Sunflow experiments...

Sunflow experiments...

Postby Ross Macintosh » Mon Dec 24, 2007 1:44 pm

In this thread Didier Bur released the latest version of the SketchUp-to-Sunflow plugin that he has been developing: viewtopic.php?f=57&t=2780

Not being familiar with the Sunflow rendering system, and learning that it was free, I thought I would check it out...

One interesting thing about SunFlow is it is Java-based therefore it can be used on a Windows machine, on a Mac, or on a Linux box.

It wasn't hard to install either SunFlow or the SketchUp plugin. I made a quick test scene in SketchUp. It features just a bunch of boxy forms and a pickup truck component originally posted on the old forums by Brandon. I exploded all components and painted everything a tan colour. Using the plugin was quite straightforward. There are several options and then you just export the scene. The created file is then opened in SunFlow and the render button clicked. It progressively renders in front of your eyes.

The first image shows my test model rendered using the 'Ambient Occlusion' option lit only by a sky. The watermark is something I added afterwards. The rendering engine doesn't add any and you can render at whatever resolution you want:

The image below shows a closer view. For it the sky was turned off. Didier's plugin automatically substitutes in some directional lighting to suit the SketchUp sun location. Shadows match whatever setup you had in sketchup. I found the Plug-in + SunFlow produces such 'clay' renders with no fuss and with consistency. I did not have to tweak any lighting at all:

The Plug-in creates a scene file that is utilized by SunFlow. The features Dider has been able to include in the Plug-in to date are a small subset of what are in theory possible. The constraint on Didier is that almost no documentation on SunFlow exists so, to date at least, the feature set is limited. In looking around the SunFlow site I learned it will support HDR probe lighting. I decided to try my hand at editing the plugin-generated scene file. I found it quite easy to replace the sun with an HDR probe I had of a beach, and let all the scene lighting be generated via that probe. It worked! I surprised how well --- again there was NO tweaking at all. Just a cut & paste edit of the code and hit the render button. Below is the result -- you can see the HDR image as a backdrop:

Next, encouraged by my easy success with the HDR probe I decided to try editing the scene file further. What I did was change the file's shader definition so all my tan material would be glossy. Here's the result:

I'm quite pleased with the results of my first experiments with SunFlow. I think with some support Didier's plugin + SunFlow will develop into a great cross-platform rendering solution. Currently it lacks the materials support it needs. Hopefully with some encouragement Didier can get that part working similar to Podium.

Regards, Ross

Ross Macintosh 

Postby kwistenbiebel » Mon Dec 24, 2007 2:38 pm

This looks promising.
Any insight on render times?
Are SU assignedtextures supported already? (couldn't figure that out from your explanation).

I am of for a few days of vacation
so...Cheers and 'happy silly season'to all as Solo would state ;),



Re: Sunflow experiments...

Postby Ross Macintosh » Mon Dec 24, 2007 3:49 pm

Didier's script isn't supporting textures at this time. Hopefully it will someday. (SunFlow does but as noted above Didier's efforts in his plugin development are hindered by a lack of documentation on SunFlow). I don't know if there are any other routes to getting a textured model into SunFlow. I haven't looked around the SunFlow site or Forum enough to find out.

If your model has colours they will work fine. I attach an example render. The model is from the FormFont Exchange. After exporting from SketchUp I edited the scene file so the glass and hydraulic rams would look shiny.

The render times for the above image was about 15 minutes. The 'clay' ones above were just two or three minutes. Adding the HDR lighting & then the glossy effect added more time. The glossy one probably took 20 minutes.

If you visit the gallery at the SunFlow site you'll see the program is quite capable. Hopefully Didier's script can, in due course, develop to take more advantage of it.

Regards, Ross

Ross Macintosh 

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