Dutch colonial? Look closely. This is a Craftsman four-square with faux gambrel detailing, a common variant.

Craftsman four-square with faux gambrel details, Warwick, NY, c. 1920.

Craftsman four-square with faux gambrel detailing.

Edges to Rubies The Complete SketchUp Tutorial

Showing it off

Chapter 10—Showing It Off

In this chapter we're going to use the Position Camera tool. It does just what the name promises. After you Position Camera you are immediately switched to the Look Around tool. Then we learn how to Walk, and Look Around while we Walk. Saving the best for last, we will create an animated tour of our carriage house.

Biplane flies through barn.  

This Chapter covers standard Sketchup animation, which controls layer visibility and animates the camera. Chapters 15 and 16 cover Ruby-based animation, with which you actually move, rotate and scale your geometry, as well as moving, panning and zooming the camera. The biplane here is the star of the movie Airshow!. He does aeronautic tricks.

First, though, let's come back down to earth. There's a problem to solved.

Defining Your Own Keyboard Shortcuts

Problem: Walk and Look Around are nicely integrated, but only if you have a working middle-wheel mouse. The keyboard shortcut for Walk is, as you guessed, W. However, the Line tool already owns L. There is no shortcut for Look Around. It needs one.

These are the keyboard shortcuts predefined by Google and a handful that I've added. We'll get you adding your own in a minute.

SketchUp (and Added) Keyboard Shortcuts

Key Default Shift+Key Ctrl+Key Alt+Key
Spacebar Select
Delete Edit/Delete Edit/Delete Guides
A Arc Edit/Select All
B Bucket
C Circle Edit/Copy
D Window/Hide(Show) Dialogs
E Eraser
F oFFset
G Edit/Make Component Edit/Make Group
H Hand
I File/Import...
L Line
M Move
N File/New File/New
O Orbit File/Open
P PushPull File/Print
Q Qrotate
R Rectangle
S Scale File/Save
T Tape Measure Edit/Select None Camera/Std Views/Top
U Edit/Unhide/All Edit/Hide
V Edit/Paste
W Camera/Walk Camera/Look Around Camera/Position Camera
X Edit/Cut
Y Edit/Redo
Z Zoom Camera/Zoom Extents Edit/Undo Camera/Zoom Window

  Ctrl+Shift+E: Camera/Zoom Extents
  Ctrl+Shift+W: Camera/Zoom Window

Here are some suggestions for assigning your own effectively.

To assign a shortcut, click Window/Preferences/Shortcuts. Click on the menu command you want to give a shortcut. Click in the Add Shortcut box. (Repeat: Add Shortcut is not the VCB. You must click to give it focus.) Press the key or key combination you want to assign. (Press again as often as you need to get it right.) Click the "+". Assign more shortcuts, if you like. Click OK when you are done assigning shortcuts.

Assigning a shortcut to Window/Show Dialogs 

Assigning "D" as the keyboard shortcut for Window/Show Dialogs.

This whole system is great. It's easy to use. It's empowering. What you use often gets shortcuts. What you use infrequently is available from logical menus. It would be rude to complain.


When you assign a shortcut, it becomes part of the menu. Well, it does for most menus. This doesn't happen on the Window menu.

When you assign to Window/Show Dialogs, it works. Mostly. If you assign to Window/Hide Dialogs, it doesn't work. If you have dialog windows open, Window/Hide Dialogs before you go to Window/Preferences/Shortcuts.

If you exit SketchUp with dialogs open (showing or hidden) your Hide Dialogs shortcut won't work when you start SketchUp again. Hidden dialogs don't stay hidden. You need to Window/Hide Dialogs. That will reactivate your shortcut.

If you want, for example, "N" as the File/New shortcut to appear on the File menu, you can use Preferences/Shortcuts to add "N", delete and then add "Ctrl+N". Google's choice is preserved; your choice is first and on the menu. Congratulations! Uh, you didn't want your choice to still be first the next time you started SketchUp, did you?

I used to recommend that you keep an organized list of all your shortcuts. Then I made a more permanent solution: a Ruby plugin that pops up a list like the one you saw above. Only it looks at the shortcuts on your machine, classifies them as Google originals or your custom keystrokes, and pops them up as a webpage.

It's in Tutorial AR. Take a moment to go there, look at another list, download the Ruby plugin and install it properly. Close and reopen Sketchup. Assign the K key to the Plugins/Keyboard Shortcuts command. Tap K and voila! Tap K again and your list dialog is closed. Assign another shortcut and tap K again. Magic!

Positioning the Camera

Click Camera/Position Camera. (No shortcut and I don't recommend making one. Except in this section of this chapter you won't Position Camera very often.) You position the camera in one of two ways. Immediately after the camera is positioned, SketchUp grabs the Look Around tool. Open your "apartment" model. Turn off at least the roof and front wall layers. Try both methods. Turn the model to suit yourself and click on the livingroom floor. Shift+Z and Orbit to get another view of the livingroom floor. Drag from the livingroom floor toward yourself, ending on whatever you like. Ah! The difference!

The first time you clicked on the livingroom floor the camera was 66 inches above the floor. With the drag method, the camera was on the livingroom floor. Try it again, paying attention to the VCB (now labelled "Eye Height"). I get 14'10" with a click; 9'4" with a drag.

