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Twilight is a very popular and inexpensive third-party renderer for SketchUp. This course shows how to create highly realistic 3D architectural drawings (including interior/exterior elements) with the lights, materials, camera, and render options in Twilight. Author Brian Bradley explains the importance of reflectance in materials, and shows how to manage and save rendering presets, how to correct for perspective, tone, and exposure in the camera, and how to create a variety of material types. The final chapter covers rendering your complete arch-viz scene for a couple types of output, including animation and composites.
There are a number of important Twilight elements that are already set up and ready to work for us each time we start a new scene in the SketchUp application with the Twilight plug-in installed of course. Three very important ones are Indirect Illumination provided by Twilight's Light Transport or GI engines, natural-looking daytime lighting provided by a Physical Sun and Sky environment, and a photographic camera through which Twilight will render our scenes. With that having been said, however, if we were to take a render in our Chapter 02_Daylight start scene, we would find that we actually have a completely dark environment; at this moment in time we have no lighting in the scene whatsoever.
This is because we have deliberately set this scene file up so that we have to manually build our sun and sky system. Hopefully this will help us familiarize ourselves with the components that make up this important Twilight lighting system. Do keep in your mind, though, that the other two elements mentioned, namely global illumination and the Twilight camera, are both still at work in the test renders that we make. To turn our daylight system back on, as it were, we first of all need to access or open up the Twilight Light Editor.
We can do this by coming up to the Twilight toolbar and clicking on the Light Editor icon. As you can see, this opens up the Light Editor dialog and we're taken instantly into the Sun/Sky tab. This happens if we don't have any other light type selected in the scene. If we do, then we'll be taken to the tab that is relevant to that particular light type. In the Sun and Sky tab you can see our controls are separated into two distinct sections. On the right we have our Sunlight controls and on the left we have the controls that we're going to focus on initially, which are of course for our Sky settings.
If we access the Background and Sky Type dropdown, you can see we have quite a number of options available to us when it comes to setting up a sky type when rendering with Twilight. This of course is exactly what we would expect from any quality render engine. Now the option we have at work in our scene at this moment in time is this simple Background Color control. As you can see, we have our Background Color set to black, which is how we've achieved a blacked-out render. We could have of course set any color in here for our background that we want.
Do keep in mind though that we set a pink sky for our renders, then we will get pink lighting in our scene as well. Really what we want to do is set up a Physical Sky environment for ourselves, so let's access our dropdown list and choose the Physical Sky option that can be found down towards the bottom. Once we enable that, we know have a physical sky in terms of the backdrop and in terms of sky lighting in our scene. So let's come up to the Twilight toolbar, let's open up the Render dialog, and let's click on the Start render icon to take a test render.
Now as you can see, we have a clear sky environment. This is present in both the background of our rendered image and of course the illumination, the lighting that is coming from our sky. If it is that we want to see the coloration in our procedural sky just a little more clearly, if we come over to the Camera tab and then if we just drop our Exposure value down to, say, .9, you can see the coloration that is taking place there. Let's just increase that value back up to 1.1, just so we get a nice bright daylight look from our sky.
Of course, it is readily apparent in our render that we still have no direct light in our scene. We need to enable our sunlight as it were. To do this we need to go back into our Light Editor dialog. So even though it is open, let just come up to our Twilight toolbar and click on the icon once more. This will just give it focus and bring it in front of our Render dialog. Then, to get our sunlight working, all we need to do is put a check in this very obvious Sunlight Enable checkbox. Of course, having done that, we will most likely want to enable our Sunlight Caste Shadow option as well.
If we didn't, of course our direct light would simply pass through the walls of our building. Now whilst in some situations that may be the desired behavior, typically, when it comes to architectural rendering, things are going to look much better if the sunlight actually is blocked by the walls of the building. So, we're going to enable that particular option. Well then having turned shadows on, if we want a little bit of extra realism from them, we may also want to enable the Soft or Blurry Shadows checkbox. This will add a little to our render times, but when we use SketchUp shadow setting controls to set the time of day--maybe to something such as early morning--then we would really see the extra level of realism that comes from having this option enabled.
We would now see that our shadow edges would blur, or soften as they travel away from a shadow-casting object, which of course is exactly what happens in the real world. The level of softness found on our shadows is controlled by this Sunlight slider. High values in here will increase the blurriness, or the soften, of our shadows, so that if we take the slider to the right, if we go to the left and decrease the values, then we're going to obviously lessen that particular effect. We're going to get sharper, crisper shadows from the system.
In this instance, as I do want blurry shadows, but not as blurry as the default, I'm going to set this to a value of around about 20. You may also want to make a little tweak to our Maximum Sun Intensity control. This really handles how strong a sunlight effect we get in the scene. Really, I think of it as how harsh the direct light will appear on the surfaces. Again, I'm just going to tweak this down a little from the default, so I'm just going to drop that down to a value of 3. Once again, I can bring our Render dialog to the fore, and I can use the Start render icon to test how our sunlight is looking.
And as you can see, with all of those options enabled and working together, we know have a complete natural-looking daylight system. We have our direct sunlight; we have our soft shadows, our skylight; we have our procedural sky gradient in the background. Of course, do remember that in Twilight for SketchUp we get all of this by default whenever we start a new scene. All of this is already set up for us. But we hope just having seen how the system is put together--where the controls are, how they can be accessed--that you will now be in a position to take full advantage of this very powerful Twilight lighting feature.
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