In this brand-new series, we want to cast a light on the wide variety of extensions in the SketchUp ecosystem that we use to create architectural visualizations at Archilime Visualisations and teach on our courses at the Archilime Academy, with Roombox by Lindalë our very first.
Having already provided us with invaluable tools, Skatter and Transmutr, Thomas Hauchecorne and Merwan Achibet from Lindalëare pioneers in the field of SketchUpextensions, and their latest creation is going to change the way that we populate our interiors forevermore.
RoomBox by Lindalë helps you instill life into your SketchUp models by making it quick & easy to create rooms to populate facades.
For a more in-depth live demo from the developers, join us on Thursday 1st December at 15:00 GMT as they showcase this exciting new tool. Sign-up to our free webinar here!
So how does Roombox by Lindalë work?
On a basic level, a RoomBox within SketchUp consists of walls and ‘sprites’ in image form, positioned to fit inside your room.
The premise is simple. Select an interior from a library of presets, and click over the room that you want to populate.
Rooms can be customized to fit any space and ‘sprites’ give us the option to modify the contents of our RoomBox.
Sprites usually represent people, furniture, or light appliances which are pre-programmed to varying distances to give depth to the staging.
Why is this important?
A common pain point for you, as architectural visualizers, is the need to populate your interior spaces. Generally, the quality of your CGI increases when you add more models to your interior spaces, but your SketchUp files become slow and unresponsive.
Roombox by Lindalë tackles this head-on by reducing the amount of geometry required to populate your interior spaces by using a series of lightweight images to fill those spaces instead.
This intuitive tool keeps your files clean and your quality high, and we cannot recommend this highly enough.
Whatever your final output, there is a case to be made for RoomBox to improve the quality (and speed!) of your work, as it allows you to quickly and easily populate a building model with lightweight fake interiors.
It is safe to say that we are big fans! Join us on Thursday 1st December at 15:00 GMT to get the inside scoop on this exciting new SketchUp extension. Sign-up to free webinar here.
Discover how V-Ray 6 for SketchUp joined forces with Archilime to visualize a stunning sustainable home.
Jack Dicker, Managing Director, and Daniel Stone, Head of Operations at Archilime share their view on what ensures successful collaboration and how the harmony between Koto Design’s sustainable prefabricated home design, along with the rendering power of Nvidia RTX GPU’s and V-Ray 6 for SketchUp running on a Lenovo P1, all resulted in a compelling visual story that is nothing short of amazing.
Watch the video below to see the Palm Springs project unfold in action, then keep reading to get a deeper understanding of the process and people behind it.
Can you share how the concept of the Palm Springs project was born and what led to the collaboration?
Aesthetically, it’s clear to see that Koto Design is a master of the art of crafting beautifully sculptural homes that sit in sync with their surroundings. When we got the opportunity to collaborate with them on a project in Palm Springs, CA, we relished the opportunity to visualize one of their iconic designs.
For this project, the team at UK-based Koto Design used SketchUp as a tool in their early design concept stage, allowing them to develop the 3D forms remotely over online video calls with their client based in California. After several design iterations, we were introduced to begin adding detail to the conceptual SketchUp model, which became a seamless transition into the refinement stage as we are big SketchUp users ourselves.
Given the sleek, modern design; Koto were able to offer us an abundance of reference imagery and architectural sketches to ensure that their Japanese-Scandinavian-inspired home came to life within our images and animation (if you want to see how we rendered out our animation, check out our blog post here). The gardens were crafted by influential landscape architect, Steve Martino, who is renowned for his work with desert landscapes.
Technology has advanced to allow artists to work together on a diverse range of projects regardless of location. What factors are important to keep in mind in order to ensure a seamless workflow and effective communication when working with professionals from around the world?
As with any form of communication, there needs to be a common language. Collectively on this project, our ideas and design intent were communicated using SketchUp model and CGI reviews, or even live Vantage workshops during our online design review meetings. This goes to show that regardless of the location of a project, there are now interactive design tools that are used by professional studios to overcome distances that historically would be difficult factors to overcome.
Can you explain the different stages in the buildup of the V-Ray 6 for SketchUp scene’s environment?
Typically, we find that visualization projects fall may fall into two categories; those with a finalized design, and those that will undergo a degree of design development during the visualization process — Palm Springs was more of the latter.
To build a base upon which to discuss design details and iterative development, we used Koto’s concept SketchUp model and reference material to develop the ‘massing’ of the main structure and its immediate environment. Once the initial positioning and forms had been resolved during interactive rendering sessions, we progressed to add topography and some further detailing to our SketchUp model.
Considering the weather conditions in Palm Springs; careful emphasis was placed on how the building was to be designed around the passage of the sun throughout the day and year to optimize solar shading and maximize airflow. Geolocating our SketchUp model and hosting interactive render solar studies ensured our model was a perfect mirror of the site, informing Koto and the client in the design development process. Once resolved, we opted to use the sun as the protagonist in our animation, tracking its movement throughout the day as it interacts with this beautiful home.
