The latest from the DEVELOP3D Blog:
Published 07 September 2009
Posted by Al Dean
Model courtesy of Mark van der Quaak, dppb (www.dbbp.com).
This just in from DEVELOP3D’s Mac:Design sister site: I’ll make no bones about it. I love rendering. From when I started in the world of 3D-based design, I used to dig into 3d Studio when it was a DOS product and horrendous to use. All the way through my professional career as a designer, it stayed with me and even when I moved into the world of publishing I found myself still engaged (and still do, to this day) in freelance gigs.
There’s something engaging and addictive about taking staid, boring looking CAD geometry that’s at the heart of the design process through to create photorealistic assets (be it imagery or animations) that shows the viewer exactly how that product is going to appear when manufactured.
The problem has, until very recently, been that rendering, both to set-up the scenes, materials, textures, lighting then processing that information, has a headache. to create truly photorealistic images takes time and skill to do, then, when you’ve got it about right, even with today’s ultra powerful machines, took time to process – and when you consider that creating that imagery (whether it be static images or animations) was typically a highly iterative process of set-up, test render, tweak, render again, the whole thing took more time than it should have.
This, I’m glad to say, has changed in the last year or so. There are a number of applications launched onto the market that make this process much more efficient. Progressive rendering technology, whereby you don’t have to wait for a render to complete before you get a good idea of what your project look, makes things easier. This, combined with technologies like HDR (High Dynamic Range) images that make lighting set-up much easier as well as multi-core processing workstations (progressive renderers are typically CPU driven). One of the leading lights of this movement has been Bunkspeed (www.bunkspeed.com), established a few years ago, to bring a core technology to market that enables the 3D user to create stunningly photorealistic imagery, without the headaches traditionally associated with the process and the flagship product in the company’s portfolio is HyperShot.
HyperShot was launched two years ago and has been growing in popularity amongst many industry sectors and professions since. The core concept is that you connect to your CAD data, read it in, add materials, choose an environment (based on HDR images, which contain both scene information and a greater amount of information about lighting conditions within that scene than standard images) and watch the display update to show you what you’re going to get. While it’s heavily skewed towards the number of CPUs or core you have your workstation, even on the most modest of laptops, Hypershot gives you update speeds that are close enough to real-time.
Now, while HyperShot isn’t a unique application in using this type of technology, the things I’ve always loved about it are two fold. Firstly, it’s both Windows and Mac-based and has been since the very early releases and secondly, the interface is so sparse, typically driven by keyboard shortcuts and mouse interaction, rather than complex dialogs. This makes for a very intuitive working process and if I’m honest, it get very very addictive. HyperShot’s been through a pretty rapid release cycle in the last two years and while the latest version, 1.9, has just been released, the last few months have also seen the Beta program for the next major release, HyperShot 2.0, get underway.
Image courtesy of Peter Allen, Marketing Director at UC Santa Barbara.
I first got a peak at HyperShot for Mac’s next major release at the PTC World user event
last this year and saw something that took my breath away. While many organisations are looking to ‘go mac’ of late, it’s not often you find a 3D professional application that is atuned to the Mac way of things working and following the Cocoa UI guidelines closely. But this is what the Bunkspeed team has been working on and I can finally begin to lift the lid of what HyperShot 2.0, or as it’s to be called, HyperShot ‘10 is going to bring to the Mac community. Before we do that, I wanted to get an insight into what Bunkspeed have planned, I got on the phone to Thomas Teger.
Thomas is the Director of Marketing and Strategic Planning at Bunkspeed (you’ll guess that from the picture, right?) and one of those people I love running into at the various events – mostly because he’s 19 feet tall and because he’s German, can enjoy a drink without disappearing off to bed at 10pm. Thomas is a CAD industry veteran, having worked at both PTC and UGS (now Siemens PLM) and was influential in bringing both NX to the Mac and driving the development of a now defunct PTC product called Pro/Concept (also Mac-based). These days, he’s one of the four provisional patent holders for HyperShot (together with Founder & CEO Philip Lunn, COO Anthony Duca, and Chief Scientist Dr. Henrik Wann Jensen), and the driving force behind any new development for HyperShot. His passion for the Mac and Apple products started in 1992 while writing his Master’s Thesis on a PowerBook 170 at BMW AG in Munich, Germany.
Al Dean: Hey Thomas. Let’s talk about HyperShot and the Mac. You’ve had a Mac native version of HyperShot pretty much since inception. Could you explain why you made that choice?
