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Creating path animations

Three introduction videos to path animations

Creating path animation in V4 basics

Creating object animations summary

Two motions of one object in V4

Create a path

The alternative to using key frames is to create Path animations. Path animations have an advantage in that one can create complex animations with targets and nested groups to create two motions. You can combine key frame with path animations. You can create a path by using the polyline feature from the SU Animate tool bar or by selecting connected lines, arcs or circles and then right click and select Create Animation Path. Once you create an animation path, you can assign objects (groups and components) or the camera to be animated. For walk-thru or fly-thru animations, you will select the camera to be animated. For object animations such a fork lift backing up, you will want to animate groups or components.

    Check out this video to examine Create Animation Path features. Includes a quick introduction to Nested Groups for complex motions.

Select a Group/ Component or camera to animate

After creating a path, select an object (group/component) or camera to animate. You can do this by selecting the animation path, right clicking and from the context menu and pick Change Animation Parameters. Alternatively, select the animation name from the main SU Animate V4 dialog box once the path is created. You can animate an object (a SketchUp group or component) or the SketchUp camera. To animation on object, you must pick the Add/ Remove option from the context menu. More than one path and one group can be animated. You can assign several groups/components to the same path as well. Groups do not need a name.

Assign frames, camera, rotate objects along a path

From the Path Animation user interface, select how many frames you want to assign to an animation path. Each frame will equal one SketchUp scene and every frame in the path will have the same length. You can change the number of frames for each animation at any time.

Select whether or not camera will be animated by choosing Animates the Camera. Both groups/ components and a camera can be assigned to a path.

If you are creating an object animation (groups or components), choose whether or not to Rotate Objects Along a Path. When this is on, the object (group or component) will rotate with the rotation angle of the path. In many cases, you will prefer not to rotate the object. View this video to see the difference.

Preview the Animation

You can preview the animation without actually making SketchUp scenes. Before you commit to making scenes, you can preview your animation. To do so, pick Play from the SU Animate menu. You can control the Preview's speed with the Player UI.

Make Scenes

The final step is to Make Scenes. SU Animate's power is to automatically create SketchUp scenes and layers for each animation. For object animations, the program will create a layer for each scene and hide all layers except for the one being "played". The number of scenes will equal the total number of frames in all the animation paths.

Play the Animation in SketchUp

After Make Scenes is completed, it's time to play the animation using SketchUp's View-->Animation-->Play command. Make sure that the Animation Settings in SketchUp is what you want. Usually the faster the transition speed, the better. You can then export the Animation to an AVI or a MOV file using SketchUp's Animation Export command.

Click on the image to see a demonstration of many features of SU Animate.

A summary of features and how to use them

    When creating a path based camera animation, you have three options for the camera view. The default option is the camera faces the direction of the path on the path's plane.
    A second option is to assign the camera to stay focused on a particular group or component. This is done by picking the target group or component from the Target Component/Group list. Assigning a target component/group to the animation path will force the SketchUp camera to focus on that particular component or group through all the frames of the particular animation path. If you want to have multiple targets, create more than one animation path and assign a different target per animation path.
    A third new option is to fix the camera view at an angle from the animation path direction. Using this tool, you can create walk-thrus or fly-arounds that do not require a target group.

    Click on the image to launch a You Tube video showing a walk thru animation that uses three different camera view options. This video is based on Version 3.2. The UI is very different but it will show how complex your camera path can be in SU Animate V4.

    A model can have more than one target. Each unique path can have its own target assigned to it. The target-per-path option allows the user to switch between targets. Since SU Animate will progress to the next path after a path has reached its end, if the next path is assigned to another target, the target is effectively switched and the camera will follow that target.

    Click on the image to see a demonstration of multiple paths and multiple targets to create complex walk-thru animation. Note that the user interface in this video is based on SU Animate 3.2.

    Add/ Remove for Object Animation with Paths

    Requirements for Object Animation using Paths

  • One or more groups or components must be selected to animate objects.
  • New - group or component does not need a name.
  • New - Add/Remove. New to SU Animate V4 is the Add/Remove selection for object animation. After creating path animation, right click on the animation name from the SU Animate 4 dialog. Click Add/ Remove and then select (click or Shift-Click) the group(s) or component(s) to be animated. The groups you select needs to be highlighted in the selection. We think this is simpler than previous version which required you to name a group/ component before it could be selected. You can select the group or the groups from SketchUp's outliner as well. Again, you will need to hold down the Shift key to select more than one group or component from Outliner. To de-select (remove the group from the animation path), hold the Shift key down and then select the groups or components.
    • First create the animation path.
      Then select the animation path from the SU Animate 4 dialog. Right click and see the Add/ Remove option.
      Now select the group(s) or component(s) in SketchUp and click OK. You can use SketchUp outliner as well. Use the SketchUp selection method to select groups or components with the Shift key.
    SU Animate has the ability to perform nested path animations. Nested animations allow you to create two motions per object such as the wheel of a car rotating as it moves forward. Other applications would include a propeller on a plane as the plane flies through the air or a drill bit spinning as it drills through a material. In the example of a tire, the tire must be a group assigned to a circle animation path. Both the circle path and tire group, are in turn grouped in a second, parent group or component. The second group or component (the tire and the path) is then assigned to the animation path the tire will travel along. Make sure that you do not put a nested group inside another component or group. If you do that the animation will not work.

