A Quick Look at Lagoa’s Cloud-Hosted Rendering

There are quite a few CAD-friendly rendering packages in the market: Luxion KeyShot, Bunkspeed SHOT, The Foundry’s MODO (a Luxology product before The Foundary-Luxology merger), to name but three. Because rendering is a compute-intense process, rendering programs usually require a robust workstation powered by multiple CPUs (and, for the packages that support it, GPUs too). If you install and run these programs on a typical consumer PC, your machine will most likely freeze up or slow to a crawl when the rendering operation begins.

Lagoa‘s basic tools are not significantly different from what you’ll find in a typical rendering program: You import your 3D asset, set up the scene, and render it into an high-res image. The major difference is the hardware requirement — or the lack of it. Lagoa runs inside a browser, so you don’t need to install the program. Once you’ve acquired your credentials, you can log into your private workspace online. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Prelude to GTC: GPU-Based Rendering Speeds Up Visualization

Matthew Gueller chuckled when I asked him if he does rendering, as if to say, “Do you even need to ask?”

Being a professional visualization artist and surface designer, Matthew sees a large chunk of his time consumed by rendering. “Some of the images we have to render — they’re one-to-one ratio, at 72 DPI poster resolution — can take up to 16 hours to finish,” he noted. “Lots of materials involved, large data sets — they’re very CPU-intense.” →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Keyshot 3 Goes to Movie

Luxion Keyshot, which made a name for itself by giving CAD users an easy way to produce rendered still images, is about to move into a new territory: animation clips. The movie-making function in Keyshot 3 is not meant for filmmakers producing feature-length 3D animations like Toy Story or Kung Fu Panda, but it’s aimed at an emerging segment: those who want to produce multimedia-driven presentations and instruction manuals using CAD files.

Whereas traditional animators develop their sequence in key frames, Keyshot users can rely on dragging, dropping, pivoting, and rotating objects along points in XYZ axes, similar to how they’d move and position imported objects to set up scenes. The software also offers the option to use an orbiting, inclined camera for dramatic angles and movements. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Luxion KeyShot 2.2 with Improved Import Functions

Luxion KeyShot, one of the offshoots of HyperShot, is now in its second incarnation. To be exact, it’s in Version 2.2, with incremental upgrades sprinkled over the past few months to bring it to where it is now. A major improvement in the latest version is the smoother, faster import function. Now, when you import a CAD assembly, you’ll see a model tree with the same assembly structure inside KeyShot. During import, the program gives you options to place the model at the center of the scene (or not), snap the model to the ground (or not), and orient the model by a certain axis (X up, Y up, or Z up). This eliminates the work you would otherwise need to do to position and align the model in the scene before applying aesthetic treatments.

KeyShot continues its tradition, dating back to its origin as a rendering program for those with little or no experience. With robust support for common CAD file formats, KeyShot remains one of the most accessible rendering packages for those who regularly work with mechanical modeling programs.

The program retains its drag-and-drop simplicity, allowing you to apply materials, environment, backdrops, then render the visible scene in the program window into a photo-realistic image. No need to understand ray-tracing, Gama adjustment, and other technical setups. The simple slider bars and real-time feedback let you work intuitively by experimentation to compose the scene with the right brightness, camera angle, and materials.

In Version 2.2, the hierarchical assembly structure imported along with the model gives you a simpler way to sort, identify, and apply attributes to different parts of your model. Furthermore, items selected in the model tree are encircled by a yellow outline in the program window, which makes isolating them much easier. If you often deal with complex assemblies and you’re used to identifying items by name (part number, for instance), you’ll find this enhancement a huge help.

In Version 2.2, you’ll find that the Move and Scale commands are much more responsive. You’ll also notice some interface improvements: among them, an easy to way to select standard camera views (Front, Left, Right, Top, Back, and so on) from a drop-down menu; and a single-click button to center your geometry.

Though not highly publicized, it’s worth noting that KeyShot gives you the option to select a small region for test-rendering. Under Render > Render Settings > Region, if you place a checkmark in the Enable box, you’ll be able to drag a selection window to define the region you want to render. If you’re concerned about the details in a certain region in your scene, and you don’t want to wait till the entire scene has been rendered to inspect the area, the regional rendering option works well as a way to test-render the chosen area.

Previously, to project a 2D image on the model’s 3D surface, you had to load the image as a texture in the material editing window. Though it gave you the result you wanted, the method also left you without a way to apply texture once the slot was occupied by the projected 2D image. In Version 2.2, KeyShot gives you the ability to apply labels — more than one, if you want — to your material. Not only is the operation simpler, it also gives you the option to apply texture to your material in addition to labels.

Since both Luxion KeyShot and its main rival Bunkspeed SHOT claim to be descendants of HyperShot, you’ll inevitable wonder: how do I decide which one to go with? The primary distinction may be the choice of hardware. KeyShot relies primarily on CPU; SHOT uses both CPU and GPU. Rendering a model using CPU and rendering it using GPU appear to produce identical results; however, if the software code is designed for parallel processing, it tends to render at a greater speed on special GPUs designed to accommodate multi-threading (for example, professional-class NVIDIA GPUs with CUDA). The performance gap between multi-core CPUs and GPUs may also become narrower as Intel works to add on-board HD graphics to its upcoming CPUs. Therefore, your hardware configuration and preference may offer better clues on which package to go with.

For more about the history of Luxion KeyShot and Bunkspeed SHOT, read “One Scene, Two Shots,” July 2010.

For more on Bunkspeed SHOT, read a recent review by Mark Clarkson, published in January 2011.

For more on KeyShot 2.2, watch the video report below.

Rendering a New Year Message in KeyShot 2.1

Happy New Year and welcome to 2011!

I’m kick-starting a new series of video reports with a short demonstration on using Luxion KeyShot 2.1 to create a New Year message. The latest release of KeyShot comes with a slew of user-interface improvements, including a Label function (frequently referred to as “Decal” in modeling and rendering software packages).

What you need for this exercise:

  • a 2D image with your New Year message (I created mine in Adobe Illustrator, then saved it as JPEG);
  • a 3D model with an even surface where you can project the message (I used an iPad model created by sgi102, found among user-submitted 3D content at Dassault Systemes’ portal); and
  • KeyShot rendering software (Luxion lets you use the trial software for 15 days, but the rendering produced will include a watermark).

For the rest of the steps, watch the video clip below: