Thursday, May 27, 2010

New Presentation Plug-in: 3D PDF

If you don't have SketchUp Pro, and therefore you don't have LayOut, this new plug-in might solve your presentation problem. 3D PDF by Simlab Soft exports SketchUp models to an interactive PDF. It's not free ($95), but SketchUp Pro will cost you about five times that. (I used the 30-day trial version - maybe Simlab will read this and send me a free licensed copy?) Here's somethign nice: the installation runs on its own; no RB files to mess with.

I tried this out on one of my models in the 3D Warehouse that has scenes in it. (Click the image if you want to open the 3D Warehouse page.)

From SketchUp, I chose Plugins / PDF Export / Export. (The Settings option has additional features, like adding background music and setting default views and styles.) This saves the model out to a PDF file, which looks like the picture below. The four icons on the left of the toolbar control navigation. They're a little clunky to use for zooming, orbiting, etc - a SketchUp-like mouse button navigation would be nice. (Maybe this is already possible, but I didn't find a way how.)

There are also options for adding and changing lights, and setting how the model is rendered (wireframe, hidden line, etc.) A translucent view is shown below.

My SketchUp model has a few scenes, and these scenes can be accessed in the PDF. But I also wanted to display some standard plan and elevation views, and I never managed to find a way to do this, even after a lot of searching around. Maybe those have to be saved with the original SketchUp file as well? To rival LayOut, standard views will need to be included in later versions.

One very nice feature is sectioning. There's no connection to PDF sections and the ones added to the SketchUp model, however. You get a standard section plane parallel to the ground, and can access settings to change its position and orientation, color, intersection colors, etc. Again, this interface could be smoother, but it's still a cool feature that LayOut doesn't have. (But LayOut will refer to section planed defined in your SketchUp model.)

Here's something else that's neat: you can access individual parts of the model and control how they are displayed. For example, I selected the roof, and its corresponding part name was highlighted in the list.

With the context menu, I was able to hide just the roof.

Another nice feature would be the ability to change those part names. Maybe this is possible in the licensed version.

3D PDF also has a dimensioning tool, though it's not yet as sophisticated as LayOut's.

There are also options for creating text, headers, footers, adding new views, etc. There is a lot of room for improvement (including the rather unhelpful 6-page "manual" I found searching around on the help forum). But assuming future versions address these issues, this will be a fabulous addition to your SketchUp arsenal.

Anyone can design anything in 3D!

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New Book: SketchUp and Visualization

Packt Publishing has released a new book on rendering, SketchUp 7.1 for Architectural Visualization, written by Robin de Jongh. I got a review copy about a week ago, and I've spent the last few days looking through it.

The book is an impressive piece of work, and Robin's writing style is not only informative and easy to read, but also pretty darn funny. (Note to self: humor should be used more often in tech books. Keeps readers awake!)

The book has two main focuses:
  1. Showing the best ways to use SketchUp, with an eye out for eventual model presentation. This includes keeping poly counts low, making the most of digital images, using components, entourage, etc. This book isn't about object modeling techniques per se, but Robin does discuss a bit of that as well.
  2. Creating the presentation itself. This includes not only "how-to's" for rendering and video apps, but also how to set up SketchUp scenes, layers, walkthroughs, and styles to ease the transition into a presentation.
The best part is that nearly all of the applications discussed in this book are FREE. There's a lot about Kerkythea for rending, and GIMP and VirtualDub for image processing and animation. It's amazing what you can do with freeware! Now that I've gotten a taste for this stuff, I hope to write up some projects for my monthly subscribers!

The book ends with a chapter on LayOut, for all you Pro users, and a very useful index comparing a bunch of SketchUp renderers.

I have only a few minor complaints:
  • The book title states "Beginner's Guide." This is a bit misleading because a beginning SketchUp user would have trouble making heads or tails of the modeling concepts. Logically, I know the "beginner" refers to someone looking to learn presentation methods, but that could be made clearer with a different subtitle.
  • The graphics are grayscale, which is short of shame in a book on "knock 'em out" presentations. My own books cost a lot to print in color, so I understand the economic issues. But my Google SketchUp Cookbook has color graphics, with a similar page count and price. Same for the new Site Design book by Daniel Tal. That said, the vast majority of the graphics come through quite clearly in black and white, but a few are a little dark. I'm sure Robin's first choice would be to publish in color, but that's usually not up to the author!
  • It would have been great to have more downloadable files to use alongside the book (I found only one in the 3D Warehouse). The projects are easy enough to do with your own models, but having steps applicable to specific models would be clearer than more general instructions.
Overall, this book will be extremely useful for any architect, landscaper, interior designer, engineer, even student, who needs to show someone around their models. It costs about $45 in print and $30 as e-book, but you'd be spending a heck of a lot more than than on licensed rendering and production software, which this book will help you avoid.

Highly recommended!

Anyone can design anything in 3D!

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dream Houses of 10th Graders

I've posted before about the class projects of math teacher Willy Felton. Here's the latest video he's made from the work of his students:

Willy explains:
This was done in a 10th grade geometry class with 8 students. There was a 5 week deadline that begun with students designing 2D floor plans and land plots. The land plot must be between 2,000 and 10,000 square feet and the house had to be between 1,000 and 5,000 square feet. They were encouraged to make realistic homes that someone could live in even though a couple are questionable :)

Students worked on the computers once a week, but much of the work had to be done on their own. They needed to use layers and scenes to deal with a lot of objects, and they were required to make windows and doors to a real scale. We prepared for the project by copying some blueprints and making standard houses before they had to make their own.

