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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.
Although not designed as general animation tools, SketchUp and Twilight are perfectly capable of producing animated sequences for us. Indeed, if we are using SketchUp Pro, then quite a myriad of animation options open up to us. As we are working with the free version of SketchUp, however, we will work in this video with a simple animated camera sequence that has already been set up in our start scene. To render out an animation sequence in Twilight, we really need to work with two sets of options. The first thing we need to do is set Twilight up to use one of its animation render presets.
This means we will get flicker-free global illumination in our final renders. If we open up our Twilight Render, dialog by coming up to the toolbox and clicking on the Open Twilight icon, and if we just close up our Easy presets, you can see that we actually have an entire Animation section available to us. The list is actually split into two halves. The first four options use Photons and Final Gather for global illumination; the next four are all Unbiased rendering methods.
Now we do need to note that these are not progressive rendering options. Each frame will only be rendered for a fixed number of passes, is what we get. So you can see we have options for 100 passes per frame and then options for 500 passes per frame. Do bear in mind, these options will take quite a bit of time to render on a per-frame basis. We also need to be aware that our Photon and Final Gather options are really designed to account for object animation in a scene. They're not really designed for interior camera work.
As we are rendering only an animated camera in this instance, we may want to focus on using any of the Unbiased options available. If however we're not looking to produce a high-quality final animated sequence, but really just want to render out something that gives us a good idea of how the animated sequence will work and basically what our scene is looking like, there is another option available to us. If we just scroll up, close up our Animation section, and come into the Advanced group, you can see we have an Animation Interior option.
This preset will give us a reasonable amount of quality in our final renders but will still produce our animated sequences pretty speedily. Now, as to which one of these animation presets we should use for our own projects, well, I can only suggest that you may want to perform some quick test renders to determine which one will suit your needs. In the case of these animation presets, the old adage "one man's meat is another man's poison" can be very true. Indeed, we have to determine which suits the needs of our project in its current phase.
For the purpose of cause of our quick demonstration here, we are going to use this Animation Interior option. So with our render preset selected, we now need to work with yet another set of Twilight controls. These are found in the Animation tab of our Render dialog. As you can see, by default Twilight is set to render no animation. But if we just access our dropdown list, you can see there are a number of rendering modes available to us. We can render a sequence that has animated lighting in the scene. We can render a sequence that has animated objects, or we can choose this Only View option, which essentially is designed for camera or scene view animation.
As this is what we want, this is the option that we will choose. Now you can note here that Twilight is reporting that we have a 0 to 5 second animation available to render. If you're wondering where it is getting these values from, we need to go and look at SketchUp's animation settings. So let's come into the View menu, come down to the Animation set, and then come down to the Settings option. Now you can see in here we have a 3-second animation set up, and we have a delay of 1 second between each camera move. As we have two cameras in the scene, this of course adds up to a total all 5 seconds.
Now generally speaking, we are always going to want to set our Scene Delay to 0 before rendering out our animation. If we don't, then SketchUp will tell Twilight to render the same frame over and over again for the duration of our Scene Delay. If then it is that we have our frame rate set to 30 frames per second--that is, 30 images being rendered for every second of animation--then we will essentially render 30 identical frames. This of course would be a waste of our rendering resources.
It would be much better to build that delay in later on as we put our animated sequence together in some video production software. So with our Scene Delay set to 0, there is another piece of SketchUp functionality that we may just need to check out. If I come to the Window menu, come down to the Scenes option, you can see, each camera has this Include in animation checkbox. If we don't make certain that each of the scene views has this option enabled, it will be completely disregarded for the purposes of animation. So in our case, with only two scene views in the scene, we wouldn't actually get any animation.
So we have our SketchUp options set up as we want them. All we need to do now is work with the rest of our Twilight animation controls. Before we set those up though, there are just a couple of things that we need to be aware of with regard to rendering animation in Twilight. Firstly, since all lighting in the scene is taken into account by Twilight, whether it is contributing light to the currently rendered frame or not, it really would be a good idea to turn off any lights that are not contributing in a significant way to our particular animated sequence.
This could potentially reduce our render times by quite a significant amount. We also need to be aware that Twilight will calculate direct and indirect lighting for all lights on all geometry processed in the scene, whether we actually see it in the final rendered frame or not. We may then want to hide any geometry in the scene that is not going to appear in our final rendered frame. Of course, if a piece of geometry is contributing significantly to the light bounce in our environment, then we would really want to keep that in the scene.
So keeping those pieces of information in mind, we can now set up the rest of our Twilight animation options. As you can see, we now have a 3-second animation available to render if we want to. If that is the case, then our End of Animation value, which of course is set in seconds, needs to be set to 3. Now, as you can see, we are rendering 3 seconds of an available 3-second animation, totaling 91 frames. Now this frame value is set according to the Frame Rate set in this particular parameter.
If the default frame rate of 30 frames per second is just what we need, then we can leave this value alone. But we do need to keep in mind that certain delivery mediums may require some very specific frame rates. As what we're doing here is really just a proof-of-concept render, I'm going to use a web-based frame rate of around about 15 frames per second. This just means we've got less frames to render. As you can see, we are now going to render a total of 46. We do have the ability, using this Starting Frame option, to offset the start of our rendered sequence.
So if we wanted, for instance, our first rendered frame to be in actuality frame 15 of our animated sequence, we could just set our Start Frame to be 15 and that is the point from which our render will commence. Our final and extremely important step is to set a Render Location and of course a Base Image Name for our animated sequence. So if I just click on the Browse button, you can see we are in our Exercise_Files folders structure. I am just going to come into Ch06 and into my Renders > Animation folder, just so that I can contain all of my animated sequence in one place.
This just means I know where everything is once I come to compile the sequence in some video production software. So we do need to give our renders a name, so I am just going to call this Anim_. Underscore means that my numerical sequence can be appended after the base file name that I've set. Once I have done that, I can click Save, and we are now ready to render out our animated sequence. As soon as we start the render, Twilight will simply run through each of the frames, rendering them in sequence. As we've already run through this process, we can of course just show you the final animation.
So if I just go and pull up QuickTime player, we can just play you the final animated sequence, which as you can see, turns out quite nicely. It certainly isn't a high-quality vendor, but it is more than enough to get an idea of how the animation is working, and indeed how the scene lighting and the materials are working. Of course, we do need to keep in mind that Twilight only renders out still images, so we have to compile our image sequence in a piece of video editing software, something such as Adobe Premiere or Sony Vegas.
So even though, as we mentioned in our introduction, SketchUp and Twilight are not designed as general animation tools, if we just follow the simple steps outlined in this video, we can still get some very nice results from them.
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