You can, as always, type and your new height will be implemented and reported in the VCB. Remember this if you want a really high-speed elevator trip in a skyscraper.

Looking Around

Dragging from side to side is the same as turning your head from side to side. Dragging up and down is the same as turning your head up and down. This is totally simple; beautifully natural.

Walking Around

As it was when you were tiny, learning to walk takes some effort. Our apartment is not a good place to learn. Start with a Shift+Z and then back up. Give yourself some space.

Position the camera by clicking on the ground. That's problematic. There is no ground. SketchUp does not default to using the rg plane. Drag out a Rectangle where you would like to stand. Position the camera by clicking on the rectangle. Much better, no?

Take a look around and then tap W, to Walk. You get the walking feet mouse pointer, but go nowhere. Click somewhere. A crosshair appears where you click. Drag to walk. Before reading on, do some more "drag to walk". Try above the crosshair, left and right of the crosshair and below the crosshair. Spend a few minutes getting used to it.

Got it? Good. Now read, try to remember and actually test some of the following:

Walk comes into its own if you are outdoors among several buildings. Walking around a small space, such as our apartment, takes a lot of practice. It is not a way to let your client—"Here, you try it. Walk around where you like."—view your model. "Here, you try it." might work if you have modeled a park.

When you think you have learned to walk, try starting outdoors, walk in through the half-open apartment door, up the stairs, through the livingroom and into the bedroom, where you can stop to admire the bed. Do you think you can do this on the first try? (Walk+Alt is cheating.)

Animation Basics

OK, grab those Hollywood shades. Time to direct a movie.

In the first scene, which we see through the heroine's eyes, our star will walk from outside the carriage house to and through the door, up the stairs and into the livingroom. (Who or what will she meet there? Haven't got that part of the script written. We'll think of something.)

Shot of carriage house in distance 

One way to make animations is to use the Walk tool. Start way back from your carriage house. Tap W. Type an eye height, Enter.

Perfect? Click View/Animation/Add Scene.

I've assigned keyboard shortcut "x" to View/Animation/Add Scene. We'll be using Add Scene a lot in this part of the chapter. For me, "x" stands for "whatever I'm doing a lot of at the moment".

One great thing about a keyboard shortcut for View/Animation/Add Scene is that you can click it while you are walking. Yes, you can walk and create scenes at the same time.

Walked one third of way toward carriage house 

Here we've walked part of the way toward the house. Click View/Animation/Add Scene again. (Hereinafter shortened to just "Add Scene".)

Near carriage house door 

Add Scene

Now that you've got three scenes, it's time to take a look. Click View/Animation/Play. You'll have your walk toward the carriage house playing in a continuous loop (that means there will be a quick walk back to the starting point, too).

Animation window for pausing and stopping play 

You also have this little control window. Stop would be a good idea.

You now have a transition between scenes and a stop at each scene. Stopping at scenes is a good idea for touring an art gallery or a zoo. It's not a good idea for our movie. Click View/Animations/Settings.

Choosing animation settings in Model Info window 

This is our old friend, Model Info. These settings will be stored with the carriage house model.

You can extend this movie (if you don't mind the lack of script) on up and into the apartment. Go as far as you like.

Going through the doorway 

Add Scene

Approaching the top of the stairs 

Add Scene

Time to View/Animation/Play again. Looking like a movie? Where are those writers? What's coming next? (The great movie classic Casablanca was actually shot this way.)

Animation and Scenes

A scene is very light weight. It does not repeat the model. It merely specifies how the model is viewed (camera position and direction, among others). I've attempted to quantify the size of a scene, but without much success. I opened my carriage house. It tips the scales at 893,743 bytes. Add twelve scenes and save. It apparently went on a diet. Down to 865,317 bytes. Adding another dozen scenes expanded its size, but not by much. Conclusion: scenes are nearly free. Use as many as you want.

If you right-click any of your Scene tabs, you get a menu of everything you need to make and edit your movies.

View of the Scenes window 

The Scenes window, aka the Scene Manager.

If your movie is a keeper, you'll at least want proper scene names.

The degree of control here is more than I need, by far. Maybe one of you with sun angles, shadows and fog playing nicely together would be kind enough to share a good movie?

Animation and Layers

Walking is nice but we've got layers. These let you fly, like a bird.

I'd say more, but this chapter is already long enough. Think about the story you want to tell. Write a decent script! Fly faster and slower, higher and lower. Dazzle your friends and clients.

We've come to the end of Part I of this tutorial, the almost-Ruby-free part. I've made no attempt to be thorough or provide good reference material. Instead, I've attempted to get you SketchingUp a lot faster than I got to SketchingUp and with much smarter technique. You can learn more as your projects require more.

We are going on to the scary, geek-like field of Ruby programming. If you think you've got some power now, you don't know what lies ahead! You'll get powers that no superhero even dreamed of. Power to fly along side the speeding bullet. Power to SketchUp a steam locomotive or a whole bullet train. Power to create tall buildings at a single bound.

No programming background is needed. You may, however, want a cape.

The apartments furniture. View of apartment contents. Hello, World!