Thomas Teger: When I first saw the concepts of realtime raytracing that turned into HyperShot in early 2006 I knew that this had great potential in a number of markets. Since HyperShot breaks down the barriers of traditional raytracing, it opens up the door for many more people who would never been able to create a photographic image from 3D data. The Mac community is traditionally all about the creativity. Photographers, retouchers, marketing people – all Mac. This made it easy to decide to port HyperShot to the Mac. On top of it, HyperShot has been built on an incredible advanced, flexible, and state of the art architecture. “Porting” – if you want to call it that – to the Mac was basically “free”. When we showed the concept of HyperShot in 2006 at the IDSA international conference in Austin, TX, we had both versions running side by side. It was awesome.
AD: How does the Mac user base stack up against the windows variant?
TT: Our Mac user base is at about 10% of our entire install base and growing strongly. More and more people are converting to the Mac, now that you can have dual boot capability. Students in particular are gravitating very strongly to the Mac, but also more and more design houses. Of course you know what the major obstacle is: the support of common CAD formats on the Mac. When we came out with the Mac version of HyperShot, we only offered support for OBJ. Quite limiting, isn’t it? Today we are offering support for native Rhino and SketchUp, as well as OBJ, Collada, FBX, and 3ds.
AD: I’ve been playing with the HyperShot 2.0 Beta and the interface has been shifted to a Cocoa-based UI. It’s looking slick. How much more work have you got to do before you take 2.0 to market?
Image courtesy of Carter Hickman Design (www.carterhickmandesigns.com) TT: Thanks, Al. We worked long and hard on developing the interface that turns HyperShot into a true Mac application that will be appreciated and embraced by all Mac users out there. As you know we have started our beta program about 4 weeks ago. We started with a small team of 10 people representing various industries. With the improvements that we made over the past few weeks we are close to being feature complete, and the app is also very stable. Some folks like Carter Hickman for example are using v2 4 hours a day to do production work. He can’t go back – you saw his comments. Same with Peter Allen from UC Santa Barbara. The biggest hurdle right now is to make sure that everything works with Snow Leopard. And then there is some more cleanup required, bug fixes and UI polish for the most part. We are close! The official name will be HyperShot ‘10 to match the rest of our product line. Following the Apple lead here ... iPhoto ‘09, iLife ‘09, iWork ‘09 – you get the picture . AD: One thing that’s kind of irritating is that the Mac platform has much fewer translation options that the Windows version (predominatelty, the SolidWorks and Pro/E connectors are missing). Could you give me an explanation of why they don’t work on the mac platform? TT: Agreed – as mentioned above this is a big reason for the adoption rate still being small is the lack of support for traditional CAD formats. We are getting many requests for support of additional file formats. IGES, STEP, and SolidWorks are the top requests, followed by the support for AliasStudio Tools. I am happy to announce that we will support IGES and STEP in version 2. I am personally rather disappointed that SolidWorks is not releasing the API for eDrawings on the Mac. It is so close. This would solve my, or better the users problem. I’ve asked repeatedly for it, but the answer was always “sorry, not available”. On the other hand we allow people to run HyperShot on the Windows side with the same license, as long as it is installed on the machine. So if you have SolidWorks or Pro/E installed on the Windows side, install HyperShot and the plugin (free on our website) and then import your CAD files into HyperShot and save out the .bip file. And then continue to work on the Mac side. Works great. AD: Any plans to bring HyperMove or HyperDrive to the Mac TT: Plans – yes, time frame – no. We are carefully evaluating the needs and market requirements here. AD: Have you got a feeling for any performance difference between Windows and Mac? Anything to be gained? TT: Since HyperShot is 100% CPU based you are getting identical performance on either platform in realtime. I found though that the final rendering is about 10% faster on Mac OS X compared to Windows Vista 64bit. Even though the realtime performance is identical on Windows and Mac OS X, it still “looks and feels” better on the Mac. There is just something about the Mac – it is hard to describe. AD: Is the Snow Leopard release giving you any headaches? TT: I’ve been running Snow Leopard since the day after it came out and have not experienced any problems with the current version of HyperShot. I have a few customers that are reporting some issues, so I will need to figure out what is going on. We are experiencing some unexplainable things with HyperShot ‘10 that work great under Leopard but fail under Snow Leopard. That is now our major focus until the release – make sure that everything is working flawlessly under both Leopard and Snow Leopard. Tiger, by the way, will no longer be supported. AD: I’ve heard (mostly from your competitors, I’ll admit) all manner of rumours about Bunkspeed. Do you want to clear those up and talk about the company’s performance in the last few years and how you’re doing in the market place? TT: Absolutely, Al. Bunkspeed is stronger than ever. The fact is that Bunkspeed is 100% self funded and