Plane Near-Collision in Sketchup

In the news this morning was a story about a near collision of a 777 American Airlines jetliner with a pair of US Air Force C-17 cargo planes. Here’s what the graphic looked like on ABC News:



Well, I realize that the important thing is that everybody is safe, but insofar as better graphics can help us better understand what happened and how to avoid it in the future, let’s talk about graphics.

The above graphic is fine for a major television network — twenty years ago. But compare it to what I can throw together in a few minutes after a visit to the Google Sketchup 3D Warehouse:

I would recommend that news media graphics departments look into using Sketchup resources. Now, there are a lot of graphics software packages that can render better than Sketchup, but consider the possibilities opened up by the resources available in Google Sketchup 3D Warehouse and Google Earth. I was able to not only download a model of a 777 jetliner, it was already in American Airlines livery too!

Also, there are third-party rendering engines that can make Sketchup models look very realistic, so perhaps even in rendering it’s Advantage Sketchup. I think the real advantages with Sketchup, however, is that you can easily move around in the model to get a more dramatic and informative view, and that with a little training anyone (even reporters themselves) can use Sketchup. And it’s free, that’s important too to the departmental bottom line!

(Perceptive observers will note that the C-17 wheel wells are missing both the wheels and doors. The model I downloaded was in wheels-down configuration and it wasn’t a simple matter of deleting the wheels to put it in wheels-up configuration as happened with the 777 model. I could fix this if I had the time — and if I was being paid.)

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About engineerzero

Once and future engineer.
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3 Responses to Plane Near-Collision in Sketchup

  1. engineerzero says:

    I realize the ABC graphics person wanted to exaggerate the angle of descent for dramatic effect, but come on, the C-17s look like they’re dive bombing at Pearl Harbor!

  2. engineerzero says:

    It also would have been straightforward to put in a backdrop of clouds.

    Sketchup also has a feature to very easily render shadows and shading accurately for the time and geographical location. But without knowing the exact flight headings and trajectories, I really couldn’t represent how it actually looked. On the other hand, while playing with the model some more I did put in shadows for arbitrary time-location settings, and it so happened that the shadow of a C-17 fell across the fuselage of the 777. Very dramatic!

  3. engineerzero says:

    Hmm: “The real advantages is . . . . ” This are grammatically incorrect!

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