By James
Hello! I have recently acquired a learning license for Maxwell Render V3. I currently use Sketchup 2016 Pro on OSX Yosemite and I am looking for advice on the most useful combination of maxwell and sketchup for rendering.. I had begun to experiment with the Fire plugin for sketchup, but have a suspicion that loading my sketchup models with maxwell materials might bog down the functionality I rely on sketchup for. I'm wondering if it's not better to export my sketchup model to Maxwell Studio and apply materials and lighting in one place and render from there.

Does anyone have any advice/input on whether this is a good approach? Pros and cons, along with any tutorials/tricks anyone might have to offer would be greatly appreciated.. It seems like there are several ways to use Maxwell with Sketchup and I'd like to figure out what method to utilize and hopefully skip a lot of trial and error.

Thanks in advance and apologies for such a general and novice post..

By JDHill
I think this is something that can only be determined for a specific workflow; in the past, the question was simpler, when SketchUp was 32-bit only -- if your model was large, you would definitely want to use 64-bit Maxwell Studio, since it might not fit into memory at all when working inside of SketchUp, and you would want to build/modify your workflow around that.

Since SketchUp 2015 though, with its 64-bit capability, it more or less comes down to how you prefer to work. The upsides of working in SketchUp can be seen in terms of the main downside of working in Studio: when you change something in SketchUp, you will need to update the model in Studio. Depending on the number of iterations you typically go through, it may be that there is no competition at all; if you only ever render after completely finishing a model (whether that is just your personal way of working, or if you are in an organization where there is a department that models, and a different one that renders), then you may prefer Studio's way of working with textures, its more convenient control over complex MXM materials, the fact that to do so, you don't need to tie up both a Maxwell & a SketchUp license, and so forth. On the other hand, if you typically go through a lot of model-render-model-render iterations, it's likely you'll want to stay inside SketchUp as much as possible.

As far as bogging down SketchUp, there are a couple of main considerations; one, it can be difficult to keep working in SketchUp while Maxwell FIRE is actually rendering, though this can be managed using the Threads, SL, and Max. Resolution parameters in the Maxwell FIRE > Settings panel. Second, as you ask, specifically regards materials, and here there is one specific case that needs to be kept in mind: if you use a Maxwell material that references a very large texture, and you ask the plugin to show that texture in SketchUp's viewport, then there may be a price to pay, just the same as if you had directly assigned that large texture using SketchUp's own material editor.

A typical way of dealing with this is to put a reduced-resolution version of the texture in the SketchUp material, so that you still have something to see when you texturing the model, but to have the Maxwell material use the full-resolution version (whether by linking to an MXM that references the texture, or by setting the texture to "Use Specific Texture" in the plugin's material editor). Other than those factors, though, plugin materials are really just a bit of text data attached to your SketchUp materials, which is found & read by the plugin at export time (technically, you could use Ruby to set up that data yourself, and the plugin would not know the difference), and used to create a custom Maxwell material from a SketchUp material, rather than performing an automatic (and generally sub-par, since SketchUp materials provide little information to work with) translation of it. As such, there's not much way for the use of Maxwell materials to slow SketchUp down very much (there can still be other factors -- for instance, your Maxwell material may reference a texture that is on a slow network drive; when you select that material, and the plugin tries to show you the texture in its UI, you are going to wait for the bits to get to the local machine. The plugin UI is basically a web page, though, and the browser will cache such things when it can).

As you say, your question is a bit general -- but regardless, I hope you find these thoughts to be helpful.
By James
Thanks JD. Those thoughts were very helpful indeed.

Ideally I would love to have Sketchup and Maxwell integrated as closely as possible, but when I look at the layout of Maxwell Studio it seems like, as you say, it is built to maximize control over lighting and materials. The presentation of these options via Maxwell Fire for Sketchup does not appear as robust, though there appear to be many people who are doing fine with it.. Perhaps I need to purchase a Maxwell for Sketchup license to maximize my experience using Maxwell within Sketchup.

I think that is what I'll try. If there are any tutorials or existing threads that deal specifically with managing materials in the way you specified (using a low res version for ketchup and a full res for Maxwell) I would appreciate a point in the right direction.

Also, any resources dealing with how to organize these files on my computer would probably be good beginner fodder for me- I noticed in my initial (meager) attempts to imbed materials into Maxwell Studio models that the associated .mxm and .jpg files began flooding my desktop..

