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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.

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Visualising Customer Success with SketchUp, the Archilime way.

Customer relationships are important to us and we’re delighted that our good friends Archilime Visualisation have agreed to share some insight into their work and processes, while also offering a few nice words about their favourite reseller!

Cadsoft Solutions Limited was founded over 15 years ago. From the very beginning it has always been about adding value for our customers and partners. We pride ourselves on extensive product knowledge and the provision of first class technical support, assisting all customers to solve problems in a timely and helpful manner, and to find the right solutions for their business. We recognise that buying software is an investment and getting the right solution for that investment is paramount. That’s why we value the relationships with all our customers, offering them insight and an honest appraisal based on customers’ needs and requirements. Over to you, Jack!

Please introduce yourself and your team. 

I am Jack Dicker, founder of Archilime Visualisation based on the outskirts of beautiful Dartmoor in Devon! I have an extremely talented team of seven that deliver high-quality digital media content primarily focused around the creation of CGI and Animation for marketing and planning purposes, along with the launch of the Archilime Academy in March 2019 providing bespoke SketchUp & Vray NEXT training in the South West. Our team of in-house creatives specialise in high-end bespoke Interior & Exterior CGI, VR, Fly-through & Fly-over Animation, Drone photography, 3D Design Development, interactive plot selector web-apps and property marketing brochures for a range of clients, internationally. – The complete marketing package for any property development

Why use SketchUp? What is it about this application that you like? 

This is something we are asked a lot of the time from people we meet at networking events and business lunches because everyone assumes we use 3DS MAX or C4D. When we say we use solely SketchUp, they look at us shocked. SketchUp is hugely underrated, the truth is it can do just as good a job if not better. This month alone we managed to successfully issue out 52 still images to clients, all created in SketchUp and rendered on V-Ray. 

I may run the risk of echoing what we say through our Archilime Academy marketing but SketchUp is the fastest modelling tool out there from our point of view and for visualisation it’s the key for efficiency. The modelling/rendering phase is probably about 90% of our workflow and the last 10% is Photoshop so the rumour that SketchUp cannot handle big files is just not right. When optimised correctly, SketchUp is the simplest way to demonstrate project development and it allows us to discuss, sketch and elaborate on live project design when in any 3D Design Development meeting. I think I would struggle to do something so seamless in more advanced software like 3DS MAX. Personally, our business model relies heavily on the construction of the scene before post production so we have the ability to secure further profit opportunities with any additional imagery added to an order. To be able to do this we create everything in the model space and then render it directly in V-Ray from SketchUp. 

Along with SketchUp, you use Laubwerk and V-Ray? What’s the stand out functionality of these applications? 

We have a gigantic list of plugins we use for different projects whether master planning, residential, interior or exterior and aerial but our five most used plugins right now? These are V-Ray, Laubwerk, Skatter, Thru Paint and Soap Skin. Something that is also huge for us is Profile Builder and whilst not everyone uses it, it’s prominence and use will be integral to our process in 2020. 

Laubwerk has been a game changer for us in the past two years. I was heavily involved in the BETA testing with a few other artists around the world to try and get this into the public eye and iron out the creases! Through this stage we tested models, transparency, proxy delivery and general render times for most species on the first pack. I must say, for anyone using SketchUp, Laubwerk is a must have plugin. We would not be able to do case studies as quick without Laubwerk. Yes, we have libraries full of planting from companies like Vizpark, Xfrog, Evermotion etc but Laubwerk is a pre-constructed model library built into SketchUp so there is no messing around with OBJ files or re-texturing materials. Rumour has it that they are also developing some other incredible features too which will only strengthen what they already offer for SketchUp.

Generally speaking, each project requires a plan of attack and could feature an array of software and external plugin requirements along the way but we import CAD into SketchUp, mass (model) the proposal, add detailing, hardscaping, landscaping and then start testing materiality within V-Ray. 

Can you share a project you’re most proud of?

This is the ongoing discussion we have every year and I’m sure the team have their own favourites. I’ve asked the room and it’s all different and I guess that’s because certain artists worked on certain jobs, but mine has probably got to be Maris Meadow.

Working closely with your reseller…..

The excellent relationship Archilime has with Cadsoft, particularly Nick Johnson, is important. Cadsoft Solutions always surpasses what has been expected of a reseller. I always receive honest advice from Cadsoft, along with time to help resolve technical issues with swarm rendering, node setups, licensing over our PCs and news on what’s happening for the future which is massively important because we can then make strategic decisions in advance. We are comfortable and confident about calling to discuss issues too. If something cannot be diagnosed there and then, I know full well it will be looked into and get a call back.

Thank you, Jack! Archilime Visualisation and Cadsoft Solutions Limited have worked closely now for many years. We value their business and greatly admire the ambition, creativity and talent of this industrious organisation. We look forward to serving Archilime’s software needs for many years to come.

If you would like to be featured as a customer case study, contact John Quinn in our Marketing team.