Nov 21

SketchUp Pro 2018 now shipping!

By Athol Phillips | SketchUp

What's New in 2018?

Trimble has announced a new version of its popular modelling software SketchUp Pro, as well as a new web-based version called SketchUp Free. New features of SketchUp Pro include:

  • Advanced Attributes that allow users to embed information into a model when creating and managing components.
  • Improvements to Generate Report to enable users to aggregate component data so that information contained in models can be extracted and organised.
  • Improvement to IFX export tools to ensure that attributes imported from other BIM applications are retained upon export.
  • Section Planes can now be named. and performance has been improved.
  • Filled and styled section cuts are now included in Sketchup, without the need for 3rd party plugins.
  • Several drawing improvements including the ability to draw a rectangle around its center using modify keys, quicker control for rotated rectangles, improved Tape Measuring workflow, and axial colour coding added to the Free Hand tool.
  • STL Import and Export is now natively supported.
Nov 09

How I built this “Responsive” website

By Athol Phillips | Hosting

Having provided Design Software Solutions to the Architectural and Interior Designers fraternity since 1986, I have often been astounded at the functionality or rather the “lack thereof” of the many Design Professional websites that I have visited during this period. In fact, I am even more surprised at the fact that there are so many Design Professionals who don’t even have a “point of presence” on the Internet, let alone a poorly developed one.

In this day and age, when there are so many amazing Web Design Toolsets available, creation of a website that one can really be proud of is well within the reach of many company’s, and this at an affordable price.

The converse of this of course, is on arriving on a websites landing page only to find that you have to wait three minutes before the fancy “All Bells and Whistles Home Page” actually loads. Research tells us that you only have seven seconds to capture the attention of your visitor before they hit that exit button and move on.

Whilst iRender are NOT in the business of developing websites, I wanted to share my personal experience with you as regards the journey that I have just completed in creating this, our brand new iRender website.

In embarking on this project, I was adamant that I needed to address two important issues if we were going to throw money and time at creating our new “point of presence” on the Internet.

Firstly, we needed to locate and appoint a new Hosting company, one that was not only affordable but at the same time, provided the visitors to our website with a “Snappy” and “Logical Click Through Navigation” experience. Fortunately, and quite by chance, we stumbled across WPX Hosting who have provided us with the most amazing service and unquestionable ongoing backup and support. (First requirement Checkbox “ticked”).

I then searched the Interweb for a company who could provide us with a new “Conversion Optimised WordPress Theme“, and this we fortunately found in the form of ThriveThemes, co founded by Shane Melaugh and Paul McCarthy.

With limited experience in web development myself, ThriveThemes have provided us with the most User-Friendly “Front End Editor” incorporating a whole collection of additional Toolsets that we required to create our exciting and responsive new iRender website. And just like WPX Hosting, I have found their support to be extraordinary. During the development phase, I often had to call on their Technical Resources who never got tired of my questions, but quickly provided me with the answers to all of my questions.

In closing, I draw your attention to the fact that iRender have registered as an “Affiliate Member” for both ThriveThemes and WPX Hosting, and to this end, we would receive a small commission on any sales of their products or services which were purchased via our “affiliate links” on this post. But in doing so, I also wish to state that we could very well have promoted another vendors solution from whom we would have received a more handsome commission. But, having serviced and supported our valued Design Professional client base over the last thirty years, I would find it very difficult to attach our good reputation and my name to a product or service that I did not personally use and or believe in.

It is for this reason that we are proud to shout out the praises for both WPX Hosting and ThriveThemes. Their combined solutions absolutely work for us!!!

You can read more about the WPX Hosting in this post.

Get Thrive Leads for WordPressWPX Hosting


Nov 05

Artlantis Case Study: Acorn Creek

By Athol Phillips | Artlantis , SketchUp


Acorn Creek is a new residential estate situated within the rapidly expanding north-western node of Somerset West 40 kilometers from Cape Town, South Africa.  It borders the famous Stellenbosch Winelands and is a desirable location close to most local business centers, great shopping, top schools and pristine beaches.

The estate is currently in the design phase and will ultimately be developed over 7 phases. The marketing of the first 39 homes that comprise phase 1 has already begun. When completed, the estate will consist of 375 free-standing homes offering a multiplex of floor plans meticulously designed to optimize the property it is located on.

Design Concept

The design brief was to create a village estate with a contemporary country feel.  This was guided by its locality and the outdoor lifestyle that the South African population enjoys.  The urban design and spatial planning were also inspired by a sense of community with the aim to create an atmosphere that has spatial qualities that are synonymous with city living but with the tranquillity of a country setting.

Creating a sustainable, harmonious environment has always been the overarching objective and goal.  In the Acorn Creek urban design planning and development, specific steps are, therefore, taken to address climate change and provide sustainable solutions to the strains created by everyday living. Numerous design philosophies and principles were incorporated to help make Acorn Creek a qualitative environment to live in and successfully give it its genius loci.