Thanks for your time and guidance,
By JDHill
To be clear, there is only one plugin, but it runs in one of three modes, depending on the type of license detected: Free mode, where no license is found, Standalone mode, where a Standalone Maxwell for SketchUp license is found, and Render Suite mode, where a Maxwell Render Suite (or Learning Edition) license is found. Free mode allows rendering in FIRE in Draft mode only, up to 800x800px resolution; Standalone adds Production-mode rendering, at HD resolution; Render Suite mode adds interoperability for exporting to Studio, Maxwell, etc. So, if you have the Learning Edition, there is nothing to be gained in purchasing an additional Standalone plugin license.

I wanted to clarify that immediately, and will respond further, later.
By JDHill
Regarding the trick of using a low-res texture in SketchUp's viewport, I would not worry myself about this overmuch -- you should need to be using some large textures indeed (I have seen files where people are using textures 10K pixels wide), before it would become a factor. However, in the case that you did want to use it, I don't know offhand of a tutorial specifically addressing this, but it is really no more complex than how I described above; literally, you would:
  • 1. Use PS or similar to create a low-res version of the texture.
    2. In the SketchUp material editor, assign the low-res texture.
    3. In the Maxwell material editor, go to the Color Texture parameters:
  • Image
  • 4. Change the texture's Source to Use Specific Texture.
    5. Browse to the full-res version of the texture.
Since SketchUp only knows about the low-res version, that is what will be used in its viewport; however, when exporting the material, the plugin will write the path to the full-res version. But as I say, this should rarely be necessary, and would only needlessly complicate things, if used without good reason.

Regarding your last question about Studio, and MXM/jpeg files, I haven't yet grasped the situation, and so can't provide guidance. Please write down a short set of steps I can follow, in order to see exactly what you're referring to.
By James
Thanks JD.

It seemed to be when I was editing materials inside Studio.. I imported them from the web via MXM resources window in Studio and chose open style of "embed in scene" rather than "create MXM reference"... Not all of them did it and I am having mixed luck reproducing the phenomenon, but many .mxm and .jpg files associated with the materials gathered on my desktop for some reason..

It would seem they should all go to the material database sub folder in the maxwell 3 App folder- should I have chosen "create MXM reference"?

Also, on my attempt to work within Sketchup, when I try to open the Fire window I get the following error:

"The MXS Exporter has failed. This may be due to:

- a corrupt SketchUp model
- a corrupt or missing MXS Exporter
- insufficient OS write-permissions
- running the free version of SketchUp

Would you like to try again, using the Ruby exporter?"

Is this normal or is the exporter not compatible with SKP 2016?

By JDHill
I think I understand the situation now: if MXM files and their textures are being written on the desktop, this should indicate that the MXS file you are working with is located on the desktop, and that Studio > Preferences > MXM Gallery > Downloads > Download files in project folder is checked. If you wanted them downloaded to the /Applications/Maxwell 3/materials database directory, you could set that as the download location, but since uninstallation on OSX generally consists of trashing an entire application, you would want to keep in mind in future that your downloaded MXMs were located there.

As for embedding vs. referencing an MXM, the difference is that where referencing only writes the path to the chosen MXM file into the MXS file being edited, embedding copies the entire material definition into it. The important aspect of this is that where in the latter case, the MXS has no dependency on the MXM file, in the former, it does, and cannot be rendered, if the MXM file is not found at render time (say, if you moved the MXM file, or tried to render on a different machine in your network without copying all dependencies). The benefit of only referencing the MXM is that if you have a collection of MXS files that refer to a given MXM, you can change how they all render, by editing only that single MXM. So again, it comes down to the workflow; in a large office, it may be desirable for a certain person to be able to control how a certain material is rendered, in every scene -- even those that have already been finalized, and are themselves being referenced as fixed assets in other scenes, by way of the MXS Reference feature. However, you can see how such a workflow is inherently more brittle, and should not generally be used without good reason.

As for the export error message, are you using the version 3.2.4 plugin available for download here? Either way, please download that version and run the installer .app, first using the Uninstall option, and then the Install option, noting any errors reported during either operation. If the issue persists, please post the exact version of SketchUp you are using (as reported by main menu > SketchUp > About SketchUp), and the information shown when you click main menu > Extensions > Maxwell > About.
By James
Thanks JD that solved my exporting issue.. It will be a week or two before I'm designing/rendering again- It's shop time while I build a couple projects. In the meantime I'll try to move through some tutorials on using Maxwell in Sketchup and when the time comes to ask more questions I'll probably start an issue specific thread or find an existing one that I can study.

Thanks for all your help
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