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Thea used to get a lot of "ink" on the forum but not so much now that Chief has improved it's own ray tracing engine.

There are still some who use it and the results are great but there is of course a learning curve and a separate program

to deal with.  No plug ins for Chief.  There is a procedure for exporting for other programs but others who do it will have

to chime in on that.  I have stopped using Thea.

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To use any external rendering/ray tracing program, you would need to export your drawing as a 3D Symbol/Model. *.3DS files work well.

Then import the file to the rendering program and setup lights, material definitions, etc.

Then you are ready for rendering.


As Dennis pointed out this involves a learning curve no matter what program you decide to go with and basically re-creating the scene and adjusting the lighting etc.

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I still use Thea (when I have free time)...


I haven't learned Chief's rendering software mostly because I haven't LOVED the results produced.  Granted, they look waaaay better then they used to.  I use Chief for drawing houses, and getting decent looking 3D NPR (non-photorealistic) shots.  When I want something photorealistic, I export and use a software that specializes in that.


Typically my workflow is export a .3ds file from Chief.  Import into Sketchup, and make any necessary tweaks to textures, lighting, sun, etc...  Then from there, there's a Thea exporter you can buy, and it converts everything from Sketchup to the proper file for Thea to read.  Once imported into Thea, then I fine tune textures, lighting, sun, etc... and create my final image.


If you want a "free" version of Thea, the same people that made that also started off with a program called Kerkythea.  I used that before Thea came out, and it works very well.  Not as intuitive as Thea, but still a great renderer.


Then there's V-Ray, Mental Ray, Maxwell, some people here use Lumion, on-and-on-and-on...  You just have to do a little research and find out how "in depth" you want to get.

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To further what Jonathan has said.


There are other similar appoaches that are either available or soon to be available.  My personal favorite rendering engine is Octane Render.  They are currently developing a wide array of plug ins for applications such as SketchUp, as Jonathan uses, and others.


I would throw Lux Render into the mix as Well.  It is open source, and in the right hands can produce some very nice work.  Blender, open source as well, has it's own version of a physically based rendering engine called Cycles and it can also produce some very impressive images.


It does not seem to be about price so much anymore, but about having the time to tackle the learning curve most of these programs will require.  I am hoping to get around to a more thurough evaluation of a few of these applications in the next couple of months.  Some do require special hardware, and each has it's strong and weak points to consider.


Seems to come down to, what are your person goals, and then what software will do the job for you.  For what ever it is worth, to me, I consider the time spent learning and gaining skill with a particular software more important than the cost of the software itself.  That being said, there are some very impressive options available that are free of charge.


Edit:  I am doing some things now with X6's new file export format for 3D models called Collada.  This is a very widely used file format in the graphics industry, but I am finding that there are a few things to consider when using this option.  From what I have seen so far as I have tested, you will probably need to use the 32 bit version of chief.  Then import the model into SketchUP and either use it within SketchUp, or open or import the file into other applications from there.


It appears that Chief's version of a Collada file exporter was mostly intended for the SketchUP market, but that does not stop you from using it where ever you want.  BTW this does not appear to be working with the 2014 version of SketchUP, at least it has not worked for me yet.

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