profitable since year two of its inception (Bunkspeed was founded in 2002 by Philip Lunn, CEO of Bunkspeed). HyperShot has been incredibly successful since its introduction in June of 2007. To date we have close to 2,000 customers that are using HyperShot on a daily basis. We started out really strong in Industrial Design, and are now tapping more into Engineering, and of course marketing. We are very successful in “building the bridge” from design and engineering all the way into marketing. Despite economic downturn, our year to date revenues are up compared to last year. As companies are cutting cost, they still order more software from us to help with that process. We certainly made some internal adjustments earlier in the year to make sure we focus on areas that promise growth. We are still a small company, so we must be careful on how we spend our money and where to ensure maximum return on investment. Rumors where of course fueled by the fact that we didn’t have a presence at Siggraph this year, since we had a fairly large previous two years. We carefully evaluated the situation. Fact is that many companies cut down on “unnecessary” expenses and would not send any representatives, and trade show attendance was the first one to be cut. Also, Siggraph for us has been a branding event more so than a revenue generator. We felt that our brand has been well established in the industries we are going after – ID, Engineering, and Marketing. This was another reason for us to sit this one out. We are continuing to focus on being present at other events that cater to our markets we are going after such as user conferences and IDSA conferences (Industrial Designers Society of America). Being part of the PTC User conference this year for example opened up many doors to new accounts. As I said before, Bunkspeed is stronger than ever and poised for some serious growth. Later this week, I’m going to give you a sneak peak into what’s coming up in the next release, so stay tuned.
Published 03 September 2009
Posted by Al Dean
MTV has just launched an ‘intriguing’ looking service that might find a place in your design toolbox next time you’re working on a ‘youth oriented’* project. Called MTV Sticky, the service is a co-operation between MTV and VSBI (Viacom Brand Solutions International).
Kevin Razvi, Executive Vice President & Managing Director of Viacom Brand Solutions, MTV Networks international, explained: “MTV Sticky, and more importantly the team behind the site, know youth culture inside-out, its audience, trends and most importantly how to communicate with this highly coveted demographic on a global level.
“This new site is the best way for MTV to share its most valuable in-depth knowledge of youth culture and help the world of business and brands both understand youth and their cultures and gain an insight into how to connect and engage with young people – often easier said than done. I’m delighted with how the site is looking, there is nothing quite like it in the market right now.
“Our commitment to MTV Sticky is an essential investment. It has never been more important for brands to reach out and connect with their target youth audience in exactly the right way and we stand firm in our belief that our knowledge and insight is second to none.”
What can you find? The site’s slick, breaks things down into categories (web, behaviour, culture, gaming etc etc), then provides you with a quick article, thinking point or video. The research was conducted with 50,000+ 16 to 34-year-olds over an 18 month period, so you’re getting a good spread, in terms of statistical relevance, current thinking and a global point of view.
And of course, it’s MTV: so expect volume (that’s a good thing by the way) and it also gives me a chance to post a link to a Scratch Pervert’s video discussed on the site.
*I’m also aware that using the term Youth Oriented means I’m getting old.
Published 03 September 2009
Posted by Al Dean
Bit late with this, but I’ve just been working on the full review of CFdesign for the next issue of DEVELOP3D, but I thought now would be as good of a time as any to put together a few thoughts on the latest release of CFdesign and get them out there.
The Blue Ridge Numerics guys have always gone great guns for CAD integrated Computational Fluid Dynamics and simulation but they’ve excelled themselves with this release. What’s new? the answer is not a massive amount. The question should be, what can you do more efficiently? And the answer to that is a LOT.
What the 2010 release is all about is two things. Firstly, giving you the tools to conduct multiple design studies within a single file and a single dataset. That’s not particularly unique, but it’s new to CFdesign (you could accomplish similar using workarounds in previous releases). The tools now available mean you can set-up multiple studies, reuse settings, meshes, model set-ups, then use that as the basis for multiple studies, whether you’re changing geometry, playing with part positions, whether you’re playing with multiple heat or fluid settings. It really doesn’t matter. The system let’s you contain and interact with everything relating to a project in a single place. THat’s going to save you a lot of time hunting around for information you ‘just had’.
The second part is the ability to work with that mass of data, conduct comparisons, to create output from it, whether’s the usual vector plots or more standard (and usually more useful) charts. The new Design Center gives you tools to load up multiple results sets, display and synchronise common datasets and use the results to make design decisions – which is what it’s all about.