I have done an architecture project every year, but this is the first year doing it on SketchUp.

I especially like the round kitchen (though it may be a little hard to find appliances for it). I'm also impressed by the changing styles, use of shadows, and presentations of both exterior and interior views. Beautiful job by the students, and congratulations to Willy for coming up with this neat project!

Anyone can design anything in 3D!

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Islamic Geometric Patterns

Usually I ignore Amazon's "Recommended for You" picks, but last week I perked up when I saw "Islamic Geometric Patterns" by Eric Broug.

If you saw my Math Forum project on Girih Tiles (Feb 2010), you know I'm into this stuff. But how did Amazon know? I guess I order more geometry books than I thought.

So the book arrived this weekend, and last night I cracked it open. It's written in three levels: Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced, and is geared toward hand drawing with compass and straight-edge, pencil and ink. The steps are quite easy to follow, and of course, each project can easily be done in SketchUp. The book includes a CD, which I haven't opened yet.

Here's the first construction project (Level 1 - Easy), showing tiles found on the Great Mosque of Cordoba. The lines are constructed with the Polygon, Circle, and Tape Measure tools:

The Line tool traces over the lines needed for the pattern:

Then you color and repeat. Groups and components make this quite easy.

There are 19 constructions in all, so expect to see these detailed on the Math Forum, and also included in my Projects of the Month. Teachers of math, art, and even history: your students will LOVE this!

Anyone can design anything in 3D!

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sketchy Physics: So Much to Learn

I found this nice video that compiles a whole bunch of Sketchy Physics SketchUp models. All of the models can be found in the 3D Warehouse (so I understand), and the video shows snippets of how each model moves, interacts, etc.

Here's another one:

There is almost no documentation on how to use Sketchy Physics - a few very smart people figured it out on their own and are using it brilliantly. I'm hoping I can produce a Sketchy Physics book that makes this accessible to everyone.

Anyone can design anything in 3D!

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Our Upcoming Projects for May

If you subscribe to our Projects of the Month, here's what you'll be getting on May 15:

Round Chess Pieces

Not just for chess players, this project shows how to make any type of round object. In this case, all you need is a photo and a few simple SketchUp tools (including the magical Follow Me tool), and you get a sophisticated-looking model:

Fence Illusion

A little bit Escher, a little bit Necker Cube, this project is about building a fence that only looks like it's closed:

To see the illusion, see my previous blog post!

Quadrilateral Tessellation

Any four-sided shape can tessellate. And when you do this in SketchUp, you can make use of components so that decorated quadrilaterals make some very cool patterns:

At $36 for the year (3 projects per month), there's no reason not to sign up for Projects of the Month!

Anyone can design anything in 3D!

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Fence Illusion

This is going to be part of my Projects of the Month for May, coming out in 11 days. The idea was given to me by a teacher named Charlie Unkeless, who based his model and animation on the famous Necker Cube illusion.

Part of making this model work involves switching SketchUp from the default Perspective view to a Parallel Projection view.

If you want to see exactly how to create the model and animation, sign up for our Projects of the Month!

Anyone can design anything in 3D!

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Now THIS is a class project

Yesterday I heard from Guzman Tierno, about whom I last posted about a year ago, with his 24-vehicle pile up model. Guzman is a middle-school math teacher in Italy, and if I had my childhood to do over again, I'd move to Italy and join his class.

Below is the culmination of his year-long class project: The Trojan War. Keep in mind that these models (except for the islands) were made by a class of eighteen kids who are ONLY THIRTEEN.

This video's got it all: geometric objects, houses, war machinery, battle scenes (complete with non-gory decapitations), even a Trojan Horse you can peek inside. In a single project kids are learning math, history, geography, and architecture. Plus I imagine the kids had a blast doing this.

Guzman's students got to work with SketchUp for one hour per week, over 18 weeks. Each week had its own theme:

Week 1: parallelpipeds and chairs (Rectangle and Push/Pull tools)
Week 2: simple houses to build a simple greek city (Line tool)
Week 3: tetrahedrons, octahedrons and variations
Week 4: tables with books, lamps, etc (groups)
Week 5: cube of cubes, pyramid of pyramids, etc. (moving and copying groups)
Week 6: wooden 3d puzzle (Divide tool)
Week 7-8: cars and roofs (multiple selection)
Week 9: icosahedron, dodecahedron, truncated icosahedron (rotating groups)
Week 10: pipes and vases (Follow Me tool)
Week 11: more round objects
Week 12: Temples
Week 13: DNA (Rotate tool)
Week 14: men, shields, swords
Week 15: rooms
Week 16: men, shields, swords - completed
Week 17: helmets (hidden geometry)
Week 18: Random stuff for the video: troy, war carts, etc.

For each week, students were given a worksheet explaining what they were about to model and how to go about it. For an example, check out the worksheet for the helmet (in Italian).

The final project - putting it all together, took another six weeks. The moving parts (cart wheels, soldiers fighting, etc.) was done in Sketchy Physics - that bit was done by Guzman himself. In all the students produced over 500 models during class, and completed another 100 on their own, at home. Here is their collection of models in the 3D Warehouse. (Speaking of the 3D Warehouse, Guzman didn't let his students download any warehouse models for this project; everything is from scratch!)

Guzman has a YouTube channel where you can see many more student videos of SketchUp projects. When you're watching, keep in mind - THIRTEEN year-olds! What were you doing at 13?

Anyone can design anything in 3D!

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