Private open spaces and squares have been carefully designed and positioned so as to enhance the quality of the interface between the surrounding buildings and the public realm.

The Buildings

Each house is to be specifically designed in context of its surroundings – whether it be the heritage of the historic Cape Winelands or how it sits in conjunction to adjacent houses. Building form, materials and color have all been taken into consideration so as to ensure that the vernacular is consistent and streetscapes are not repetitive but cordial and easy on the eye. In most cases, houses will be designed north-facing to increase the comfort and energy efficiency of the home and energy-saving additions have been made with sustainability in mind.

Buildings have also been designed with key design theories and principles, namely lateral enclosure and edge continuity, axis and perspective and indoor/outdoor fusion as keystones to creating a harmonious environment.   Subtle variations in color and texture will be applied in some areas to help provide contrast, richness and a sense of scale and roof scapes will be primarily double-pitch 30% – 40% and limited flat and mono-pitch roofs to resonate with the historic Winelands.

Hard and soft landscaping have been applied with careful thought at Acorn Creek.  Elements such as floor scape material (traditional cobblestones), texture, colour (charcoal, grey and tan) and pattern, wall scales and artefacts (lighting and street furniture) and the relationship they create with the soft spaces of the natural environment are important design aspects.

The quality and style established by this relationship will contribute to creating its unique character and establishing a distinctive genius loci (spirit of place).

Overcoming challenges

As with most projects, there are design challenges that needed to be overcome.  On an urban design level, holistically integrating the two nodes separated by the water canal, the access /regress road at the main entrance and finding the correct balance between density and space are just a few.

From a marketing and sales point of view, one of the biggest challenges for DMP Media, the design studio responsible for creating the Acorn Creek visual material, was to create and deliver material within a quick turn-around time.  “As a small team of designers, time is the enemy and we seem to always be up against the clock. Work has to be turned around quickly because generally the next project is already coming through the door,” says Bruce Moss who heads up the 3D department.  “Not to say we will ever compromise on quality, but with this in mind, our philosophy is not to compete with photo-realistic renders but to rather create atmospheric 3D visuals, that communicates a mood and the spirit of a place.”

The design process involves receiving 2D technical drawings supplied in dxf or dwg format and taking it into SketchUp to be built up.  Finished models are imported into Artlantis where materials, objects and lighting parameters are added.  The final step takes us to Adobe Photoshop CC and Adobe Lightroom CC, where the post-production work is done.

Being an in-house studio in close collaboration with the architectural team certainly has its benefits too.  “It helps us not only in our process of creating marketing and sales visuals but also assists the architects with their decision making in terms of colours, textures and detailing.  This free-flow of information ultimately helps to communicate the product to the client and end-sales.”

“What makes Artlantis so incredibly handy in all of this, and probably the biggest reason we like it so much, is the fact that as a tool it has been instrumental in helping us speed up our workflow. Editing is easy and any changes made are instantly updated and previewed in real-time so no time is wasted between model-building and post production,” adds Bruce.

From collaborating with the architects during the concept design phase to communicating the designs to the client and ultimately creating pleasing visuals for marketing and sales purposes, Artlantis has become an integral part of DMP’s design process.

Architects | Urban Designers: Dennis Moss

Graphic Designers | Visualization:DMP

Name of project: Acorn Creek

Type of project: Residential Estate

Location: Somerset West, Western Cape, South Africa

Size: 19.3 ha

375 Free-standing homes

Software used:Sketchup Pro 2016 | Artlantis Studio 6 | Adobe Photoshop CC | Adobe Lightroom CC

About DMP Media

DMP Media is a small team of designers that specializes in highly creative, result-oriented visual solutions for the property development and architectural industries.  Located in the historic town of Stellenbosch, DMP Media is a subsidiary company of Dennis Moss Partnership (DMP) – a multi-disciplinary practice consisting of architects, urban designers, urban & regional planners, landscape architects & interior designers.

Established in 1994 to provide an in-house design service to DMP and the specific needs of its clients, DMP Media has steadily grown its services into providing 3D modelling, 3D illustrations, marketing, web, and new media solutions to suit customer needs. Conveniently located under the same roof as Dennis Moss Partnership, they work closely with the architects, urban designers and planners to ensure a seamless process from first pencil stroke to final product to provide high quality visuals that are not only pleasing on the eye but architecturally accurate as well.

WPX Hosting
Nov 04

Why I chose WPX Hosting

By Athol Phillips | Hosting

When I embarked on developing a brand new Website for iRender in October 2017, I simultaneously decided to move our Hosting Services to a new Service Provider, namely WPX Hosting 

WPX Hosting came highly recommended by Shane Melaugh CEO and Co-Founder of ThriveThemes who incidentally market and support an amazing Compilation of Web Development "Conversion Optimised" Toolsets which I used to create our new iRender Website. 

