Are you planning on being at SEU this year?
Yes, I’ve been in touch with Chris Dow setting up our sessions for this year. Luxion usually attends Solid Edge University, and this year we’ll have a booth. But since KeyShot is more integrated into ST7, we’re also going to have hands on sessions. We’re still figuring out the details of what the sessions will be.
I’ll definitely be there working the booth and answering questions. I’ll be there handling the hands on and the training sessions my self.
I started using KeyShot as a customer before I started working for Luxion. My previous role was working as part of an Industrial Design team working with home appliances. We used KeyShot as one of our everyday tools for concept generation and design evaluation. So when it comes to answering questions from real end users, I’ll definitely be available. I’ve used it in the design workflow alongside Illustrator, Photoshop, and other 3D tools.
What will you be presenting at SEU?
We haven’t got that nailed down 100% yet. We will give two or three presentations. Thomas Teger, our VP of Products & Strategy, will give kind of an overview of KeyShot 6, which we will be releasing later this year. I’ll probably be showing off some of the newest features in a hands-on presentation.. Another presentation will be a limited-seating hands-on where people will be able to get to learn and use some of the basics. Beyond that, I may do a more advanced session which won’t be interactive, but I will be having open Q&A. I’ll probably walk through some more advanced stuff, as far as working with materials and textures and lighting and things like that.
Why should engineers with little or no background in rendering want to attend your sessions at SEU?
Well, I was poking around on some of your blog entries, and I noticed you write about rendering from time to time. In one of those articles, you raised a really great point that I absolutely agree with. You said something to the effect that an engineer can look at a technical drawing and understand the product, how it’s manufactured, and many details about it. But not everybody else can. So there is a real value in being able to show someone who is not an engineer an image that someone might think is a photograph. A rendering can be very convincing. It’s a great way to communicate a design. Rendering makes that easier, whether through still images, animations, VR (virtual reality).
Beyond that, for SEU attendees with a little more experience, the main value for them will be to see what really is possible within the tool. What I tend to find in these training sessions, is that I may talk to someone who has used KeyShot every day for a couple of years, and they’re like “Yeah, I’ll come on by, but I already know how to use KeyShot.” But by the end of one or two days, they’re like “Holy Crap, I didn’t know you could do all that!” So knowing how far you can push the tool – KeyShot is very simple. Almost anyone can bring in a model and make the best rendering they’ve ever made with very little effort. If you apply a couple of materials and some lighting, a background, suddenly you’ve make a better rendering than you ever thought possible. But once you really pick up a few techniques to make everything pop, and dive a little further into the detail, you can create truly stunning images.
When you were working as an Industrial Designer, what was your main CAD tool?
It was NX. We were designing large home appliances with hundreds of individually modeled parts. For me it was more of a concepting tool. I would create the design intent, and then work with the engineers to solidify the final design.
I notice that the rendering contests that are run by/for engineers are very different from the contests run by KeyShot directly. You guys get all of these computer graphics artists who are taking mesh models from software like 3DSMax, Mudbox, Zbrush that are very different kinds of geometry, such as human form, dragons, monsters, a lot of space ships.
Absolutely, it’s funny to see the differences in the contests from different communities and software packages. I’ve seen one of the spreads from your Siemens PLM Community, and your guys are doing tools, and welded models of structures or framing, – way more technical stuff with well-modeled details, which is important for good renderings. In a training session where people start to get a little sleepy eyed, that’s when I start to pull out all of the automotive models and get everybody back into the game.
A great rendering always starts with a great model. So what do you use as a source for the models you render in your classes?
It depends what I’m working on. Like most people, I wear a couple of different hats, I’m not always just doing training. I’m also part of the marketing team, so I create some of our webinars, quick tip videos, once in a while I’ll create some images for the newsletter, and things like that. So if I’m creating that kind of content, there’s a good chance that I’m using models from TurboSquid or GrabCAD. But for training purposes, and as often as I can, I try to create the 3D models myself. That allows me to share anything I’ve created without needing to worry about copyright. I can leave the model behind in a training session, or if I do a video session and someone wants the model, I can share the model without concerns. I still use NX, because that’s what I know. But I’m also starting to use SketchUp more and more. It can produce some pretty ugly geometry, but with the right plugins and tricks SketchUp can make really killer looking stuff. It’s not parametric, and there are some big limitations, but for quick modeling, I can open SketchUp and model a cube faster than I can just open NX.
So when you’re teaching a class to a bunch of engineers who design machinery, how do you tailor your class as compared to when you’re teaching a bunch of ID types who do consumer products?
What I typically do is adapt to whatever the needs of the group are. Everybody has their own learning style and areas that they are interested in. What drives a training session more than anything is the actual products that are being rendered. The techniques for rendering cast and machined parts are different from rendering liquids inside a vessel. If I’m working with a team of Industrial Designers or marketing people, there’s going to be a bigger focus on post processing with a tool like Photoshop. I’ll usually have a two hour session for the combination of KeyShot plus Photoshop. Masking, layers, and the general workflow there.
