|Wednesday 30 September 2009 - Review by howlettn|
Sketchup is a powerful and incredibly useful program, from quick tests of ideas to detailed, complicated models. But however hard you try, playing around with shadows and line styles, the final output will never look `real`. That's where rendering comes in - by essentially working out where light would bounce around your model, rendering software can create images that look far more lifelike.
For rendering sketchup models there are a variety of options, however most are stand-alone programs that you need to import your model into. Podium, however, works inside sketchup. It's also very very easy to use, and conveniantly there is a free eval version to download (although you are limited to a 500 x 500px output - alright for adding into brochures or powerpoints, but not so good for large-scale printing)
Compared to many rendering programs, Podium's features are limited, however this certainly doesn't make it useless - it's far easier to use for a start. The screenshot above shows basically all the options available. Using the box on the left, any face in a scene can be given a light intensity and reflectivity value, so light sources, mirrors etc etc can be created. If a light value is applied to a group, it becomes an omni light - the original group is replaced by a point light source. When you click render, Podium then uses ray-tracing to work out where light would go within your scene.
Whilst it's rendering, you can click preview to view progress. The settings diolog (above) gives only a few options, controlling render speed and quality, and setting where the rendered image is saved and in what format.
For ease of use, Podium beats most other rendering software hands down, and the results (with a little trial and error) are pretty good, especially if you're careful with lights and put in a few reflective surfaces. Obviously more complicated software will produce even better results though, and the maximum size on the eval version isn't quite big enough for high-quality prints. However, the full student version is only around £40 - nothing compared to the hundreds of pounds you'll shell out for other programs like Maxwell.