Needless to say, I immediately signed up with WPX Hosting who transferred our previous iRender Domain / website to their FAST and AFFORDABLE Hosting Platform at no charge. My subsequent and frequent interfacing with the WPX Hosting Technical Team has been nothing short of extraordinary as they made themselves available on a 24/7 basis to assist me with all my various technical questions. My journey with them thus far has been an absolute pleasure. 


  • A ‘Staging Area’ where you can merge your Staging site version with the Live site version WITHOUT losing new blog comments or post/page changes on the Live site since the Staging version was created:
  • WPX Hosting’s 24/7/365 Support Team AVERAGE under 30 seconds response time, according to Live Chat Inc (the independent live chat platform used by WPX Hosting):
  • “FIXED FOR YOU” Guarantee: Unlike old-school hosting company support that sends you a link to an article when you get into technical trouble & expects you to fix the issue, we do it for you, FAST & FREE (and we can still send you an article link if you want!). WPX Hosting is like your own F1 pit crew, ready 24/7/365 to get your technical problems resolved fast.
  • SUPERFAST high-end new SSD servers deliberately UNDERloaded for high performance under extreme traffic loads (e.g. email marketing broadcasts, product launches)
  • UNLIMITED Free Google-Sponsored SSL Certificates Installed & Active In Under 10 Seconds
  • PHP 7.X Enabled (Plus Earlier Versions) + http2 enabled
  • Unlimited FREE Site Migration from your current host to WPX Hosting Within 24 Hours, 7 Days A Week
  • Fully Managed WordPress Hosting With FREE Email Included (Unlike Many Others)
  • US servers Located In The World's Largest Datacenter Along With America's Financial Infrastructure, UK servers in London too.
  • Enterprise-level Incapsula DDoS protection on ALL plans
  • Ultimate List-Building Plugin for WordPress
    Nov 03

    Artlantis is now available for download

    By Athol Phillips | Artlantis

    Artlantis 6, the latest version of Abvent’s stand-alone rendering application developed especially for architects and designers, boasts a brand-new physical engine, new lighting options, and other exciting features making Artlantis a clear choice for architects and designers in over 80 countries worldwide.

    Abvent has announced that the Artlantis update has been uploaded to and is ready for downloading.  This latest update fixes a number of issues, including:

    • Artlantis crashed when trying to open a V5 project and posted a strange message
    • Impossible to activate/deactivate the enhanced Sky when in White Model mode
    • Render Manager did not manage the right displacements when the objects are linked to each other
    • Render Manager hierarchy objects were deformed
    • Render Manager light cone not taken into account
    • Crashed when opening an .atl version 5.0 file
    • When a light had a cone of 0 degrees the engine crashed when switching off the light
    • Deleting a keyframe crashed
    • Render Manager displayed the billboards differently than in Artlantis
    • Loss of files saved on the Desktop
    • Object Man-C040 crashed Artlantis
    • Error displayed after a rendering in 3840 x 2160 pxl with an Education license
    • Render Manager crashed if the user name of the session embedded double bit characters or accents
    • Render Manager used the CPU too much even when it was not calculating
    • Creating a keyframe then deleting it crashed Artlantis
    • .atla file objects lost after a Save as .atl


    • Artlantis Batch is reintroduced; it is located in the Artlantis folder.
    Artlantis 6 Distance Learning Toolkit
    Oct 30

    Artlantis 6 Distance Learning Toolkit

    By Athol Phillips | Artlantis

    Artlantis 6 Distance Learning Toolkit

    If tight project deadlines are preventing you for taking time off to personally attend one of our “Intensive One Day Artlantis 6 Training Courses“, then we have an awesome alternative solution for you to consider.

    Why not invest in purchasing our Artlantis 6 “Distance Learning Toolkit”, and in so doing, acquire the necessary knowledge to master Artlantis 6, and then use your new found Photo-realistic Rendering Skills to secure more Design Projects.

    Many of our Artlantis User, who are unable to physically attend one of our regular Artlantis 6 Training Session have opted to rather purchase our “Artlantis 6 – Distance Learning Kit”, and in so doing, equip themselves with the necessary skills and “best practice” on a “self study basis”.

    The Artlantis 6 “Distance Learning Toolkit”, is delivered to your office on a 16GB USB Flash Drive

    The Artlantis 6 “Distance Learning Toolkit”, is delivered to your office on a 16GB USB Flash Drive, and incorporates in excess of 8 hours of Video Tutorials, inclusive of a detailed 40 minute session covering the important subject of “Engine Optimization” in Artlantis 6, which is crucial to achieving “high quality rendered output” in the shortest possible render creation time.

    Also included, are detailed instructions on the “Site Insertion” functionality, and the creation of Panorama’s in Artlantis 6 Studio.

    The cost of the Artlantis 6 “Distance Learning Toolkit” is only R 2,850.00 Incl VAT, and offers very good value for money when you consider that the said Training Material can be also be shared among other members of your Design Team at no additional cost. Free of Charge “Overnight Delivery” is included within the South African geographical region. ORDER NOW!!!