The folks at BeLight Software are a hard working crew, constantly working to improve their products. I am taking a look at this new version of Live Interior 3D (Stnadard Edition). I’m a bit familiar with this application, but there are enough changes that I’m going to pretend I’ve never seen Live Interior before.
What Does It Do?
Let’s talk about what Live Interior can do. This application is designed to help any layperson or professional build a house, decorate a room and even rearrange the furniture. It looks a lot like any Mac Software. Menu and Tool bar at the top of the window; there’s a column on the left, in this case, full of items to populate your rooms. In the center of the screen, you have a main window and off to the right, an Inspector window. This is all probably comfortable to anyone who uses iWork, iLife or various design products. It’s mostly self-explanatory once you know what a few of the icons mean.
Along the top you see icons to control the left column; these included architectural listings, furniture listings and a project tree. The project tree lists all your objects for the project you have open, which makes finding or selecting stuff easier. At the bottom of the column is a 3D preview. Above the main window are tools for wall and floor additions, measurements, cameras, zooming and the page grab tool. The tool bar will give you 3D icons, such as lighting and navigation, when in 3D viewing mode. The tool bar is customizable. Finally on the right we have the ‘view toggling’ icons (2D/3D or both), an inspector icon and the ‘Google Warehouse’ button.
The Inspector window, like any inspector in Mac software, gives you details of whatever object you’re looking at, be it furniture, wall etc. This includes measurements, materials (when applicable) and specific lighting and orientation. The Inspector also groups the selected object among similar objects, which makes it easy to find like objects, with subtle differences, in case you need to change objects. Any interior designer will tell you there is a world built on 50 shades of white, all similar but distinctly different.
When setting up a new project, it would be smart o set up your preferences for measurements, scale, graphic settings and autosaving. There is also a separate ‘environment panel’ (in the ‘window’ menu) that will set your overall lighting, which can be guided by your compass and latitude orientation.
To begin the building of rooms, storeys and houses you simply drag and drop walls or objects. You can check out the lists of walls and start drawing from scratch, then add various features like windows, doors, furniture, lighting by dragging and dropping objects. The default set up of the application includes some ‘snap to’ settings to help you line things up on a wall. You can also add a series of objects and distribute and align them from the ‘arrange’ menu. Floors and ceilings are added automatically, but are customizable. You can also use the ‘edit’ menus to add storeys, roofs and your own images. In the ‘view’ menu, you can change the type of lighting for different times of day.
More Useful Details
Let’s take a closer look at the toggle view icons found in the tool bar and commands found in the menu. First, you can switch between 2D and 3D or have both. BeLight recommends you do your initial building in 2D, since it’s easier to see your project lay out this way. 3D view is recommended for the furnishing and materials stage of your project.
When you open LiveInterior, you are greeted with the opening of the room assistant. You can choose what kind of room/building you are decorating to easily load up a pre-existing floor plan. Another window that opens for your perusal is the video tutorial window. BeLight has worked on a series of easy and useful videos to explain the basic features and use of Live Interior.
The available objects/materials library comes as a separate installation and is extensive. There is also direct access to the Google Warehouse library, which contains a huge, shared resource of buildings, objects, furniture as well as things you wouldn’t use, like cars. You can download, for example, the Vatican’s library of objects, building materials or architectural plans.
When you’re done building you can place cameras in the room/building and then toggle into 3D view and take a more realistic look at your building. This includes your own pictures, textures and furniture. You can set up a walking tour, via the movie tracks and movie recording, to see how you might feel walking into a room. The great thing about this feature is that you can save all these views, including the movie and export them to be viewed in other applications like Preview or SketchUp. Export options include several 2D and 3D options such as JPG, PNG, PDF, SKP, X3D and QTVR.
How Easy Is It To Use?
Let’s take a look at what it’s like to use this application. A lot of this is probably intuitive to anyone familiar with iWork. You can pick and choose from libraries, drag and drop objects onto your workspace. Most of your tools are readily at your disposal, though you may need a brief time to familiarize yourself with the icons. When you are in the 2D planning mode, adding walls and features is easy. There are ‘snap-to’ features, as well as pop up alignment guides. Keyboard shortcuts like, the shift key help to keep things at straight right angles.
The help menu is extensive, so it is easy to look up things you may not know. There is also a suggested list in the help menu that gives you a good guide of the basic steps to take to build your project. There are definitely a couple of spots to use the help menu. For instance, understanding and setting up storeys and foundations is easier when you’ve perused the help library. There are a few ‘assistant’ windows to help you choose various objects, such as the roof, environment or detailing objects. I would certainly suggest spending time poking around the inspector when trying objects out for the first time. I didn’t even notice that you could build loft style walls, until taking a thorough look. You’ll also find that objects are impressively customizable; add moulding to walls, add your own objects and materials, resize windows to fit your dimensions. The ‘materials picker’ will let you duplicate anything you’ve done, though it can be awkward, to get used to.
It’s easy to drag and drop cameras, to help you with your 3D viewing. You can use the navigation arrow controls to view your 3D plans or just mouse around. This may actually be one of the harder aspects to get used to, moving around your 3D space to see how everything looks, feels unusual at first. In 2D viewing, you can set several types of viewing, that may include multiple storeys, roofs etc. Or you may view these all separately. There is a ‘collision’ detector, that will point out possible problem areas. There is a very easy annotation tool, that will drop a text note where ever you point to, so you may add more details to a plan. The measurement tool, will add measurements to anything you select.
You can set up new work from templates, including ones you have made yourself. There are preferences in the main menu where you may change measurement units, tweak viewing details, change start up features and the like.
Is this an application you need? For beginners, you should know, there is a bit of a learning curve for this application. BeLight is helping you out with a great series of videos and a well organized help library. It does take a bit of practice to get used to the navigation tools. Still, considering the ease of the object library use, the dragging and dropping building ability and the vast resource of Google Warehouse, I think this would be a very useful application to have. If you are a non-professional, it is priced low enough that it could make planning a house or a roomful of decorating easier. If you are a professional, there is a version, slightly more expensive, with additional features available. Most of those features are technical tools such as: in application use of SketchUp for editing 3D objects, more specific lighting design (including multiple lights in one area), unique wall detail (niches, etc) design, and a higher resolution of movies, shared files and plans.
BeLight has worked very hard to make this application user friendly, which considering that is a basic CAD-like application, is impressive. It does feel like you can dive right in and that there is a good library of information to help you along. As a person who has done some building, I did wonder about things like chair-rail and door moulding, crawlspace foundations, attic or bifold doors. Though, since this application is designed to help the layperson with layout and decision making, that’s probably over thinking it. I recently watched some friends and their architect design a new home from scratch and it’s an impressive feat. If my friends had been able to spend a few hours, throwing together ideas for their new home in Live Interior and taken the project to their architect, they may have subtracted a year from the construction. BeLight’s Live Interior 3D has given it’s users a great foundation for their architectural projects.
Live Interior 3D by BeLight Software $49.95 for the Standard Edition, $129.95 for the Pro Edition