24 April 2012

Road Testing the Sketchup Web Exporter

Google Sketchup’s 3D Web Exporter allows you to generate web-based 3D views of your Sketchup models, that can be rotated and viewed from 360 degrees. We took the Sketchup Web Exporter plugin for a test drive to see how easily it can be used.

The Web Exporter generates rotatable 3D views like those displayed at Google’s 3D Warehouse for Sketchup components. You can download the plugin here and watch Sketchup’s tutorial on how to use it below. We used the plugin to create this view of The Shepperton, a product design for an innovative air drier and floor lamp.

While the Web Exporter is simple enough to use, the plugin itself is in beta, meaning that it has a few issues or glitches that are yet to be resolved. In particular, there is little control over what view is exported or how the view rotates about its centre. We found that when the plugin is run, Sketchup automatically its changes view settings such as the camera angle or field of view and the zoom.

What’s more, there is no option to define the axis of rotation for the Web Exporter view. For us, this meant a case of trial and error to find best view for our model. There’s a suggestion that the axis of rotation may be defined by the extents of the model, meaning hidden geometry can throw your view off kilter. Likewise, untidy origins within components may distort the axis of rotation as well. This issue is particularly apparent on often revisited design models such as our own where the original 3D model was created as part of the design development process. If you are using Sketchup to test a series of ideas, you might find you get better results by creating a new Sketchup file specifically for the Web Exporter.

Despite these issues, the Web Exporter plugin for Sketchup has real potential as a way of sharing 3D environments and designs with people unfamiliar with the program. It allows 3rd parties such as clients, investors or the general public to view 3D objects and environments with a simple click and rotate functionality and without downloading any Sketchup software. The current beta release of the plugin is limited to views that rotate around a single point. The video below, however, shows how the Web Exporter can be tweaked or hacked to create panoramic views around a fixed point.  Concept 3D give a more detailed explanation of this process on their website, here.

Hopefully the next official release of Web Exporter will take some of these points on board. In the meantime, we’d recommend investing an hour or two getting to grips with the Web Exporter beta release.