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View Full Version : Improving the Modeling Tools (Blender vs. SketchUp)


Apollux
01-28-2006, 05:44 AM
Since aparently 1/2 of my classmates use SketchUp ( http://www.sketchup.com/ ) to do their 3D presentations at the Architecture School, I decided to bite the bullet and see what the fuzz was all about.

I must say I was TOTALLY impressed by how fast and easy is to model things on that software. I used to claim that Blender's workflow was fast... I cann't say it anymore because SU beats Blender's speed hands down any given day!! (And I have been using Blender for years, so I know my way around the interface).

The fact that SkechUp supports N-Gons help it a lot, since you can just model now and worry about cleaning up the mesh topology later. When imported into Blender (by first exporting to OBJ), SU models triangulate badly, but that is to be expected when you import anything with N-Gons

Bottom line is that I would love to see a "modeling mode" similar to what you can do on SU. Sculp Mesh is a step on the right direction, but now I realize that much more could be made to make Blender even faster.

brkn
01-28-2006, 11:47 AM
Perhaps you might like to describe in detail what makes it so fast, for people who have had no experience with it.

hellvy
01-28-2006, 02:49 PM
The fact that SkechUp supports N-Gons help it a lot, since you can just model now and worry about cleaning up the mesh topology later.
I've never tried SkechUp and don't want to, so may be i'm wrong for n-gons thing you mentioned.

Have you tried Wings3d (http://www.wings3d.com/)? May be it's n-gons modeling and magnet tool feature are similar to what you like in SkechUp. I throw all my modeling process to Wings and leave the rest to Blender :)

phonx
01-28-2006, 04:11 PM
I think you can pretty much do what sketup can do in blender just using edge and extrude or do I miss something ???:D

Apollux
01-28-2006, 04:55 PM
First, they offer a free trial version of SkechUp on their main website, it is limited to 8 hours, but it is waaay more than enough to see how it is so fast and why it is so popular. The trial version comes with a few tutorials that will inmediately show you how things work.

I will be using it heavily for the game I´m working on, so maybe I´ll make a video showing it on action, but in the mean time here are some notes on my first impressions:




You don't have an edit mode and an object mode, you have a single mode where you perform all your operations.. work on a face, or edge and the changes are local, select the entire object and the changes are global.
All operations are perspective corrected.. meaning you can actually draw on inclined planes while in perspective view and the software knows and perform as you would expected. Transformations are also perspective corrected.
Automatic snaping to edges, faces, vertext, mid points, perpendicular, extension point, etc. etc.
What we know in Blender as the Knife tool, SketchUp have it separated on various tools.. the Pencil tool does straight cuts, the Square tool does quad cuts, the arc tool does (guess what?) arc shaped cuts, etc. etc. etc.
Unlike Wings, SU allows open meshes.
(Maybe) the most powerfull tool on SU is their "Push/Pull" tool. Think of a SculpMesh brush, that extrudes the faces instead of just moving them around.
I think that if the Knife tool could be modiffied to perform curved and circular cuts (even when cutting inside a single plane) and if Blender would automatically create F-Gons whenever the cut resulted on a face with more than 4 sides, then Blender would be really close to SU... you would still need to deal with the object/edit mode, but that I can live with.

Another nice trick on SU is the "Measuring Tape" tool. Click on one point, then on another point and a small text-box tells you the distance between both points (nothing new). You can press Enter to dismiss the box, but you can also type in a new measure and press Enter. Now the entire object is automatically scalled so that the measured distance is exactly what you typed in.

Inktvlek
01-28-2006, 07:53 PM
Different tasks, different tools. Now try to model something organic in SU and you'll come back crying :)

Seriously, I do think Blender could learn from sketchup, but simply comparing the speed for archiviz (what SU is really made for) is not fair. Blender is not, and WILL not become an archiviz program unless someone forks it. There is just not one tool to do all the work > when Blender becomes that, I'll be the first to leave for a more task oriented app, because that's the trade.

