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Match Point.

Sketchup has become one of the most powerful modeling softwares in the architecture and engineering industry.  It has a simple interface and a low learning curve for beginners.  The versatility of Sketchup is practically limitless.  Sketchup can help a homeowner design their new deck, an architect picture their new building in a cityscape, and a landscape architect walk a client through their new park.

Setting the Scene

Sophisticated Sketchup models can take days or even weeks to build depending on their size and complexity.  In order to showcase 3D imagery to clients, designers export scenes that capture perspective views throughout the model.  Some views require designers to model the environment that surrounds their proposed improvements.  This can help clients find their bearings, show enhancements to existing site features or views, and enclose the views preventing awkward gaps in the model.  Those familiar with 3D modeling have inevitably seen images of impressive models reduced by a surrounding limitless expanse of flat ground and sky.

Design options often need to be generated quickly and simply cannot afford fully enclosed 3D models with elaborate environments.  Luckily, Sketchup has a tool to insert your scenery via an image from a photograph.  The tool is called “Match New Photo”.  Essentially, the photo becomes the new background to your model.  As you orbit around your model the photo background does not change.  At first glance, this tool appears to be useless, that is, until you begin to alter the perspective of your model to match that of the photo.  Once you have moved the horizon line, vanishing point, and axis bars into place, your model begins to magically blend into the photo background.  Changing the sun position to the time of day you took the photo is also a nice touch that helps soften the model imagery.

A community was looking for new options for downtown streetscape paving and lighting.  A simple model was built that included a new concrete sidewalk, brick paver band, light fixtures, and people walking on the sidewalk.  Several different combinations of paving patterns and light fixtures were presented by simply adjusting layers in Sketchup and exporting scenes.

A municipality was interested in rebranding their park with new signage.  The sign designs were initially modeled to assist with fabrication.   The models were eventually incorporated into several photos using Sketchup’s Match Photo tool and a photo from Google Street View.   The images were presented to the client who was appreciative to see the product before it was constructed.

A high traffic road was a popular artery for pedestrians, yet it didn’t have a paved sidewalk adjacent to it.  Several options were presented to the client using the Match Photo tool.  This particular option included a bike lane, landscape strip, and a concrete sidewalk.

In addition to adding context and scale to your model, this method by and large avoids post-processing in Photoshop.  The vast majority of work is performed in Sketchup.  This simplifies workflow and makes revisions much less of a headache.

The Bottom Line

  • Sketchup is a powerful program to help communicate designs of all scales and complexities.

  • Enclosing model scenes creates more compelling imagery.

  • Match Photo is a useful tool within Sketchup that allows designers and clients to place their models into context without the increased price of modeling it.

-Sean