SketchUp IMHO: Piranesi Part 2

Last week I talked about the program Piranesi and gave a broad overview of how it works. This week I want to show a few examples so you can see what the difference is in how they look.

Just to recap – the main purpose of Piranesi is to give a design a more “sketchy” feel to it and that effect can help you when you are communicating your design.  Some people respond in a more positive way to a design that looks like it is created by hand, rather than one that is obviously created digitally.  Even though a vast majority of art is created in the computer in some way, many people still see that process as “cold”.

Below is an example of a design I did a few years ago for a production of “The Crucible”.  This image shows the plain SketchUp modeled design:

An image of my design for a production of "The Crucible" created in SketchUp

An image of my design for a production of “The Crucible” created in SketchUp

As you can see from this image, the set is a thrust stage with seating on all three sides.  The center thrust part of the stage is a simple rough-planked, raked stage with a few pieces of furniture.  Up stage is a row of cut-out trees that are silhouetted against a white backdrop that can be lit with different colored lights to change the mood and atmosphere.  Additional tree cut-outs act to provide wing space on stage left and right.

The image below is what the design looks like when color and other details are added in Piranesi:

The design for "The Crucible" created in SketchUp with details added in Piranesi

The design for “The Crucible” created in SketchUp with details added in Piranesi

First off, notice what a difference there is by simply adding color to a design presentation.  What I do want you to notice more, however, is that the design looks like it was created by hand and has a more “sketchy” quality to it.  This can give a more “artistic” more creative feel to your design and people may be more inclined to comment on it.

As one more example, here is the same design below, after it was rendered in a program called SUPodium:

A rendering of the design for "The Crucible" created in SketchUp and rendered in SUPodium

A rendering of the design for “The Crucible” created in SketchUp and rendered in SUPodium

Now, look at all three of the images.  Of the last two, people will like different ones. Some people will prefer the rendered image created in SUPodium because they feel it looks more “real”, while others will like the more “sketchy” look of the one created in Piranesi.  And that is my point.  Since people are different and have different tastes and visions in their head, you need to have different tools, and know how to use them, to be a successful designer.

Nate’s Notes: “Am I Saying it Wight?”

I’m getting pretty old ya know.  I’m 1 ½ years now…which is a lot of months…not as big a number as the number of pictures Momma takes!  I don’t even need my lovey that much anymore.  Okay, just kidding about that.  Being 1 ½ means I got to visit the nice doctor lady again to show her just how big and healthy I am. Momma said I have to be healthy for our photo field adventures.   I had so much to tell miss doctor about the last 6 months:  the many many places Momma took me for her many many pictures, everything I’d learned from books, the new things I’d tried to eat (some weren’t food), the new tricks I can do, and just why naps seem archaic, institutional and suffocating.  I did JUST that when she walked into the room.  I had so much to say, but it all came out in a jumble, my sounds and words twisted with each attempt.  Oh bananas!!   “Quite the little talker, aren’t you Nathaniel?!” Then she turned to Momma and Daddy, “He has so many words, really good tone with so many good sounds and inflections in his speech.  He is really trying to form those sentences even if you can’t always understand him!”    What is she talking about?  Momma understands me?  Doesn’t everyone?  Okay, just breathe and wait. Let her talk and see how much I’ve grown.

Right away, miss doctor commented on my cuteness and charming personality.  Duh.  After she measured how tall I am, and how much I weigh, she told Momma and Daddy I’m on the smaller end of the spec…spect…spec-something for my age.  Who is she calling small???  I’m a big helper! Grrrrrr.  I was just about to tell her I’d show HER small when she handed me the most amazing book!  “Caws!  Caw!  Caw!  Twuck!!! TwUCKK!!!”   I yelled over and over.  Momma smiled at me while the doctor said, “Ah, yes.  Nathaniel is having that common speech issue in development where his r’s come out as w’s sometimes.  Perfectly natural at this age. He thinks he is saying it correctly because it sounds that way in his head.  He actually is pretty clear, well beyond what I would have expected for his age.”  What does she mean I mix up my r’s and w’s sometimes?  It sounds perfectly clear in my head, just fine to me when I say car.  Here, I’ll show you… “caw”, “twuck”, “tuwtle”.  See?!  I smugly looked at the doctor and then Momma, who gave me a proud smile.  Then Momma turned to the doctor and said, “Well, I certainly know what THAT feels like.  How often do I have something to say that sounds great in my head, but then I can’t seem to coherently communicate when I open my mouth!”  They both laughed but I didn’t hear anything funny.  Did she say I was charming?  Wait…did someone say shots????!!!! “Wuuunnnn!” 

