Podium Landscape Design
Image by Yatheesh Gowda from Pixabay
Landscape Design

Podium Landscape Design

The world of presentation graphics is constantly evolving. In fact, it’s trending in what seems to be a completely new direction with the widespread incorporation of animation into workflow and presentation format. Prior to the last few years, animations were for the “big budget” projects only. Now, not so much. There are literally hundreds of different modeling and rendering software choices for animation on the market today. Some are simple yet highly flexible modeling tools, while others give off the, “Oh no, what button did I just push, ” vibe and seem to require a college level course to understand the functions. But the question arises… “Which one should I be using?” or better yet, “which one is best for our project?”

I’ve been asked those questions many times. Essentially the answer always boils down to two words: Quality and Efficiency. It’s quite simple – if you can’t produce quality work in an acceptable time frame, you’re probably creating more problems in your workflow than you’re solving. Smart project managers are always on the lookout for new software or technologies that effectively deliver quality results and reduce the amount of man hours that need to be applied to production. Gee, if only there was just one software out there that delivered amazing graphics, was extremely easy to use, and allowed our staff to spend more time on important things like design and documentation and less time on mundane tasks like graphic production…

There is. Actually in my book, there are two. Arguably, others will have their preferences depending on their background and what they are comfortable with, which is fine. Many other software options deliver fantastic results. However, there are two I’d like to focus on that are drastically transforming the way professionals work across the board, and if you aren’t familiar with them, allow me to make a formal introduction.

Podium Walker

These plugins really do work hand in hand, but Walker acts as a great asset that Podium V2 lacked – Animation production. For those that have experience with Podium V2, you are probably well aware of the sheer awesomeness the plugin can deliver. Having the capabilities of Podium in an animation format is game changing. Material settings are easily adjusted by selecting a material in your model and simply dragging sliders to the designated amount of transparency, reflection, bump, etc. you wish to see. As if that weren’t simple enough, the pre-programmed materials that come with SketchUp are render-ready with the correct material settings built into the program. Another great feature is the add-on plugin called Podium Browser. Browser is a fully operational library with thousands of render-ready components and materials compiled in a categorized (and searchable) index, saving you hours of modeling objects and testing material settings. The objects in Browser work great in Podium Walker and are fantastic tools for giving your animation a professional and well manicured look.

  • CPU Based, not GPU based. This means it can literally run on almost any Windows or Mac built in the last few years. You don’t need a high powered computer to use this program, though it definitely helps with render times.
  • For interior shots, Podium V2 might be the best rendering platform out there.
  • Easy to use, very comfortable and convenient for even the most non-tech savvy folk
  • It reads Podium V2 reflections, blur, refractions, bump maps, omni lights, LEM lights, etc, and translates sun position to create it’s own sun and sky. This is great for those who may already be using Podium V2 because you already know how it operates, and you don’t have to change anything
  • SketchUp scenes already created in your model can be used as keyframe animations. Or, you can create a new one while working in Walker
  • It will create animations directly from SU Animate camera paths
  • It will export to video formats such as and .avi
  • Supports SketchUp 2013 and SketchUp 8 as well as 7 (for Windows)
  • Supports Windows and Mac (Lion and Mountain Lion)
  • Cost – only $99. (Note, you do need Podium V2 to run Walker)
  • It runs inside SketchUp, so file size limitations are the same limitations of SketchUp. When your files begin to get big, your rendering time is going to drastically increase, along with the chances of a bug splat – However, they are testing a 64 bit version, in which any size of SketchUp model will work
  • No moving parts to animation – No cars moving, people running, etc.
  • Some materials that are not static in nature, running water for example, don’t render well
  • Output time to video – depending on the file size, the time it takes to save a video can be a tad troublesome. However, they guys at Cadalog are working diligently to correct this issue in the next release


If you are into producing realistic images, and especially life-like animations, your first experience seeing what Lumion can do and just how easy and fast it is to work with this software to deliver stunning animations and renderings is a wake up call. You just realized how much time you have been wasting those last few precious years messing with components, settings, materials, and terrain. *FOREHEAD SMACK*

When I first witnessed the capabilities of Lumion, my jaw hit the floor. This program revolutionizes presentation material production, especially for landscape architects and planners.

Most people who have experience in SketchUp know how difficult it can be to not only model surrounding terrain, but to make it look good when it’s done. Sharp pointy ground planes poking out of concrete walks, hills with random triangular holes throughout, mounds that don’t…well…mound. You know what I’m talking about. And let’s just hope the building area you’re working with is flat, or you’re in for a real treat!

Lumion effectively solves all of those problem with ease. Terrain modeling has never been a more simple task. Making it look natural, is even easier. Need a rocky cliff over the water? A snow capped mountain in the distance? A rolling hillside through a forest? with a few clicks in Lumion, you just spent 10 minutes modeling a few hundred acres that would have literally taken you days using another software.

Lumion can import models from almost any modeling software on the market today. You can use SketchUp to do most modeling of buildings, roads, some terrain, etc. When you import into Lumion, you’re bringing to the table a whole new set of tools you only wished you had before. You now have moving objects with the drop of a hat in your rendering, including natural elements. What better way to show clients what their space will look like than to show people enjoying it in real time? Explore vehicular circulation patterns by having cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats, and construction equipment moving throughout the video. Show water moving down a stream, spraying from fountains, or waves crashing into the shore. Turn up the wind setting and see prairie grasses sway with the wind. The ability to include movement in your animations is what will take your presentation from good, to great. I have yet to play a Lumion animation I’ve produced at Aikin Design for a client in which they aren’t grinning from ear to ear when it’s completed.