Sorry, I lost track of this thread -- I put this project on the back burner because I purchased a bunch of Sketchup plugins, and top of the line renderer and a sculpting software... as you can imagine I have/had quite a bit to learn in addition to my workload.
The upside is I have the ability to do many things that were not possible before -- the downside is I'm not sure me finishing this project would be of any use to others as I would definitely be using my new tools if the get the job done better/faster... so a "pure" Sketchup model would be VERY unlikely.
I finally got around to finishing this this -- I started from scratch and re-did everything. This is all Sketchup Pro 8 (with free ruby plugins) and renders in Maxwell Render -- here are the process shots:
I didn't see this post, sorry for the late answer... if you are asking about IDX Renditioner (the free one I posted the link to at the top) then I would say yes it is both fast and easy.
If you are asking about Maxwell Render (my render engine for all recent stuff) I would say is somewhat more difficult and definitely much slower -- but this is the price of power and Maxwell has much more power than IDX Renditioner.
It comes down to your needs, and it should be said that any tool in the hands of the right artist can make awesome art.
If you are interested in Maxwell I would suggest looking at my tutorial video series for it (the link in my sig) as they would definitely take some of the bite out of the learning curve.