"Uhhh...Did someone say shots?!!"

“Uhhh…Did someone say shots?!!”

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TMG Philosophy: NO!

Because I have a very mobile, very curious, never-sleeping 18-month old boy (Nate), “no” has become a very regular part of my vocabulary.   “No, you can’t launch yourself off the top of the couch.  No, you can’t eat dog food (Although I’m starting to wonder if it would be that bad).  No, you can’t squeeze the baby chickens.  No, you can’t fish in the toilet.  No, you can’t use a hammer on the windows.  No, you can’t use a hammer at all.  No, you can’t stay awake for 24 hours.  No, you can’t have my beer (Although he may finally sleep…I’m kidding people!).  No, you can’t stick your crayons and cars and cereal puffs in the DVD player. No, Momma’s camera is not a toy.  No, no, no.”

Does "no" mean I should always take "no" for an answer?

Does “no” mean I should always take “no” for an answer?

Anyone who has spent even just a little time around a developing child will tell you that more often than not, toddlers, kids and teenagers (and quite a few adults) don’t take “no” for an answer. No they don’t.  I am learning that daily, even hourly.  As I have these battles with my son, watching him accept or test the boundaries being built, I can’t help but draw a parallel to life and echo Tim’s point from “Don’t Feed the Alligators”.   Yes, some “no’s” exist to keep us safe or steer us away from bad decisions.  However, I believe some “no’s” exist to refine us, to strengthen us, to make us fight harder to overcome the obstacle.  Some “no’s” challenge us to think outside of our box and step outside of our comfort zones. Isn’t it often our resistance to “no” that brings our biggest achievements, our greatest success, our strongest life?

How many cancer survivors do you know that initially heard, “no, we can’t help you.”?  What if Walt Disney had taken “no” for an answer after being fired for “lacking imagination”, and after numerous failed businesses?  What if the Wright brothers had taken “no” for an answer with each failed flying machine?   Imagine if Abraham Lincoln had quit trying when he experienced numerous defeats in his runs for public office?   What if Theodor Seuss Giesel had taken “no” for an answer when over 20 publishers rejected his first book?  What if Beethoven had listened to his violin teachers when they said he would never succeed in composing?

I could go on with that list, and we can agree the world would be a much different place had these individuals taken “no” for an answer.  Hopefully we have all been given a healthy dose of “no’s” to keep us safe and teach us respect for boundaries.  Hopefully we have all been given enough encouragement when we hear those “no’s” that mean “keep going, try harder”.  At 18 months, my son is just learning about safety and permissible behavior. He is learning that “no” is survivable. He is also learning that with a few extra letters and redirection, “no” can become “not this way…but try this.”

Next time you hear “no”, I challenge you to pause and think about whether or not it really means “no”. I know Nate will!

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Random Stuff We Like: Steam

I like to play games.  No, I am not talking about hopscotch, jump-rope, pin the tail on the donkey, and certainly not psychological games to mess with people.  I am talking about video games.  It has always been a hobby of mine for at least the last 30 years.  I remember back in 1982 when we bought the Atari 800 that had a full keyboard and a lid that you lifted up to plug in cartridges for games.  When we bought the 5.25″ disc drive for the computer (for around $800!) that was the height of technology and we could now buy all sorts of other games!

The process of buying games and downloading them has come a long way in 30 years.  Now there are many, many ways for you to purchase games if you enjoy them.  You can get games on your phone, on your i-pad, your gaming console, etc.  You can walk into a store and buy them or, even better – you can download them.

And that is where Steam comes into play (no pun intended).  Steam started out to be copy protection for a very popular game created by a company named Valve (get it – Valve…Steam…?)   Very soon after release, they offered the ability to digitally download games.  At first it was just their own games, and then after a short while they offered many games from other game makers.

They are now the largest and most popular digital download platform with an estimated 70% of a 4 billion dollar a year digital download business worldwide.  As of the writing of this blog entry I could not find an exact total of games that they offer, but on the front page of their site they say they have 2,569 games under $10.00 and 1,576 games under $5.00.  Just those numbers alone show that they have a lot to choose from.

