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Unlock Your Inner Photographer with Luxion KeyShot 2

Luxion KeyShot 2, shown here with its material pallet open.

Luxion KeyShot 2, shown here with its material pallet open.

A scene rendered in Luxion KeyShot Pro 2, with depth of field enabled (notice the edges of the vehicle's rear section that's slightly blurred).

A scene rendered in Luxion KeyShot Pro 2, with depth of field enabled (notice the edges of the vehicle's rear section that's slightly blurred).

The Options dialog box lets you adjust environment bright, change material colors, or upload an image as a decal.

The Options dialog box lets you adjust environment brightness, change material colors, or upload an image as a decal.

Last week, I tried out Bunkspeed SHOT, a rendering program meant for people who’re not used to sophisticated digital content creation packages. This week, I’m taking another Shot (so to speak).

Luxion’s KeyShot, now available in Version 2, is arguably the biggest rival to Bunkspeed SHOT. Both KeyShot and SHOT evolved from the rendering program previously branded HyperShot. Bunkspeed developed and marketed HyperShot, using the technology licensed from Luxion. But in November 2009, licensing talk broke down, causing a split.

Bunkspeed continues to offer the rendering program, rebranded as SHOT, powered by mental images’ iray rendering engine. Luxion now offers its own rendering program, branded KeyShot, powered by the original technology. What’s the difference? Here are a few:

  • Bunkspeed SHOT relies on the hybrid CPU-GPU rendering. (mental images is now a wholly owned subsidiary of NVIDIA, resulting from the GPU giant’s acquisition in December 2007).
  • Luxion’s KeyShot remains CPU-based.
  • Bunkspeed SHOT is available only for Windows OS currently.
  • Luxion’s KeyShot is available for both Windows and Mac.

KeyShot’s interface is much closer to the previous incarnation in HyperShot, particularly its use of floating pallets (for materials, environments, back plates, and so on). In HyperShot, you needed to use a bunch of complicated key commands to position the model or camera (for example, Shift + Alt + middle mouse wheel to rotate the model along the Y axis,  Alt + left-click drag to dolly camera). In KeyShot, you can simply right-click on the model, pick Move, then use the directional arrow to drag and move it — a great improvement to the previous method.

In KeyShot, you use the Options dialog box to adjust materials, environments, and background plates that have been applied to the scene. You may use this to, for instance, change the color of certain metallic paints or adjust the brightness of a HDRI (high dynamic range image) environment. The same dialog box gives you controls over depth of field, an easy way to pick the camera’s focus point and simulate blurriness in the distance.

If you need to project a decal or a 2D image onto your model (for example, a logo), you can upload the image as texture or label to the material. To position the decal correctly, you can choose several options: UV mapping, box mapping, spherical, cylindrical, and so on. Using sliding bars to adjust the UV mapping is, at least to me, not that easy to do. Ideally, I’d like to drag and drop the image onto the area of the model where I’d like it to appear, but for some reason this option is not available in most rendering programs I’ve come across.

In KeyShot, you can turn almost any material into emissive material via the Edit dialog box in Options. This function lets you render certain objects, like vehicle headlights and lamps, more realistically. But no pre-made emissive materials come with the library. Adding a set of emissive materials in the default library in the next release will go a long way to simplify the workflow.

Depending on your CPU horsepower, you may want to adjust the real-time display settings, under the Options dialog box. If you choose to work in a bigger program window in higher resolution with greater light bounces, the program will require more time to update whenever you edit your scene. By contrast, dropping the settings to a bare minimum will speed up response time, but you may not get a clear idea how the final rendering will look from the smaller preview.

KeyShot maintains the tradition that began with HyperShot — to offer a simplified renderer for those who’re not familiar with typical rendering jargon. The latest version comes with a host of interface improvements that make scene editing and set up a lot easier. If you have 3D assets that could potentially be turned into marketing collateral, and you’re a fan of CPU rendering, KeyShot may be just the thing to unlock your inner photographer.

For a review of Bunkspeed SHOT, read the blog post here.

For a comparison of the renderings produced in Bunkspeed SHOT and Luxion KeyShot, view images here.

For more renderings created with Luxion KeyShot, visit DE Exchange photo album here.

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About Kenneth

Kenneth Wong has been a regular contributor to the CAD industry press since 2000, first an an editor, later as a columnist and freelance writer for various publications. During his nine-year tenure, he has closely followed the migration from 2D to 3D, the growth of PLM (product lifecycle management), and the impact of globalization on manufacturing. His writings have appeared in Cadalyst, Computer Graphics World, and Manufacturing Business Technology, among others.

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