Once our lighting was resolved, the next step involved creating and importing photorealistic materials to be applied to our model, including several Chaos Scans throughout the scene (can you spot them?).
What is the most important thing to keep in mind in order to achieve powerful visual storytelling?
To tell a story, the viewer has to feel fully transported into the world that you are showing them. As visualizers, this means ensuring that your work contains a nice blend of microscopic detail and macroscopic context to ensure that the key messages are communicated effectively.
Spending more time working on a specific material that will be captured up close is time well-spent, as it builds congruence between the viewer and the narrative of high quality that you are looking to share.
Equally important is ensuring that your wider scale context has been addressed. Developing the hillsides beyond the site could have been avoided to save time, but we felt it essential in giving the audience an understanding of how the home is so well integrated into its environment.
We advocate for the creation of ‘paper edits’ or storybooks to map out how you would like the viewer to journey through the site. Primarily used in filmmaking, these are used to convey the brand, message, and mood of an animation or film before the rendering stage.
The attention to detail in the interior is amazing. Can you explain the process of creating tangible textures on every surface?
With the textures implemented for this project specifically, we were able to use Poliigon textures for the entire project, apart from the roof tile material that we created ourselves and the rocky terrain that we displaced from an old Grant Warwick pack of ‘ground’ textures.
Each texture came with full high-resolution specular, normal, displacement, and reflection maps that we were able to place into the relevant bitmap slots and start testing the scene.
The collaboration and consultation between Archilime and Koto design helped us understand the end goal in regard to the mood and styling of the final output. This design had to showcase each beautiful raw material in the best light, right down to the roughness of the plaster that can be seen on the interiors to the ‘Shou sugi ban’ exterior cladding – a traditional Japanese practice where cedar is charred, to preserve the wood, giving it more longevity and durability. With this very rough, burnt matte black-silver finish we needed to really customize the maps and bring them to the right roughness seen in the renders.
Can you share how V-Ray 6 for SketchUp’s Enmesh helped to create the Gabion walls in the exterior?
The gabion walls are a prime example of Enmesh. The cage that contains the stone presented the perfect opportunity to experiment with different options.
After creating a couple of 3D patterns and applying Enmesh to the grouped boxes which surround the stone, we have the ability to control how the 3D patterns are tiled on our chosen surfaces.
In the past, we would have modeled this before likely creating proxies. However, Enmesh now gives us an opportunity to experiment with several different options and tweak the distributions whilst keeping our SketchUp scene light and optimized.
What was the most challenging aspect when creating the lighting and how was it solved?
This project presented unique lighting challenges. We needed to respect the position of the sun in relation to the site, so geolocation was required to ensure that the sun paths were correctly positioned. This means that we were locked into using the V-Ray ‘Sun and Sky model’, which allowed for accurate shadows, but relatively uninspiring skies … until the launch of V-Ray 6 for SketchUp’s procedural clouds. These allowed us to add interest to the sky whilst also preserving the sun’s position.
Whether adding light cirrus clouds or denser cumulus clouds – we found this new feature to be very intuitive and easy to use.
Another cool feature is the dynamic clouds option, which gives us the capability to animate the sky, which is a technique used to create more natural and realistic sky conditions within our V-Ray 6 for SketchUp scenes.
Archilime Academy offers an amazing 12-week V-Ray for SketchUp Masterclass which starts from teaching how to produce conceptual ideas all the way up to making a marketable 3D visualization. The Palm Springs project is the basis for this masterclass. Can you tell us a bit more about what students can achieve?
Essentially, we want to be able to train anyone to be able to produce high-quality, photorealistic visualization like us by understanding their business model, adapting companies’ efficiencies, and putting better structure and process in place to ensure they are capitalizing on the profit of a new service. We don’t just teach people to build visualization, we show them how to use it within a business environment just like we do at Archilime Visualisation and showcase at the Archilime Academy.
If you’ve been wanting your 3D design skills and design processes to deliver more value for your business or your career, our V-Ray for SketchUp Masterclass could be just what you’re looking for.
These tools can help interior designers create lighting or materials studies or explore 3D furniture layouts. They can help landscape architects visualize planting schemes or create accurate topographical 3D models and they can help Set Designers create immersive sets in 3D and realistic concept images that tell your story.
And that’s far from all. As 3D artists ourselves, we know that there are always new techniques to learn and existing processes that can be streamlined. But we also know that better 3D output can do a lot for you and your business. Especially if the way you improve those skills is designed to fit in around and support your existing workflows.
This isn’t the sort of V-Ray for Sketchup training where you or your team member needs a lot of time off. Instead of distracting from your daily work, our V-Ray for SketchUp masterclass is designed to fit in around and support your ongoing creative projects, be it designing an architectural structure in 3D, better visualizing your latest set design, delivering a Land and Visual Impact Application, or offering a series of conceptual design options as an interior designer, it could all be done in a much more persuasive way.
Your team can continue with real-world projects while they study. In fact, they’ll do so with their course mentor – as well as the very engaged wider Archilime Academy community – on-hand to talk everything through.
