In recent years, a range of digital tools have been developed to allow users to represent objects in three-dimensional space. These tools provide a unique opportunity to represent objects to scale, and to investigate objects from multiple angles or points of view. Some of the most well known software packages in this realm are SketchUp and Blender. Where SketchUp is distributed using a “freemium” license (free for a basic version and pay for the premium features), Blender is distributed under a “General Public License (GNU GPLv2). A range of tools related to autocad are also fairly popular in the world of three-dimensional representation.
Three dimensional game engines are software packages that allow videogame developers to create complex, three dimensional game worlds building upon the base programming of previous three-dimensional systems (in contrast to, say, building a three-dimensional world rom scratch). Most of these products are free to try but involve a licensing agreement whereby a game developer using an engine would share a percentage of profits with company that released the game engine. Some well known examples within the confines of this framework include Source Engine, Unreal Engine, and Unity 3D. Wikipedia maintains a larger list of video game engines. The field is constantly growing and shifting.
It’s probably best to think of 3D modeling tools and game engines as addressing related but not identical needs. What they share in common, however, is the impulse to imagine/represent objects three-dimensionally in digital space. SketchUp is probably the easiest 3D tool to begin with, as it’s interface stresses design aesthetics and usability. It tends to be the preferred tool for concept sketching. A cursory glance at Youtube reveals a preponderance of social activity around using SketchUp to build very complex designs very quickly. These are generally called “speed-building” and are often digitally sped up to enhance the effect.
Basics of SketchUp
-Cursor, Pan, Orbit, Zoom
-Line Shape, Push/Pull
-Move, Rotate, Erase, Paint
-3D Warehouse (Under “Window”)
Pedagogies from the Third Dimension
1. Is “learning to use SketchUp Make” a teaching goal?
2. Teaching Precision
3. Teaching Creativity
4. The Medium Sends a Message: Precision and Creativity are not Opposites
5. Confronting the Limits of Empiricism