Interior decorator in a box

BeLight Software Ltd.’s Live Interior 3D 1.2 is a3-Dinterior design program aimed at consumers who want to refurnish orremodel aroom, office, kitchen, or other interior space.

Software in this genre faces a dilemma: it mustbalance easeof use with rich features and professional results. LiveInterior 3D leans toward the ease-of-use side of the equation. Youdrawyour room in the 2-D Plan view, where it’s a snap to add walls, floors,andceilings with specific dimensions. Adding doors and windows is as easyasfinding the item you want in the library and dragging and dropping iton toyour wall. The Wall tool also lets you automatically place baseboardand crownmolding trim. However, this tool creates only flat top walls, and theyall haveto be the same height. Thus, you can’t create steps, vaulted ceilings,orangled walls unless you use the Basic Shapes tool, which lets you drawrectangular prisms and other 3-D shapes that you use to represent awall. Thedrawback with this workaround is that doors and windows will not placeproperly. But it does provide some flexibility.

Once you create your basic room, you can placefurniture andother objects from the materials and objects libraries into it via draganddrop. You can view your model in 3-D mode at any time. Most of thefurniturelooks nice in the 2-D view, and you can easily move and rotate thefurnitureinto the positions you want. Some objects, however, do not present anyvisualinformation beyond a bounding rectangle while in 2-D mode. This istrue, forinstance, of the kitchen cabinets. So, if you try to create a kitchen,youcannot tell which way your cabinets are oriented until you view yourmodel in3-D mode.

While Live Interior 3D does let you view yourmodel in 2-Dand 3-D modes at the same time, the views are in the same window, soyou havelimited control over how you set up your workspace. Unless you have alarge,wide display, you end up constantly switching back and forth betweenmodes,even while you are building your model. A separate 3-D window would bea usefulimprovement, as it would allow you to take advantage of a secondmonitor or toplace a small 3-D window on your screen when your space is limited.

Luckily, viewing your model in 3-D mode is fairlyquick. Ifound performance to be very good on my Core 2 Duo MacBook. Once you’rein 3-Dmode, there is a Look Around function that rotates your view of themodel, anda Walk function that allows you to walk through the model in anydirection. Ifound the latter most useful.

Live Interior 3D is easy to use out of the box andtheinterface is nice looking. Unfortunately, the program has a few quirksandflaws. For instance, the Snap feature (a common element of drawingprogramsthat helps you place objects precisely) does not always work the wayyou’dexpect, nor does it give enough visual feedback (such as a dotappearing nextto the cursor or movement of the object) to confirm that your object isplacedcorrectly. I had a hard time aligning cabinets and other objects in akitchenlayout I tried. I could snap to the walls, but not to adjacentcabinets. Youalways need to check the 3-D view to make sure your room looks the wayyouintend.

Live Interior 3D comes with an extensive objectandmaterials library, which is quite fun to play with. BeLight has triedtoinclude many products from actual manufacturers and the company shouldconcentrate on adding more items, as it is often hard to findfurniture, cabinets,or other objects that come close to those you want to see in your model.

While the included library of objects is improving(tworecent updates added many new items to the library), the best overallfeatureof Live Interior 3D is its well-integrated access to the online Google3DWarehouse. There are thousands of models available from this freelibrary andyou can use Live Interior 3D to browse and import most items with amouseclick. Keep in mind that many of the online models are contributed byprivateindividuals, and are of varying quality. A growing number, however, arecontributed by manufacturers. I had mixed results with the models Itried.Since there is no dishwasher available in the program’s built-inlibrary, Iwent to Google to get one for my kitchen. The first one I importedwould notrender. The second one crashed the program. The third one worked fine.Allthree models were from actual manufacturers.

Macworld’s buying advice
Starting at $79.95, Live Interior 3D 1.2 limits you to very basic roomshapesand designs. If all you need to do is rearrange furniture–and if youare OKusing furniture you can find in the library or online–you’ll besatisfied.However, the program cannot accurately design a kitchen with actualcabinetsand fixtures you could find at your local home improvement store.Designingcomplex spaces presents too many time-consuming limitations to bepractical.But this is a relatively new program: it looks very nice, is easy tolearn, andhas a great deal of potential. I look forward to the next major update.

Greg Miller is an architect and an interactivesoftwareand Web developer specializing in new media for the architecture,engineering,construction, and publishing markets.

Comment: [email protected]

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