Thea for SketchUp: the people and the plugin

Solid Iris (the folks behind freeware renderer Kerkythea and Thea Render Studio) have been busying themselves over the past few months, having successfully updated their latest render plugin, Thea for SketchUp. With an updated UI and and many new features it has certainly got tongues wagging. Previously the SketchUp plugin served as a platform to access their already highly popular Thea Render. Now its fully integrated and the latest version takes away the need to export your scenes from SketchUp by introducing a new rendering window within SketchUp. With a great support network (hugely important with new software) which you can access over at their Thea Render Forum and a 20% discount during the beta period, currently it seems we have a win win situation here. Just after Christmas, we managed to have a chat with the folks behind it and learned a bit more about what all the fuss is about.

The Library by Juan Carlos Uribe

Many people have known Kerkythea the powerful, standalone, free render engine for a number of years now and of course Thea, which uses the same top quality engine (as do Podium and Twilight Render), what has prompted the Solid Iris team to develop this latest new plug-in for SketchUp?

Let us answer by telling the whole story then. Back in 2008, when we published Kerkythea Echo version, the feedback especially from SketchUp community was very enthusiastic – and still is! At that moment, the idea of a new commercial – sister – product (Thea Render) was born and it took nearly 2 years of research and development, shaping the new product almost from scratch. As a commercial application, Thea Render is superior in many ways to Kerkythea. At the end, it was the enthusiasm of the SketchUp community that made us invest in this modeling application and prioritize it.


Who are the team behind Thea for SketchUp’s  development and its creation?

Tomasz Marek, as an architect and developer, is working on the connection, Ioannis Pantazopoulos is working on the core engine and studio interface, Patrick Nieborg is working on the content, Pentti Lahdenperä leads the forum technical support and Christina Psarrou is working on the website and documentation. This is the core team for the SketchUp plugin, so to speak, but there are many community members giving great help, like Kim Frederik Blom Semelin and Nige Copeland.

Garden Summer by David Hennessy

SketchUp already has many popular rendering plug-ins, why develop another?

With so much positive feedback from SketchUp community, there could be no other decision.

Do you need Thea Studio to use this plug-in?

Yes and no. The plugin at this phase still uses some elements that come with the studio, for example, the material editor. The studio is also needed if someone wants to make use of some features that are available only there (for example, Relight animation) or perform 64-bit rendering without RAM limitations. Even with respect to material setup, if someone wants to edit Thea materials, it is better to do that in the studio, which is more optimized in that aspect. Still, with the plugin, you will do most of your work without leaving SketchUp and we are currently working on making it as autonomous as possible.

Can you give us an overview of the core technology behind Thea for SketchUp, or more simply …what’s under the hood, what makes it so different?

The major difference you will see is the multiple engine support. Thea’s unbiased core is probably the best unbiased engine one can get, but we were not purists staying there. Thea has a biased also engine, using the “traditional” techniques of photon mapping and final gathering, which has received now a tremendous boost. A new engine running on the GPU will be available in the upcoming edition v1.2. And switching from one engine to another is just a selection away. In short, with Thea Render, our users get three different technologies in the price of one.

Black & White by Frederic Yves Moro

Are we going to be banging our heads off the wall now, or put more simply… hard is it to use and learn this new plug-in?

We tried to keep things simple with the plugin. We avoided going too far with settings but instead hided most of the complexity. For users that want to dive deeper, there is always the studio. 🙂

Who would you say this render plug-in best suited for, the pro, hobbyist or both?

We are using Thea Render professionally ourselves, in architecture and 3D graphics and we understand very well the requirements of the diverse SketchUp community. We definitely address both groups.

Living in Hanoi by Nomer Adona

The one question most people will want asked….what are processing times like, based on a relatively basic computer setup?

There is no easy answer for that. Thea Render, being in the category of photorealistic rendering software, does not give real time response. Instead, it is intended for high quality rendering, simulating the light scattering in space. From our comparisons, Thea has now the fastest true unbiased engine and one can still go with the biased engine and get a great result in a short time. With the addition of the GPU engine the interactivity is also maximized. Speaking about processing times in an absolute manner is not possible as this is very dependent on the scene and material complexity, machine power and efficiency, settings and engine used.

How positive has the reaction been so far with this Beta release?

The reaction has been very positive. We were somehow expecting that but we are always happy to see the warm feedback of the users.

Winter Salle by Frederic Yves Moro

What will make me run out and buy (metaphorically speaking) Thea for SketchUp….what has it to offer in comparison to other similar Plug-ins?

It offers pretty much everything. Thea for SketchUp is a complete solution with multiple render engines, exclusive materials and it comes with a studio on its own. On top of that, I want to add something not easily seen; long term upgrades and support. Right now, we are close to three years of published upgrades and we are still before major improvements in v1.2. All updates in v1.x series are free of charge for our users which means years of development without additional fees. Compare that to other rendering software upgrade cycle.

Shell Chair by Massimo Siracusa

One final question…what’s next from you guys?

Our next milestone is publishing v1.2 edition which will be soon out. We have various great ideas about the (near) future but we would like to keep them as a surprise. 🙂

Elegant Dining Room by Frederic Yves Moro

We now have Thea inside SketchUp! ….what next?

For Software, Tutorials, Gallery and Forums visit the Thea Render website.

2 Responses to “Thea for SketchUp: the people and the plugin”

  1. asloun mostefa on June 20th, 2014 4:08 pm

    thea is the best moteure de rendu

  2. Marcos Pedrosa on September 26th, 2014 1:31 pm

    Olá, o thearender é melhor que o vray?

Got something to say?