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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.
When it comes to outputting high- quality renders, one of the things we have to recognize is that a lot of the finished quality, a lot of the power and functionality housed in our rendering engine of choice, comes from the materials it uses. Our final renders would be nowhere near as appealing, nor convincing, if not farther. Twilight is of course no exception in this regard. This is why it installs with a number of its own material presets and templates, all designed to help us quickly and easily re-create both simple and complex materials as we have the need.
Naturally, familiarity with the tools available will open up options for us. So in this video we just want to familiarize ourselves with Twilight's basic material functionality, which is a little different from all the SketchUp render plug-ins. Twilight's materials work by initially linking to a SketchUp material and using it as a base. So to create a new material in Twilight we must first create a new SketchUp material. Then we can use the Twilight Material Editor to work with presets, templates, and general material parameters.
In fact, let's just show you how that is done. So the first thing we'll do is come and open our SketchUp Material browser. Now we could of course work with one of the SketchUp's preset materials. We could apply that to scene geometry and then work with the Twilight Material Editor to add properties such as reflectivity to it. But we're actually going to work from the ground up here, so we just want to examine our In Model materials, which as you can see, consists of just our default gray material. Now we can create a brand- new material from scratch. So let's come to Create Material icon, click on that, and now we can set up our basic SketchUp material properties.
The first thing we should do of course is give our material a descriptive name. As I'm going to apply it to our walls, that is exactly what I will call it. We can set a custom color if that is what we want to do. So if we want to play around with our color settings a little bit, we can apply that to our material. We could use a texture image if that is what we wanted, but we're just working with the basics at this moment in time. So let's click OK. Now we can use the Paint Bucket tool to just simply left-mouse-click on the walls to apply our material to them. Now, even though we haven't applied any Twilight-specific material properties at this moment in time, what we have here will still render with the Twilight engine.
In fact, just to demonstrate that, let's close our SketchUp Material browser and come and take a test render. Clearly, Twilight is quite happy to render our SketchUp material, as you can see the diffuse color applied to our walls. Of course, the scene does look a little rough, but that's because we're using the 02.Low preset. In fact, let's switch for 04 for our next test render, because we do of course still need to apply some Twilight material properties to our SketchUp material. To do that, we need to open up the Twilight Material Editor. So let's come up to the Twilight toolbar and click on the Material Editor icon.
Once we have our Material Editor open, there are essentially two methods for loading our SketchUp material in here. Firstly, we could come and use the Eyedropper tool. We just come into the scene and left-mouse-click on one of our materials. We can see that basic definition is loaded into the Twilight Editor--and we can do this for any of our scene materials. We could also use the From Scene dropdown. If we left-click on this, you can see all of our available scene materials are listed here. If we had more in the scene, they would also be in this list.
So again, let's select our Walls material. Now we can work with any all the controls available to us to change the appearance of our basic SketchUp material definition. We can change the coloration, add reflection; we can add a bump map; all of the options in here can be used. To create a more complex set of material definitions, however, we will need to come to our Templates menu. If we just left-click on this, you can see we have quite a number of material types listed in here. Now although there is quite a variety listed here, it is oftentimes the case that you'll not find an exact match for the material type that you're working on.
The idea is to find something that shares similar characteristics to your material and then choose that to give you a basic head start. So let's, for instance, apply some paint to our walls. Let's take our Gloss option and apply that. You can see that a number of parameters inside of the Twilight Material Editor do update now. Our Index of Refraction has changed, as has our Shininess value. To check that that has been applied to our Twilight material, let's once again go and take a render. Now initially, not much may seem to have changed, but if you look closely at the material you will see that it does have quite a measure of reflectivity applied to it.
We can just make out reflections in them. So the material template has done its job. It got us going in a particular direction. We now have reflections applied to our wall paint. There is, however, another option inside of the Twilight Material Editor when it comes to applying material properties. Rather than use templates, we could come into our Library tab and make use of the options found in here. If I just access our dropdown list, you can see that there are a number of library options available. And as we pick a particular option, you can see we switched to the tab that houses those material types.
If we take a look down at the bottom of the Material Editor, you see you have a Type description, and as we double- click on each of these options, this will update and tell you now that you're using a Library material and not a template. If it is that we want a basic description of what the material type is meant to be, we need to come up to the top of our Material Editor, and as we switch through the different materials, you'll see that they update to give you information. You will also notice, again, down at the bottom of the Material Editor, that as we roll over our different material types, we do get a basic description of what that material is meant to be.
To apply a Library definition to our SketchUp material, all we need to do is double-click and that is now attached. There is, however, a very important distinction that we need to make here between Twilight's templates and its Library materials. Once we apply a template, we can continue to edit the basic parameters of that material type inside the Twilight Material Editor. However, once we've applied a Library material, if we come back to the Edit tab, you can see that all of our properties are grayed out. As you can see, properties such as Index of Refraction and Shininess are no longer accessible.
What we have is what we get in terms off a Library material. Now of course, sometimes this could be a considerable frustration for render artists, not being able to make any alterations whatsoever to the material. However, the good news is that if we are a licensed user of the Twilight render engine then there are tons of quality material libraries available for download at the twilightrender.com site. So having applied our library definition then, I suppose it would make sense if we took a render and just have a look at what it had done.
What we get of course is very different as compared to our previous material type. Now there is one final aspect of Twilight's Material Editor functionality that I would like to highlight to you before we end this quick overview of how the material system works with Twilight, and that is this render preview that we get down at the bottom of the Material Editor. A very handy feature is the ability to actually change the studio setup of our render preview. If we just access this dropdown, you can see that we have quite a number of options available to us. A lot of them refer to scale, so at this moment in time we are using the 30 cm cube, but we could work with a 240 cm cube, a 1 ft cube.
The choice we would make of course would depend upon the scale of our scene and the materials that we were trying to create. We do, of course, have a number of specialized options. Down towards the bottom, we have, for instance, our checkered studio setup, which gives us not a cube, but a sphere, and a checkered backdrop against which we can check reflections and refractions. So just be aware that that is there. Oftentimes that can help us get a better estimation of the type of material surface that we're creating. So although a little different in behavior from other render engines, in that they typically have their own specific material types with which we work, still Twilight's Material Editor gives us fast, easy options that really can help us create pretty much any type of realistic and even nonrealistic material that we may have a need to, and all of this is done with as little force, with as little parameter tweaking, as possible.
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