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Trials of Twin Motion

One of the things I have had to do most often for work is render out my designs.  This is predominately done using Sketchup as a modeler but I also use some Blender and MOI. The design is then rendered out using Thea render which works ok, but I’ve never really gotten it to do all it is capable of. This isn’t usually a problem as in the end I paint over the model anyway. That being said I would really like to get a better handle on the rendering side of things as it just makes it so much faster and time is money…

Back in the mid 2000’s I bought Luxllogies MODO specifically to do renderings. At the time Modo was reasonably priced and about the only program around that would do what was needed with a SU file exported as obj. I never got into its actual modeling features but for a few years it was how I did renderings.

Today there are numerous apps to do this. I’ve tried Vray to some success and a number of other stand alone render applications. They all have pros and cons. I am thinking that Blender’s Evie / Cycles may be my ultimate answer but I’m not that far in my immersion with the software yet…

Anyway recently I saw an opportunity to DL Twinmotion the real time rendering App. It’s owned by Epic Games and is basically a stripped down version of Unreal Engine. The deal was you could DL TM 2019 and just use it for free. The new version is a subscription model but this weekend I decided to break out the TM 2019 to see what it can do…

I would like to use it for the base renderings I need to produce for my final Universal work. I also think it could be very useful for future freelance projects as I’m gonna be heading into that world again very soon.

I figured the best way to learn and test would be using some old models I had laying around. I chose a speed form hover car I did a few years ago to test sub division modeling in sketchup and a piece of a set design I worked on last year…

One of the attractive features for TM is that you can import SU files directly into it. And supposedly updating the source file should update in TM. The files are easy enough to import and they appear on a base design space that looks like your outside of Vegas in the desert.

“ Bat Country “
Why is it way over there?

The interface is very bare bones and in my opinion not super intuitive. It’s almost as if it’s so simple it’s confusing. This happens to me all the time now I guess I’m just getting old :P. Anyways the geometry comes in pretty well and since I applied colors and textures in SU it’s easy to swap these out for nicer TW materials.

A concrete box

One thing I am excited to try is the function to import a SU asset such as a light source and save it as a user preference. This will be huge if I can make it work… I saw the technique on  CG Essentials a youtube channel which I watch. The guy has a ton of very helpful reviews and tutorials for a number of architectural 3D design related subjects you should check him out…

This first test was fine until I decided to try and update the SU file. I have no idea what happened here, but all the materials are whacked and the file became unresponsive. In the end I force quit the program…


I lost everything I had done and decided to try again with a simple scene using just the assets that come with TM.

Primitive shapes and a couch

These basic shapes and objects “ the red couch, Cyprus tree, etc “ come with the APP and as expected they work well. But my goal is to bring in original designs and render them. after playing with cubes, spheres and trees for a bit I brought the hover car in again to this scene.

Hover car on the grass

The model comes in fine and with some jiggling I maneuver it to a spot on the grass. TM doesn’t handle translation of imported models very well. I’m thinking at least for now the design models need to be complete and placed exactly where you need them because moving in the renderer is a pain.

I finally achieve a semblance of a car paint color. There is no preset for painted metals “ surprising “ and the method to achieve them is not clear. If I continue down this path will need to do a deep dive on materials.

Ok having shown some success with the previous test I decide to re import my concrete bunker which has now morphed into a small modern house because I can’t leave things alone… I’m am this time bringing in some terrain and a few SU trees and plants to see how well it plays with TM…

Doesn’t look like much in SU…
Looks much more fun inside TM
You can change the sky conditions as well
The built in environment materials and assets are quite nice…
The more extreme weather stuff is less impressive, at least at first glance…

Overall I’m reasonably impressed but have many questions and some doubts. The interface is just weird to me. I feel like it’s so busy trying to be intuitive it; at least for me,  is opaque. I tend to like to know exactly what a tool is doing, again this might just be because I need more time with it. My main gripe is related to what should be its best feature. The importing of my design model and ability to update the file in SU. It works, ……..sometimes… I ended up rebuilding this scene 4 times and reimporting it because I would get to a certain point and start getting weird behavior and this would eventually lead to a force quit.. Its a great idea but from what I see here now using version 2019 on my computer it’s pretty unstable. I think maybe the actual Unreal Engine would be preferable…

For a good portion of my career I have done most of my design work in SU, It’s industry standard now for television production because of is combo of accuracy ” if you know what youre doing ” and its speed. Since working for Universal I’ve actually returned to earlier techniques and been producing a lot of hand drawn design sketches. I’m really happy about that as I love to draw and for certain, clients like to see it… Since my end date with Universal is fast approaching I  know I need to get back into gear for freelance work again. I will be doing a lot more 3D again and this rendering engine could come in handy. That is Assuming I can ever get it to work reliably.

Maybe next post I will have more success to share…


One Comment Post a comment
  1. hope to read your success post soon. Never give up, never surrender!



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