That said, I do think a few cad-like functions (I'm a SolidWorks user and for geometric modelling nothing compares to it's speed and flexibility for me) and interactive dragging and snapping could do miracles for Blender. Wings is probably a better and more realistic 'competitor' to learn from than SU. Because one important thing that you seem to be forgetting is that SU outputs/creates horrible meshes, n-gons or not. Try to animate an SU mesh > good luck!

Apollux
01-28-2006, 08:48 PM
I agree that Blender wasn't designed for architectural work (neither was SU for organic stuff), but man, It doesn't have to be that hard to produce architecture worthy meshes in Blender as it currently is (and right now it is really hard, trust me because I have tryed many times).
Because one important thing that you seem to be forgetting is that SU outputs/creates horrible meshes, n-gons or not. Try to animate an SU mesh > good luck!
Not quite, I played a little with the export options and the exported meshes improved a lot ... the trick is activating the "triangulate faces" and disabling both the "double face" and the "flip Y axis". If you do that, the resulting mesh can be efortlessly cleaned in Blender with a couple of "convert triangles to quads" commands.

kattkieru
01-29-2006, 01:10 AM
I've played with SketchUp, and I'll agree with you Apollux-- for architectural stuff, it's really nice.

The cuts, snaps, shape draping, and the push-pull tool are all very nice and I'd love to see them added to Blender, perhaps as a python tool that works with the new UI extensions introduced in 2.40. If it were done as an extension it could also create NGons automatically.

What gets me the most, though, its the ease with which you can cut windows into walls in SketchUp. If someone manages to make something like that for Blender (not the typical booleans, but something more like SketchUp) that'd be awesome.

As for resizing models, the first thing would be to standardize on blender units. What would you say a blender unit equals in standard units? I like to model as if one blender unit were equal to one meter. If someone made those kind of assumptions and then added the ability to snap to vertices, the measuring tape / resizer would be pretty easy to do...

Dreamlord (Blender)
01-30-2006, 10:41 AM
One simple question: Is it free?


For now Blender is The Number Uno choice of a poor student (like myself) because it's free. But I will try SU if it's free.

And yes I didn't read all the text.

klikmaker
01-30-2006, 11:30 AM
My impression has always been that SketchUp is wonderful for visualizing, sort of "thinking out loud in 3D," but that it is poor at precision. Is that true? If so, is it easy to take a SketchUp file, bring it in to Blender, and tighten it up?

Apollux
01-30-2006, 04:56 PM
SU isn´t free. The license cost about 500 dollars, and yes, you can do precise modeling. It uses a presicion system like that on VectorWorks, so you can type in precise dimensions as you draw and the drawing gets constrained to those dimensions.

Elbarto
01-30-2006, 07:17 PM
At the moment modelling tools like SketchUp, Modo or Wings are very popular. I got the same feedback from people that tried these tools and last time i often read in forums that Blender needs better modelling tools:
- Chamfer and Bevel on selected
- Automatic Snapping: Edge, Vertex, Center, Pivot, Grid etc.
- Merging: First, Last, Faces, Edges, Vertex
- Pivot's modes should working in Edit Mode too on different selections
- improved cutting options

In the last version Blender adds a lot of very impressive features but now it is time for the fine details like materials (seems to come with the Node Editor), Rendering (comes from the merge with Orange) and Modelling.

Meshripping was a nice addition but we need more!

Some of these things i described here:
http://www.neeneenee.de/blender/features/

FreakyDude
01-30-2006, 08:24 PM
a number of things I thought might be mentioned:
And yes, I'm going a bit more max fanboy with this post, but screw that, it's a wonderfull app, just a tad expensive. And it relates to this topic.

Personally, I don't mind the local and global edit mode, I like it. Max has a lot more of those. vertex/edge/face/polygon/ring/element/control point/gizmo/etc. Depends on the object really. IMO face and polygon could be merged though, I never use face. Element is something which is more usefull then it seems on occasion.

Max is also a program which is quite usefull for both architectual and "organic" modeling etc etc. It isn't cad but it has these great architectional geometry objects, which lets you create walls/windows/doors with hinges etc etc in just a few clicks. It's something I would miss in blender once I get to a point that I can work rather well with it.
Max is used in a wide variety of professions, and is designed to be used in a lot of professions.
It also has all the snapping options as appolux described, max also has a push/pull mode when editing.
Of course there is also Ngons in max, or let's say five or more sided polygons. Miss those in blender a lot.
Max also has a more flexible way of editing the triangulation of faces/polygons.

About the units, I think generic is okay enough.
Max has three types of units and a fourth which you can customise.
Inches/feet or something,
meters,
and generic.
You can select which one to use. You can convert from one type to the other.
It would be great if we could choose the unit type in blender, in the user preferences window or something.

Well about the (new) editing features in blender, how many of you actually use "rip"? It's a tool which I don't find very usefull so far.


My idea what could improve the modeling workflow: A kind of Quadmenu like max has.
Before 3Dmax4, when you pressed rmb you got a menu similar to the one blender has now, with all the features and options you don't need for a certain task.
3Dmax currently has quad menu's which are case sensitive. If you model, you get model options. If you want animation options, you get animation options etc. You can also customise them, so you could get animation options in your modelling quad if you really want to.
This saves the need to go to:
edit>vertex/edge/face>whatever modeling tool you need.

I know blender is shortcut based, but well it's easier to do two clicks than to occupy an entire keyboard for two functions or so. I have a pen tablet in front of my pc when i model in blender. Why? because blender is the only 3dapp I know where it actually works nicely with a pen. The shiftS altM and shiftK are not as fast as three options under each other in one part of the quad. they are a bit in the way.

Blender's rmb is already taken, but we have this nice spacebar which could do the same....
Tear this down if you like, just my 2 cents....

Apollux
01-30-2006, 09:15 PM
I guess that this should be mentioned. Yesterday, Martin Poirier (Theet) posted to the Blender Functionality List a message that stated "A better snapping is on the top of my TO DO list". The ongoing discusion wasn't really about it, but as soon as Martin mentioned it was like if the whole list clamored.

After more cuestions, he basically said that he is investigating on the subject for better ways to implement snapping. Basically, a way so that various part of Blender can internally comunicate with each other and let the user create custon snapping method, including CAD style snapping.... and it was mentioned that not only snapping trough the snapping menu, but also automatic snapping, like that found on CAD drawing applications.

No date was promised, but at least we know it is been worked on.

If they manage to implement this rather ambitious snapping system, and somebody works (and success) in overhauling the Knife tool then Blender will become a serious choice for architectural work. The internal units are already standarized on the universal/metric system. 1 Blender Unit = 1 Meter, just import a DXF for wich the dimension are known and see for yourself.

BTW: Seems like the PELT tool will make into Blender after all, it was just released as open source.

FreakyDude
01-30-2006, 09:28 PM
got a link? I find some references that make me believe pelt is basically lscm unwrapping, but I'm still curious.

Creating loops based on selection is also high on my wihlist, rather than using knife for a lot of edges or manually removing unwanted vertex after creating a loop. Just an idea.

Apollux
01-30-2006, 09:48 PM
got a link?
http://sunitparekh.com/pelting/
Link provided by Tom M.

FreakyDude
01-30-2006, 10:28 PM
thank you. From the screens I figure it workes with seams just like blenders lscm, don't really know if I'm gonna follow this as I like lscm a lot and haven't played around enough with it anyhow... Stitching options and such like max handles it would be a welcome addition, but then again, maybe archimap does that. Haven't checked archimap out yet.... intent to do that sometime soon.

bigbad
01-31-2006, 11:26 AM
500 dolla. Better but zbrush 2 for that kind of money. But it sure looks cool dough.

kattkieru
01-31-2006, 04:34 PM
Apollux, I can't believe he released that opensource! Yay! Do you know if anyone's taken up the charge for converting it into a Blender python script?

Inktvlek
01-31-2006, 04:46 PM
I'll quote myself from elysiun here, since many people seem to forget the actual development on the UV-tools atm:

The more important question is: what advantage does pelting really have over ABF++ (which is on Brecht's todo list) anyway? As I see it, pelting is nice for an initial visual result, but ABF++ is far easier to work with in the end for more complex meshes. I think that's actually the strongest point of pelting, the fact that it's so visual and actually shows a simulation > but then again we've got live-lscm :)

Of course it's nice to have several options, but I think ABF++ is far more valuable to Blender and actually can give Blender an advantage over other tools, instead of mimicking them. Brecht is more or less the only one working on the UV tools atm (he's also the one that implemented LSCM), and I don't think anyone in the current team is planning on implementing pelting.

more about ABF++ (5.8MB pdf) (http://www.loria.fr/~levy/publications/papers/2004/ABF_plus_plus/abf_plus_plus_temp.pdf)
More info on the uv-unwrap plans for Blender (http://mediawiki.blender.org/index.php/BlenderDev/UvUnwrapping)

kattkieru
01-31-2006, 05:27 PM
I'll quote myself from elysiun here, since many people seem to forget the actual development on the UV-tools atm

Actually, I'm willing to bet that most don't keep up with internal developments until someone brings them to their attention.

The more important question is: what advantage does pelting really have over ABF++ (which is on Brecht's todo list) anyway? As I see it, pelting is nice for an initial visual result, but ABF++ is far easier to work with in the end for more complex meshes. I think that's actually the strongest point of pelting, the fact that it's so visual and actually shows a simulation > but then again we've got live-lscm :)

Yeah, and live LSCM was a godsend for me. Before it I felt like I was firing shots in the dark with LSCM. I'm a visual person, so I like to see the changes I make reflected visually. If I'm correct in reading the ABF++ paper, then it's basically going to react like LSCM-- you press a button and a few seconds later (on a small model) you get a mesh that looks a lot like a pelt-mapped one. However, I also foresee that the first versions of this integrated into Blender might not be live (if it's possible for them to be live at all), meaning that changes won't be as fluid to use as the pelt tools or live LSCM.

I don't know what kind of variables they're going to add to the final version of the blender ABF++ implementation (IE, will we be able to use pinning? etc.). I agree that it's going to be a very powerful tool when it comes out, and that it will be Yet Another Thing to put blender on the map. But if it's not live people will complain about it. I think the reason people like the pelt tools so much is not the fact that they can see it happen, but that they can pause, tweak, and modify things as the simulation takes place. I don't get the impression from the paper that there will be much interaction with the ABF++ tools (looks like one big function that's run over a model which spits out finished, parameterized geometry), but then again I wasn't a math major.

Of course it's nice to have several options, but I think ABF++ is far more valuable to Blender and actually can give Blender an advantage over other tools, instead of mimicking them.

I agree it will give an advantage. The amount of stretching in ABF++ is incredibly small, and I don't think I've seen anything like it in other software thus far. (I haven't tried Modo 2's new tools, though, which I've heard are a scream. Eh, it's not even out yet.) Anyway, I wasn't asking the main developers to work on the pelt script-- I was thinking someone in the community would step up to convert the mel script to python. It'll be a lot of work, seeing as the two languages are very different and the way they interact with their respective programs is also different.

Personally, though, I'd like to see Blender used by more and more people out there. I'd like to see it get permanent columns / tutorials in CG world and Digit. Part of that kind of adoption is not just in outdoing the tools of others, but in showing that you can keep up while outdoing the tools of others. "Blender has ABF++? Great. Never heard of it. Show me a demo. Oh, that cow model looks like it was run through a pelt tool." I'm not trying to belittle the work done by Brecht -- I applaud him and his efforts. I guess I don't know what I'm getting at. I'll be quiet now.

Inktvlek
01-31-2006, 05:46 PM
I understand your point, and I agree about the need for a visual tool. AFAIK AFB++ is going to be the algorithm to replace LSCM, since it's a better algorithm (although quite different) for the same problem. Most likely it will be live just like LSCM, and I think that's enough for people to understand how it works since they can actually see it happen. For the end user this will mean that they can work just as they did before, with the difference that the results are much better. Combined with the relax tool (which I think is not even necessairy anymore) I think you can demo that tool quite easily with a video. That aside, I think pelt mapping sounds way better and than ABF++ -- pelt mapping sounds like a method and ABF++ like an algorithm :)

and again, having several options/methods within blender would be very nice! So any capable coder is of course very welcome to implement this in blender.

Inktvlek
02-05-2006, 07:13 PM
ABF got implemented! :) It's not finished yet, and I haven't played with it, but it's surey exciting!

