Landscape design is usually back breaking work, involving a spade, and most likely a wheelbarrow. But why not forgo all of this and start your work from the comfort of your own computer, by using a program like Idea Spectrum Realtime Landscaping Pro 2020.
Let’s take a look at what this software has to offer.
As its name implies, this Windows-only package is focused on helping you create outdoor areas. If you need to design a room, or an entire house, you’ll need to look elsewhere. This doesn’t mean you can’t create exteriors of houses. In fact, Realtime Landscaping Pro lets you add houses to your design. You just can’t venture inside them.
The interface is very clear and easy to understand: you have manipulating tools in a sidebar on the lefthand side, all your building materials are at the top, organised in categories such as Building, Landscape, Water Features and Utilities, and once you select an object, an inspector section appears on the right with all the properties you can alter.
Take the ‘House’ tool for instance, located in the Building menu. When you select it, you mark its area on your plan, and once done, Realtime Landscaping Pro creates the walls and roof all automatically for you instantly. You’re of course free to change the material, colour, wall height, roof pitch, etc, add a few windows, a door here and there, but you’ll have to agree this is a huge time saver.
Your creation work takes place in multiple views. You have the standard top-down option (selected by default), but oftentimes, especially when you work with different elevations, a perspective view is better suited. This allows you to be in your creation and can help to find out where any alterations need to be made.
A third view is called ‘Walkthough’. This is mostly of use to admire your creation. Everything is rendered in higher quality, and you explore your surroundings using the mouse and keyboard, but you have no editing capabilities. Should you find something that needs changing, going out of Walkthrough takes you back to where you were before you started ‘exploring’, so you’ll have to make your way back to the problem area in order to fix it.
All of these views can be triggered at any time by clicking on their respective buttons, lower left of the interface.
You’d expect a landscape program to have a lot of plants at hand, and you’d be right. You have a choice of over a thousand of them (thank god for a ‘search’ feature). But that’s not all: they have an age setting (which mostly changes their height), and you also have the option of altering their seasonal look – by default, it’s set to the general season you’re working in, but you can manually change that if you feel an autumnal look works best for a particular plant, even in summer.
Speaking of your environment, you have full control over it via a handful of ‘Settings’ menus. From there, the sky is changed, even the time of day, or in which phase the moon is in. Changing seasons is a given too, helping you get the most of the look you’re after.
As you build your project, the number of objects you use will increase, but you’ll find that each category has a ‘Currently Used’ section to help you locate those items quickly, should you wish to make use of more of them elsewhere. But this only works on a per-project basis. If you wish to move over items you like and use regularly from project to project, that’s where the ‘Favourites’ section comes in. When software offers you a wealth of options, it’s good to know you can narrow that down to help you speed up your work.
Of course, landscaping an entire area from scratch can take some time, but just like with designing a house, Realtime Landscaping Pro is there to help speed up the process too, with the use of Wizards. You have a handful of them, helping you with your Landscape, Decking, or even Pond, among others.
The process is very simple, and once again, you’re offered a list of templates to choose from. Once you’re happy with your selection, you just drag it to your ideal location and, most of the time, you’re done. You have however the option of fully customising your chosen template, from its building material, to the size of individual elements. So it’s both a time saver to help you get started, and a launchpad to further your own creativity.
You can spice up the walkthrough view we mentioned earlier with the addition of characters, and Realtime Landscaping Pro offers you a few to pepper throughout your creation. You don’t have customisation options with them, but to make your landscape more interesting you have the ability to animate them.
Some can be walking, others jogging, a handful can be swimming. Set their path, and they’ll perform their set action, reset, and perform it again, ad infinitum. Even if they’re sitting, or just standing, some parts of them will move from time to time, like a head turn for instance. Although you do have the option to see a preview each of them in Perspective, and even Top-Down mode, this can only be done for one character at a time. These virtual Sim-like people take on a life of their own in the Walkthrough.
We did like the ability to create a movie of a Walkthrough complete with soundscape (although it doesn’t record your own travels but is dependent on a moving camera you set up ahead of time – one of the many ‘utilities’ of this software). There’s even the option of connecting your Walkthroughs to an Oculus Rift for a truly immersive experience.
For $150, Realtime Landscaping Pro offers a wealth of features to help you create the garden of your dreams. If can be used for fun or as a professional tool to create what your client is after prior to having picked up a spade. The interface is easy to understand, and interaction with the software is fluid, even on a machine that isn’t the most recent up-to-date model. The inclusion of characters is fun, but is really more of a gimmick, especially since your options there are quite limited. But overall, this is an excellent piece of software for anyone who loves or needs to design landscapes virtually.