Making a medieval town and castle in Sketchup (part III)

Adding more details

After trying a few textures variants and fiddling with their size and position on the model, I went back to the business of adding details. First, I finished adding doors to all square towers (the easiest to modify since the geometry is flat).

Then, a proper doorway in the inner wall was built with a machicoulis. It’s a group that is simply stuck in front of the wall to simulate a entry, but it’s not actually going anywhere at the moment. I might add a real passage through the wall later on but for the moment it’s just fine like that.

I also added an small gate not far from the outside big tower, with a inclined ramp to get out.

Some arrow slits found their way on some parts of the wall, complete with stone bench for the guards to sit. I must say that all the proportions of the towers, battlements, wall thickness and so on are to scale. This took me a lot of time to research documentation and references to achieve this. Of course, I’ve been visiting real castles as far back as I can remember but it’s never quite the same when you actually build one (virtually of course): what width is the battlement? And what is the angle of the opening of an arrow slit? By the way, how wide is the arrow slit’s openning on it’s narrowest side?…

Bringing sketchup to its knees

By now, the file had reached almost 15 Meg., and any addition of detail was making Sketchup excruciatingly slow to respond. While the whole geometry was quite simple, Sketchup would slow down to a halt at every attempt to open a group or component, the infamous Beach Ball of Death (I work on a Mac) would start spinning for a few seconds before I could resume working on the model. What the heck was that? After working for some time in that state of increasing frustrating slow motion, it became evident I had to do something about it.

First, I started to cleanup the geometry of any unwanted or unnecessary faces or edges. I must say that from the very beginning I was tediously making sure everything was clean and tidy with no extra hidden stuff left behind the visible mesh. So, cleaning up was very quick as only a few edges had escape my vigilant eye. However, the biggest work remained to be done: simplifying unnecessary complex structures, namely: arcs and circles.

I’m just not into the habit of checking the number of sides when I create an arc or a circle, and believe me it’s bad, very bad. Sure, the curve always looks nicer with a lot of edges and the default 24 sides for a circle is quite good for big objects like the round towers, but it’s of no use to have so many sides for a small piece of stonework (like the ones sticking out of the big towers) which is just a small detail that gets repeated so many times. Luckily, I made a decent use of components so it definitely eased my work by limiting the number of edits. I brought down the number of side on most of the curved geometry that wasn’t big enough to benefit from that extra smoothness. That involved of course re-creating part of the geometry in the groups or components.

In the end, after a good diet, the model lost about 30% faces and about the same for edges! Too much detail in the details can be over-killing. Just watch those damn sides in your curves.

But going back to work, while I did notice some improvement, it was nowhere near what I’d expected. I should restate that I was still fairly new to Sketchup, so after some research, I found out that all that time I played around with the textures and the styles, changing them, resizing them, importing them again, applying that style, then an other for the fun of visualizing the model under different conditions, all that was being stored in the model file itself. At that stage, the file was containing 40 materials and 83 styles! I had to do something. I resolved at editing without textures at all for the moment and after a drastic purge (even Stalin couldn’t have done any better) the file shrank down from 14.9 Meg. to 3.2 Meg. OMG!

Sketchup regained its youth, it was flying again. For anyone out there struggling with a crippled Sketchup, trying to do some decent editing out of an over inflated file, I can’t stress it enough: PURGE, purge, purge all your styles, component, textures. Just keep what you actually use and you will see a difference, especially if your machine is not the latest greatest model.

The back gate was outfitted with two machicoulis, one on each side of the wall. The outside access hasn’t been built yet, so the passage just ends up a few meters above the outside ground.

The big fortification in the back of the castle received a small tower on one of its sides and the platform behind it had some arches dug underneath to allow storage space.

Here you can see the arrow slits in the wall and the new roofs for the square towers.

Overview of the model at that stage.

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