UV Editor Tweaks:

- Set local sticky in the uv editor as default.
- Don't do live unwrap on fully selected charts or charts with no pins
selected.
- Fixed bug with live unwrap not respecting transform cancel in some cases.
- "View Home" didn't work without an image.
- Move UV Calculation settings (cube size, cylinder radius, ..) into the scene
toolsettings, instead of global variables
- Remove the name LSCM from the UI (and python docs on seams), and replace it
with 'Unwrap', with upcoming ABF this didn't make sense anymore.
- Move the Old/New LSCM switch into the UV Calculation panel. New LSCM is the
default now. Also renamed LSCM there to "Conformal".
- Made some room in the UV Calculation panel by removing the buttons to execute
the UV calculation, only leaving the settings.

Fill Holes:

- LSCM now has an option to fill holes in the chart before unwrapping. This on
by default, and enables two things:
- Prevent internal overlaps (e.g. eyes, mouth) for LSCM unwrapping.
- Allow the internal boundaries to move freely during stretch minimize.
- The possibility to switch it off is there because it is not always possible
to define which the outer boundary is. For example with an open cylinder
where there are two identical holes.

Angle Based Flattening:

- There's an option to enabled ABF in the UV Calculation panel.
- ABF works with seams, pinning, live transform etc. UI wise it's pretty
much the same as LSCM.

- ABF favors low angular distortion over area distortion, much like LSCM.
It does however not have the tendency to "collapse" under high stretch,
which basically means that it will be able to handle complex charts
without pinning.
- ABF does however have on serious drawback: it is sensitive to degenerate
geometry, especially very small angles. I'm working on this, but it seems
to be quite difficult to improve the situation. There's still a bunch of
ideas left to try, but I'll just commit this now as is. If ABF fails, it
will fall back to LSCM, and there will be a warning print in the console.

- This implementation has the matrix tricks from ABF++ also. The second part
of ABF++, simplification before unwrap, is being worked on. The current
- ABF is about 3-4 times slower than LSCM, which was to be expected. For
live transform however, once the initial computation is done, it's just as
snappy as the new LSCM code.

Results are quite nice though:
http://users.pandora.be/blendix/snurgle.png
http://users.pandora.be/blendix/snurgle_flattened.png

You may recognize the Snurgle model by Colin Levy there.

Apollux
04-28-2006, 11:45 PM
For those that migh be living under a rock, there is now a freeware version of SketchUp, at http://www.sketchup.com/index.php?id=1439

FreakyDude
05-01-2006, 09:41 AM
been playing with that free version yesterday, it rocks for makinf architectual stuff. There's just this one thing: you can't import or export in anywhere can you now? it's not allowed to use for anything commercially, hell i don't mind about that, but I still find it a pity I can't get the meshes inported in blender.

kattkieru
05-01-2006, 02:01 PM
It exports to KMZ files for Google Earth, which are just zipped KML files, or a special type of XML. I don't see why someone won't write a python script to convert those with the quickness.

BuckBeaver
05-12-2006, 01:42 AM
I've been playing with SketchUp a bit too and also very impressed with how easy it is to use. Someone has developed some scripts that allow you to import SketchUp’s (and Google Earth’s) .kml and .kmz files into Blender and skip the step of exporting .obj files.

There's a thread about this on the Blender Artists board - http://blenderartists.org/forum/showthread.php?t=66651

mystery00
05-12-2006, 04:06 AM
I agree that Blender wasn't designed for architectural work (neither was SU for organic stuff), but man, It doesn't have to be that hard to produce architecture worthy meshes in Blender as it currently is (and right now it is really hard, trust me because I have tryed many times).

Not quite, I played a little with the export options and the exported meshes improved a lot ... the trick is activating the "triangulate faces" and disabling both the "double face" and the "flip Y axis". If you do that, the resulting mesh can be efortlessly cleaned in Blender with a couple of "convert triangles to quads" commands.

Well, quite simply don't use it for architectural work. Simple as that. You can't expect a single tool to do everything. You use one for one thing, and the other for other things. You can't compare two programs with different functionality.

Mystery

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