3D model of a school, how?
September 15, 2008 7:23 PM   Subscribe

What should I use to make a simple 3D model of a school (not real)? I also need to create some classrooms (with chairs, table, etc).

Would SketchUp work for this? Is it possible to make something like this or this with SketchUp? If not, what are my alternatives?
posted by Memo to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I, personally, model on Blender rather than Sketchup. The learning curve is much steeper, but it is a much more powerful tool. This tutorial discusses how to do exactly what you want to do using Blender. It has pretty step-by-step directions, but if you get lost in the Blender interface, there's also a pretty good Wikibook that's more or less current. There's also the Blender Wiki, but that seems to be offline at the moment.

And yes, I know a lot of people don't like Blender's interface. I agree that the learning curve is more of a learning cliff, but once you learn the conventions it's consistent at least.
posted by Alterscape at 7:35 PM on September 15, 2008

Google Sketchup

It's easiest and it will work for that.
posted by DonSlice at 7:39 PM on September 15, 2008

Seconding Sketchup. In my old job (research academia with lots of 3d modeling) we used to have highschool kids and college freshmen come in all the time for a summer program. The big project at the end was usually modeling a building in sketchup.
posted by wavering at 7:40 PM on September 15, 2008

Ditto on Sketchup, unless you want to spend a lot of money and learn a program like VectorWorks or AutoCAD. My job involves lots of AutoCAD and even 3D work, and I still usually export to SketchUp to do the rendering. SketchUp can produce much better results on a normal 3D video card.
posted by MrBobaFett at 7:46 PM on September 15, 2008

nthing Sketchup. It took me about an hour to learn the interface (no reading manuals or following tutorials, just testing things out), and then I created a basic model of a my ideal room setup for a conference I'm running, and it took no time at all really. (See my Flickr in profile for outcome.)

A tip is to do a search for things like tables and chairs on the pre-rendered model site. You can download pre-made items that you can scale into your models - makes it much faster.
posted by gemmy at 8:10 PM on September 15, 2008

I do a fair amount of modeling (although am by no means a professional) in the games industry. Your goal may be a little too hefty for SketchUp. I advise you not to use Blender unless this is a lifelong pursuit - it's just impossible to learn in a reasonable timeframe.

Personally, I'd probably go with 3D Studio GMAX. 3D Studio is great for just slapping down a ton of primitives and getting started.
posted by Ryvar at 8:11 PM on September 15, 2008

Yes, you can model something like that in Sketchup. No, you won't be able to render images like the ones you show, at least not inside of Sketchup and/or without 3rd-party addons.
I'd say model in Sketchup, then render in 3ds Max.
posted by signal at 8:14 PM on September 15, 2008

Sketchup, yes. It can definitely do that stuff. Then get Podium (costs a little but is dead easy with mixed results) or Kerkythea which is free but a little more complicated. Those two work as plug-ins with Sketchup and will create a pretty decent rendering that will take your model above and beyond the "cartoony" quality that you get right out of Sketchup.
posted by amanda at 9:06 PM on September 15, 2008

Sketchup won't render but you can apply textures to surfaces. It has plenty of built in textures for buildings, so while you can't render as in the images you link to, you can produce visually decent results: they're just a little more cartoony.
posted by nthdegx at 12:31 AM on September 16, 2008

Another worthy alternative is Bryce 5.5, which has a very nice user interface (unlike most 3D programs) and does fairly good raytracing.

It's free by the slightly circuitous route of downloading it from here, then registering at Daz 3D and going to this page to get a free licence key. Circuitous, but well worth it. (And yes, legal.)
posted by Zarkonnen at 3:40 AM on September 16, 2008

or Kerkythea which is free but a little more complicated.

Model in Sketchup, render with Kerkythea. Free, easy, beautiful.
posted by limited slip at 6:46 AM on September 16, 2008

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