Upgrading from PhotoWorks for Product / Interior Designer

Hi all,

Our company is mainly in product and interior design business. We design and develop retail units along side with interior layouts for cafes and restaurants. SolidWorks in combination with PhotoWorks is our main 3D and rendering packages, which suits us well for both products and interiors designs. However, as you can imagine, the time has come to move on from PhotoWorks as its discontinued in latest versions of SW and its quality is no longer acceptable.

I want to know which software would be the most logical upgrade from PhotoWorks; bare in mind the following issues.

1. Compatibility: PhotoWorks works well as it uses native SW files without a need to re-save in STL, IGES etc. formats. It offers advantages when comes to making changes to original models, as there is no need to re-apply all the materials, colours and decals to the model every time after changes are made.

2. Ability to Apply Different Materials to Individual Surfaces in a Single Part Files: Lets say if I have a model of a room and for me to render it correctly I would need to apply different textures for walls, floor and ceiling. The last time we’ve looked into Keyshot and PhotoView 360 there wasn’t an option to apply different material parameters to different surfaces in a single part SW files. Anyway, I think Keyshot and PhotoView 360 are no go for interior design renderings, as its very problematic to set up extra lights for renderings inside a closed space (e.g. room). Please let me know if I am wrong here.

Personally, I have some past experience with V-Ray and 3D AutoCAD models. There was great compatibility (you could alter original AutoCAD model without a need to re-apply all ready assigned materials in V-Ray.) Also, it worked well as in V-Ray you could apply materials to individual surfaces. I am not sure if similar can be achieved between SW and V-Ray.

Also, remember that interior design is only a part of our business we still develop allot of retail units which is more industrial/Product design and SW works well there.

In conclusion I should say that we are open to options to change to a different 3D package from SW if needs be. However as you can imagine this option is not favorable as it would put allot of stress on the company.

Your opinions are very welcomed, thank you all in advance!

If ease of use is more important that pure photorealism, I would try Keyshot again for a few reasons:

You can apply different materials, but you need to have an understanding of how to “Break up” your surfaces or model parts before importing. There are a bunch of different settings for how you control this, but usually the easiest way is to apply a unique material in SW before exporting. You can also import SLDPRT files and assemblies directly.

Keyshot also now allows you to set up both emissive (light) materials and physical light objects so there is a lot more control than there would have been previously.

Since Vray is just a rendering engine you’d need to decide what plugin or sister application you’d want to use to get your models into the engine. Vray is a great engine for interior work and is quite popular, but there are a lot more levers to pull which means the learning curve is higher. If you’ve already used it though then that may be your best bet.

Maxwell render is also a really powerful rendering engine and I’ve seen some awesome interior shots with it, but it too has a fairly steep learning curve.

In terms of a “sensible” recommendation, I would say modo, without a doubt. Even has a SW interoperability kit. Photoview was, in fact, based on licensed modo technology, but modo is vastly more capable. Plus, you’d get the added benefit of modo modeling tools.

However, if there were no practicality constraints, and you were feeling adventurous, I’d recommend Maxwell. The quality is essentially unmatched and the “setup” is much more like a photo shoot than most other renderers.

I would highly suggest staying away from keyshot if you need to do large environments. It works wonders when doing smaller ‘studio’ product renderings and placing objects into a matte painting, but really lacks when you get into full environments. Dont get me wrong, it can do the job, but if you are looking for true photo realism I would look at other options. IMO, it does not calculate global illumination (especially the secondary bounces) in large volumes as well as it should to be a big player in archvis.

The standard in archvis seems to be vray/3ds max. I also work next to a guy that uses modo and loves it. We have had the ability to handle most files, but an advanced importer such as N Power has allowed us to use CAD data in the renders and turn out nice. Many times AutoCAD will output geometry that is unusable for photorealistic situations.

In terms of applying different materials, all you need to do with vray is assign a matID to each ‘surface’ (poly) and create a multi-sub object. Pretty simple.

Let’s just preface thing with saying that a “perfect” solution doesn’t exist with what you’re describing. There are going to be many Pros and Cons no matter which direction you go. I’d also like to ask one question first before getting started. You say Photoworks which says to me that your company is on a version of Solidworks prior to 2009. If that is the case then I think you might really want to take a look at upgrading to 2014 if only because you might want to see what Photoview 360’s capability are. There is a lot that can be done in PV360 that Photoworks could never touch.

Now with that said…

Without a doubt there’s no better combo out there right now than Solidworks and Modo. Once you get the workflow down it’s like butter. You get the best of both worlds from an engineering and assembly standpoint and you get hands down one of the best rendering packages that can also do sick organic 3D modeling in.

There are several routes to go to and from SW to Modo and back, as long as you don’t mind losing the history. And they are as follows:

  1. Apply all textures and materials in SW and open it in Modo and render. This method is quick fast and easy but will take some tweaking of the settings for environments etc. Materials brought in from SW are made by the Modo people so are completely adjustable. The “naming” structure is where things really get thrown off and aren’t really fully integrated in the way that they are written in SW.

  2. Using the “Solidworks Kit” allows for a much more streamlined way of using both programs. It allows for an organized way for materials to be named and the interface can be made to be simpler.

In either of the two above instances the geometry that comes into Modo from SW or Rhino etc will not be subD and therefore not as easy to change forms designs in Modo.

  1. Cadloader: This plug in solves the issue of converting from NURBS/CAD data to SubD Quads in a way that makes it easy to digest. This method is used mainly if you want to continue creating designs in ways that would be “challenging” in try and do in SW or even Rhino.

The materials system in Modo works very much like Photoshop in the way that materials can be blended and layered into each other.

