SimLab Composer 8.1

SimLab Composer 8.1 was just recently released. Let me share some of what I have learned about this latest release.

I know that for a very large part of the 3D community, realistic rendering is a major target. While I too want to be able to produce high quality rendering, I do not see a lot of that in the interactive environment. Yes you can produce some very nice quality still images, movies and 360 panoramas but the interactive formats do not seem to be able to take advantage of the rendering quality (which seems to be in concert with many other rendering environments). First of all, when you look at the type of models I develop, there are a ton of flat metal surfaces. From the feedback I received in the SimLab forum I have been told, and somewhat verified, that the flat surfaces is why I do not see the effect I am looking/hoping for.

This is where I see some very strong capabilities with SimLab Composer. If you would like to be able to present your models in an interactive environment where the view can click on objects in the model or you can provide buttons/links that allow you to interact with the model, I think you will be very happy wit the capabilities you. In particular here are some things that can be achieved in 3D PDF files and WebGL pages;

*Scenes - called Scene States in SimLab Composer allow you to set up views that you can then connect to buttons/links. This give you the capability to provide the viewer with views of the model from various camera positions.

*Material Modifications - another neat interaction is the ability to click on a button/link/object and modify the material of an object(s). Lets say that you have some upholstered furniture in a scene and you want to let the viewer to explore different colors or textures for the furniture. You can provide options for viewing the furniture with the options available.

  • Show/Hide Objects - This feature can be pretty neat. In my case, I have various options that can be added to a “base” peace of equipment. Using this facility I can show/hide the optional equipment via a link or button. Another good example might be to show something like different lamps or other furniture in a room. Again, you can provide the ability for the user to view the various options interactively.

  • Controlled Animation - While I will give you a little more information about animation in general in the following section, I need to point out the capability to interactively control animation. You can think of this kind of like having dynamic components. You can provide the ability for viewers to selectively animate objects (i.e. open/close doors) by clicking on an object/button/link

  • Interactivity Actions - The actions listed below can be triggered via clicking on an object in the model or a template element.

  1. URL Provides the ability to link to an external web page

  2. b]Message Box[/b] Launches a text box that can be used to provide information such as a product name and description or any other additional information

  3. b]Animation Play[/b] Can be used to initiate an animation

  4. Animation Stop Can be used to stop an animation

  5. Script Can be used to trigger something like a Javascript

  6. Multi Actions Used to provide access to/trigger multiple actions

  7. Scene State Provides the ability to show different views or show/hide object or apply different materials

  8. Play Sound Provides the ability to play a sound

  9. Play Sequence Provide the ability play an animation sequence (i.e. open/close a door or etc.) which can be a subset of a full animation[/list]

In general, since Composer exposes the full object tree of your SketchUp file (using the free SketchUp export plugin) it comes pretty close to the animation capabilities of the Animator and other plugins. There are two levels of animation that can be used in 3D PDF files, WebGL pages and VR views; Animations and Animation Sequences. In particular, here are some things I would like to pass along.

  • Animations are the full set of animation actions like with the various animation plugins in SketchUp

  • Animation Sequences are smaller segments of animations that can be used to such things as opening or closing a door or drawer. The sequences can again be triggered via actions by the viewer such as clicking on something as described above in the “interactivity” section above.[/list]

I currently have not done very much with VR but I see some real value to it. In particular, the Desktop Viewer. While VR is definitely growing I think the requirement to have a headset is holding it back in the business community. However, I think that the Desktop Viewer has some potential. The recent ability to create 360 panorama views is also a big plus (IMO)

I have also looked at the Showroom tool where again I see some great potential going forward (which I see as an extension of the WebGL environment).

Bottom line is that I think SimLab Composer is a powerful toolset which, at the very minimum, deserves some exploration as an alternative toolset for sharing your SketchUp models with others.

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