The masterclass takes place over 12 weeks, with a half-day webinar per week and ongoing course material, empowering you or your team to slot it into existing workflows. This makes it an easy way to invest in yourself and your team and grow your offering without interrupting your day-to-day. You can find out more by signing up here.
If you’re looking to take your SketchUp skills to the next level, learning how to render animations can be a great way to showcase your designs. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to create a professional animation using SketchUp and the photorealistic rendering plugin V-Ray. Our first step will be to create a simple camera animation and then animate the sunlight changing throughout the day. After that, we’ll animate the clouds to make a time-lapse sky and learn how to share our final rendered clips with others.
The right animation can really help bring architecture and design projects to life. By creating a 3D animation of a proposed building or space, architects and designers can get a much better sense of how it will look and feel when it’s built. Viewers can better understand the scale of the project, see how the sunlight interacts with the design over the course of the day, and imagine what it feels like to inhabit the space.
In the first part of this tutorial, we’ll create a simple animation of a camera moving through the SketchUp scene. Our SketchUp scene is based on a custom-designed energy-neutral home for a private client from the renowned architectural firm Koto Design. The first step is to set the starting position of your camera and save the view in the scene tab. Let’s label this tab Scene_Start. Next, move the camera to the desired end position and create another scene tab. Let’s label this tab Scene_End. The duration of the animation can be set by entering the scene transition length in the model info box. Here, I’ve set it to five seconds and checked Enable scene transitions. After we check the Include in Animation option in the Scenes settings, we’re ready to export a preview.
Before rendering the clips, I like to first export them as a SketchUp preview. Select File > Export from the menu to begin the process. Choose .mp4 as the format and give the file a name. You can adjust the resolution and the frame rate in the settings, and for this preview, I’ll make sure that Loop to starting scene is turned off. After you press export, the preview should be ready in just a few minutes.
With the preview animation looking good, it’s time to render the final in V-Ray. I recommend starting with a few low-resolution test renders to make sure the lighting and materials look the way you want them to. It’s also a good idea to enable Safe Frame so you see the right aspect ratio, and then render at least one full-resolution frame at the final size and quality before rendering the animation. When you’re happy with your tests, turn on the Animation switch in V-Ray, select the file name and folder for your images, and press render. V-Ray will render the animation sequence as individual frames that you’ll later compile into an animated clip.
Depending on your hardware and your scene, V-Ray offers multiple rendering options. You can render with CPUs, GPUs, or a combination of both. I rendered the test frames on a Lenovo P1 laptop and then switched to my desktop with an NVIDIA RTX A6000 for the final frames. You can pick whichever option suits your setup best. To render animation frames even faster, you can use render nodes across multiple machines, or you can even send them to the Chaos Cloud rendering service.
Playing back your rendered animation
Once the frames are rendered, you can view the sequence in a frame player or video editor. In this case, we’ll load the sequence into Chaos Player for fast and smooth playback. Simply drag and drop the folder of images into Chaos Player and press the spacebar. (Chaos Player is included with the V-Ray Premium subscription plan.)
How to animate the sunlight
Now that you know how to create a camera animation, let’s animate the sunlight. This type of animation shows how daylight affects a building throughout the day. I recommend geo-locating your SketchUp model so your sun positions will be accurate. In the Shadows panel, you can set the duration of time you want the sun to move. In our case, I’ve set it to 30 minutes, but you could set it to be a much longer time if you want.
The sun positions shown in the Shadows panel will be recognized and rendered by V-Ray. And we can render the sequence of animated frames just like we did earlier for the animated camera. Not only will V-Ray give you accurate sunlight, but you’ll also get correct bounced light, as well as correct sky illumination.
How to create time-lapse skies with animated clouds
Finally, let’s add some clouds to our animation to create a time-lapse sky. This is a new feature added in V-Ray 6 for SketchUp, and it’s a simple way to add visual interest and movement to your scene. The settings for the new procedural clouds are available in the Sunlight light source in the V-Ray Asset Editor. Here, you create any type of custom sky, from partly cloudy to overcast, by adjusting the settings for density, variety, cirrus amount, height and more. To animate the clouds, you can enable the Dynamic Clouds checkbox and set the wind direction, speed, and phase velocity. Once you have the clouds looking the way you want, you’re ready to render your animation with V-Ray
Sharing your final animation
Now that you have your animation clips ready, it’s time to start thinking about how to put them all together. This is where a video editor comes in handy. With a video editor, you can rearrange your clips in any order you want, add transitions between them, and even add a music track. Once you’re happy with your sequence, you can export your animation and share it on Youtube, Vimeo or your website. Here’s a look at the final animation. When you do so, tag us in your posts at @archilime_academy
Animation is one of the best ways to tell a story, communicate an idea, and bring your designs to life. With the help of SketchUp and V-Ray, you’ll be creating impressive animations in no time.
Thanks for following along with our tutorial. I hope you learned something new about rendering architectural animations in SketchUp and V-Ray. Whatever your level or learning style, feel free to check out our courses at Archilime Academy, where you can read up on Access into SketchUp and V-Ray for SKP courses, development programs or top-up sessions. Our 3-month masterclasses teach all the steps involved in creating photorealistic renderings using the same techniques that we use in our studio. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, our masterclasses combine one-on-one coaching, live group sessions, and online learning to help you create high-quality architectural visualizations.
