September 10, 2018
Datasmith for SketchUp brings static models to life
When Epic Games introduced Datasmith for SketchUp as part of Unreal Studio 4.20, we couldn’t wait to see what our users would do with it. In the month since its release, SketchUp users have embraced the plugin as a means for generating exciting new forms of interactive real-time content.
One such user is leading Canadian architecture firm Turner Fleischer Architects Inc., who recently used Datasmith for SketchUp to create an interactive condominium presentation in Unreal Engine. While Turner Fleischer was happy with SketchUp for design purposes, they were looking for a higher standard for the visuals they show to clients.
“With Unreal Engine, we can create interactive walk-throughs that are both engaging and impactful,” says Nick Bowker, Manager at Turner Fleischer. “It brings life and character to otherwise static models.”
Choosing a Platform
Turner Fleischer has grown accustomed to using SketchUp for design, and appreciates the flexibility and creative control it gives their architects. However, they wanted to up their game and start offering interactive, photoreal experiences that would not only showcase their creative visions, but also give clients a means to explore, discuss, and thoroughly review the design in real time.
SketchUp’s native output wasn’t up to the task, so Turner Fleischer started looking for ways to add on to their existing pipeline. Ideally the new workflow would retain SketchUp for design, but also flow seamlessly into a new output platform with the capacity for photorealism, real-time rendering, and interactivity.
In selecting a visualization platform, they considered output quality, ease of use, and also the learning curve involved. The ready availability of the Unreal Engine Online Learning platform was one of the deciding factors in going with Unreal Engine.
“Having such a vast amount of information readily available to everyone was one of the key reasons we chose Unreal Engine as a visualization program for project use,” says Nebojsa Milutinovic, Designer/Technologist at Turner Fleischer.
While Unreal Engine was their leading contender prior to the release of Datasmith for SketchUp, Turner Fleischer hesitated to commit to Unreal Engine due to the lack of easy SketchUp import. Then Datasmith for SketchUp was released as part of Unreal Studio 4.20, and the deal was sealed.
”Datasmith for SketchUp was the missing piece for us to start implementing Unreal Engine in our workflow,” says Milutinovic. ”Now we can bring fully developed SketchUp models into Unreal Engine with ease, and with metadata intact.”
Turner Fleischer finds that Datasmith for SketchUp has made a strong impact on how they approach visualization and presentation. “We’re encouraged by our exploration of the possibilities that come with Unreal Studio,” says Bowker. “Being able to efficiently enhance our SketchUp work is a great value-add and an asset when demonstrating our creative visions.”
Turner Fleischer notes that the only drawback to the import process is the need to update materials after importing a SketchUp model to Unreal Engine. But even with this addition to their workflow, their architects still find the process well worth it.
“The ability to have a strong base for a material in Unreal Engine, already preloaded from SketchUp, makes it very fast to adjust and create more realistic output,” says Bowker.
Turner Fleischer has more projects in the works, and plans to continue exploring the capabilities of Unreal Engine for architectural visualization. “With Unreal Engine, photorealistic lighting and materials help clients visualize the character of spaces without anything ever being built,” says Bowker. “This adds to our service offerings and ability to showcase our work.”
Want to create your own interactive walk-through from SketchUp designs? Download Unreal Engine today and start creating!