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Skatter Extension Demo

5.4_Skatter Extension Demo

0:01 In this lesson, we’re going to look at a paid extension that is designed specifically for working with large quantities of vegetation.

0:09 It’s called ‘Skatter’.

0:10 Skatter has three main features that are helpful for landscape and site design.

0:17 They are firstly, the ability to distribute or ‘skatter’ thousands of plant components instantly…

0:23 And secondly…it’s parametric, meaning it generates its result from parameters which can be altered at any time and then re-generated…

0:33 And thirdly, it’s designed to be used for rendering by allowing you to not load the skattered geometry into your model, instead sending it straight to the render engine –

0:43 – thus keeping your model light and nimble at all times.

0:48 Go ahead and open up the SketchUp file associated with this lesson in your exercise files folder.

0:55 Just a note before getting started that the intention here is not to review every feature of this extension, just the basics so you can decide whether it’s worth investing your time in learning more on your own.

1:06 Let’s begin with the basics: which is how to skatter objects.

1:10 We first need two things: a ground plane group to skatter objects onto...and then objects, or components to skatter.

1:21 In this demo, you can see that we’re using the same site plan and terrain that we did in the ‘drop’ demo in the previous lesson.

1:28 Start by launching the Skatter dialog box and notice that we’re first prompted to choose a host – which is our terrain base.

1:38 Notice how it highlights as we hover over different groups to choose from.

1:43 After choosing the terrain group, a bunch of red preview squares show up indicating that is where objects will be placed once we choose what components we want to skatter.

1:54 Let’s select all of the trees to the left as our skattered objects’

2:00 As we can see the little red squares are now previewing as larger red boxes that are the size of our trees.

2:09 It’s also obvious that our density here is way too high as each preview box represents a tree once we generate them into our model.

2:19 This first thing to change is the density box.

2:23 Let’s try entering ‘0.01’ and then load the trees by clicking ‘(re)Generate’ in order see the result.

2:31 Note that if you’re using a rendering engine or high poly trees, here you can bypass SketchUp completely by checking ‘Render Only’.

2:39 This result is still too dense.

2:42 So let's ight-click any of the trees and select ‘Edit Skatter Group’ to make changes and we’re back to looking at our red preview boxes again.

2:52 Let’s try halving that to ‘0.005’ and then hitting ‘(re)Generate’ again.

2:59 This looks better.

3:02 Note that we’re obviously ignoring the locations of the trees relative to the illustrative for this demo.

3:09 Let’s look at a few more settings in order to better fine tune the result.

3:14 Firstly, we’re currently distributing all the trees equally.

3:17 In this case, let’s say there’s more palms than canopy trees.

3:21 We can select just the canopy tree and reduce the probability they’ll show up.

3:27 For the 2D Canopy trees, let’s reduce it to ’20 percent (%)’ and then (re)Generate again.

3:36 We now have only a few canopy trees showing compared to the palms.

3:41 Next down is whether we want the trees to ‘point up’ or not.

3:44 That means basically whether the tree trunks point straight up along the blue axis as you can see they do now or whether they rotate to be perpendicular to the slope face.

3:56 Let’s undo this last one as trees pointing straight up looks better for this demo.

4:02 Shrubs and grasses probably work better responding to the slope as they’re lower to the ground.

4:08 For now let’s skip over ‘altitude, slope, and collisions’ and instead look at ‘clipping areas.’

4:18 This is where we can refine where we do or do not want the trees to show up on our terrain mesh.

4:24 For instance, we have trees in our buildings and pathways that shouldn’t be there.

4:35 Let’s go ahead click the box with a 'plus sign' icon to exclude trees from objects.

4:41 The objects here being of course the building and pathway groups.

4:46 Then (re)Generate again and instantly the trees are gone. And it's looking much better.

4:53 Let’s now scroll down to where it says ‘random transform’.

4:57 This will allow us to add some more variety to our components.

5:01 Start by checking ‘horizontal mirroring’ and ‘scale (%)’…both of which are similar to Chris Fullmer’s ‘Scale and Rotate Randomly’ extension that we reviewed earlier.

5:14 Once we’re done setting the Skatter parameters, we can save this particular Skatter set up, components included, to the Skatter library to be re-used again later.

5:26 To do this, give the set up a name and then click the disk icon which prompts us for an optional thumbnail, which we’ can create quickly by doing a screen capture.

5:43 Then hit ‘Save’ which asks for a location to save the library files to.

5:48 Go ahead and create a folder somewhere logical, like your ‘Documents’ folder.

5:55 And that’s it.

6:00 When we open the Skatter Library we can now see our palm and canopy set up saved for future use.

6:08 Just to test this out, I’ll create a new base mesh group...

6:20 ...and then I'll load that library preset...

6:33 ...and apply it to the new group and there it is.

6:39 Our same settings, minus the excluded clipping areas, show up instantly.

6:45 That’s it for now for our Skatter overview.

6:48 As stated previously, there’s a lot more that Skatter can do but this is a good start for how the extension can help speed up not just the distribution of objects over large areas...