Tuesday, January 04, 2011

SketchUp Tip: Field of View

I like SketchUp.  A lot.  Like really, a lot.  I use it to model most things I build, and many other things around the house.  Frankly, my wife is a little sick of all the models I think. 

Her:  "Honey, take out the garbage please?" 
Me:  "Wait, I need a 3D model for that!"

But there are times when a 3D model is very helpful.  For instance, I used it to lay out my shop to make the most of my limited space.

Click for extreme close-up
Which brings me to today's SketchUp tip.  Woodworkers tend to focus on models of a single piece of furniture, but SketchUp is also used by a bunch of architects to create entire buildings.  When you are viewing a building from the inside out, you generally want to show the viewer what they would realistically see if they were standing in the space.  This is where field of view becomes important.

The human eye has about a 120 degree field of view from side to side, or about 60 degrees per side.  It may be easier to think of this as a cone expanding outward from your eye.  The default setting in SketchUp is just 35 degrees, which is a much narrower field of view.  As a result the standard view in SketchUp can feel like you have blinders on.

For example, here is the default 35 degree view if you are standing at the garage door of my virtual shop.

SketchUp lets you easily adjust the field of view.  Here's how you do it. Click on the Zoom tool or just hit "Z" on the keyboard.  The zoom tool looks like a little magnifying glass.

After you select the zoom tool, the box in the bottom right of your SketchUp window should say "Field of View" and "35 deg".  At this point you can type in another setting and hit enter.  For example, try "60" and "Enter".  Here is the same view of my virtual shop with the 60 degree setting.

You may want to play around with different settings for different effects.  Rather than typing in each new setting, you can hold down the Shift key and the Left mouse button, and then drag the mouse around to widen or narrow the point of view.  This seems a bit awkward and unless you are comfortable with camera navigation in SketchUp I recommend just typing in your number.

One last note is that SketchUp can accept field of view settings in degrees or millimeters.  The "mm" settings are handy if you are a photographer and want to get the effect of a specific lens, such as "50 mm".  When you are typing in your new setting SketchUp stays in the current "deg" or "mm" scale unless you specifically switch to the other scale.  Note that for the human eye, 60 degrees is about the same as a 35mm lens.

That's all it takes to get a new field of view in SketchUp, and it can really help to make models look more natural for the viewer.

Got a question about SketchUp?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments.