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…
In this example, we are importing Extreme Texture’s Antique Oak into SketchUp as a Texture, which will allow us to paint this onto a face.
Now is a great time to check the scale – within the Materials panel of the tray; use the global size settings to ensure that our boards are scaled appropriately. To help me do this, I like to draw a guideline that equals the desired width of the board, so that I have something to reference.
Here we can see how important it is for our material to be seamless. There is a vast collection of seamless materials available from the sources mentioned above!
We now have a high-quality, seamless texture applied to our model which is the correct scale.
The diffuse texture is what we see within our SKP model. This can be considered our ‘base’ texture and defines predominantly what the material looks like without lighting or roughness effects applied.
If light bounces off an object and is not absorbed, then one sees a reflection. V-Ray has the ability to control the intensity and glossiness of reflections of materials within the scene by using reflection or specular (see also; spec) maps. For example, areas on a texture where one would see a glossy finish would show up as white on a spec map, whilst matt areas appear darker.
Not all materials are as flat as a mirror; for this, we use a bump or normals map. Areas on a bump map that are darker are shown as depressions on the surface of the material when rendered, whilst the opposite occurs for lighter areas. Be careful with the intensity of bump or normal values – anything above 1 is normally not required.
Hold on… how does glass work?
As we can see, the lighter we make the refraction colour, the more ‘glass-like’ our material becomes.
We can deduce that the setting to use that controls the transparent properties of glass is called refraction. Like with the reflection glossiness, we also have the opportunity to create frosted glass by adjusting the refraction glossiness value!
What about fabrics?
Depending on the qualities of the fabric in question, we would advise taking a look through the preset textures within V-Ray…
Once a similar fabric has been chosen, you can edit the colour and tones of the diffuse, by right-clicking on the bitmap slot within the Diffuse, and wrapping it in a Colour Correction. Here you will be able to modify the hue, saturation, brightness and contrast, to your liking.
Fabric textures now benefit from a new feature in V-Ray 5 for SketchUp where you can add a translucent layer for extra realism.
What if my texture seems to emit light?
One can add emissive layers to all materials within V-Ray as shown…
You can also copy your Diffuse into your Emissive bitmap slot…
Now that you know how to create realistic textures; Wrapping is a term we give to the application of a material to multiple faces within our model – much like the wrapping of a present with wrapping paper. We cover this in great detail on our Access into V-Ray for SketchUp courses.
Learning how to improve the lighting in your CGI is not rocket science, but there are techniques that we use. By understanding a few key lighting concepts I want to illuminate you and show you how to better your CGI, but before we do; let’s talk about why the sky is blue…
Let there be light.
Under intense and unimaginable pressure, hydrogen atoms are forced together in a huge release of electromagnetic energy, of which visible light makes up a small portion of this energy.
This is the beginning of the journey of a single photon from the centre of the burning ball of gas that we call our sun until it reaches our eyes.
After its tumultuous birth, our photon then takes, on average, 6 minutes to leave the surface of the sun and fly across the vast, 150 million kilometers of hard vacuum until it reaches our atmosphere.
As our photon passes through the big air bubble that surrounds the earth, it bounces off and passes through nitrogen atoms which make up nearly 80% of our atmosphere.
Our photon is a package that contains all of the colours of the rainbow – it just so happens that light on the bluer end of this spectrum scatters through nitrogen most effectively… which is why the sky is blue.
On a physiological level, we have evolved not only to love light but to need it.
Light is the key component that enables us to see, gives us security, and stabilises our circadian rhythms which helps us to sleep deeper and more restoratively.
It improves our moods, decreases depression, and even increases cognitive performance such as reaction time and activation.
On a fundamental level, we have an innate and primal relationship with light that can be traced all the way back to the roots of our shared evolutionary tree.
“I sense Light as the giver of all presences, and material as spent Light. What is made by Light casts a shadow, and the shadow belongs to Light.” Louis Kahn, American Institute of Architects Gold-medal winning Architect
Lighting in CGI.
Modern render engines and most real-time game engines calculate lighting in a way that aims to emulate reality.
By definition, rays are traced (note: ray-tracing), from light sources as they then travel through 3D space and bounce off or scatter through surfaces.
Ray tracing software determines the number of times that a ray can bounce off or through a surface – the bigger the number of bounces, the harder the PC has to work, but generally the more realistic the result.
As experienced and industry-leading producers of CGIs, we wholeheartedly recommend V-Ray as our ray-tracing program of choice.
We use this in conjunction with SketchUp and have done so for nearly a decade now.
Feel free to take a look at what our CGI production team is getting up to using this software combo!
These lights have to come from somewhere though, right?
Whether it is the sun, a light bulb, or a candle; it is the job of the 3D artist to add these light sources to the 3D space and program them to emit light realistically.
Check out our article on how to use Dome Lights to create night-time CGIs.
As humans, we respond differently to different environs and lighting plays a big part of that. Anything that we see has a direct link to the subconscious, and this is what CGI artists tap into when working with lighting in a visualisation.
How do I put this into practice?
If you have read this far, you already understand the power of lighting within a CGI.
We need a structured workflow to better enable us to generate realistic and emotive lighting setups within our work…
Day two of this three-day course is dedicated purely to lighting.
We explore what light sources that we have available to us, and how we go about adding these into a scene.
We then explore the concept of ‘Three-Point Lighting’, which gives us a fail-safe method of programming the lights within our scenes to work together in a photorealistic way.
If you already have a good foundation, and simply want to improve the lighting in your CGI, look into our Top-Up courses – the premise is simple:
You pick what you would like to learn
A bespoke, coaching session will be designed by us and then pitched to you before you commit to anything
Once you are completely happy with the custom learning material on offer, this is when we schedule a coaching session – we book these out in half-day blocks, to ensure that you have ample time for study and information retention.
The session is held online and is screen recorded – which means you can watch it back when practicing on your own.
Upon completion of the course, we extend a helping hand by offering an after-care period of 30-days, whereby as you take this knowledge into professional practice; you can come to us with any questions that you may have.
All of our courses, now taught online, aim to give you the tools to consistently advance your visualisation skills and improve the lighting in your CGI.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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-Raycourses, 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!