Thursday, May 27, 2010

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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