V-Ray 5 for SketchUp: Exteriors Masterclass

Thu, Nov 19, 2020 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM GMT

V-Ray 5 for SketchUp: Interiors Masterclass

Fri, Nov 20, 2020 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM GMT

V-Ray 5 for SketchUp is here! Join us for a free two-part masterclass to learn the latest features and how they can supercharge your workflow. Ivan Kozaliev, V-Ray CG specialist at Chaos Group, and Dan Stone, Head of Operations at Archilime, will take the digital stage to showcase the new features and their specialist tips and tricks. You’ll also have a chance to ask any questions after the session. See you there!

For every attendee (one in each session!) there will be the chance to win a free V-Ray License from Elmtec along with a free 4 hour online top-up course from Archiime Academy!

Until then, why not take a sneak peak into the video from Archilime, in partnership with Chaos Group where Dan shares how these features enhance workflow in the studio.

Schedule

5 mins: Welcome and introduction from Elmtec’s Marketing Manager and MC extraordinaire – Lauren Donnebaum

40 mins: Ivan Kozaliev, V-Ray CG specialist at Chaos Group, masterclass showing you the new features he loves (exteriors on Thursday, interiors on Friday)

25 mins: Archilime’s V-ray Licensed trainer Dan Stone, showing you the new features he loves (exteriors on Thursday, interiors on Friday)

15 mins: Open forum – your chance for your questions answered from the experts

5 mins: Close –  Announcing winner (one each session!) of a free V-Ray License from Elmtec along with a free 4 hour online top-up course from Archiime Academy


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Earlier this year, as a result of the pandemic, many companies had to make the bold leap of faith from face-to-face training to online lessons. Quite a terrifying concept for some, especially for those whose in-person training sessions were already a huge success – why would anyone want to change this for something that seemed less personal and more disconnected? And, some people asked, what even is Zoom?

Fast forward a few months, and companies and delegates have realised the amazing benefits of online learning. In many areas, the balance has been tipped, with online lessons coming out as having advantages that can outweigh face-to-face training. However, not all training providers are as good as each other, and you should choose wisely. Look for a high quality training academy that will offer the best teaching from industry experts who will take you on a learning journey to further your skills; and offer you support over the years ahead. Find an academy led by teachers who are specialists in a specific field, rather than a generic training provider; and you’ll be in good hands.

What Should I Expect from my Training Academy?

For your experience to be relevant and worthwhile to you personally, your pre-course care should not be overlooked. This involves having contact with delegates in advance of the online course, to chat through your needs to ensure a more targeted and tailored course. Neither you nor your tutor should simply rock up, without finding out, in advance, what your current skill set is, and what you would like to get out of the course. Building up a bit of a rapport before the online learning session begins, ensures that you feel more at ease at the start of the course, and makes it easier for your tutor, too!

So, you’re all set up, laptop on, poised and ready for the Zoom session to begin: this situation is easier for some than others. You might well already be a tech whizz, or your buzzing social life might mean that you have virtually clinked a few glasses of prosecco over the lockdown period with friends during Saturday nights in. For others, this may not be an experience that feels so comfortable, and this is where delegates often feel the benefits of that pre-course introduction. You also have to remember that 2020 has got a whole generation of Grannies on the Zoom software – enough said.

Zoom’s Sophisticated Software

Using Zoom for training purposes is very different to using it to toast your cousin’s birthday at a weekend virtual gathering. Used to its full capacity, it is a very efficient, smart and sophisticated piece of software thanks to its many interactive capabilities. Being able to annotate everyone’s screens actually puts training via Zoom a step ahead of face-to-face courses where the tutor potentially needs to go round the room attending to individual delegates; possibly holding up the natural flow of the course. WithZoom, screens can be shared, regularly rotating throughout each of the delegates during the course; meaning that everyone can see what everyone else is doing. This sharing experience can also build a sense of camaraderie equivalent to in-person courses.

The ability to have easy, group interaction is a feature of Zoom that should not be underestimated, as it can bring a much needed sense of community at a time when currently many are working from home and feeling quite isolated. This way of upskilling in a social setting also offers a renewed sense of optimism and empowerment for those who can’t get to face-to-face training at this time, yet want to improve their skills and future job prospects.

