Why does lighting have to be so dang complicated?

I use Sketchup Make for set design for our local community theater. I really appreciate that you can self-learn it and it is great for helping the director to visualize blocking and visioning the environment for the actors. But when I try to light the stage and show lighting effects, I just fall short. I have tried to mess with V-Ray and Kerkythea and even Twilight-Hobby but I don’t get very far with all of the technical jargon you need to learn and the steep learning curve as well as the heavy power requirements.

Wouldn’t it be useful to have some simple lighting gizmos that would allow one to simply-

1- Choose a light (eg. Bulb, lamp, spotlight)
2- Place said light in the model somewhere.
3- Turn it on and off.
4- Adjust it (eg. Bright/dim, direction, narrow or wide beam, warm/cool light.)

That is all that would be needed to vastly improve the look of any model. Would that be so hard?

The plugin for KerkyThea is pretty simple:



That’s great, thanks. But now (and this is where I go south), how do you—

1- Turn the light on and off so you can see its effect?
2- Change the angle of the light?
3- Change the brightness of the light?
4- Widen or narrow the beam?

Are there simple ways to do that without—

1- waiting 3 minutes while it renders the scene.
2- Trying to find the type of light in an endless list of commercial light types.
3- other complicated things.

Have a look at the “LightUp” plugin it renders within Sketchup and is very quick with interactive lighting.

I used to use it a lot - a little bit quirky , but inexpensive and rapid…

I would think everything you need for set design visuals.

I have moved onto Twinmotion - but significantly more expensive

• Do Item 1 and Item 2 in SketchUp using the SU2KT plugin.
• Item 3 and Item 4 are more easily accomplished in Kerkythea by editing the light.
Note: you can adjust (aim) spotlights in Kerky with the Kerky Gizmo tool.

Take time to read the Kerkythea Getting Started guide(s).

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If you know the location of the lights, you can set up guide planes to assist in the location and direction. The shape and size of the lights can be done with the scale tool. Aligning a view to a guide plane allows for easy rotation in the original plane. I usually get the lighting set with minimal geometry and test it with one of the fast renders.


The brightness can more easily be adjusted in KerkyThea and re-oriented as @Geo noted. There are more expensive solutions available. Ten years ago, my workplace spent $100K on Creative Suite licensing and a $40K render farm. Folks still had to wait several hours for a decent render.

SketchUp Make ($0) plus KerkyThea ($0) is a good solution for me, even if I have to work a bit to get the results I want. Not too far off in the future is the ability to use VR with a data-glove to simply grab a light and move it where you want and see its effect in real-time.

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That’s brilliant @jimhami42, I’m going to try it. So it sounds like everyone is saying there is no easy way to see the effect of each light without shifting over into an entirely different program–meaning you have to wait for a render engine to re-write the scene each time you adjust the light in some way. Is that right? In other words, there is no such thing as manipulating the light fixture and seeing the effect on the objects in real time (without spending the big bucks, that is).

Its a bit much to ask but I would like to see the above demo continued to its conclusion where the lighting effect shows up on the object. What are the next steps?

Thanks very much for the lesson, by the way.

I created a simple “stage” and added some people:

I created the rectangles from the belt-lines to where I wanted the lights. I added the lights as shown previously and then used the protractor to estimate the cone angle of the light I needed:


I must have mis-remembered being able to edit the light geometry to set angle and intensity :frowning: Right-clicking on the spotlight and selecting the edit function:

I used these values for each light:


That is, a 500W spotlight with a 20 degree spread:

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I am able to do it in Thea for Sketchup. It has almost real time rendering with Sketchup itself you should check it out.

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