Whereas with an engineering team, we try to get everything in one KeyShot rendering. A lot of engineers either don’t have the software or don’t have the interest to get into post processing. So it’s important to get everything you need into the image right out of the gate. But also engineers are more just focused on communication of design and materials and the designers tend to be selling a concept, so they often need a sexier, more sales oriented type of image.
What are some things an engineer can do to a model in preparation to make an attractive rendering?
First, the more detail you can model in, the better. If you hand over tooling data, the data looks different from the finished parts because the finished parts have small radius corners, manufacturing techniques and processes. It’s important to know how the part is made, and that the CAD model actually reflects what’s in production. That will save you some time in KeyShot, because you won’t have to use KeyShot to round the corners. It also gives you more control. If you actually model the corner radius, you can apply different finishes to that radius. Polished, textured, etc.
How about some general pointers for setting up the scene in the background of the model to make it feel more realistic?
Working with in-context renderings, you want to use backplates. Using good photography for a backplate can be really effective. Your HDRI environment image doesn’t have to be exactly the same as your backplate, they just have to be similar. You can just pull out your cell phone, take a picture of your desk, and pretty quickly render a product onto your desk using that image as a blackplate. For lighting the scene, try to use an environment that matches the lighting on your backplate. I’d never for example, use an outdoor image for the lighting environment with an indoor backplate image. Look for similar lighting, color, etc.
What are the biggest mistakes that engineers tend to make in their renderings?
One of the pretty basic mistakes that has a tendency to throw people off is perspective matching. There are a couple of things you can do to help out with perspective. In KeyShot you’ve got this perspective slider which you can use to control the convergence of all the parallel lines. On any camera there’s a focal length, on anything from a cell phone camera to a $10k SLR. When you have light going through a lens, that lens has a focal length. If you type that focal length number into KeyShot, the software will replicate the same focal length, say 70 mm. Let’s say you take a picture with some camera, take the focal length of the lens and plug that into your KeyShot perspective, and your model will match the image as far as perspective goes.
I think that for people without a background in photography, perspective is one of the least understood aspects of the rendering process. Lighting and perspective are going to make a huge difference. CAD users generally don’t work with perspective, but when you get to the rendering, you really need to turn that on.
You’ve got a great reputation as a trainer who travels the world and teaches people how to use this amazing software. What do you attribute this “rock star” status to?
Well, this is the first I’ve heard of being a “rock star”! I’m doing what I’m doing because it’s an extension of what I’m interested in. Before working for Luxion, I was an Industrial Designer working for an appliance manufacturer. I like working with the details of real parts, the details of how things are made, and the details of how you replicate all of this digitally.. I think my strong personal interest carries over into my role, and people pick up on that. I can show cool stuff in KeyShot, but I can also show them how to do it. People really respond to that kind of empowerment. By the end of the training session, my goal is to make sure that everyone feels very confident. I want everyone to feel that they have the right tools to make awesome renderings.
What do you say to the engineer who goes to the KeyShot site and sees some of these amazing examples of what these CGI artists can do, and they get totally intimidated or think that this must be a tool for someone else, because I certainly can’t make images like that?
Yes. One thing is that some of those images are from KeyShot 6, our new unreleased version with some features not currently available to the public. And some of those images are coming from people whose primary role is 3D rendering and visualization. So they’re rendering pros, that’s on their business card. But I also know that some of those really incredible images do come from engineers who during their day jobs are mechanical engineers, but a lot of them go home and use KeyShot in their spare time and make really, really cool looking stuff.
A good example would be a guy who on the KeyShot forum goes by Speedster. He’s an engineer, runs his own company, and loves KeyShot. Some if his passions are hotrods and model trains. It’s so different from the flashy KeyShot user, but his work is phenomenal.
I’ve got a feeling that at night he goes home and drives his wife crazy using KeyShot into the wee hours of the night.
You’ve mentioned KeyShot 6 a couple of times. Are you allowed to tell us when that’s going to be integrated into Solid Edge?
Not yet. I don’t know the details on that. We don’t have a specific release date for our product, and I can’t tell you when it will show up in Solid Edge either. We’re currently in a closed beta, but it should launch later this year.
What are the important differences between KeyShot Pro and KeyShot integrated into Solid Edge?
You get a lot of the basic features in the integrated tools, but the big bump with going to Pro is that you do get a lot more workflow tools. Pro is gaining some new functionality in 6. It gives more control over your materials, your lighting environment, you can control more complexity, and so on.
Is there anything in general that you want to make sure that readers hear from you?
I would recommend that if they don’t know about our learning page or Youtube channel, for them to browse KeyShot.com/learning. We have so much good video content that people don’t know is there. It’s all free. Any tutorial, quick tips or webinars, anything that we do to create learning content is free on Youtube. That’s one huge thing that people miss out on. In an hour, you can sit down with one of the webinars and get caught up on a very specific workflow. For example, if you like rendering cars, we have a couple of webinars just on rendering automotive models. If you design plastic parts, there’s one on making better materials, there’s one on translucent materials.
I’d also suggest that if you are or want to be a KeyShot user, take a look at some of the social media content that Josh Mings puts out there. Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Twitter, we’re constantly pushing new content out there. If you ever need inspiration or ideas, that’s a really good set of places to look.