Networking opportunities might be an added bonus too – as often happens when a like-minded group of people come together. Furthermore, online learning has logistical and monetary advantages, as it fits in well around tighter timescales and finances: no travel or overnight accommodation needed here.

Once the course is over, that shouldn’t mean the end of the support – personalised help and post-course support should be readily available. The online lessons can, and should, be screen recorded. Your training provider can then hand this to delegates (preferably free of charge), with other useful course materials. This post-course care is just as important, if not more so, as the pre-course involvement.

Do your Research

When choosing a course, look at both the quality of the course and tutors, as well as the after-care provision. Full support through video calling, emailing and phone should be offered, and delegates should be encouraged to utilise this service. Hopefully, this will then ward off the dreaded ‘forgetting curve’! The forgetting curve suggests the decline of memory retention in time; a graph showing that humans tend to halve their memory of newly learned knowledge in a matter of days or weeks unless they consciously review the learned material. Now, there’s no point shelling out money on a course to simply forget half of all those gems of wisdom a couple of weeks later! Therefore, these post-course materials and support are a huge benefit to your online-learning experience.

Finally, make sure you check out the reviews of any course before signing up. You should be trained by experienced, industry experts who are passionate about what they do. Find the right training academy for you, and you’ll be zooming to online learning success in no time!

To find out about the Archilime Academy and our range of courses, including SketchUp and V-Ray for SketchUp Pro, do get in touch – we’d love to hear from you! Call us on: 01364 654 267 or email: academy@archilime.com


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How to Align CAD

Modelling from CAD within SketchUp – where do I start?

If you are modelling within SketchUp, you will need to know how to import and align CAD drawings. Whether your own or somebody else’s; well-aligned CAD drawings are the literal foundations upon which you build your SketchUp models.

Let us explore how to align CAD in the most efficient way possible. To clarify; the plan is for us to import CAD before tracing over it to create our 3D model. Let’s get started!

Importing…

When initially importing a CAD file (in .dwg format), it normally enters the SketchUp workspace as a completely flat group.

CAD imported into SketchUp
Next step; organisation

Organisation…

Something else that you will notice is that all of the CAD layers are visible as tags within SketchUp. We don’t need all of these so we can compress these tags down into one which we’ll rename CAD. I would now recommend creating a tag to be used for the massing of our 3D model.

GIF showing the layers brought in during a CAD import to SketchUp
When importing CAD into SKP, layers are preserved

We also need to ensure that each floor plan and elevation is grouped separately.

CAD plans and elevations are grouped seperately after being imported into SketchUp
Grouping geometry protects it from being warped when manipulating later.

Reposition…

Now that we have organised our drawing, let’s begin positioning the plans and elevations. Take the ground floor and move it over to the origin as shown (also remember to align right angles on the plan with the red and green axis as you can see here)

A ground floor CAD plan within SketchUp which has been moved to the origin for ease of use
Moving the GF Plan to the origin is a great way to ensure that you are modeling using the red and green guides (or axes)

The next step is to align the elevations around the ground floor plan. Pay special attention to things like window and door openings, because we use these features to resolve whether or not we need to flip our elevations.

Elevations are lined up with the corresponding plans
Move and rotate your elevations to ensure that they are aligned with your plans. Remember to cross-reference to ensure correct alignment!

We can now stand up our elevations by using the rotate tool. A tip from us is to use the direction buttons on your keyboard once the rotate tool is active, as this will better enable you to lock the orientation of your rotation!

Align CAD drawings by rotating elevations in SketchUp
It is best to use the rotate tool to ensure that all elevations are stood up in preparation for modelling later.

Now simply place your first-floor plan over the top of your ground floor plan and lift up to the correct height as shown on the elevations. Repeat this step for each additional floor.

And hey presto you have now successfully aligned your CAD drawings! 

Aligned CAD drawings imported into SketchUp from AutoCAD
Next step: start modeling!

For more information on how this is done in practice, check out our Access into SketchUp and Top-Up courses, taught online with the Archilime Academy!

