Home > Features > Product Review: Live Interior 3D 1.0

Live Interior 3D by BeLight is the second program of its kind to come to the Mac software market in the past few years. First discussed in last January's Macworld San Francisco expo reports, the product at first glance has a much more mature interface than one might associate with a point one release. It is also interesting to note that Live Interior 3D is a more specific program than some of its rivals such as Home Design Studio, which we reviewed last month.

Live Interior 3D is specifically geared towards interior design, not architecture or whole home and garden design. It helps you visualize your office, home or apartment interior and find optimal spatial configurations and placement for furniture and other 3D objects in an environment. As such, it ships with pre-built 3D models of real world objects from such furniture makers as Piironinen, Villeroy & Boch and others. There are over 1000 library objects in total and you can grab more with built-in connections to Google's expansive 3D Warehouse.

Getting Started

After setting some basic preferences (such as units appropriate to your location in the world) and a your preferred 3D rendering preferences for working, you can begin to design.

Users might want to start a project using one of many pre-designed apartment layouts. (see image 01) You can select New Blank to design your layout from scratch -- which is probably how many users will prefer to work. In the meantime, while you are learning the program working on a pre built flat may speed up your learning and allow you to get familiar with the design aspects of the program.

01 - Live Assistant - You can start with a pre-built apartment design and modify that or you can draw your own plan.


Adding a window or wall to your layout is very easy with Live Interior 3D. Objects snap together smoothly and a dimension pops up as you lay down new walls or alter existing ones, giving you dimensional control. Numeric input is available in the Inspector palette. (see image 02– 03) There are also master walls which can be assigned properties and then applied to discreet walls which you wish to utilize. Wall thickness can be fully altered, so there is quite a bit of flexibility and in Live Interior 3D.

02 - Wall Objects - they snap together with intelligence making design easy and fun.
03 - Numeric Input - allows the user to get precise with wall lengths.

To lay out walls, add doors, and windows, you work in the 2D plan view, which can dominate the entire screen work space or be shared with the 3D rendered view. Once you are ready to add things like furniture you open up the Library where Furnishing is one of three main choices (the others being Building elements (eg: doors, windows, columns) and Google 3D Warehouse. More on that later.

Decorating Your Apartment

From the Library you can select from hundreds of 3D furniture items organized into various categories. Their location within your plan is greatly aided by Live Interior 3D's use of the Glu-by function. With variable control you can determine if objects "stick" to the floor and walls behind them, or even the ceiling allowing for precise and nice fit. (see image 04-05)

04 - Glueby feature allows custom settings for which face or faces stick to adjoining surfaces (eg: floor, ceiling)
05 - Glueby feature means objects like lights can snap to table surfaces so you don't need to know the height of table tops.

The fun really begins by laying out your furniture and testing new arrangements. Individual items be altered by applying new material textures to them. For instance, say you don't like that yellow color fabric on one of the standard sofas? No problem, apply a nice dark leather from the materials Library window. One can play for hours with trying different color and material combinations within a room.

You can apply any texture to any object, turning couches invisible by applying glass textures, or you can simulate wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling glass windows by turning an entire wall transparent by applying "glass" to it. (see images 06-07) That may be another way to simulate apartments in high-rise buildings with full glass walls.

06 - Any object can receive textures from the Materials palette -- even walls can be turned into glass by applying the glass materials.
07 - It is possible to create new materials, import them, name them and implement advanced rendering settings.

Designing with Objects

Live Interior 3D 1.2 ships with over 1000 pre-built objects, all organized within the main interface at the Object Panel. Architectural elements include doors, windows, niches, columns, openings and shapes. We were surprised that angled top openings didn't allow you to change the angle via the Inspector palette. However, you can affect the parameters of width, height, aspect ratio and alter depth (how it fits in the wall) and flip sides (useful for two-sided elements). (see image 08)

08 - Object geometry is adjusted in the Inspector palette with a graphic corresponding to measurements.
09 - The Shapes sub-library includes all kinds of useful and interesting solid objects, such as Tetras and cylinders -- apply any material to them such as stone or shiny plastic.

The shapes in the Library include things like boxes, cylinders, a tetra, a sphere, stepping blocks, curved corners, and solid-patterned surfaces -- all potentially useful in creating interesting designs. Such shapes come into the model in standard gray but can easily be modified via the Inspect palette to take on a different material and color (like the glossy red plastic tetra we have ploppedd in our room above). (see image 09)

The program's Google 3D Warehouse integration features two options. One can natively import Google SketchUp model data into your project or you can grabs models directly from the Google 3D Warehouse via the program's interface. This however was not working for us. The manual describes a way in which you can select object thumbnails from the drop-down menu in the Object panel, but each time we selected the Google 3D Warehouse tab it launched our Safari browser instead taking us to the Warehouse online, whereupon you can drill down into object categories, select models, download them to your computer and integrate them in Live Interior 3D.

Controlling Light

Live Interior 3D offers the user several preset global lighting settings, including Day, Night, Sunrise and Sunset. Better yet you can establish more accurate external sources of light by telling the program what part of the world your project lives in. You do this roughly via a Geographical Latitude dial.

10 - With a Light object you can set the luminosity or brightness of the light inside the Inspector palette.
11 - Overall rendering quality was good but we did experience a few problems as shown here.

Additionally, you will want to add interior light sources to your interior design via table lamps, floor lamps and ceiling fixtures. From the Inspector palette you can change the light intensity and light color on a per fixture basis or even turn fixtures off and on. (see image 10)


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