Even for architects and structural designers, 3D modelling programs are notoriously obtuse and difficult to get a handle on. Most are extremely specialized for object drawing and product modelling. They are not necessarily attuned to the creative spirit. CAD 3D is usually too mathematical in nature and interface, or too simplified and pedestrian.
Architects and designers who want a creative outlet that gives their ideas life have only a few choices. Primary among them is Sketchup 3.1. It is at once powerful, easy to use, and versatile. Sketchup 3.1 makes 3D design and architectural rendering as much fun as playing a game, and as intuitive as it has ever been on the computer.
Those familiar with drawing programs will have no problem getting started with Sketchup. The tools and their respective icons are easy to understand, and the interface is simple. You start drawing from a top down perspective, drawing out the floor plan of your design. You can, of course change the perspective and begin drawing from the elevation or any other position - even subterranean.
Most work is done with either the pencil or the Push-Pull tools. The Push-Pull tool can extrude surfaces and change and adjust a design in real-time. It can also change, align or combine surfaces.
Sketchup 3.1's expanded export features include the ability to create QuickTime walkthroughs of renderings. The program uses a page-by-page metaphor. Pages work as keyframes. You set up different views, either by changing your camera angle, or walking through your drawing to a different point, and designate the new point of view a page. When the project is animated, the program transitions smoothly from one page view to the next.
Sketchup's QuickTime feature is appealing to more than just architects and structural designers. Web-heads can take advantage of the beautiful 3D animation output, without having to learn about splines, and other techno-jargon. They can get right down to drawing.
Shadows can be adjusted for day, year and hour. Surface transparency and image and texture mapping all reveal Sketchup's unlimited potential. Shadows can be adjusted in each animation page to simulate a time lapse.
Tutorial files, available online, are excellent - teaching how complicated ideas can be achieved in simple steps. It must be said that these QuickTime tutorials are as entertaining as they are instructive. The narrator, obviously one of the developers, is candid and funny.
Sketchup is the antithesis to the overwrought CAD design tools available today. It is powerful, simple, and fun. And the projects you sketch out using this tool can be presented in as compelling and convincing a manner as your ideas will allow. Sketchup is that rare application that's worth every penny spent on it, and every hour you find yourself playing in it. Sketchup 3.1 is a gem of a designer's tool.