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Dome lights: how do I use them to create a night time CGI?

You may not know it yet, but a dome light is the answer to creating ever-more realistic lighting setups within your CGIs…

Let’s break it down…

In a day-time scene, we have direct sunlight to illuminate our scenes. Direct light also scatters through the atmosphere and illuminates our environment.

A preview CGI from Peter Guthrie. Used to light a 3D scene using a HDRI within a dome light
HDRIs from PG-Skies.net. is a great way to illuminate your night scenes.

V-Ray considers both direct and indirect illumination as two separate light sources.

To create a night-time scene, we require a technique to remove direct sunlight, whilst being able to create a night-time environment.

To do this, we use something called a Dome Light

A flattened, spherical HDRI from Peter Guthrie. Used to light a 3D scene
A flattened, spherical HDRI from PG-Skies

A Dome light is a type of V-Ray light that surrounds our entire model, forcing light inwards. Images can be loaded into these light sources, which enables the user to simulate real-world environments by using panoramic HDR images. 

Learn more about the benefits of a Dome Light on our Access into V-Ray for SketchUp course

I like to think of a Dome Light as a giant snow globe – with our model in the centre. We can choose what the sky looks like by swapping in different panoramic images.

Now that we know what dome lights are; what does this mean for you?

How to insert Dome Lights into your 3D scenes within SketchUp

Select the highlighted tool to add a Dome light into your scene. Putting this into practice is straightforward. Pick out the Dome light tool from your V-Ray toolbar…

Loading a bitmap image into our Dome Light.
Click on the chequered box to import your HDRI…

Load in your HDRI…

Preview of a scene lit by Dome light using a spherical panoramic, HDRI image
Rotate to ensure that your shadows are pointing in the correct direction!

Hit render! Don’t forget to rotate your dome light to adjust the position of the sun

 

Over the years we have come across many different sources for dome lights…

We would like to recommend just two…

A preview of a 3D scene, lit using a Dome Light. The HDRI image used is from PG-Skies.
PG-Skies provide rendered previews so that you know what the sky will look like once rendered.

For variety, we highly recommend taking a look at Poliigon. Besides offering free assets; they operate a simple, subscription-type service where, depending on your package, you obtain different amounts of credits every month to spend on HDRIs, textures or models

If you are looking for top-quality HDRIs, look no further than Peter Guthrie’s shop – PG Skies. This in-depth collection of ultra high-quality HDRIs contains skies for all occasions. The handy preview renders show each of these in action, to make picking out your favourite that much easier!

 

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High quality 3D models of furniture… where to find them? 

A product CGI that demonstrates the sourcing of a high quality armchair model from Design Connected.
A Product CGI showing high-quality models downloaded from Design Connected.

We get asked this because SketchUp & V-Ray users like yourself are wise to the fact that adding better quality 3D models into your scenes adds realism to your work.

We are in complete agreement – from our experience; there is no other part of the visualisation process that boosts the quality of a CGI more than the usage of high-quality, realistic 3D models…

Check out our work here!

Finding the right source… now that’s another question entirely…

 

Our favourite source is a website called Design Connected.

A screenshot showing a high-quality 3D model of a bed from Design Connected.
The Kelly Bed, by Poliform. A Design Connected 3D Model.

We have no affiliation with these guys – but we rely heavily on their models. Without a doubt; they are the place to go for high-quality SketchUp models of furniture, lighting, and accessories.

For over 10 years, they have worked with premium brands to provide photorealistic 3D models of their products – so that SketchUp and V-Ray users like us can download and import these into our scenes!

All models are (or can be) made available in SketchUp format, and all textures are correctly applied to each model, meaning it is the closest thing to a plug-and-play technique that exists for our workflow for furnishings

 

Another source that we use is 3D Sky.

A website screenshot of 3D Sky showing the range of 3D models available to download
A screenshot of 3D Sky showing the range of 3D models available to download

Again, we have no affiliation with this website, however, we have really benefited from the vast 3D collection that they offer.

If models are not available on DesignConnected, we head over to 3DSky, safe in the knowledge that we will find something that we can use.