Last thing I’ll say is price point. Compare one seat of Keyshot vs Modo…

Hi guys,

Thanks for everyone who replied so far.

It seems that MODO is worth investigating, as it’s getting some good reviews here. I haven’t used MODO before myself, but will try it out over the weekend.

I hope that SolidWorks Kit plug-in would allow me to refresh/re-link/update SW models inside MODO, keeping all ready applied materials intact if changes are made to original SW model; e.g. create model in SW, load model into MODO, tweak/apply materials and decals, comeback to SW to make changes to original model, reload revised model in MODO and all ready applied materials should all stay on the model. I hope I can achieve this with SlidWorks Kit. We never can get the files exactly correct first time round in our company. Also, based on the reviews here the quality of rendering should be of high standard.

Regarding the Keyshot, I’ll try the latest 4th edition as well, but I still think that the whole process would be problematic for interior renderings.

Again, as stated above, you’re going to have to choose what you want as there is no perfect solution as you’ve described it.

Take a look at it from a general point of view. Make a box add some material to it and then bring into external program for whatever down stream application…rendering, animation, modeling…etc. In this new external program make changes, tweaks, whatever is needed. Now go back to Solidworks and add fillets, holes, and then use the Flex feature to twist it. And what you’re asking for is that everything in the external program will recognize all of those new changes, implement them, and then keep the edits you originally made in said external program? This doesn’t exist anywhere…

Keyshot does have live liking to your SW model but really take that with a grain of salt. Modo doesn’t have live updates and in someways would add a layer of file management that quite frankly most designers don’t do a great job of just staying native in SW. Think about it, if you move, delete, alter the name the original file which the external program is pointing at then auto updates is all but blow out the water.

While yes in an ideal world it’d be nice to have your cake and eat it too, you make have to alter your expectations vs reality to achieve what’s needed for the end goal. With what you’ve described as your end goal, these 3D software/rendering programs have become new tools to work with. Keyshot is a great program but Modo blows the doors off when compared side by side especially when complex interiors is something that’s needed.

My question is why would you go away from photoworks…

You will most definitely be adding time when utilizing 2 packages? I use to do large scale store environments and single products in Photo works.

So again I would ask why. That will dictate the what to use. (also are you not using a current version of SW as 2011 allows you to do exactly what you are describing in your 2nd point. Perhaps instead of changing software perhaps some training in the package is needed.)

So much pain just thinking about this…

Yeah I looked on Keyshots site, their interior shots are particularly weak. So while it might make up in ease of use it definitely won’t have the quality that Modo (or any full up rendering engine out of Max, Maya, etc) will.

I would love to hear the problems you had, for what i was doing the assembly tools and mate tools in SW helped me to do the fixture layout in no time at all. Especially with the fact that all the fixtures where created in SW.

I use Maxwell for everything- the results are amazing for interiors, but to properly map textures I need to export from Solidworks into their Studio application. Not a big deal once you’re used to using it though. Really big hi res scenes I send to a render farm to get them done quickly. Even on an 8 core workstation Maxwell is pretty slow.

@chevisw: Lighting Interiors in PV360 is “tough” at times with a limit of what like 8-10 light sources. So then you’re relying on emissive materials and HDR to take care of the rest and that’s just sometimes more challenging than it’s worth.

To your point about just staying in PV360, it was one of the first things I asked Sheremetiev88 and my only conclusion is that since calling it photoworks and photoview could mean that they are on something prior to SW 2009 which means that they only have photoworks and that only compounds the situation.

Ahh makes sense. I switched from PW360 to Modo, but now use both SW 2013 and Modo dependant on the job.

Back in the day PW360 was great when i would do a rendering of a stand alone POP display or fixture, but would then jump to SW for the large environments. As for lights extrude a tube and apply a material with luminescent properties… then group, and then use as lights in the ceilings… no 'spotlights needed…

I have never tried Modo but its interior shots look amazing. Product shots pretty good too. It’s a little more expensive than Keyshot but if you’re doing interior work it’s an easy decision. I wonder if Modo can work well with large filesizes. I’ve worked with interior files for entire environments with an import STEP file size of 3 Gb, and it took a while to load but Keyshot handled it quite well. Rendering out a good looking interior scene in Keyshot is painfully limiting and can take forever getting all parameters right. I would actually say that rendering interiors is Keyshot’s main weakness. It seems to have improved a bit with version 4 since you can add all kinds of lighting and tweak the environment more, but I doubt that it will be anything near Modo’s quality.

@chevisw: nice try but in the long run there’s no real control over shadows. Then again lighting control in SW as a whole needs some serious upgrades. i.e. truly snapping lights to geometry or target a selection much like you get with the camera.

@ralphzoontjens: price stand point key shot vs Modo. Key shot full resolution is $2,500 last I checked. Modo is $1,500 plus you get everything else AND an bag of chips. With regards to large files, it does very well and if needed, any geometry can be “lightened” at any point.

Have you taken a look at Lagoa? I think it would fit your bill. It’s cheap ($50 a month, with a free version as well), and does great interior/exterior shots. One of the nice things about it is that you can run multiple simultaneous renders at the same time with no slowdown on your local hardware, since all the rendering is done offsite.

If you can afford to fork out the money for modo, it’s an excellent piece of software (I still use it for modeling and occasionally rendering, it’s a got a great ray-tracing platform).

I’m suggesting Lagoa because I honestly think it might solve your issue, and I’d like to know what you think as a practicing designer - why or why you wouldn’t choose it for your next platform.

Here’s a blog post I did with a bunch of archviz renderings using Lagoa, if you’d like to see some examples;