They offer the most current games from big game developers as well as small “indie” games that are made by one or two people.  In my opinion, they are very democratic about what games they offer on their site.

They also routinely have huge sales on top games.  During Christmas and New Years for instance, they often had top selling games for anywhere from 50% to 75% off.  That is a big discount!

Not into games…?  Well, they just recently added a section for software where they offer a variety of programs that range from personal budget programs to game development software.  Just last month Amanda wrote a recommendation for Camera Bag 2 and mentioned that it is offered on Steam.

You should check it out and see what they offer.  Everyone enjoys a good game now and then.  I know there was a time a few years back when my whole family was practically addicted to a game called Bookworm, and I have to say without a doubt … it was time well wasted!

SketchUp IMHO: SketchUp and Piranesi

Last week I talked about how there are many plug-ins for SketchUp that give the program more artistic range, meaning, with a small fee, you can add the new program to SketchUp and give yourself more tools to work with in creating your artistic vision.

I talked about Twilight last week, which gives you the opportunity to render your designs so that the results are photo realistic images.  These can often be more effective in communicating your design so that people can see almost exactly what the design will look like when completed.  I have even had situations where people have looked at my renderings and thought they were photos of an existing project and argued with each other on whether it was a photo or not.

In this entry – I want to talk about a program that allows you to create images on the other side of the spectrum.  The program is called Piranesi and it is not a plug-in, but a stand alone program that allows you to export your SketchUp files into a format that works very easily in the program.  Piranesi (which is named after a famous Italian illustrator, known for his architectural drawings, one of which is shown below), allows you to take your design from SketchUp and very quickly add color and details that give it a more hand drawn, sketchy feel, looking exactly as if it had been colored with markers or colored pencil, or even watercolor.

Carceri Plate VI - The Smoking Fire - Piranesi

Carceri Plate VI – The Smoking Fire – Piranesi

You may wonder why this is necessary if you are able to create photo-realistic renderings which more accurately show how something will look.  Well, the answer is that people are different.  I know, shocking really and a bit inconvenient when it comes to creating a design for something that does not exist yet.

Some people need to see exactly what something will look like before they “sign off on it.”  There are times when the ability to show them that is very important to the design process.  Then there are times when you want to present a concept and invite comments and discussion.  This is where the more sketchy option comes into play.  Often people feel more comfortable commenting on something that has a more sketched feel.  It looks as if there is still room to make decisions and changes and therefor is more accessible to them.  That is an important step in the creative process and Piranesi is one more tool that makes creating those sketches easier.

Next week I will talk about how the program works and show examples…


Nate’s Notes: Give and Take

If there is one thing I have learned in my life it is that there is always give and take in situations.  Momma goes into a long talk about give and take when she brings up nap time.  Besides being good for me, and being a time when I can grow big and strong, she claims nap time is one of those give and take situations.  She claims that it GIVES her some time to do her chores while I TAKE some time to rest.  You know what I think?  I think she TAKES me for a fool.  I think a nap TAKES away my toys and fun time.  Take, take, take…that’s what it feels like to me. GIVE me a break!!   I’m done with it!

In an effort to gain forces for a “nap time coup”, I try to share this revelation with friends when we are playing.  Some get it, some don’t. The other day, I was playing with a new friend.  Because he is months older than I am, I figured he would get this, and would join my plans for the coup.  Sadly, he clearly has been brainwashed by the big people.   We were playing, or rather, I was teaching him, when this came to light.  He had a bunch of rubber mats on the floor, so, of course, I took the opportunity to show him rubber texture and pattern.  I was explaining how rubber mats are also considered rubber flooring, and are used for non-slip purposes.  He blinked at me … a lot. He drooled… a lot.  And he pointed with a questioning inflection… a lot.  His enthusiasm only encouraged me to explain more about rubber textures.

