Live Interior 3D Pro is a powerful and feature-rich application for designing and building both the interior and basic exterior of a home. Though the graphics are by no means photorealistic, there are some primitive rendering capabilities that make it fairly easy to create impressive images.
This review will give a quick breakdown of the UI and features available in Live Interior 3D Pro and conclude with a few thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of the application.
Standard vs. Pro
Before we get started in the review, you should know that there are two versions of the application: Live Interior 3D Standard and Live Interior 3D Pro. Today we’ll be examining the Pro version, which basically gives you a lot more freedom to customize various parts of your designs.
Here’s a quick rundown of the differences from the developer website:
When you first open Live Interior 3D, you are greeted with an assistant that allows you to either choose from the many pre-built templates, or to build from scratch.
As you can see in the images below, your options range from single-room furnished interiors to basic empty floor plans.
Selecting an option and opening it up will bring you into the main interface.
The interface of Live Interior 3D is very reminiscent of Google Sketchup and works similarly enough that SketchUp users will have significantly less trouble picking up the application and running with it than the average new user.
There are three default views to choose from, accessible from the little house icons at the top right of the main window. The first of these is a basic overhead 2D view that shows your house or room in a blueprint-like fashion.
The third button in the strip will take you into a fully 3D view of your scene. This view supports reflections, lighting, shadows and various textures that make it a great preview of what the room would look like in reality.
The second button in the strip splits the viewport between both the 2D and 3D viewing modes, allowing you to make changes to the two-dimensional layout while seeing the changes take place in three-dimensional space.
When viewing your scene in 3D, you choose one of three render types. These options start basic and fast, and move towards complex and slower.
The basic option “Without Lights & Shadows” makes it easy to navigate, manipulate and look around the scene with very little processor lag. The next option adds lights to the scene and the final option adds realistic shadows. The highest quality option can make it a bit difficult to work so it is best used to preview a scene after you have lined up your camera and various objects with one of the other quality settings.
While in the 3D mode, you have a limited ability to use the interface for design and manipulation. In this view the toolbar is replaced with buttons for a selection tool and two options for navigation: Look Around and Walk.
Both of these viewing options are executed by clicking and dragging around the scene to move and change the camera angle.
Alternatively, you can hover your mouse over the bottom center of the scene preview and use the display that pops up to navigate the scene (scrolling with the mouse works as well).
Also located in the 3D view button strip is a camera icon that will allow you to export your current view as an image. The options for this are fairly basic and are limited to file type, size and quality.
The 2D view features a few more tools for working with and creating content. These include the Selection, Straight Walls, Floor, Measurement, Camera, Zoom In, and Pan tools.
Building a Basic Structure
The Straight Walls tool makes it extremely easy to sketch out a basic room using precise measurements. As you draw in two-dimensional space, the 3D walls are automatically being created. You can then add floors and ceilings to this geometry using the Floor and Ceiling tools.
As you click and drag walls, pop up smart guides help you measure and align the walls properly. As you close off rooms, they are automatically measured out and labelled with the proper square footage.
The two main palettes you’ll interact with as you are building are the Library at the far left of the interface and the Inspector at the far right.
The library palette contains three sections: Building Elements, Furnishings, and Project Tree. The Building Elements section contains structural objects like doors, windows and columns. The Furnishing section contains everything you need to furnish a home including chairs, appliances, cabinets, lighting and a whole lot more.
Placing objects into a room is as easy as clicking the item and dragging it onto your scene to drop it in place. If Live Interiors 3D doesn’t contain the object you’re looking for, you have the ability to import an object directly from Google’s 3D warehouse, a huge collection of 3D models built in SketchUp.
Finally, the Project Tree provides a simple list of selectable layers corresponding to every object in your scene (similar to the layers palette in Photoshop).
The Inspector palette is where a great deal of the magic happens. From here you can manage your materials, wall thickness, object size and rotation, stroke appearance, cameras (still and motion), lighting, and building settings.
This palette makes it easy to perform small actions, like changing the attributes of an armchair, as well as large actions like adding a second storey or roof to your model.
On the whole, I was quite impressed with Live Interiors. The biggest thing that blew me away was how simple all of the features were to implement and use. Even actions that I expected to be a headache, such as adding a roof to my complex custom structure, proved to be a breeze.
Being an avid SketchUp user, I’ve often wished there were an easier way to spec out a house and/or a way to see my models with just a little more lighting and shadows than SketchUp provides. I was pleasantly surprised to find both of these features implemented in this application.
Though Live Interiors 3D isn’t ideal for much beyond interior design, it does exactly what it claims to and it does it remarkably well. The developers really made a good move by recognizing the limitations of the application and offering SketchUp integration rather than merely attempting to compete with Google’s app in a focused niche.
The areas I think could use the most improvement are 3D navigation and object manipulation. Moving around in 3D space is easy enough, but would be a lot better if you could use modifier keys (shift, command, option, etc.) to quickly switch between the various modes (looking around, walking, etc) as with most 3D applications. Further, as it stands, object manipulation seems a bit indirect because you are forced to perform any size and rotation adjustments from a palette instead of interacting with the object itself. A simple transform tool that allowed you to manipulate the actual object would go a long way.
To sum up, Live Interior 3D Pro is a great application for creating and designing impressive, non-photorealistic 3D structures. Though the feature list is on the professional level, just about everything you can do in the app, from creating custom buildings to adjusting templates, is extremely simple and shouldn’t be a problem for anyone familiar with other 3D applications.
The biggest hinderance to this app is the lofty price tag of $129. This will no doubt drive away most potential users not interested in professional interior design. Fortunately, a scaled down version is available for $49. Use the comments below to let us know what you think of the app and if you’ve used any more affordable alternatives.
A great application for building, designing and previewing 3D interiors. The interface is really easy to pick up and use with little to no instruction and the modest rendering capabilities make for some really slick images. Overall, the app fared well, the biggest drawbacks being price and clunky view navigation.8