Rather than the standard SketchUp file-type (.skp) that we are used to; models from 3D Sky tend to be in a different format – a filetype called obj

In a nutshell, they store the geometry and textural information that makes up a 3D model. Different 3D modelling programs use different file types to save models – however, the .obj file type is the closest thing to an industry-standard in this regard.

Transmutr allows you to convert obj, fbx, 3ds, dae files into SketchUp (skp) files.
Convert various 3D formats into SketchUp files using Transmutr

To import .obj models, we use an extension called Transmutr. The easy-to-navigate interface allows you to convert these into .skp files – for you to then import into your scenes.

This process can be covered on our bespoke Top-Up Courses.

 

For its value, the 3D Warehouse is an invaluable resource

An image showing a screenshot of a 3d model search using the 3D Warehouse within SketchUp
The 3D Warehouse has been designed around you. Find free 3D models for SketchUp scenes here.

If you are working under a tighter budget, without the capacity to spend much on 3D models – there is no better source than the 3D Warehouse within SketchUp’s interface.

If you own or have owned, SketchUp Pro – there is a very good chance you know about this already.

Use the sliders on the left to control the quality of the models within your search parameters.

Take note… these models are not quality-checked before being uploaded to the warehouse – which means that you can end up with a real mixed bag in terms of quality.

To be safe, we always recommend saving the desired models into their own files, rather than importing straight into your scene – as this protects your master file from any latent errors that may be present within the imported models!

We run over how to make the best use of the 3D Warehouse on our Access into SketchUp online course.

 

Without over-complicating things…

A CGI demonstrating the quality of furniture 3D models sourced from websites such as design connected, 3d sky and the 3d warehouse
High-quality 3D models bring your CGIs to life. Invest time in sourcing the best quality 3D models available to you.

If you are looking for consistent, high-quality 3D models – we recommend Design Connected.

Variety, on the other hand, is a real strength of 3D Sky.

If you are looking for free models – 3D Warehouse is the source for you.

 

Still doesn’t answer your question?

Model it yourself!

Join us for our next 3-hour, Bitesize course where you can learn to Model with Photography – follow the link for dates!

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Good news – Archilime’s online learning option is here to stay! We know that many of you have really enjoyed, and hugely benefited from, online training at the Academy. We want to reassure you that we are in no hurry to withdraw the courses, as these Zoom classes offer many (perhaps unexpected) advantages. Face-to-face training and in-house training has always been central to the Archilime Academy, and we were initially hesitant to move away from this. We love the camaraderie and rapport that we build in our small groups and doubted that this could be replicated over Zoom – how wrong we were!

Zoom Advantages

We will still be offering the all-important 1-1 training if clients need it, and of course those private business to business coaching courses, but we will certainly have an online presence for the foreseeable future. We think that Zoom rocks, with its interactive features, including being able to annotate each other’s screens and share displays; we’ve found it to be a great way of learning. This makes the impossible possible in the realm of classroom learning, with features that actually hold the advantage over face-to-face group training. The main bonus of Zoom training though, is of course its convenience and the fact that you can participate from the comfort of your own home. This saves on time and costs of travel, in addition to any possible overnight accommodation costs.

A Win-Win Situation!

Many of our delegates were equally pleasantly surprised by how effective it is as a learning tool. A recent delegate, James, said, “you don’t have to go home and try and transition what you’ve learnt on to your own computer because you’ve already been using it for 4 hours so it seamlessly sets you in motion”. The fact that it is pre-recorded is also really useful, and delegates have told us they’ve gone back over the lessons in their own time, which of course you can’t do from in-house training. With the Zoom training also being 25% less expensive than face-to-face courses, we think it wins hands down in these current times that hold certain restrictions for us all, both in terms of finances and logistics.  

Chaos Collaboration

Delivering webinars is another new and exciting development for us. Currently in collaboration with Chaos Group, we are in the pretty cool situation of testing the new V-Ray 5 for Sketchup, which is the newest version not yet released: we knew there were some perks to this job! Watch this space as we explore and test other software to present to you in the near future via webinar.

Visit our website: https://archilime.com

Call our studio to discuss your project on: 01364 654267.