Rendered images update in moments

Software that greatly accelerates the production of high quality rendered images of products designed on CAD programs has been produced by Cambridge based ArtVPS. Its Shaderlight 1.0 allows designers to change colours, textures and lighting virtually instantaneous.

The aim is to allow designers to investigate the look of products more fully and not have to wait for rendering to be processed. This is a laborious process which can sometimes take hours, only for the designer to realise the colour or texture may not work.

Shaderlight is aimed at vehicle design and consumer durables and can allow them to be placed in a suitable virtual background scene. This produces the best possible images in the least amount of time, and should be very useful for product review and revision, before commitment is made to prototypes or full scale production.

Visual appearance has never been so important and is the key to success in the modern day marketplace for almost all products. Shaderlight includes two major capabilities that have not been seen before in photorealistic rendering software.

The first is the creation of images based on Voronoi cells, allowing a first impression of how a scene will look before it is rendered fully, so it can be changed quite radically without loss of time before being fully refined. The second is the use of what the ArtVPS chief technology officer, Michael Lawson, described as, 'Intelligent pixels'.

He says: "These relate to the 3D world in terms of materials and lighting. If you change their properties, they automatically update."

According to Lawson, "the development came about because rendering as a whole has been something of an arms race, but nobody asks the artists what they want. So we did.
"Even when the render has finished, we can still make changes."

A rendering of a BMW car in an outdoor setting can have its seat fabric changed instantly, and that takes into the account the fact that the relevant pixels were behind glass windows.
"This is possible because every pixel knows its relationship to every other 3D object, so if an object is changed so are all its reflections, Lawson explains."

At the present time, the software is able to render models imported from Autodesk 3ds Max.
"We are also planning to work with other CAD programs but we haven't finalized which just yet," says Lawson. "At present, it only makes use of computer CPUs, we have very firm plans to pursue GPUs (graphics card processing units) but using non proprietary technologies."

One of the reasons for its speed is that Shaderlight uses as much RAM as is available to the system. This does mean that less RAM slows the rendering process. But Shaderlight is still considerably faster than the competition.

Automotive, consumer product design and architectural are the initial target markets, but it is appropriate to anyone engaged in serious product design. In its present version, it is available to download from the company website for $895.

Tom Shelley

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