Over the past decade, Google's SketchUp has become one of the most popular and affordable 3D model building programs in the world. With this popularity, many third party companies have developed "plug-ins" to execute various functions that SketchUp cannot perform on its own.
The Podium plug-in was created to allow users to create photo-realistic renderings quickly and efficiently. The latest plug-in update, Podium Version 2, works with Mac and Windows computers and can be used with both the professional and free versions of SketchUp. Podium's developers currently offer a 30 day free trial to test out this powerful yet simple software, which can be downloaded here.
How does Podium work?
Above all else, the Podium plug-in tries to keep rendering simple. Essentially, users add and adjust lights to their main SketchUp file using the Podium interface. Once a desired amount of lighting is placed in a model, you simply press the render button and watch the magic happen. What once used to take days with other 3D modeling software now takes minutes.
Two different types of lighting are used in Podium-"omni" lights and light emitting materials (LEMs). Both omnis and LEMs give off light from a source object-omni lights come from a singular point while LEMs come from a material. Color and intensity can be easily adjusted using both light types. Podium developers have even created a free light fixture library that includes a number of pre-made models that you can easily drop into your main SketchUp file. Using these is a great way to save modeling time.
Included in every download are a number of "presets" that adjust how Podium handles interior and exterior renderings. These presets can modify the speed of your render, the intensity of the sun, and color, among many other things. Again, these are all presented in a clear way that keeps the interface simple and easy for users.
In the Podium menu, the output file size can be adjusted to a number of preset sizes or as specified by the user. This user input is a new feature to Version 2, which is very helpful to those wanting a render a larger image.
In previous versions of Podium, complex models and large output renderings oftentimes could not be produced. Now, users on 64-bit machines with enough RAM can utilize the full potential of their computer system to create large and complex renderings directly from SketchUp. This is another nice feature of Version 2 that brings Podium ever closer to rendering giants like 3D Studio Max.
Limits of Podium
Although Podium is an extremely powerful piece of software, it is still not quite to the level of much more expensive modeling software. Complex models and large output sizes are still difficult for Podium to process. In addition, the simplicity of Podium means users cannot have as much control over their renderings in comparison to other software. This is entirely intentional though, as Podium's developers wanted to keep their plug-in as straightforward and easy to use as possible.
Is it worth the purchase?
In one enthusiastic word, yes. With other 3D modeling software costing upwards of $3000, Podium's price of $179 simply cannot be beat. Podium can create beautiful, photo realistic renderings at the most cost effective price on the market. It is an extremely simple program and has great support forums for anyone with questions about their software.
This plug-in belongs in any and all design firms that want to push their in-house rendering to the next level, or those who just want to create beautiful three-dimensional rendering.