TurboSketch Studio is a plug-in for Google SketchUp, and includes the free version of the program in the box. TurboSketch Studio works with both the free and the Pro versions of this powerful 3D program, which is typically used for architectural renderings that ship with rather minimal lighting and surfacing effects.

That's where TurboSketch Studio enters the picture. Applying a realistic-looking brick surface, for example, transforms a stark 2D model into a subtle, lifelike environment. TurboSketch Studio textures and lighting also add a dimension of realism to Google SketchUp models.

With TurboSketch Studio lighting effects, you can use any object as a light source - for instance, you can transform a street light in a drawing into an actual light source that affects other objects in the picture.

TurboSketch Studio's package of lighting effects and surfaces is useful for more than just architectural renderings, but that's its main appeal.

TurboSketch Studio's plug-in effects are accessible in Google SketchUp by adding features to the SketchUp menu; alternately, you can apply TurboSketch Studio effects in Google SketchUp by opening a separate toolbar to access TurboSketch Studio's effects.

Managing performance

There's a downside to TurboSketch Studio's photorealistic renderings - they significantly slow down the operation of both versions of Google SketchUp. Because TurboSketch Studio uses ray tracing (and other related processor-intensive techniques) to calculate complex interrelationships between light and surfaces, there's a noticeable drain on system resources; as a result, effects are not applied in real time.

You can manage these performance challenges by adjusting the level of detail rendering in several ways. You can, for example, choose from several scales of rendering: a site (a shopping centre or apartment complex), a building, a room, a large object (like a desk), or a small object (like a pen). The efficient way to work in TurboSketch Studio is to apply effects only to large objects first. For example, you might apply effects to the walls of a building, but not to smaller objects in the model like a desk or a chair. Once you have chosen surfaces and lighting, take a coffee break and let TurboSketch Studio apply the effects to every object in your model. When you apply full photorealistic rendering to objects as small as a pen, you can wait as long as 40 minutes for the effects to render, depending on your hardware.

Another dimension to managing processing time is choosing how much detail to use when applying lighting effects. For example, if you apply a mirror-style surface to a large wall of windows in a building, light reflecting from those windows will then bounce off other surfaces, and reflect in turn on additional surfaces. Applying optimal lighting effects is not practical in real-time design, so TurboSketch Studio allows you to reduce lighting accuracy and quality while you experiment. Then, after you have a rough picture of how the effect will look, you can again take a coffee break and let the lighting effects render.

TurboSketch Studio: Specs

  • Google SketchUp: 2GHz Pentium processor or higher
  • Windows 2000/XP/Vista
  • 2GB RAM
  • 500MB hard disk space (15GB in Vista)
  • NET 1.1 framework
  • OpenGL-compliant video card
  • IE 6.0 or higher
  • Windows Media Player or QuickTime 5.0 or later
  • Google SketchUp: 2GHz Pentium processor or higher
  • Windows 2000/XP/Vista
  • 2GB RAM
  • 500MB hard disk space (15GB in Vista)
  • NET 1.1 framework
  • OpenGL-compliant video card
  • IE 6.0 or higher
  • Windows Media Player or QuickTime 5.0 or later

OUR VERDICT

Before purchasing a photorealistic plug-in such as TurboSketch Studio, play with Google SketchUp to see if the basic rendering options that come with the program are sufficient for your needs. If you require more high-powered lighting and surface effects to use in presentations, TurboSketch Studio provides them ably - but slowly.

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