About the author
Dan Stone is Head of Operations at Archilime, a creative agency and visualization studio that works on high-profile property development projects around the world. Dan is also a certified V-Ray trainer with a decade of experience using SketchUp and V-Ray. He loves to teach aspiring artists at Archilime Academy, the first V-Ray for SketchUp authorized training center in the UK.
About V-Ray for SketchUp
V-Ray is one of the most popular photorealistic rendering plugins for architectural visualization. Available now, V-Ray 6 for SketchUp includes tools for creating custom skies and detailed geometric patterns along with new and improved materials that deliver more realism and speed. V-Ray 6 also introduces new cloud collaboration and Enscape compatibility to bring teams together like never before. Visit chaos.com for a free 30-day trial.
Our vision and mission for a V-Ray for Sketchup Masterclass
It’s our mission to teach the art of visualisation through the mediums of SketchUp and V-Ray on our V-Ray for SketchUp Masterclass. It’s our vision for that learning process to be open, transparent, positive, patient, and fully supported.
Teaching the world-builders of tomorrow
Add value to your business, reassure your customers, or boost your own skill set with a V-Ray for SketchUp Masterclass in visualisation from personable and passionate leaders in the field.
As the first company in the UK to become an authorised V-Ray for SketchUp training centre for key industry software developer Chaos – and the people they turn to when they want to create scenes to market their own products – our collective of artists are ideally placed to help you finesse your visualisation skills.
Get trained by a V-Ray certified instructor. Invest in yourself or your team and their capabilities. Fit the weekly half-day live sessions of your V-Ray for SketchUp Masterclass into your team’s training and development plan and the offline sessions in around even the busiest schedule.
We do this for a living. Now we’ve made it our mission to help you make visualisation a bigger, more effective part of yours.
Helping you expand the value your studio gets from 3D design with a V-Ray for SketchUp Masterclass
Our vision is to make it easier for studios of architects, interior designers, set designers, and landscape designers as well as all kinds of individual professionals to swiftly improve the quality of the visualisations they create and use throughout their design processes..
Delivering visualisations might not be the main focus of your business or career. Yet knowing how to produce better 3D output helps you:
Produce conceptual ideas quickly
Maximise value of existing deliverables and clearly demonstrate design scope
Upskill and invest in yourself or your team
Illustrate and combine with 3D programs you already use
Sell high-quality 3D images for profit
Learn from the leaders in the field
The Archilime Academy is brought to you by Archilime Visualisations. Multiple award winners in the field, Archilime has extensive industry experience and a reputation for meticulous quality and visual integrity.
We bring the same approach to teaching others the skills we’ve gained. But we bring plenty of patience and positivity to the process too. This is a mirror of the path our artists take when they join Archilime, so we want it to be equally friendly and supportive.
You or your team will have weekly public face-to-face webinars for Q&A along with plenty of allowance for private check-in sessions and a high level of interaction with your trainer.
Once you’ve completed your course, you’ll have access to the live and engaged community of Archilime Academy delegates for life. So you can keep that support dialled-in over the years ahead.
A V-Ray for SketchUp Masterclass: a new era
Besides hearing insights from the team at Archilime, this V-Ray for SketchUp Masterclass is the meeting place of inspirational artists, extension developers, software resellers and many more.
With a release date of September 2022, sign up to our mailing list here to stay tuned with exciting updates on our upcoming Masterclass webinars, tutorials, sneak peeks and discount offerings – you do not want to miss out!
Learning how to create professional studio-quality visualisations is a process. We’ve made sure you can easily track where you and your team are on your journey.
You can use your personalised dashboard to measure progress as well as flag problems for your trainer. We also provide qualitative assessments so you can get some detailed feedback on how things are going.
All while you continue to work and even use your new skills on real-world projects in the meantime. Confident in the knowledge that you have your trainer standing by.
Experience a Masterclass in visualisation
Boosting the quality of the architectural CGIs and other forms of visualisations you or your team can produce doesn’t have to be a lengthy process. It can support, fit in around, and expand the work your team does day-to-day rather than distract from it.
Even if this isn’t your main sell, studio-quality visualisations are a big value-add to your offering. They let you further highlight your skills, improve your deliverables, better conceptualise projects, and offer your team opportunities for personal development.
Instructed by the same industry leaders that the creators of the SketchUp software themselves use to advertise their products, you’ll soon be creating the kind of high-quality visual output that drives business and careers.
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!
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!
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.
Here is how we troubleshoot V-Ray for SketchUp errors
Are you often having to troubleshoot V-Ray for SketchUp errors? Does your machine run slowly when trying to render? Do you often experience crashes?
We want to give you all something a little different with this blog…
If you would like to understand how we troubleshoot our problems at a professional CGI studio – grab a drink and read on!
How do we begin to troubleshoot V-Ray for SketchUp errors?
To troubleshoot errors or crashes, we must always begin by trying to recreate the problem first, and then gradually rely on the process of elimination.