Rubber Mat

Rubber Mat

Tire from toy

Tire from toy

So I moved on to tires, and tire tread, using a nearby toy to illustrate.  When he rubbed his eyes, I knew we had a problem.  After a glance over my shoulder, I grabbed him, shook him a little, and said, “Pull it together!  Work with me here…give me more time or they will take us away to nap!  Give and take man, give and take!! Wipe that drool and pull yourself together!”  Uh-oh.  Noooooo!  His big person commented,Oh, how sweet! You’re little guy is hugging my little guy!  But it looks like my little guy needs his nap soon.”  No no no!  In a panic, and knowing my new friend was a lost cause, I grabbed a book on colors and thrust it at his big person, asking her to read it, showing a desperate need to learn colors right then and there.  She obliged.  Whew!  Of course, I wasn’t actually going to learn the colors.  I was just buying more timeor TAKING more time.  Next I would insist on GIVING hugs to everyone in the room…five times…each.  Then, I would TAKE all the toys from one end of the room and move them…slowly.  I think I am catching on to this give and take.  I noticed Momma watching me from across the room, certain she was on to me.  When we drive home later, I bet she GIVES me a look and a talk.  Well, then I’ll just TAKE my nap!

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TMG: Random Stuff We Like- Website Recommendation

If you aren’t already acquainted with the Digital Photography Review website (, I’d like to introduce you.  Whether you are looking for advice about your first digital camera purchase, looking to upgrade or add to your arsenal of lenses, or need some feedback on your photos, can assist you.   I stumbled upon this site about 6 months ago, and bookmarked it instantly, qualifying it as Random Stuff We Like.

Almost daily, the home page feeds you with tutorials, news articles, discussions and reviews.  The forums have a variety of subject matter from welcoming beginner chats and questions, to all things Canon, to all things Nikon or Pentax, to “wanted” or “for sale” equipment, to retouching photos…and everything in between.  The product reviews and previews are succinct and helpful.  That’s right, you can get a sneak peak at the newest equipment you never knew you needed before it is released!  I love the side-by-side comparisons you can do with cameras, lenses, printers, etc. as well as the sample images from each camera and lens.  For the visual buyer like myself, this is fantastic! Have a photo on which you would like feedback?  You can do that in the forums too.

Because of the plethora of information, the site, to me, seems crowded and “heavy”.  However, I usually leave the site satisfied and inspired instead of overwhelmed.  I know I will continue to use this site as a valuable comparison tool and will continue to learn from it.   I would encourage you to get acquainted with today.

Digital-Photography-Review_camera-side-by-side digital-photography-review-website-shot

TMG Philosophy: “Do Not Feed the Alligators!”

So, this morning I am sitting in a hotel lobby in Orlando, Florida, writing this blog entry, eating my breakfast muffin sandwich (which was way too expensive by the way) and waiting to go out and get some shots (photos, not tequila!).

The other day I was out walking around the grounds of the hotel, exploring and trying to find some interesting shots when I kept running into small ponds and streams blocking my way.  There were things on the other side of these barriers that I wanted to get to, but I kept getting blocked at each turn.  The water in these ponds was an odd greenish brown color with things floating on, and just under the surface.  The water was pretty murky and it was hard to tell if it was a foot deep or 10 feet deep.

I really didn’t want to get my feet wet, and not knowing the depth of the water or what was in it, I just decided to see if there was another way around.  For a good part of two hours, I wandered through the paths and tried to find a way out of the grounds of the hotel, but was always blocked by these “water hazards”.

In a few cases I came across a sign that made it even clearer that I should not venture into the murky water.  It read:  “DANGER Do Not Feed Alligators”.

A sign in Orlando, warning you not to feed the alligators, which, when you think about it, doesn't NOT feeding them only make them hungrier and more desperate...?

A sign in Orlando, warning you not to feed the alligators, which, when you think about it, doesn’t NOT feeding them only make them hungrier and more desperate…?

Some of you may now see how this blog entry ties in to my last blog entry about “fear”.  Some would say that there is a good type of fear that keeps us from doing things that could be harmful to us.  I do believe this is true and in this case, I am not sure that it was actual fear of alligators that was keeping me from entering the water (my heart rate wasn’t increased, my palms were not sweaty, etc.) but more the fear of the unknown:   Were there even alligators in there?  If so, how many?  How big were they?  Had they just eaten a deer, someone’s pet or a small child so they were now lethargic and napping on a full stomach?  Had they moved to a better neighborhood, possibly one with better schools, closer to work…?  My mind calculated all of this, and many more options and I finally decided that since I did not know enough, it would be better to avoid that water.

