Getting the most from Shaderlight for SketchUp

Here at Shaderlight HQ, we’re often asked for our recommendations when customers are choosing a new computer to use for rendering.  It’s an extremely difficult question to answer as every SketchUp model is different, and while we can test Shaderlight on a range of hardware it may have different characteristics to yours.

Taking this in to account we’ve put this post together to highlight some things you may like to consider when looking to spec your new rendering computer, or if you just want to reduce your render times.

Recommended computer specifications:

  • 8 GB RAM (If you are rendering larger resolution images, you may benefit from more RAM, especially if you are working in Auto Update mode. Single (Tiled) mode uses a lot less memory and can be used to render high quality high resolution images even with limited RAM.)
  • 2GHz+ quad-core processor
  • SketchUp 2014 or later

Some things to consider for your new computer:

  • Shaderlight will make full use of a multi-core processor and will use all cores of all CPUs.
  • Shaderlight won’t use the GPU for rendering. SketchUp can use the GPU for its own display, so interactions in SketchUp might benefit.
  • Any given render will require a certain amount of RAM and having more will not improve render times. Having less than that amount will dramatically increase render times as data is swapped on and off the hard drive. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to predict the amount of RAM needed in advance. In our experience, 8GB is enough for most small-medium complexity scenes at resolutions below 1920×1080. 16GB is enough for more complex scenes at 1920×1080.  As it’s difficult to know beforehand how much RAM you’ll need, it’s worth planning an upgrade path for your future needs.

Some tips to reduce render times:

Try reducing the quality setting.  If you’re rendering at the highest quality setting, try taking it down to 9.  In our experience, rendering at level 10 will take longer and the difference in image quality may not be that significant for your final render.

Review your materials.  If the render has large areas of ‘blurry’ materials in it, render times will increase substantially. ‘Blurry’ materials are those that produce blurry reflections or refractions – for example the ‘Glossy’ (except mirror), ‘Metal / Brushed’ and ‘Transparent / Frosted Glass’ presets. If the blurry reflections aren’t an important part of your image, switching to the ‘Shiny’, non-brushed Metal or non-frosted Glass materials can improve render times.”

Review your lighting.  Getting the correct lighting in your scene is vital to achieve the right look of your final render; however check that you’re not overusing artificial lights.

Shaderlight user Andrew Waddington has written an excellent guide to best practices when lighting interior scenes which you may find useful.

Reduce the amount of detail in your scene.  Taking a fresh look at your model and optimising it for rendering can have a significant effect on render times.  Try to avoid crinkly or curled surfaces where you don’t absolutely need them.

Take a look at cloud rendering.  Rendering using the Shaderlight Cloud service won’t make a single render any quicker if you machine is reasonably powerful, but you can render multiple jobs at the same time, and your computer is left free for other work.

In the end, though, rendering can be very hard for the computer, and Shaderlight does not prevent you from making things as complicated and beautiful as you like.


About Kate

Commercial Director at Shaderlight Ltd
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