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IRender nXt, from Render Plus Software, is an easy to use, powerful extension for creating high-quality renderings from SketchUp. It's the ideal rendering extension for architects, interior designers and anyone else who demands high quality renderings of their SketchUp models. See: IRender nXt
Hi Ted, please tell us about your design background
I have been drafting since about 1967. It started out with schematics in the electrical world, mostly control systems. Then around 1983 I started using AutoCAD 2 for DOS and I was hooked. I was working for a company that manufactured livestock equipment where I was originally contracted to write their inventory and production software. When that was done, they kept me and I started designing equipment for them. This is when I expanded into 3d modeling using AutoCAD. I then got introduced to rendering and used the AutoCAD add on, but wasn’t satisfied with the whole process. I then learned about AccuRender and that also brought to my attention the Rhino NURBS editor. I loved Rhino within about 10 minutes of trying their demo and have used it to this day for most of the 3d models I create. However, the built-in rendering wasn’t quite what I liked and some of the add-ons were way too complex for my needs. I now use AutoCAD for my daily livestock systems, Rhino for the 3d models that go in them, and Solidworks for the production drawings. AutoCAD and nXtRender are my main tools.
That’s quite a history! During that time, has there been a particular project that has stood out for you?
One of the most notable projects I got to do with Rhino was the 3d modelling of the whole shell of the Coco Chanel Portable Museum and its accompanying ticket booth, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. I was assigned the 3d modeling of the FRP (Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic) which is what the walls and part of the roof were made of. There were about 400 panels for all the walls of the main building and the ticket booth, and no two were the same. Later on in the project I got to do some of the 3d models of the structural steel for the roof. The Museum traveled all over the world. It would stay in a city for 3 months, then get taken apart and shipped by 4 aircraft to the next city where it was reassembled.
There is more information on this as well as a whole lot of 3d models on my website http://www.ted-kyte.com.
What sets you apart from your competitors in your niche?
As I eventually did less 3d models, I created a fairly automated way of doing livestock systems. At that time I was the only one generating a computer drawing of the systems. The competitors finally jumped on the band wagon and are now doing it to some degree.
I have seen better renderings done by others, but they take 5 or more days to create. I do around 12 a day. My output creates up to 42 pages of information in one PDF file. It shows the end user where each panel and post goes, identifies any special equipment and where it goes, and a description of it.
I have also written software that prices all the components for US Dealer price and US Retail price, as well as Canadian Dealer price and Canadian Retail price. It also creates a list of the components with no pricing. All these lists contain part numbers of the manufacturer and the dealer part number. The error checking is probably one of the super features. It tells me that every panel is connected to a post or is fixed in some way. The best feature of all, of course, is the multiple rendered views of the system that really give the end user an idea of what it will look like, and this has generated a lot of positive response from dealers and end users. For the largest collection of corral and rodeo system examples on the internet, go to www.CorralDesigns.com.
Tell us about one of your recent projects.
I’m currently contracted to Western Ranch Supply in Montana, and we do a huge business in the northwest USA and have shipped equipment all over the world. All the major rodeo arenas in the northwest have been done by us. We do lots of livestock systems on a daily basis and buffalo as well. We have just finished one buffalo system for the US Government at the Grand Canyon.
When did you start using AccuRender / nXtRender and why?
I started using AccuRender in Autocad around 2005 and liked it right away. I still have the AR3, AR4, and AR5 buttons on one of my toolbars! It’s now called nXtRender and I use it for all of my rendering. I even export my Rhino drawings into AutoCAD so I can render with nXtRender!
All my system drawings are done quickly and with great quality for the time I spend on them. I only do 10 passes where most architects may go into the hundreds of passes. The renderings I do for the livestock systems could be rendered longer and create a better finished product, but most of my renderings are quite distant and I do many a day. I choose to sacrifice quality for the speed I need.
What do you like about nXtRender? Are there any features in the software that you find especially useful?
Primarily, I require speed to get out many renderings a day and nXtRender gives me that advantage. Changing materials and creating them, the built-in lighting selections, are lightning fast to change and edit. The whole nXtRender system is easy to understand and not confusing to the average user. Despite the fact that it is quick and easy to use, there is still plenty of tweaking you can do to get the quality you want. For example, here’s a photorealistic render I did of some fishing equipment.
I also use nxtRender for rendering product assembly instructions like the Gear Box and Franklin Syringe.