If we are able to recreate the problem, we know that the problem exists within the file and it is not an external issue caused by other running programs or drives.
If we encounter the same issues when we reopen the file after restarting the machine, we can be confident that the problem is confined to SketchUp& V-Ray.
Learning from these processes, we can over time become more experienced with troubleshooting V-Ray for SketchUp errors early on and ‘smell the smoke’ with new projects whilst putting in place new optimised ways of working after each resolution.
Eventually, your scenes will rarely run into problems and if they do, you will most likely be able to cross-reference previous projects and either resolve them quickly or have the knowledge to know how to find them.
Most hardware-related questions that we are asked by former delegates are solved by using the optimisation tricks that you will find below, rather than by investing in expensive new hardware.
Hardware is expensive and does not necessarily mean that you are solving the problem. It may be that you are merely increasing the power of your setup to deal with the problem quicker, but the problem and lack of optimisation still exists and remains unsolved.
My scene is really heavy and starts to lag when I orbit, what can I do?
Naturally, we’d immediately turn to hardware issues, but firstly we should think about the scenes’ complexity.
Are we utilising proxies? This keeps geometry within SketchUp to a minimum, whilst preserving the level of quality that you need when rendering.
Have we run a clean-up to make sure we do not have multiple faces within complex imported models? We recommend using CleanUp³ for its ease-of-use!
Are we working with our SketchUp edges turned off? By turning off our edges in the SketchUp ‘view’ tab, we can immediately smooth out any orbital lag that we may encounter.
Remember, orbital lag is GPU (graphics card) based and loading or processing lag is CPU based (the main processer, or brain of your PC)!
Check the points above before investing your hard-earned cash on a new GPU.
SketchUp really does not need much GPU power. At ArchilimeHQ, we rarely need to troubleshoot V-Ray for SketchUp errors when it comes to GPUs – we all use Nvidia GeForce 1060s (which are relatively middle-of-the-range when it comes to power) with absolutely no graphic issues whatsoever.
My SketchUp file size seems too big in comparison to my scene, why could this be?
Everything that we put into a SketchUp file impacts the file size; whether that be models, proxies, HDRI’s, or textures maps.
Sometimes if we are struggling with file size this will directly affect the RAM usage for SketchUp and will naturally put the program under strain during the render stages.
It is unlikely for a Sketchup file to crash due to RAM limitations because Sketchup will automatically control its usage.
RAM crashes will not usually occur until the file is starting to render so it is worth keeping an eye on the filesizes of the textures that you are using (use JPEGs where possible and try not to exceed 10-15Mb in filesize).
If you do not keep an eye on this, and you start to use PNG’s or TIFF file types (which are generally many times larger files than JPEGs), you can very quickly see your render load-up times increase, which is when RAM bottlenecking can occur and crash your renders.
My loading times are taking forever, why?
When we set out to troubleshoot V-Ray for SketchUp errors, there are different types of loading issues that we can identify before we then go through the process of elimination. These types of loading scenarios use the CPU.
For SketchUp processing, we have the dreaded ‘wheel of death’ where the mouse cursor circulates and forces Sketchup to temporarily freeze.
This usually occurs when SketchUp has to work extra hard to complete a function – this often happens when using plugins such as Skatter, Profile Builder, Roundcorner etc, or computing a native modeling technique like a copy & paste. Check out some of our favourite plugins here.
We also have V-Ray loading times which would occur on the load up of the VFB (V-Ray Frame Buffer) or the LC (Light Cache) stage of the initial render.
Then, we have the actual rendering process whereby the buckets (threads) process the image through progressive rendering or bucket rendering.
All of these load styles for SketchUp and V-Ray are slightly different from one another as they use the cores/threads of the CPU differently. One thing to pay attention to is the clock speed (GHz) of both your base clock-speed and turbo clock-speed for processing and rendering.
SketchUp is a CPU-based modeling package that benefits from single-core performance so the number of cores is almost irrelevant for SketchUp use only. The key thing to pay attention to is the turbo clock speed and the CPU architecture because the only time turbo clock speeds are put to use is when a single core is being operated – like processing Skatter.
The newer the architecture of the CPU (generally speaking with Intel) the better the core performance will be. For more info on CPU benchmarks, take a look at V-Ray’s standalone service where you can see how your own hardware ranks in comparison with others.
If we turn to V-Ray rendering, all the cores available to the CPU will be used and split and will naturally run at the base speed, this is called Hyper-threading.
What is hyperthreading?
Hyper-threading is a process by which a CPU divides up its physical cores into virtual cores. When rendering, these are treated as physical cores by the operating system and all of those virtual cores (buckets or threads) will then be used – so the more cores, the better!
You can manually ‘overclock’ your CPU for the best results, but this process can be complicated and needs to be done by someone with the right skills, if done incorrectly instability issues and crashes may occur.
This balances out the higher clock speed over all the cores as opposed to the turbo only focusing on one or two cores depending on the CPU type.
If your loading times are becoming an issue, I’d recommend looking into a more suitable CPU for your desired purpose but remember, depending on what CPU you chose you may need different components to run it, especially if you are looking at threadrippers! They are hungry for power!
