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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has almost 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the design … More »

Bunkspeed Becomes SOLIDWORKS Visualize For Photorealistic Rendering

September 24th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

Although it isn’t exactly breaking news, Bunkspeed, a developer of advanced rendering technologies, as we know it, or rather, as we knew it, has a new overseer and brand — SOLIDWORKS Visualization.

SOLIDWORKS Visualization products (note the plural) provide a suite of standalone software tools that combine rendering capabilities with design-oriented features and workflows that “enable easy and fast creation of visual content for designers, engineers, marketing, and other content creators”. The last part of that statement always gives me a chuckle — advanced rendering products, even if they’re “easy to use” are not necessarily for the faint of heart or those who easily become impatient. Also, “easy to use” does not guarantee professional looking results. For example, remember back several years ago when Encapsulated PostScript arrived one scene. Suddenly, with the opportunity to use dozens of fonts, many “professional-looking” documents looked more like gaudy ransom notes or circus posters.

I’m not saying that with some training and practice, just about anyone could produce good looking photorealistic renderings. I’m just saying that this (like many aspects of technical software) is not always the “professional results out of the box solution” that too many marketing hype types like to push.

SOLIDWORKS 2016 Visualize

Since it’s GPU based for ray tracing, you might want to invest in a good graphics card to take advantage of all SOLIDWORKS Visualization packages can do.

As said earlier, and since everybody likes options, SOLIDWORKS Visualize is available as the following two packages:

SOLIDWORKS Visualize Standard

What was Bunkspeed shot is now called SOLIDWORKS Visualize Standard with features that include

  • SOLIDWORKS Visualize Standard features include:
  • Photo-quality imagery at unlimited resolution (Wow, what does that mean?)
  • Advanced multi-layer materials
  • Accurate simulation of real-world lighting with HOR support for photorealism without manual lighting techniques
  • Decals (interactive stickers) placement just like real life stickers
  • Support for professional Texture Maps (Bump, Normal, Specular, Alpha, Color)
  • Interactive Part Splitter for separating surfaces without going back to a CAD modeling package
  • Preset Camera Filters to enhance images

SOLIDWORKS Visualize Professional

What used to be known as Bunkspeed Pro Suite is now called SOLIDWORKS Visualize Professional with features that include all Visualize Standard features, plus:

  • Demonstrate products more effectively with full animation of parts, models, appearances, cameras, and environments
  • Quickly show off the final design with one-click 360 degree spins
  • Intuitively create dynamic camera fly-bys in a snap with the unique Camera Animation Ribbon
  • Rapidly generate colorways and product variants using Configurations
  • Create interactive web content (VR and Panoramas)
  • Present and compare varying design solutions side by side with multiple viewports
  • Customizable Camera Filters
  • Enhance the lighting of your scene with integrated advanced lighting and environment features, like Sun Studies
  • Boost productivity and performance with integrated Render QUEUE and render farms that scale
  • Simulate real time vehicle physics with the included physics-based driving simulator and object interaction

The last item — anything “physics-based” is not easy to comprehend, much less execute well, if this is new to you. Interesting stuff, but you better be prepared to put in some time.

With either flavor of SOLIDWORKS Visualization you can import SOLIDWORKS, Autodesk Alias, Rhino, SketchUp, and many other CAD formats to create scenes and realistic content.

A call to the company requesting pricing information got the response, “It is still being determined and will be available soon.” You would have thought pricing would have been determined early in the game, but these decisions are made by much bigger minds than mine.

The biggest question I have is how SOLIDWORKS Visualization will impact another rendering option from the company — PhotoView 360.

It looks like PhotoView 360 is being positioned for basic quality checks and surfacing analysis while working in SOLIDWORKS.

SOLIDWORKS PhotoView 360 has some pretty nice tools for creating photorealistic renderings and animations, including:

  • Apply Appearances—Adjust elements of models including color, texture, and illumination
  • Apply Scenes—Set and control the background and surroundings
  • Decals—For labeling, branding, stickers, instrument faces, etc.
  • Integrated Preview—View output in a preview window before fully rendering
  • Rendering Options—Control output image resolution, animation frame rates, etc.
  • Final Renderer—Generate detailed output after preview
  • Rendering Scheduler—Set up renderings to run during off-hours
  • Rendering templates—Save rendering settings for later use to ensure consistent output

Both SOLIDWORKS PhotoView 360 and Visualize are being touted as easy to use, so it will be interesting to see how the company handles three rendering products. There has to be some overlap somewhere, so why continue to develop multiple products that do basically the same thing? Although it’s nowhere near the debacle that occurred with the core product CGM and Parasolid modeling kernels, it’s still an issue that many users who like and use SOLIDWORKS PhotoView 360 will likely have to contend with.

This is a tough one to call. In my experience, though, I haven’t come across a ton of SOLIDWORKS users who have been clamoring for a(nother) photorealistic renderer. I tend to think SOLIDWORKS Visualize might be overkill for most users.

In the end, though, customers will vote with their initial purchase and subscription wallets as to whether SOLIDWORKS Visualization was a move in the right direction.

Editor’s Note: Bunkspeed is hardly the only rendering technology. For example, in the past few years several other alternatives have become available, notably KeyShot from Luxion. In the near future we’ll take a close look at what Keyshot’s been up to and see how it compares with SOLIDWORKS Visualize. This promises to be an interesting comparison in advanced rendering.

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