When I think back to the first time I used AccuRender (nXtRender), I was very impressed with its ease of operation as I had tried others and couldn’t get the look I wanted without getting more technical than I had time for. I am not artistic, and it made super renderings without a lot of technical jabber that I wouldn’t understand anyway.
I occasionally have the time to do "walk throughs", and it’s as simple as creating a spline for the path and away you go. I have tried other rendering software and have seen nothing that compares for ease of operation.
I use many of the included materials in a lot of cases. Creating new materials is very simple which is important to me as I need to get lots done in a day. My templates have all the materials I use in them and I very seldom have to load in others, or create new ones. The mapping of images on objects is straight forward and simple. You can see this on the billboard in most of the livestock examples. In my quest for speed, I don’t do any post processing, and I have created a way to feather the grass edges etc. without doing it manually.
And you can’t talk about the great features of nXtRender without mentioning that your support is excellent with replies the same day in most cases.
What elements do you pay most attention to when you render an image?
Most of my daily work is livestock systems. The views are quite distant as the systems can vary up to several hundred feet across. That and the fact that I do 10 to 12 renderings a day mean I choose to sacrifice some quality for speed. My goal is not for a photorealistic output, rather a happy medium between quality and speed. The time I spend preparing my drawing for rendering is very minimal. I may insert some cattle and vehicles and miscellaneous articles, but they are all blocks and done quickly. In some cases my templates handle all this as well.
How does nXtRender help you with your outputting needs?
I really appreciate that you have added the ability to print from the render window. To me this is a huge help as I can print my rendering directly to a PDF file that is imported into my main drawing automatically in the template. The dpi output is adjustable which enables me to keep the size down, which is important to me because my PDF documents are created automatically and can be anywhere from 21 pages on average, up to 42 pages. The adjustable dpi helps me keep the final file size under the 15mb maximum of most email servers these days.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Ted. We'll be thinking of you now when we see livestock systems!
Would you like us to profile one of your projects? Email email@example.com and we’ll contact you.
We're off to Windsor in Nova Scotia, Canada, to chat with Marilyn West of Arlington Timber Frames Limited. Arlington designs and build timber frame structures using traditional mortise and tenon joinery, pegged together like timber frames have been for centuries. They have produced hundreds of timber frames over the last three decades, and the frames' strength and integrity will ensure that they will be around for the enjoyment of future generations. As well as houses, Arlington builds timber frame cottages, churches, barns, studios and commercial structures.
In 2017 Arlington moved from Sheffield Mills to Windsor. if you happen to visit Windsor in the future and want to say hello, you'll have no trouble finding Arlington's shop - it's next to the water tower with the giant ice hockey player on it!
Hi Marilyn, timber frame design looks like a great niche to be in, how long have you been doing this?
I have been specializing in timber frame design since the beginning days of Arlington. I remember that as a child, my favourite toys were a set of red plastic "brick" building blocks and a dollhouse. My play became my work, and while I am involved in all aspects of the design process, my favourite part is 3D design and rendering - it's like playing with a virtual dollhouse.
If you've been involved in designing for that long, your design skills have obviously evolved with new technology.
Yes, my college training consisted of hand drafting only, and over the years I have taught myself to use AutoCAD, SketchUp and, most recently, IRender nXt.
Why has rendering become an important part of your design process?
Many people have difficulty interpreting a set of architectural plans. Having the ability to produce photorealistic renderings has been a great advantage from both a construction and marketing point of view - rendered 3D views of a project are particularly helpful when making a client presentation. They get people, including myself, excited about the design possibilities! It has definitely brought greater satisfaction to my work as well.
Tell us about a recent project you’ve done for which you’ve produced renderings using IRender nXt.
Some of my favourite renderings were produced for a social centre to be built in a retirement community here in Nova Scotia. The social centre boasts a vaulted timber-framed hall as well as an outdoor kitchen and gazebo, which are being handcrafted by us. The client provided conceptual drawings and preliminary plans from which I produced photorealistic renderings using IRender nXt. These renderings have been used in brochures and presentations to help promote the project.
What elements do you pay most attention to when you render?
The most challenging aspect of rendering for me, and the most satisfying when achieved, is implementing the best lighting to highlight the features of a project. This is what I pay the most attention to when rendering an image because the lighting can make or break the final image. IRender nXt is very user friendly and even a user new to the software can produce exciting images using these tools. Discovering IRender nXt was a game changer for me!
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Marilyn. We hope you'll share more of your renderings with us in the future!
Would you like us to profile a project of yours and you/your company? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll contact you.