Object rendering 101?

I’ve already invested a few minutes reading through the myriad of pages about rendering plugins for SU, but 99% of the discussion seems to revolve around scene rendering.

I want to try rendering small objects, like this:

I’ve built a rough approximation of the object in SU.


and then I would put the product decal on top, either within SU/renderer or after rendering, in Illustrator. The box is anodized aluminum, and the connectors are beryllium copper.

Is rendering an object vs. a scene any different in SU+plugin? It seems like it would be quite a bit simpler. I don’t need to worry about any surrounding context; I just need this to look like a photo of an object on a white background.

I wouldn’t mind spending $100 on this. I would mind spending $1,000 on this.


Do you have a digital copy of the label? If you do, the label would be easier. As for modeling the box and connectors, that’s pretty basic stuff. If you have the box at hand, it’s even easier because you can get all the dimensions you’d need.

The white background would be easy enough to achieve. Getting the materials on the box and connectors right will be the biggest challenge. Someone who is experienced in rendering would probably be able to do that for you.

Question, since you have a photo of the device, why try to duplicate it with a digital model and rendering?

Yup. I’ve linked a PDF copy of the label in my OP.

My motivation for rendering is that we have more than 200 products, and are constantly adding more, but they’re all variations on a few basic themes, e.g. an extruded aluminum box with two stamped endplates and 2-10 connectors protruding through the endplates.

I’d like to be able to render any product, from a different perspective, or if we change the anodizing on the housing, or if we change the connectors, etc., without having to go through all the photography and photo clean-up processes. I’m also a terrible photographer, as you can see from that image.

I’ve always felt the label “scene” was an odd choice (if it’s from a cinematic analogy, it seems like “shot” might be more appropriate, as it suggests a single image as opposed to a “scene” that might have many shots?).
To your point, a “scene” is a single shot/viewpoint of an object(s), so your object, while in a “scene” can be seen as a singular view (shot) of an object.
It would be useful to see the various metal textures that you refer to as reference as it would be easier to match them as a cg texture as not all rendering applications may have those specific metal textures available.

I have attached a quick render (someone was gonna do it) of your object. Some of the geometry was a bit off in the bnc connectors so might be better to replace with prebuilt ones from the wharehouse (as I did). There are services out there (upwork), and within the forums here I think? to find people/services to do these renders (I do them too occaisionally). However, I think this is something that once you have an initial set up for, would be easy to drop your models into and render, just get a rendereing plugin for SU, set up your lighting and materials and you’re good to go. It may work out cheaper in the long run.


Speaking as a hypothetical consumer of your products (rather than as a SketchUp user), personally I would be wary of seeing rendered images of a product rather than photographs of an actual product. When I see renders in catalogs, it makes me wonder what the real product is like and why the vendor is not showing me what I would actually purchase.

I appreciate the potential cost-savings achieved by going the CGI route. Sorry for the off-topic commentary but I thought you might be interested in the viewpoint. :slight_smile:

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Whoa! Thanks! That looks terrific, and very photo-realistic.

May I ask which toolchain you used, and how long it took to set up the render options?

I’ve tried fiddling wth a few of the free plugins before, but I’ve never quite gotten over the initial hump of getting something to render successfully and look anywhere near realistic.

If I could get to this level of realism without spending a fortune or investing a whole month, I’d be very happy, indeed.

Not OT at all, and I appreciate the feedback.

If the renderings are good enough, then they’ll be indistinguishable from actual photos, FAIAP.

Many (most?) consumer product companies use mostly renderings for their product photos. All the isolated product photos on apple.com are renders.

Probably ~80% of the photos already on my site have been photoshopped, either to move or modify the connectors, place the decal, remove a switch, duplicate a connector, etc. If you look at this collection, they’re all variations on 3-4 basic form factors, and I’ve 'shopped them all from 3-4 original photos. So going to pure renders isn’t any worse than what I’m doing now, except that they will look better.

(For example, we switched from brown-painted housings to clear anodized about 10 years ago, but I haven’t had the opportunity to re-do all the photos, so my product photos are a mix of brown and anodized, which looks awful. At some later date we may decide to switch again to blue anodized)

edit: I forgot to mention another motivation, which is that I’ve had many customers ask us for 3D models of our products. If we could use the same models for both this purpose and for rendering, it would make the modeling that much more valuable, and give us motivation to invest in it.

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Apple’s use of product renderings bugs me. Modern car commercials that use CGI cars bug me. They look incredible, to be sure. I’m a software engineer by profession and I’ve dabbled in computer graphics since 1979 or so; I wrote a fairly nice ray-tracer from scratch about 20 years ago (caustics, dispersion, procedural textures, etc.). Thus, I love really good renderings. But not as a sales tool for a product; it’s fake. I actually am kind of afraid for renderings that are literally indistinguishable from photographs of physical items. It will be increasingly hard to know what to believe. Sorry for the rant, folks.

I use Thea renderer ($500) which is relatively easy to use compared to say V-Ray.(and cheaper). You could try Kerkythea (free - http://www.kerkythea.net/cms/ ) and possibly achieve the same results. There are other options out there too and I think many of which have been discussed on the forums here…pros and cons etc.

It would be misleading to say how long it took me given that I am familiar with the program (10 minutes to set up and a 5 minute render) but if you are new to the rendering software it would take a while longer as you’d have to figure a number of things out, but after that initial setup I think you could save that as a master file and just add your various models in there, maybe save as separate files or you could add scenes with each model on a separate layer?

As you can see from the attached image, I am showing where the camera is placed and the yellow square is a soft area light (the less lights you can use the better), with the white floor.
It doesn’t get much simpler than this. You could forgo the floor and have the object float in space with a white background too, but I thought the shadow added to the realism. The only other thing I used in the render (which is important with reflective materials like metal) is i used an HDRI reflection map (which is a simple spherical image of a studio set up, so the metal will reflect this virtual image of the room) as this helps it look more real, as in the real world the metal surfaces would reflect the room or the studio or setup you are shooting in. In CG, if those elements do not exist its good to put them in, either as a map or physically using other geometry.

I think there’s a disconnect with software and one can often assume it will do the work for you, my analogy is to think of it musically. If you’re giving a guitar to someone for the first time they’re unlikely to produce music without a lot of practice. I think this holds true for 3D modelling and rendering.

It seems like you are a photographer and to render in CG you do need to understand the fundamentals of photography: camera placement, lens and more so the lighting, the type and position etc. You kind of need to bring all that sensibility that you would employ in the real world inside the 3D world.
If there are specific lighting looks you want to emulate there are often photography tutorials on the web for reference and you can then apply that methodology to the sketchup model and renderer.



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