Other updates include new tools for handling data shifting between CFdesign and your workhourse CAD system (it works with the majority of major systems… and some smaller ones), tools to quickly create volume models for exterior flow problems (using push/pull modelling tools) to name but a few.
We’ll have the full run down in a little while but in the mean time, and as ever, CFdesign’s Product Manager, Derrek Cooper’s been hot on the case and given us a video tour of what’s new. Check it below.
And if that’s not enough, with a review in October, with Greg’s look at how Blue Ridge are taking advantage of hardware advances for increasing simulation efficiency (which HAS to be read) in the September issue, I don’t know what is.
Published 02 September 2009
Posted by Al Dean
Despite what the internet brings us in terms of informational overload (seriously – how much stuff IS there out there?), sometimes it’s nice to sit back and look at something offline, something tangible, so here’s our first in a monthly breakdown of some books that have been hanging around the office that we thought you might like to have a butchers at.
Written by DEVELOP3D contributor, Wasim Younis (who’s a well known trainer for Inventor users), this hefty tome gives you a kick start into the simulation tools now available within Inventor. It steps the reader through the fundamental theory that underlies the use of this type of technology, how to take your 3D assembly models and ensure that they’re constrained in a manner appropriate for simulation and into ensuring your studies are correctly defined. Split into two parts, the book first deals with using the Inventor Simulation tools for dynamic simulation of moving assemblies, then moves into structural analysis in the second.
Through a series of examples and tutorials, you’re guided through the workings of the system, options and variables and of course, has a healthy dose of guidance to assist with that all important work of evaluating your results and using the visualisation tools available to document them and decisions made using them as the basis. What’s most useful is that, unlike many other software manuals and tutorial guides, the book is presented in full colour, which is particularly critical for simulation results interpretation and has downloadable tutorial files from the companion web-site, saving you hunting around for the inevitably lost CD. Available from all good outlets, but we suggest the publishers.
There’s also been an interview with Wasim posted on Youtube by the Folks at Autodesk, so have a peep to see what he’s got to say.
Designers and engineers are a curious bunch, so anyone presenting 50 examples of how all manner of products, from big names in design, such as Ron Arad through Yves Behar’s Jawbone bluetooth headset and One Laptop Per Child project and a myriad of chair and lighting designs. Each is detailed from conceptualisation sketches, through design refinement, prototyping, and, for me, the really interesting part, actual production of these designs. Manufacturing holds a special place as a vague black art in many cases and it’s often that while you may use a product, day in, day out, you’re never entirely aware of how its manufactured and brought to market.
With Process, Jennifer Hudson opens the black box and shows you the internal workings of the design to production process, each stage detailed and discussed. While the content is unashamedly focussed on the high-end of the design market, for me, the value in reading through this 240 odd page book, is finding inspiration and perhaps a new manufacturing process that you hadn’t considered for a project you’re considering. And as such, provides incredible value.
While not immediately attuned to the design and engineering needs of the typical designer or engineer, facts are that designers and engineers engage in all manner of projects, often things outside of their expertise – packaging design being on of them. Throw a bunch of engineers and designers in a room, with a pile of packaging and they’ll be intrigued by how these things are made and constructed. There’s something of the Rubix Cube about good structural packaging design that is addictive, often I’ll find myself more interested in the packaging than the contents.
Scott Boylston’s book introduces the core concepts of packaging design, how packaging is developed to assist with both storage and enhancing sales and brand recognition, through steps into today’s (and probably the next decade or two’s) hot topic, sustainability. While there’s a certain perverseness in talking packaging and sustainability, this book shows, through discussion, interviews and examples, that environmental and social needs can be rationalised against the need to promote a product.
The last section of the book gives tutorials which involved getting out the Xacto knife and cutting matt and diving in to see what can be done and how both assembly and disassembly can effect the ’sustainable’ values of packaging. Even if you’re not involved directly in graphic design or structural packaging design, you’ll find much of value in here, particularly the sections on how to approach sustainability and how to refocus your thinking, that can be applied to much more than boxes and containers.
And finally, one from the archives. As someone that’s recently got back into cycling as a mean to work off the spread of my rapidly approach 40s, this is something that takes me back to college, working on my master thesis on a modular suspension system for a recumbent bike (oh, the folly of youth). If you’re a mechanically minded designer or engineer, this book is The Bible if that goes with an interesting in all things human powered and two wheeled. A fantastic read for the history of the humble bicycle and a fantastic reference if you’re thinking about designing anything vaguely associated with it. Available from the MIT press.
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