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And you, how do you use your Sweet Home 3D? Episode 6

Okh is another frequent and faithful contributor of the forum and of the 3D Models Contributions tracking system. We asked him why and how. He kindly answered to our questions.
His interview is also an interesting introduction about 3D models creation and importing.

- When did you start to contribute to Sweet Home 3D forum, then to create new furniture?

Two years ago, I started thinking about making changes to a small house in the country. I had old MacPaint (!) drawings from 1990. Coming across Sweet Home 3D, I admit I was skeptical at first, doubting Sweet Home 3D could be useful. That did not last long, though. In less than an hour, I had created my first plan. I have the greatest respect for architects and builders, but need to understand what I want: everyone told me that the angles and layout of our kitchen would be impractical. I insisted and it became the best kitchen I have ever used.
The first challenge was getting the exterior right, red board and batten siding (vertical wood façade cladding). I created a simple, seamless pattern. Luck probably, but the effect in Sweet Home 3D was remarkable, the house now had depth and looked real. The second challenge was the old, small-paned, casement windows. No model looked right and after a while, this started to bother me. I started experimenting with Art of Illusion, Blender, Wings 3D and SketchUp. It took a full day in stubborn frustration before, suddenly, I forgot the software and the model just appeared. From windows I tried doors, staircases, furniture, lamps, kitchen elements, carpets, paintings. So there I was making models anyway, why not share those that other Sweet Home 3D users might be looking for.

"I rarely bother with high quality rendering except when I need to figure out where the light sources should go. This cabin, where the wine glass, bottle, wood burning stoves, candles and paraffin (kerosene) lamps, conveyed just the right atmosphere. To me, looking at it evokes the smell of fire-place and a dinner cooking in the background after a long, autumn walk in the mountains."

- You recently post a staircase that we used in a wooden shed to celebrate summer in our facebook page. How long does it take to design this staircase for example? Is it accessible to an amateur? What software do you use?

Now, two years down the line, I make almost all models I use in Sweet Home 3D myself, but rarely embark on complicated tasks like human figures or designs with lots of tiny details. Not only do they take a quite a lot of time to make, but I prefer simple models. No need to fill Sweet Home 3D with lots of geometry that just slows everything down. A combination of the right texture and a simple model usually does the trick. I made a couple of cars, one with a lot of detail, but the one I use with Sweet Home 3D is much simpler and only 27 KB zipped. Tree and plant models also tend to be very big, so I made some much simpler ones just over 10 KB. Of course, for a perfect render, I would choose something more elaborate, but simpler models save space, increase speed and are plenty good enough for me to visualize ideas.

A revelation for me was when I realized I could add Sweet Home 3D furniture properties: stair cut-outs, door/window openings, light-sources, plan icons etc. Simple, small model files now provided plenty of accuracy combined with my own textures. Even if simple, a model should be sufficiently close to existing products, yet, without being copies of one specific design. So if I share a model, the copyright is mine to share. Sometimes I make models with a much higher level of accuracy, for instance of a wood burning stove that I ended up buying later. But I hesitate to share models of existing designs publicly as I wish to avoid copyright trouble with the manufacturer/designer.

The staircase model you refer to was made with SketchUp and did not take long to make. The model consists of one stringer (side of a staircase), and one tread (step), basically a couple of boxes copied in two directions. What actually took some time, though, was figuring out correct measurements: angle, ratio between tread and rise of each step and so on. Quite accurate calculations are required in a good staircase. But I cheated, and found some standard dimensions on-line as a starting point. I hope to share more standard staircase models, but it will take me a rainy afternoon to check through everything.

Yes, of course, model making is accessible to an amateur, like me. SketchUp and Blender are taught to kids in local schools. Some patience is recommended, with Blender, quite a lot. I recommend the video tutorials and then expect to be pretty irritated for a while. Which is the better software depends on personal preferences and what you want to do. Art of illusion is simple and powerful, but with a slightly odd interface. Blender is very powerful, but harder to learn. SketchUp has a cool interface, but is proprietary and with limitations in the free edition. By the way, lots of models, like roofs, can be made just with Sweet Home 3D.


"The most useful objects I make, I guess are staircases, doors and windows.
Not the fanciest models at all, but important construction elements that I want to be exactly right."

- Are your regular contributions an active way (militant act?) for supporting open source software?

Active, possibly, militant, certainly not :-). But yes, I support open source software. First, some open source software packages are as good as their proprietary counterparts. Sweet Home 3D is a good example, as is the Gimp and some office suites. But there is more to it. I prefer openness about how software will process my data. Using open source, means the user can take full control over how the software works, even if that is a theoretical option for most of us. A question of transparency and user empowerment, if you like. Also, while I do support copyright and patents, I think the protection may have gone too far. Fair enough, an inventor or creator gets a state protected monopoly for a limited time, but decades of monopoly defies good development. For that reason alone, I wish to support sharing of creative work.
That said, I use lots of proprietary software. For instance, some map software where I have yet to find an open source solution I really like, and I don't mind using SketchUp Make when that suits me, free, but not open source and not fully cross platform.
But sharing and contributing should go together. I like and use Sweet Home 3D, and it is only fair to contribute. In addition, I admit to being flattered when other Sweet Home 3D users send me plans with my models. Somehow the models have come into a life of their own and some may even end up being constructed in real life. My vanity really likes that thought.

Thank you very much, Okh, for this interview and all your contributions. We also hope that these models inspired other users all over the world!

You too, you can design your own furniture and share them in the 3D Models Contributions tracking system available at SourceForge.net. Once in a while, we integrate them in the free 3D models page.


Imaginary, small kitchen and town-house, used to test models



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