And that is my point.  Some barriers are in fact there to keep us safe.  And some are there to protect us from the unknown.   But I firmly believe that it is our responsibility as individuals to study those barriers, ask questions, and generally just learn more about why we are being told we cannot do something.  Then we need to decide if we want to question and test them or not.  Sometimes the barriers need to be broken and sometimes they do not.  It is not black and white.  In short, we are meant to explore, and exploration is risky.

Now that I have finished my muffin sandwich and iced-tea, it is time to get out there and explore…

You should too (just watch out for the alligators)…!

SketchUp IMHO: SketchUp and Plug-ins

In the last post I talked about SketchUp and Layout and how those two programs in one work very well for creating 3D models and then the working drawings that are often necessary to build the object you have created.

This week I want to talk about one of the many plug-ins that work with SketchUp.  One complaint I have heard from some people about SketchUp is that it looks “too sketchy.”  I actually think that the ability to make the design look more hand drawn is a plus to me as I have found that some people just do not respond too well to the “cold” look of a computer generated design.  (In a later post I will talk about the “Style Builder” part of SketchUp.)

So, in response to those people who think SketchUp can only do “sketchy” there are programs that work within SketchUp and are often referred to as plug-ins.  One of my favorites is a program called Twilight.  No it is not the teenage angst/vampire love saga, but a program that allows you to place lighting throughout your model, adjust details on textures (which I will cover in a moment) and then render the image.  This results in a nearly photo realistic image.

Here is an example of a set I designed for a TV commercial created in SketchUp:

The SketchUp model for the set design

The SketchUp model for the set design

As you can see by this image, the design is pretty straight forward.  It is meant to be an apartment for a single man that was built into an existing loft space.  There are large windows and a vaulted ceiling with skylights.  Most people would look at this and be able to see the space very easily.

There are times, however, that you need to create a rendering that shows the space in a more realistic look.  This is where a program like Twilight comes into play.  By placing the lights where you want them to be, determining the color and focus of the lights and then when you render it, the result of this work is shown below:

The rendering of the set

The rendering of the set

As you can see, the way the light interacts with the models and the textures (yes, of course textures make a HUGE difference in how a model looks when it is rendered!), does make the image look much more realistic.

In later posts I will talk specifically about how Twilight works and how you can use it to create images like the one above.


Nate’s Notes: A Whole New World

No, despite the title, I’m not going to break into song.  I haven’t even seen that movie yet. I’m talking about changing my view, the way I see things.  Again, folks…nothing deep here.  Give me a break, I’m only 18-months old.   I just mean that Momma and Daddy moved my caw seat.   Honking horns, it is so cool!!!!   I get to face forward AND I’m in the middle now, so I can see all the big twucks and caws and twees.  Oh man, I love caw rides now.   I just sing and talk about all the things outside.  Sometimes I get stuck on one word and Momma reminds me to move on because I sound like a little bird.  Hmmm…did she see a bird?    I even notice the girly flowers and twees, the sky, the cool old houses and barns, the rocks and mud, the wood fences.  I don’t just notice, I start to look for textures now. Metal…wood…metal…metal…flower…rock…metal…wood…wood…wood…twuck…twuck… twUCK…tWUCK…TWUCK!!!  Oh- sorry.    The cool drawings and words on the sides of twucks we pass are aMAZing.  It all makes me want to find my lame baby camera, or convince Momma to stop and take pictures with hers.  I get what all the fuss is about…kind of.  Don’t tell HER that though.   All the things and textures I see make me want to burst into spontaneous clapping and dancing, just like finding snacks in the couch cushions!   I feel over-stimulated, to say the least.   The excitement actually makes me sleepy, but I’ve decided nap times are an unfair idea created and mandated by adults who need routine and structure or they have tantrums.  Soooo many years of tears.   Okay…that’s for another day.

This is how I USED to feel about caw rides...

This is how I USED to feel about caw rides…

This is how I feel NOW about caw rides...

This is how I feel NOW about caw rides…

Seriously people, if you want to change your view point, just spend about 17 months crunched up and facing backwards in a caw…then turn around.  Look at the world.   Holy bananas- it’s a world to take pictures of…every detail!!   It’s a whole NEW world.  Every turn is a surprise, with unbelievable sights and indescribable feelings!   Wait, that sounds like a song.  Hmmm. Hmm -hmm-hmmm-hummmm-hmmmmm.