Rapid and Effective Visualization with Lumion Pro

June 20, 2015 12:45 am

Tags: Architectural Rendering, Digital Environments, Lumion, Urban Visualization


I have a slight problem with Lumion Pro: I can’t seem to get past its visual artistry to use the product for its intended purposes. Breathtaking landscapes and vistas, beautiful foliage and drop dead gorgeous water are few of the features that stand out immediately in Lumion Pro and we haven’t gotten to the core of its business. Beautiful sunrises and amazing sunsets along with glimmering beaches, fog covered mountains, starry nights filled with meadows, flowers, butterflies (nocturnal.. creative license ok?) and fish fluttering about (more creative license… yes… I know fish don’t flutter) and the completely over the top underwater plants. And the best part of all this is the speed and ease of which these scenes can be created… by just about anyone with decent computer skills… and very little learning curve. All this and we still haven’t even discussed Lumion Pro’s rasion d’eter… stunning architectural visualization.

A lot if not most of the Renderosity community are conceptual artists whether they consider themselves to be or not. Creative projects are all about conceptualization and visualization. The fly in the soup has always been how to get your visualization into the digital workspace . We are no strangers to the struggle. As someone that is not a daily user this product comes as a pleasant surprise in terms of speed and that ever important quality render needed to hook a client or sell a concept.


Lumion Pro Pro 5.3 Interface

Having spent the past several weeks with Lumion Pro 5.3 - 5.7 I am still convinced it is one of the fastest visualization tools on the market. It’s ease of use and great looks make it the envy of many of us that don’t work in the architectural field. Some of my prior experience was with the demo version back in 2011 which I believe was Lumion 3. A video I made with the free version is still a popular draw on my YouTube channel which attests to its overall render quality back then. A little research shows that Lumion Pro is based on the Quest 3D engine by ACT-3D. Quest 3D which bills itself to be “Amazing for fly-throughs and 3D Simulations” has captured not only the attention of the architectural visualization market but other 3D artists as well.

PRODUCTION PIPELINES

Let’s get to the all-important pipelines… two of which are Sketchup to Lumion Pro and 3D Studio Max to Lumion Pro that I used for this review.  Both couldn’t be easier in execution or more frustration free than what I experienced and not being frustrated with a 3D application just seems… well… refreshing. I mean… it’s rare. In this case I used the common FBX format for both but it can take SKP, DAE, 3DS, OBJ and even MAX files if you have Studio Max installed. The Lumion website lists several versions of CAD, Cinema 4D, Maya and many other 3d modeling applications that can export meshes compatible with Lumion Pro.Supported image formats include TGA, BMP, JPG, DDS, PNG and PSD. As you can see getting your model into Lumion Pro is no big deal. What's considered a hurdle with most 3D applications is a "given" with Lumion. You almost feel like your cheating using Lumino Pro it's so simple.

One item I did struggle with initially was object placement. Like most single screen 3D tools you soon realize that point of view is what is important when placing and manipulating objects. Once you get over this small hurdle the workflow speeds up incredibly. Lumion Pro is an application that lends itself to being used with both hands in concert. You can direct movement via keyboard and view via mouse. This combination of keyboard and mouse speeds up usage considerable.

NATURE LIBRARY

Lumion Pro’s library is impressive with its SpeedTree technology. From plants and trees to swarming insects there is lot of great assets in the nature library alone including forests. This doesn’t count the other libraries like people and props.  


Lumion's Extensive Nature Library
FX AND OTHER COOL THINGS

Drag and drop extends to special effects too. It includes fog, water mist, fire and other fx to use or misuse at your discretion. These are not half baked effects either. The on screen presentation of the effects this author tested were surprisingly good. In most cases visually enhancing the image or movie. There are fire, fountains and fog along with other effects. These are just what I would call the PRE production effects… we haven’t even gotten into POST effects after you go into the movie interface.

Just a Few Pages of the Lumion Pro Effects Library

MOVIE - IMAGE RENDER

Creating a movie or single image render couldn’t be any easier than it is Lumion with it simple place the camera and click for a pic system. Set your camera up for the initial scene and press a button to take a picture. Move the camera anywhere you desire at any angle on the screen within scene and take another picture. You’ve just created a moving camera shot from your first pic to your last. The camera moves between these pictures like key frames on a timeline. Up, down, rotate…whatever you need to complete the camera shot.


