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Architecture and built environment brought to life in SketchUp by Third Rule Studios

In another instalment of our series of customer case studies, we’re delighted to present Jamie Christensen. Jamie is Director of Third Rule Studios, a company specialising in creating high quality visual representations of architecture and the built environment. Here we learn about why SketchUp (and supporting cast V-Ray, Laubwerk and Skatter) provides the foundation for his company’s impressive portfolio.

Hello Jamie, we have been your reseller for over three years now and glad you reached out to us and were happy to be a featured case study. Can you give us some background on Third Rule Studios and share with our readers how long you’ve been a SketchUp and V-Ray user?

I am the Director of Third Rule Studios a Suffolk based CGI company specialising in the visualisation of proposed architecture and the built environment.  I have been working in the architectural design and 3D visualisations industry now for around 15 years.

I have always used Sketchup, even before getting into the world of 3D  rendered visualisations. When I first started using it I was an apprentice in an architectural firm, and to try to impress my boss at the time I learnt Sketchup over a weekend and produced a model of a development being designed in the office. I showed this to my boss on the Monday who was impressed and from then on I was the only 3D guy in the office and the other senior architects were asking me to teach them. I was 18, I’m now 34 and have been using Sketchup for a very long time! But I’m always learning of better and more effective ways to create 3D visuals.

I’ve been using V-Ray for around 8 Years. I started using it because the render engine I was using at the time was incredibly slow and limited and I wanted to progress and improve my images. I downloaded a trial version in order to teach myself how to use it, got the basics down pretty quickly and I have been using V-Ray ever since.

Why SketchUp (and V-Ray) to create visual representations of architecture and the built environment?

Sketchup is an amazing tool for modelling! Its very intuitive to use and enables you to go into as little or as much detail as you want. Sketchup is also a lot more powerful than people seem to believe and can handle large file sizes as long as you know how to handle them. There is a misunderstanding in the ArchViz industry that you HAVE to use 3dsMax in order to produce great images. I can use 3dsMax, but I chose to use Sketchup 100% of the time.  In terms of learning there are lots of tutorials out there, however I found that all you need to know are the very basics to get going i.e. line, plane, push pull etc and from there just learning as you go. 

V-Ray is an extremely versatile and powerful render engine. As soon as I learnt the basics I could get going with rendering images to a pretty good standard. But the more I used it and gained more in depth knowledge of it the better and easier V-Ray was to use. Along with Sketchup, V-Ray became integral to Third Rule Studios and the images we create.

SketchUp’s taglineDesign it. Make it. Enjoy the process – clearly rings true with Third Rule Studios. Is there a particular feature in SketchUp that helps you achieve what you need for the next stage? And what does a typical workflow look like?

It’s the speed in which you can model in Sketchup; you can go from an empty space to having a simple architectural model in minutes! Also, Sketchup’s integration with V-Ray means they communicate seamlessly with each other. There’s no need to deal with exporting and importing between different formats. This in turn means you know that whatever you model within Sketchup will be visualised with V-Ray with no problems. 

Regarding a typical workflow, we are approached by a client  to create some visuals, we have a discussion about the project and what they are hoping to achieve, how many images, who they are marketing to for example. We then come up with a set of preliminary “clay” images for the client in order to confirm that they are happy to proceed from the chosen perspective, lighting style etc. 

We then create another low res preliminary image this time full colour using the specification the client has provided. If this needs some tweaks we revise the preliminary image and send it back. Once this is agreed and the client is happy we then produce the final image which can be used for marketing.

You’ve already mentioned V-Ray, what other SketchUp plug-ins do you use? The external environment and landscape are important factors in your visualisations, do you use Laubwerk for example? Any other plug-ins you have your eye on and want to try?

We use Laubwerk for all of our plants and trees, they really are amazing and cannot be praised enough for the quality of their models and how they render and ease of use.

Also, Skatter is a huge part of our process. It’s an incredible plugin that every Sketchup user who is in ArchViz should have in their arsenal. It’s great for grass, gravel, plants etc, basically anything you need to spread over a surface but also have full control over.

In terms of other plugins I have my eye on, it would be great if Chaos Group could do a version of Corona that can be used within SketchUp.  Apart from that the new version of Skatter when it comes out looks interesting.

And finally, thanks for talking to us about SketchUp and Third Rule Studios. You’ve been a valued Cadsoft Solutions Limited customer for a number of years now and we’ve never asked the question, how did you find us?

I was recommended to you by a friend who purchased Sketchup from you many years ago. They told me you provided great support and were very helpful. When I purchased my software, you were (and still are) very helpful and provide a great service.

Well, if your friend is reading this, then thank you for the recommendation! And thanks for being a brilliant customer case study, Jamie.

If you’d like to learn more about Third Rule Studio’s impressive work, you can follow them on Instagram, Facebook or visit their website.

Garden and interior designers, architecture practices to architectural visualisation companies, schools and non-profits, we’re always keen on hearing from our valued customers. If you’re a Cadsoft Solutions customer and would like to be featured as a case study, John Quinn in our marketing team would love to hear from you. We’re particularly keen to hear from our SU Podium/Walker, Rhinoceros and SketchUp customers.