SketchUp animation is great for model showcasing. Find out how to create SketchUp animations, using both native tools and extensions.
SketchUp is known for being a free and easy 3D modeling program, versatile for hobbyists, students, and professionals alike. It’s available as a web application or a standalone program for Windows or Mac.
It has various offerings, including several annual subscriptions (free or paid) and a one-time purchase for a full license. The completely free version was discontinued in 2017, but it’s still available for download.
Aside from being a generic tool for CAD, SketchUp is also capable of creating basic flythrough-style animations. Additionally, thanks to plug-ins, the program can become even more powerful, allowing you to animate individual objects with independent motions.
In this article, we’ll be discussing how to use the native animation tools within SketchUp and then dive into the use of the extension Animator. This is the main tool that lets you animate your objects individually, allowing you to work on your models in a timelined movie-maker-like interface.
SketchUp’s native animation mimics the effect of moving a video camera through a space. This is best for animating a walkthrough or flythrough of a static model, which is perfectly appropriate for showcasing architectural designs, landscapes, and detailed interiors and exteriors of building models.
Creating an animation with this tool is simple: Capture the key scenes you want the animation to show, and then arrange them in an order that’s to your liking. You don’t need to capture every frame for your animation; SketchUp will calculate the smoothest path to transition from one scene to the next.
You may have created an animation successfully, but perhaps the transitions don’t seem quite right. In these cases, you can try and add additional scenes in between to make transitions natural. A common example is SketchUp generating a transition that moves through a wall. Here, adding a scene in the appropriate doorway will likely help.
When you find your animation a bit shaky and with unnaturally abrupt camera movements, you can edit your scenes by using the tools in the Camera toolbar. The most helpful tools in refining your scenes are “Look Around” and “Walk”. Look Around lets you change the angle of the camera without changing its position. Walk changes the position but keeps the camera at the same angle.
Another method of animating in SketchUp utilizes section cuts. With this method, you can make objects appear and disappear during scene transitions. This can be combined with the previous method of animation for flythrough scenes.
This also works with the native animation tool of SketchUp. Note that, for the following, you’ll need at least two sections in your model. Let’s go through it:
With the use of tools such as layers and outliners, you can organize objects and parts in order to section them individually. You can create sections within a group so that the section cut will only affect specific parts of your model. You can check out more about how this works in this video by YouTuber TheSketchupEssentials.
Animator is a powerful tool for SketchUp. With it, one can create “actual” animations, which are easily manipulated with an intuitive interface. Created by Fredo6, the extension can individually animate objects in SketchUp in various ways.
Unlike other animation programs such as Blender, Autodesk 3DS Max, or Maya, the Animator lacks features and versatility when it comes to creating beefy and movie-grade animations. However, for simple and quick presentation-style animations to showcase assemblies and mechanisms, Animator is a good choice. In comparison to the previously mentioned programs, it’s much closer to engineering-related CAD animators, such as the animation tool included in SolidWorks.
The Animator extension works with SketchUp 6 and above but not in the web-based application.
Before starting with Animator, you’ll have to install it. The first step is to download the following:
For the plug-ins, you’ll likely need an account on SketchUcation. (Signing up is free.)
Once installed, the Animator toolbar shows up, with three essential tools for animating:
To make your objects easier to animate, your model has to be prepared:
Having your objects grouped according to its movable parts will also make animating easier. As an example, you can see in YouTuber Fredosix’s video how the forklift parts were prepared and grouped as separate components.
The clip editor is where most of your animation work will be done. Opening the clip editor brings you to its interface, which is composed of the following:
Once the clip editor is open, you can begin creating animations for an object:
A list of possible animations will appear once you have a group selected:
For every animation, there are several settings you can adjust, such as the axis of movement, the distance it will move, and the speed of the movement.
After animating, click the check icon to save the animation, make sure to name it so that you can find it more easily in the Sequencer. The timeline can get messy as you progress through your project, naming things helps you find and change them later if needed.
Just like the native walkthrough animation in SketchUp, you can also configure various scenes with your camera:
You can have various camera angles in your animation. Similar to the native animation tool in SketchUp, the software also finds the easiest way to move from one scene to the next.
The sequencer timeline lets you arrange and edit every animation, camera movement, and effect so that you can organize them and even make them play simultaneously:
After creating and arranging all your elements for animation, you can test playing it in the clip player.
To export your animation into a video, click the “Generate Video” button, which is located both on the clip player and in the clip editor.
Make sure you’ve installed FFMPEG in order to export your animation as a video. If it’s not yet installed, Animator will be only able to export images for each frame, to be assembled in another program as a video.
While generating the video, you can set which file format you want the video to be exported as well as set the frame rate, speed, and resolution. As an additional option, you can also use Vray for SketchUp to export your animation, as explained by SketchUpEssentials.
These are just the basics for starting to animate with SketchUp. The native animation tools may be simple, but they’re more than good enough for their intended purpose.
(Lead image source: TheSketchUpEssentials via YouTube)
License: The text of "SketchUp & Animation: How to Create Animated Scenes" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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