Thursday, January 7, 2010

Get a Manicure: Make Your Thumbnails Pretty

Today's post deals with sharing your geo-models in the most attractive way on the Google 3D Warehouse. I offer my opinion about the best ways to do it, and hopefully this will lead to more views for your models.

When I receive a model suggestion that doesn't fit in a collection, I either send an email suggesting ways to improve the model presentation, or else I add the model into the More Good Models collection (a collection for models that are good but not matching my other collections).

This is my own model of the ABC Television Building posed in various ways. I'll use it to compare the relative strengths and weaknesses of thumbnail illustrations (click image for larger view).

These poses mimic the most common styles of thumbnails I see on the 3D Warehouse. In case you didn't know, whatever your model looks like on your screen at the time of uploading, that's how it will look in the 3D Warehouse (this applies to SketchUp, not Building Maker, models).

1) In the first example, you can see two faint lines in the top left. These are guide lines that the modeler used in the building process. These can be, and should be, erased before uploading.

2) I think this is a competent view. The positive space of the composition (the dark shape of the building) and the negative space (empty space around the building) are both interesting enough and balanced. It feels "right."

3) This is more dynamic and interesting than #2. It is also closer. Notice the shadows are turned on- this makes the building look more real. You can position the sun in whatever way looks best, and use the ground shadow as part of the composition (works great for skyscrapers).

4) Same view but with shadows turned off and edges un-hidden. Some prefer to display the edges. I like them off. Most of Google's own models are uploaded with hidden edges and I like that the model appears similarly to how it does in Google Earth. Only my opinion.

5) This is OK, but notice the composition is dull compared to #3 and #2? Diagonals create interest, but this model just sort of "sits there." Consider re-positioning.

6) Why so dark? You can control the lighting levels in the shadow information dialog in SketchUp.

7) Why so tiny? This is the one that mystifies me the most. The thumbnail preview on the Warehouse is SMALL. So you need to upload your model as close to the camera as you can, so people can see it. One tip is, group the whole model and select "Zoom Extents" in the right-click (context) menu.

8) Same as #3 and #4, but edges are turned off. Notice that without shadows on, the model appears faint and light-weight?

Overall my choice would be for #3. At a glance it stands out best. It is positioned in a visually interesting way, with good use of positive and negative space in the composition. It is close enough to be viewed. Shadows are turned on to create solidity. What do you think?

One more tip: when positioning your model in SketchUp, hold the CTRL key to be able to orbit diagonally.

EDIT: Yet another tip: The preview will take on the ratio of your screen as well. In order to maximize your preview height, if you are working on a wide screen monitor, resize the window to more of a 4:3 or 5:3 ratio (like the thumbnail ratio) before uploading. I might be completely wrong about that but I think it is the case.

EDIT 2: I forgot another one. I personally prefer not to upload any terrain if possible into the screen shot. Especially if it is not color, and if it is a square. It's part of the modeling work process, and it breaks the illusion of realism when you see it on the preview page.