Top: Lumion Imaging Center for Photo Sets, Bottom: Lumion Timeline for Video

POST MOVIE EFFECTS

Post production contains even more features such as rendering type (sketch, cartoon and so forth). Atmospheric effects include sun,moon, shadow, contrails, global illumination, reflective surface and others. Weather contains clouds, volume clouds and volume sunlight along with rain and snow.

There are camera, style, artistic and sketch tabs each with it's own page of drag, drop and setup effects. There is also 2 point perspective and a really cool Analog Color Lab that has some great presets and sliders to control or customize your own look. We don't want to forget Godrays, Selective Saturation and Bloom, Fisheye Lens, Handheld Camera and more.


Post Movie Effects

BRINGING IN EXTERNAL ASSETS

Ok… now we come to the big one for everyone… importing external assets. Since Lumion can import FBX that should pretty much answer the question for most of us. Output in FBX, with animation, and you will be able to import the prop and animation for drag and drop use in Lumion. Animated props seem to work fine but characters are another story. I was not successful in getting a functioning animated character (fbx) into the workspace. It appears the skinning was off on the character skeleton which imported in an aberrated T-Pose and no animation. There are many other file formats available for import including: dae, skp, dxf, dwg, max, 3ds, obj and kmz along with fbx. That covers a lot of bases in terms of building an external asset library.  It’s a simple browse and place system with an opportunity to name asset before saving it to the library of assets. You can delete any imported asset from the library with a couple of clicks.

ARCHITECTURAL VISUALIZATION

Finally we arrive at the marketing thrust of the product. Empowering individual architects and firms to showcase their designs in a way that attract and hold the attention of the client… that all important focus when trying to nail down a project. With everything else this application can do creatively… it’s almost anticlimactic at this point.  The ability to use almost any 3D design application opens the door for many firms to bring their 3D models into the Lumion workspace with ease. This allows the creation of marketing materials from brochures to posters and, of course, the animation - moviemaking aspect to really push the visualization envelope and sell the project. For most of us… all we need is an image to get started creating a marketing package. The image needs to be pleasant and professional with as much eye candy as the situation allows. The ability to expand that package further with animated video is a huge plus. We all know that good isn’t good enough anymore and the edge that a product like Lumion can give its users could be a major difference in a head to head presentation with competitors.

LUMION 5.7 UPGRADE RELEASED

Before this review was published an upgrade to version 5.7 was released that adds a new beta feature, MyLumion.com, to the already existing toolset and this did alter the interface a tiny bit. Notice the different layout in far right corner menus and you also see the new MyLumion icon.

Click on this icon and you will be brought to a new screen that allows you to pick up to ten (10) viewpoints by choosing a slot and clicking the familiar camera icon. These are rendered and uploaded to MyLumion.com which is then available in a nice 360 degree panorama of each camera shot. For testing I took four shots and it was only a few minutes before it was rendered and uploading.


New Lumion 5.7 Upgrade in Minor Interface Change and Addition of the BETA MyLumion.com service.
At first I was wondering just what this new feature was but after seeing what they are going for here it became crystal clear that it is another way to share visualizations around the world with ease on a computer, smartphone or tablet. As of this writing the feature was new and strictly beta with no editing allowing up to 7 projects to be uploaded
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SUMMARY

In conclusion Lumion was pretty much as I thought it would be. An easy to use and stunningly visual real time application that relies on drag and drop placement of assets to build out a scene or image. How complex or simple is strictly up to the end user with either producing awe inspiring results. Anytime you can download an application then immediately start using it without reference material is a good thing on any level. The ability to kick it up a notch with special effects, animated props, birds, animals, people and other assets are just icing on the creative cake.
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SPECIAL THANKS to the folks at Lumion, particularly Roger Hammond, for providing resources and help making this review possible. For more information go to www.lumion3d.com.

Lumion Pro Demo

 


Sveva and Katlyn

M.D. McCallum (warlord720) is a International Award Winning Graphics Artist, 3D Animator, 3D Sculptor and Published Author. He is a staff writer and reviewer for the CG Industry news section here at Renderosity.com. You can find more info on M.D. at his website.

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