Tips & Tricks

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    Jeremy HillJeremy Hill

    Here are some tips & tricks to help getting started with Bella for SketchUp.

    Environment

    The plugin uses SketchUp settings where applicable, for example the background & sky colors, sun shadows, north direction, and so forth. Beyond this, you can choose whether to render with one of four environment types:

    • Color Dome: a luminous dome of color surrounds the scene.
    • Sky Dome: this enables a physical sky simulation, according to SketchUp date/time settings.
    • Image Dome: lights the scene with an HDR (or LDR, not recommended) image.
    • None: disables the environment, so you must use emitters to light the scene.

    Camera

    The plugin will use the SketchUp viewport and view/camera (including parallel & 2-point perspective) to define the Bella camera. You can use the additional parameters in the Bella Settings window to control exposure, depth of field, and focus distance.

    Materials

    By default the plugin will attempt to automatically translate SketchUp materials, but you can also use the Materials section of the window to direct that a given material should render as a Bella metal, plastic, and so forth, with applicable parameters for each being shown in the table.

    For the most part, materials are auto-translated as diffuse, since there is nothing in a SketchUp material to direct otherwise. However, in some cases the plugin will guess that a material with certain color & opacity values is intended to be glass, and translate it using the Bella Sheet material (good for zero-thickness glass).

    IMPORTANT: Bella does not currently support emitter materials assigned at the per-face level.

    Rendering

    To render the scene, simply click the Render button in the Bella toolbar. The plugin will write a Bella BSA file next to the SKP file, with any generated textures being placed in a res folder alongside.

    Once written, the BSA file will be opened and rendered in Bella GUI, where you are free to let it continue rendering until the image is clear, or to stop the rendering and edit the scene, if you wish. For more information on Bella GUI, see here.

    Modeling

    In Bella we have the xform node, which represents a 3D transform with a list of child nodes — nodes which may be meshes, or other xforms. This fits very nicely with SketchUp’s component/definition model, and it represents a strong argument for making extensive use of components (as opposed to groups) in your model, since it generally takes less time to export a component instance as a Bella xform.

    However it bears mentioning that this can also be used inefficiently — for example, consider making a shrub, where each leaf is an instance. This can actually be a step backward, since a leaf is so lightweight in terms of data: the instances of the single leaf may require more memory than if the leaves were exploded to a simple group of faces.

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