Avatech Tricks: Photo Quality Renderings in Five Minutes or Less

15 Dec, 2005 By: Cathy Fast Cadalyst

Create, save and distribute rendered images easily with Inventor 10.

As design cycles shorten and more manufacturing designs are created in the 3D modeling environment, engineers and designers are realizing they can use their models for a variety of purposes -- in print media, on company Web sites, for executive presentations and as a tool to sell their designs to decision makers both inside and outside of their own company. In order to assist with this task, Autodesk has included Inventor Studio in Inventor 10, so you can showcase your designs by creating photo quality images. In Inventor Studio, Autodesk has incorporated portions of Autodesk VIZ into Inventor 10 and simplified the tools for rendering and animation to allow any Inventor user to produce quality renderings and animations quickly.

This article will focus on creating rendered images, which you can save and distribute as BMP files. In a typical scenario, a company's marketing department requests a quality photo of a new component for a winch assembly for the new product catalog. As the product is not yet in production, a photo isn't available, so the designer uses Inventor Studio to create a photo-quality rendering (figure 1).

Figure 1. The sample winch assembly for a product catalog, before rendering.

To start Inventor Studio, go to the Applications menu and choose Inventor Studio from the drop-down list (figure 2).

Figure 2. Start Inventor Studio by going to Applications menu and selecting Inventor Studio.

On the left, you now see the Inventor Studio panel with options to set such as surface styles, lighting styles, scene styles and camera locations (figure 3). You may find these terms familiar if you have used VIZ or 3DS Max previously, but they are easy to understand if you have not.

Figure 3. The Inventor Studio panel bar.

The nice thing about Inventor Studio is that you don't have to understand all the aspects of these options in order to create a rendering.

The Inventor Studio settings on the panel bar are grouped in styles. In the scene styles option (figure 4), you can choose a variety of different backgrounds for the rendering. You can select solid or gradient colors, as well as BMP file images, a Microsoft Word document or an Excel file. You can select a gradient background and adjust the color for the gradient by picking on the color icon and selecting the color. To adjust the color shade, go to Define Custom Colors and adjust the shade or pick an entirely different color from the palette (figure 5).

Figure 4. Scene Styles dialog box.

Figure 5. Adjust the color of a gradient background by select the color button on the Scene Styles dialog box.

After choosing OK, you can see how this color would look as a solid or a gradient background. Once you have decided on the shading, select OK again to close the dialog box and set this color as the background for the rendering. Next you can set your camera angles. Camera angles, though not difficult, are probably the most time-consuming aspect for the new Inventor Studio user, but if you can adjust the view you want to display in Inventor, then you can get good results by using the default camera angle.

Next you'll need to select a lighting style (figure 6). This is where the styles really help. A number of preset styles are composed of lights to emulate a specific environment. If you select Shop Lighting 24 X 24, you can see the various lights used to create that style. Again, it isn't difficult to create your own lights and lighting style, but the existing styles provide the new user with an array of choices. It is also easy to adjust to the overall light level of any lighting style by using the ambience light level slide, which adjusts the background lighting in the scene.

Figure 6. Many existing lighting styles are available.

Now that you have selected scene, camera and lighting styles, select the render image button to see how the scene looks (figure 7). Inventor Studio lets you choose the image resolution, but keep in mind, the higher the resolution, the larger the file and the longer it takes to render. 800 x 600 is a good compromise between image quality and file size.

Figure 7. Set the image resolution and camera angle, as well as the lighting and scene styles in the Render Image dialog box.

It takes just a few moments to render the image (figure 8), which you can save to a BMP file and use as you would any other digital image.

Figure 8. Rendered image of the sample winch assembly.

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