Before I troubleshoot V-Ray for SketchUp errors; how do I check RAM usage?
There are two ways to do this which will depend on whether you are utilising the V-Ray Swarm with configured nodes linked to your network as a local render farm or If you are using a single desktop.
If the latter, you can simply press ‘CTRL, ALT + DELETE’ and then go to the task manager.
On the task manager, you can find one of the top tabs called ‘performance’ which is where you can monitor your usage for all your hardware if you think you are getting RAM issues, this is the first place to start looking to see how that RAM is being delegated and if you are finding your RAM is bottoming out, try closing all your other programs as a short term fix.
If you are running nodes through the swarm, you can check the nodes’ RAM usage from the V-Ray UI.
The V-Ray Swarm interface is accessible by a web browser which then gives you access to all the machines visible on the local network and includes options for configuring and controlling the V-Ray Swarm node machines.
You can get into the V-Ray Swarm web interface by opening a web browser window and typing the following address: http://localhost:24267 where 24267 is the default port number used by V-Ray Swarm for communication.
Remember though, your nodes will be bottlenecked by the amount of RAM your localhost (your desktop PC) has. For example, if your nodes have 64Gb RAM and your local host has 32Gb RAM, then the nodes will be capped at 32Gb not then utilising the power of the full render farm.
If usually your RAM is capable of rendering your scenes, but a particular scene is causing issues, try changing your render type from bucket rendering to progressive, this then handles the RAM in a different way and dumps each pass once it is done.
Bucket rendering is more efficient and faster however progressive rendering gives you immediate results at poor quality and then computes ‘passes’ naturally being able to deal with RAM differently.
Progressive rendering could be much slower to achieve your desired noise limit though, so it’s up to you to test it!
What questions must we ask before building a new machine or upgrading a PC component?
This has got to be the most asked question we receive from our delegates, which requires another question:
What do you need your machine to do?
Before we think about building or buying a new machine we must understand what we need it for in the present and in the future (maybe you have contemplated producing animation in Lumion or Unreal Engine but currently only use Sketchup & V-Ray).
Different programs use different pieces of hardware more efficiently than others so it’s important for us to understand what requirements certain programs have and how those programs operate with that piece of hardware.
The first step is to identify and refine your workflow so that it is as optimised as possible. If we are running into freezes or crashes whilst still looking to then spend money upgrading hardware, we likely need to reassess how we are working before purchasing any new equipment.
Think about how much programs use GPU and CPU and then start to build a list of parts that suit that.
To know how to troubleshoot V-Ray for SketchUp errors, you need to know what each PC part does…
V-Ray Next CPU rendering is the ‘normal’ version of rendering. V-Ray uses the CPU to calculate light ray traces as they bounce around your scene. It scales very well with both clock speed and core count, so we recommend that you invest in a powerful CPU with a high base GHz speed and multiple cores.
Video Cards (GPU)
For V-Ray Interactive the video card selection is the biggest single factor in rendering speed/performance. If you own an Nvidia GPU, you can use the Nvidia Denoiser (see Denoising section for more details).
The exact amount of RAM you need is going to depend on how ‘heavy’ your projects are with difficult to render elements such as vegetation, glass materials, etc. We recommend that you opt for 32-64Gb RAM to be on the safe side. For reference, we use 64Gb and manage to operate efficiently.
Whilst more expensive than their HDD counterparts; we recommend using an SSD for the primary drive that hosts SKP & V-Ray as the high speed of SSDs allows your system to boot, launch applications, and load files many times faster than any traditional hard drive (HDD).
If you are here searching for SketchUp plugins, then you already appreciate how easy-to-use and versatile SketchUp can be when 3D modelling. Using the basic toolsets that SketchUp provides, it is possible to build detailed and complex 3D models for many different industries.
SketchUp plugins are tools that have been developed by members of the SketchUp community to add additional features or improve on the functionality of the native SketchUp toolset(s).
The Extension Warehouse allows you to browse the thousands of plugins that are available to install – with most of these being free-of-charge.
Why use SketchUp Plugins?
Depending on the desired outcome, there is a strong possibility that there is a plugin out there which can complete a certain task for you quicker and more accurately than modelling something manually.
As a team of highly driven creatives, we are always looking for that ‘next big thing’, that improves the quality of our work and saves us time doing it.
This list is the product of an accumulation of over 30+ combined years across the team as professional SketchUp & V-Ray users, so take it from us – these plugins are bone-fide game-changers, and the work that we produce today is testament to these incredible SketchUp plugins.
When you think topography, you should think Artisan.
A far cry from the typical rectilinear forms for which SketchUp is most well-known; this SketchUp plugin allows users to create and edit organic, free-form models such as terrain, furniture, fabrics and much more.
You can sculpt, smooth, flatten, inflate or pinch your quadmesh geometry to mould it into any forms that you could imagine!
When modelling the terrain on each of our projects, we usually begin by importing the contour lines into SketchUp as a CAD drawing, and then using TopoShaper to create a quadmesh to allow us to create the existing topography.