    Click on the image to see a demonstration of nested group/ two motions in action: Wheel rotating and moving forward.


    Delay is a powerful feature that allows the you to delay a specific path and any groups assigned to that path for a set number of scenes. This enables you to run several path animations in sequence. Simply type in the number of scenes the group(s) is desired to delay for and update the attributes. This feature will allow much more complex animations such as assemblies or multi-path walk thru animations.


    Repeat allows you to create an animation that have paths that repeat themselves within an animation.

    Time Lapse - animate the movement of time (with Shadows)

    You can now make time lapse animations that will animate the movement of shadows across a certain period of hours. For example, sunrise to sunset. The Time Lapse animation can be part of a multi-path animation or by itself.
    Note: The time it takes for SketchUp to display shadows on your computer maybe be longer than you have set your scene transitions. If you model is complex you may not see the shadow transitions in the time lapse animation using Preview. For best results, use Make Scene and export the animation to AVI and MOV.

    Click on the image for the Time Lapse video tutorial

      Create Arc path tool

      You can accurately create an arc path with the Create Arc or Circle command. This tools allows you to pick the center point of an arc, right click the start point and the end point of the arc.

      Please note that the new SU Animate V4 key frame tool is a faster way to rotate objects along an arc than this SU Animate arc tool. Click Here to see.

      Working with SU Walk

      Combining SU Animate with SU Podium's Render All feature allows for walk-thru, camera photo-realistic animations. However, note that Render All V2 is still in beta. If you are a Windows user, wanting to create photorealistic walk-thrus, take a look at SU Walk.

      This You tube video shows a photo-realistic walk thru animation created by Google SketchUp and SU Animate and then rendered with SU Podium's feature - Render All (SU Podium 1.7.3 or V2)

    SU Animate Icon Tool Bar

      * Polyline Path Tool

      When selecting this tool, you are asked to input a value for the radius of arcs created between each line. If you make a mistake, you can right click to bring up the ‘Undo Last’ option. When finished creating the path, you can right click and select done or simply double click to bring up the animation path window. Double clicking to end path creation may cause crashing when creating paths with many points.

      *Circular Path tool

      This tool can be used to quickly make a circular path and jump right into the animation path window. Simply drag the circle to the size you desire, or type a value for the radius into the SketchUp VCB after selecting the circular path tool.

      *Edit Polyline/Circular Path

      These tools are for when you decide to edit the shape, length or size of a polyline or circular path that has already been created. The edit polyline tool allows you to click on a line to reposition and select nodes of the path to reposition as well. Circular paths can be re sized to a different radius after selecting the Edit Circular Path tool.

      *Make Path From Curves

      As in previous versions of SU Animate, you can still create a path by linking together arcs and curves. You can either context click and select Create Animation Path, or select the tool bar button ‘Make Path From Curves’. Either method will bring you directly to the animation path window to set animation parameters. Note: paths created in this manner cannot be manipulated with the Edit Polyline path tool.

      *Edit Animation Path

      With a path selected, click this button to bring up the animation path window. This is the same window that comes up immediately after creating a path. This tool is if you decide to change the number of frames or what group is animating on the path.

      *Preview Animation

      This tool allows you to see how your animation will look before creating scenes. The preview will begin instantly after clicking the button and will show exactly what the animation will look like when you create scenes. You are asked to input a number of scenes to account for any delay or path repetitions you may have. You can also click on Faster or Slower from the Preview dialog box.

      *Make Scenes

      This tool creates the actual scenes in SketchUp in order to export the animation as a video file, or to render the scenes with Podium. You will be prompted to enter the number of scenes to be created. Unlike previous versions, if you have not saved the file, you will be unable to make scenes since the only way to undo the scene creation is to revert the model to the last time it was saved.

Two additional free tools to note


    EditInPlace is a SketchUp context menu item that is available when you select a group or component. EditInPlace is not specific to SU Animate but is a general SketchUp utility from Cadalog, Inc. It allows you to open a selected SketchUp group and edit in a different SketchUp sessions, saving you a lot of headache. It is very useful when you are using large models with many groups or components. Read more about it here. It comes free with SU Animate.

    SU Grid or Construction Grid

    SU Grid or construction grid is a context menu item. Select a face in SketchUp and right click to open the context menu. You will notice an option called Construction Grid. Choose Construction Grid to create a grid of lines on a face or a grid in a specific coordinate. The grid can be used to draw lines, arcs and circles and snap to end points or intersections of the grid lines. The grid itself is it's own group and on it's own layer and can be deleted or hidden.