By Michael Burns | on April 02, 2009
Price: 341 . 66
Company: Google SketchUp
Pros: Dynamic Components use and authoring; Interact tool; texture enhancements; Layout 2; Style Builder; custom metadata and report generator; free for standard version.
Cons: Price has jumped for Pro version; limited animation; screen becomes cluttered easily.
Google’s 3D sketching software SketchUp offers a great way to lay out an initial design for a 3D scene or artwork. Illustrators and digital artists can use the free version for occasional work, then take their sketches into Photoshop and Illustrator to create artwork. Animators and 3D artists – and illustrators who use it regularly – should look to the paid-for Pro version, which offers 3D output to professional 3D suites, project-management tools and client-presentation functions.
3D geometry is created easily, by selecting faces and using a ‘push/pull’ tool for extruding surfaces. It works like a simplified version of Carrara’s Dynamic Extrusion tool, and is as useful for rapidly creating objects. Various rendering styles are available, from rough sketches to a blue-pencil look, while there’s also enhanced support for Dynamic Components.
These can be used to create objects that are ‘aware’ of their purpose. This can be seen when scaling a staircase or stack of boxes – if the object uses dynamic components, the individual blocks that make up the stairs or boxes will increase in height or dimension, keeping their form rather than becoming distorted.
This effect is possible because to change the individual components, you have to adjust their attributes directly. Dynamic Components can be used in scenes in the free version of SketchUp, but you’ll need the Pro version to create them.
The Components Attribute dialog makes this task straightforward: a menu of predefined and custom attributes can be added either individually or as a group to your components. Within the dialog, you can allocate values to attributes, or insert formulas using the spreadsheet-style selection menu.
In fact, the whole dynamic component workflow is a bit like using a spreadsheet. This is welcome, if not unique to Sketchup – something similar to this intelligent design can be seen in Amapi Pro, but the use of formulas to control position, rotation and scaling makes it possible to animate the dynamic geometry.