We then use Artisan to edit the newly-created topography quadmesh by flattening, sculpting and smoothing areas to conform with the desired form of the surrounding landscape.
Profile builder is one of several SketchUp plugins that brings parametric modelling into the world of SketchUp.
Parametric modelling enables you to build and design using a series of rules and constraints, allowing you to automate repetitive occurrences of specific components within your scene.
Create assemblies using Profile Builder and add these to multiple locations within your model at a click of a button.
Let’s look at a simple fence, for example.
This fence is made up of several components – vertical posts, panels, horizontal beams, etc.
Once you create or load a parametric assembly using Profile Builder, you have the ability to add these very easily all over your model.
We use this specifically when modelling fences, pathways, rainwater pipes and much, much more. What we love about this is that you can save out your assemblies for later use – or simply download one of the many assemblies from their library. The possibilities are endless!
This amazing SketchUp plugin has saved us countless hours over the years, and they also have an incredibly informative official training course available to view on YouTube for free – what’s not to love!
If you would rather learn how to use this SketchUp plugin (or others listed here) from a person, take a look at our bespoke Top-Up courses. In a 1-1 setting, these allow us to really focus on how to use plugins that are directly relevant to you.
Is there a free trial available?
Yes. A trial for Profile Builder 3 lasts for 30 days
How much does it cost?
A single commercial license at the time of writing costs $79.00
Laubwerk offers an expansive library of SketchUp & V-Ray-ready 3D vegetation models where the worlds of botany and 3D modelling overlap.
Using their intuitive Plant Library Browser, simply select the desired species, and then chose where to place it within the scene.
Each plant comes with 3x shape variations, with each of these then having 3x age variations – totalling 9x different models of the same species of trees.
You also have the freedom to adjust the leaf density of each plant, and our favourite feature – to change the season!
Laubwerk’s plant kits are the most versatile tool in our vegetation arsenal, and we look forward to seeing what they achieve over the next few years as they expand their offering!
We have relied on the quality of Laubwerk’s plant kits for years, and it was our absolute pleasure to host them as guest speakers on our webinar in June of 2021 where we looked at how to create realistic vegetation. We wrote a blog about the collaboration here – take a look if you are looking to improve the quality of your vegetation work!
Whenever we add vegetation to our models, there is one SketchUp plugin that we turn to… Skatter.
Besides offering a library of high-quality vegetation and landscaping assets, Skatter allows you to create parametric assemblies that control and refine the distribution of your vegetation models in any number of ways.
It is our pleasure to welcome Thomas Hauchecorne, the founder of Skatter, with us on our upcoming webinar where we talk about how we create exterior landscapes here at Archilime. Join us for an advanced demonstration of this incredible plugin on Thursday 7th October at 14:30 (UK Time) – sign up here.
Now that you have our recommendations – go out there and get your hands on those free trials!
Do you have any questions? What plugins do you feel should be on this list? Want to show us how you use any of these plugins?
Check out our contact page for more info on how to get in touch – we would love to hear from you!
Unfortunately we do not have the time to list out every amazing plugin that we use here at Archilime, butjoin our mailing listfor more in-depth technical content, where we will be featuring more plugins in the future!
What good is the intricate Architectural modelling or realistic textures when the quality of the vegetation completely lets down the CGI… we’ve all been there. Read on to find out how to create realistic vegetation using SketchUpand V-Ray workflows.
Throughout our years in the ArchViz industry, this is a common question asked by CGI artists all over the world.
How do I create realistic vegetation using SketchUp?
We must consider what we can do differently to improve both the quality of the 3D vegetation models and also how they are distributed within our scene.
The best way to do this would be to go through the process step-by-step, and show you first-hand how we ‘vegetate’ our scenes!
Initially we must plan out our landscaping. We could do this by using landscaping PDFs or simple annotations (very simple in my case!)
A preference is to then begin resolving larger pieces of vegetation first, moving down to smaller planting with each step.
We held a webinar recently with the guys at Laubwerkwhich ran through the process from start to finish… more on this collaboration later…
First and foremost, let’s talk about sources. For us, there are two sources which account for most of our realistic vegetation models, the first is provided by our friends at Laubwerk.
The first step is to add the Host grouped surfaces which will have the plants scattered onto them.
After adding all of our hosts, we can see how they have been added to the list, and some strange red lines appear in the chosen areas…
We can adjust the density of these red lines by modifying the appropriate parameter within the distribution section of the Skatter interface
These red lines are going to be swapped out for the bushes, by adding the bushes as my Scattered objects. In doing so, we then see the red lines change to red boxes, which now represent our bushes!
As we can see, these are still in a grid pattern as the boxes are aligned to the axis…
To remedy this, we head down into the Random Transformation section and turn on the Rotate option.
After hitting the big, red Regenerate button at the top, this will then confirm the Skatter setup for us.
A great thing about Skatter, is that we have the option to edit pre-existing setups, and we can do so by right clicking on the new Skatter group, and go to Edit Skatter Group.
It is possible to adjust where the vegetation has been scattered – we do this by adding a Clipping area as shown.
