LumenRT promises to deliver “high fidelity, photo-realistic 3D viewing with accurately simulated lighting, shadows, and reflections.” Following the launch, we put it through its paces to see how well it performed. In keeping with the SketchUp philosophy, it’s very simple to use and does all of its processing in the background, allowing you to continue working on your scene while SketchUp is rendering.
Primarily aimed at architects, LumenRT is a photorealistic renderer with a difference; it has the ability to package your rendered model into an executable file called a LiveCube. These LiveCubes will run on Mac and PC and add an extra dimension to your renders: instead of sending still images to clients for approval, you can send them a complete 3D model to explore and ‘walk’ around.
The LiveCubes must be regenerated each time a change is made to the model or materials, so there is no live previewing of how they will look – although in draft mode the generation only took a few minutes on my MacBook Pro. I thought LumenRT integrated well with SketchUp, making good use of the native materials and handling transparency well. It even adds some nice little touches such as animated ripples in water and lighting variations dependent on the time of day you have set up, something that has been very popular with clients.
As well as being able to export LiveCubes, LumenRT can also export pre-baked movies in Windows Media or QuickTime formats as well as still images. You can find some examples of the kind of images achievable, as well as some LiveCubes to play with on the LumenRT site.
Intelligent material settings
The visual quality of the LiveCubes is very good, especially if you put a bit of time into setting up your SketchUp materials. LumenRT will intelligently pick settings based on the material types in SketchUp – for example, having “water” in the material name will apply preconfigured settings for water. Likewise, brick and tile materials have bump maps automatically applied for extra realism. Settings for these extra features can be controlled by appending strings to the material name. So to increase the depth of the bump maps you could add “b=100%” to the material name (specularity and shininess can be controlled in a similar fashion). The default values provide very good images but it’s always nice to have the option to tweak materials in this way.
All in all, I’ve been impressed by LumenRT. The images from the LiveCubes are of a high standard – although, it has to be said, not up to that achievable with V-Ray for SketchUp (which can be forgiven when you’re paying less than half the price for LumenRT). The images are more than sufficient to communicate design intent however, and of a good enough quality to send to your clients. The ability to share the entire model in an easily navigable, visually pleasing format is a great feature and could really help when you’re explaining design intent. It’s compatible with both the free and Pro versions of SketchUp 7 and 8.
For more information on LumenRT Review for SketchUp, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email CAD@Jigsaw24.com.