We then paint onto our model where we would like the scattered plants to appear by adding a paint area, and unticking use surface boundaries as include area.
As we paint our model, with Live Preview turned on we can see how our plants appear where we have painted… a very satisfying process!
This is useful when working to specific views – we can very easily control where we need to see vegetation in accordance with the chosen camera angles within our scene.
For grass lawns, we use two different approaches…
At the drafting stage, we recommend using V-Ray Fur.
This is a feature which comes with V-Ray 5 for SKP, and allows you to grow strands of fur from grouped surfaces.
We have lots of control over the density, length, thickness, taper and bend of this grass, so it is perfect for the early stages of a project.
A great feature of V-Ray Fur is that each strand takes on the material of the image painted onto the grouped surface – a technique which allow us to simulate mown grass effects.
For the final image stage, we recommend using Skatter grass for a realistic result.
Let’s now open up the Skatter Library, and pick one of the cut grass options.
We are asked whether we want to import the full geometry or the proxies – we will opt for the latter to keep our SKP file lighter and more optimised!
Once we hit the Load button, the same Skatter window that we saw previously pops up.
As you would expect, this is the point where we would select the lawn areas as our grouped surface which we want to be the base for our grass. Once done, we then hit the Regenerate button!
We can adjust the Distribution settings in exactly the same way as before to make the patches of grass appear clumped closer together or more sparsely distributed.
Again, we want to ‘paint on’ where our grass will appear by using the Clipping Areas section of the Skatter window, as this enables us to remove excess plants that are not visible!
I highly recommend going away and looking through the Laubwerk, Chaos Cosmos and Skatter libraries to find other objects which we can skatter within our scene…
I’ve added some more planting from Laubwerk alongside some boulders and daisies from the Skatter library.
Hey presto – here is our finished scene!
We offer one-to-one training over Zoom which teaches the concepts discussed here. These bespoke 4-hour sessions are heavily tailored to you to really ensure that you are challenged and learning appropriate coaching points.
For those of you that want to step up your rendering skills, take a look at our Access into V-Ray for SketchUp courses. This 3-day course, which runs from 09:00 to 14:00 (UK time) at the end of each month, covers the basics of material generation, how to light your scenes and covers render management skills.
On our most recent webinar, which covered all-things vegetation, we gave you the opportunity to use our scene and show us your skills! Feel free to download the SketchUp scene hereand tag us and Laubwerk in your social media posts once finished!
As I said; we love hosting webinars and our next free one is on the topic of materiality and is scheduled for Thursday 5th August – sign-up here.
Have you ever wondered how to create a photomontage, completely from scratch?
Going from this…
… to this
Well – we’ve got you covered. Here’s how it is done.
Firstly, what is a photomontage?
A photomontage is a mix of two different media. A computer generated image (CGI) is overlaid onto a photograph to show a new design superimposed into its existing surroundings.
Whilst traditional CGI allows us to model the surrounding environment; photomontages offer us the opportunity to view the real-life surroundings as captured through the lens of a camera, which is often required when trying to win planning permission.
What is the recipe for a successful photomontage?
In it’s purest sense, we can break down how to create a photomontage into four fundamental steps…
Step 1: The photograph.
The photograph that we are to use for the photomontage can be considered as our ‘base’. All subsequent work depends on the initial photograph that we would like to stitch our CGI onto.
As a result, we need to ensure that it ticks all of the boxes before we progress…
The industry standard for photographing Architectural forms dictates that all of the verticals must look vertical within the image – ensure that the camera is not tilted up or down!
Consider the lighting conditions, as this is something that we will aim to copy within our CGI. Clear blue skies or a flat, overcast day – the choice is completely up to you.
The resolution of the photograph is important. We want the highest quality possible – we like our photographs to be 5000 pixels along their longest edge.
In terms of the composition, we need to remember that we will be overlaying a CGI on top of our photograph, which means that we need to ensure that we leave space within the frame to do so!
To maximise the quality of our final product, ensure that we can save out our photographs in RAW format.
Step 2: The SketchUp model.
Now for the fun part… let’s get modeling using SketchUp!
Once we have ourselves a detailed model, we need to roughly match the SketchUp camera angle to that of the photograph.
This is the perfect time to think ahead to our CGI and try to match the resolution to our photograph (remember to ensure that safe frame is ticked!)
A key part of this process is ensuring that we match the Field of View (FOV) – this is akin to ensuring that we make sure that we use the same lens within SketchUp that we did for the photograph in real life.
Within the metadata of our photo, it often tells us the focal length of the lens that captured the shot…
Within SKP, we then head up to View and then choose Field of View…
Here we type in our FOV value in mm, followed by enter – note how the camera within SKP changes.
The next step is to reposition the camera to match the photo. We do this by adding our photo as a watermark within the Styles panel of the tray as shown.
This image overlay acts as a guide as we adjust the camera so that our model sits perfectly within the photo! Hit ‘Add Scene’ to save this angle!
Step 3: The CGI
We now have a SketchUp model which is aligned to our photograph – let’s prepare our CGI using V-Ray…