Virtual Studio+ Brings Designs to Life

11 Apr, 2006 By: Russell Brook

Photorealistic rendering and animation for Solid Edge.

Virtual Studio+, included with Solid Edge Classic, lets you render your designs quickly and accurately at any stage in your design process. By providing you with the ability to simulate a wide range of sophisticated materials, colors, textures, scenes and real lighting situations, Solid Edge Virtual Studio+ lets you create high-quality photorealistic renderings of 3D parts or assemblies quickly. You also can generate renderings with a pencil-drawn look.

Let's delve into Virtual Studio+ and learn how to use it to create realistic images from your Solid Edge 3D models.

With Solid Edge running and your 3D models open, launch Virtual Studio from the applications menu bar. In Virtual Studio+, you can create advanced renderings and create fly-through AVI files. To start Virtual Studio+, click the icon from the main toolbar.

Extensive Materials Database
When Virtual Studio+ is activated, it adds two extra tabs to your EdgeBar (figure 1). The first is used to store and edit the current scene settings. The second tab stores all the predefined materials that can be applied to individual or multiple components with a simple drag-and-drop operation. You can assign textures such as patterns, bumps, wrapped images, grids, stencils and transparencies to specific materials, along with additional user-defined control for color, reflectance, highlight, ambient light effect, roughness and diffuse light effects.

Figure 1. When activated, Virtual Studio+ adds two tabs to your EdgeBar.

Realistic Scenes
From the Predefined archives tab, you can access predefined surface colors, materials, textures and transparencies--as well as help with evaluating prototypes and make design decisions. To add a material to a component, simply select it from the EdgeBar and drag it to a part.

User's Tip: You can add materials to several parts simultaneously by selecting the parts and then, from the right mouse button menu, choose Apply to selected. To preview the results, click the Render scene button.

For maximum realism, you can place your product inside an environment consisting of four walls, a top and a base, or a cylinder with a top and a base. By applying custom images or materials to each wall of the environment, you can visualize exactly what the product will look like in the situation in which it will be used, including the effects of lights, reflections and shadows. To apply a scene, select the scenery branch from the predefined archive tab, choose a scene and drag and drop it onto the modeling space (figure 2, step 1). To render the scene, click on the render scene button (figure 2, step 2).

Figure 2. To more easily visualize your design, you can place the object in an environment consisting of four walls or a cylinder with materials assigned.

To complete your scene, choose from many interior, exterior and colored light options. You can set the ambient lighting value, simulate the effects for natural sunlight and add point, spot or distant lighting. You can position spot and point lights anywhere in the scene, and you can control the intensity and luminescence drop-off. The target and illumination cone from the spot light can also be adjusted.

To set up a spot light (there are other types such a ambient, point, spot, or sun light), select Lighting Studio Branch from the Session Entities tab, click with the right mouse button and select Add (figure 3). You can edit the light properties by selecting Edit Definition. To graphically reposition the lights, select the Placement tab, and click and drag the positioning handles around the light to choose a new position (figure 3).

Figure 3. To reposition lights in Virtual Studio+, just click and drag the positioning handles around the light.

For more photorealism, you can control many different effects to fine-tune your images:

  • Add transparent or semi-transparent material shadows, such as when light passes through a glass.
  • Apply anti-aliasing for crisper images.
  • Adjust radiosity to control the effects of indirect lighting.
  • Add depth queue fading to simulate the effect of depth of field, with the image fading to a set color.
  • Add light scattering to show light rays reflecting off dust or smoke in a room.

Early Concept Reviews
Solid Edge Virtual Studio+ lets you create images that are appropriate for the many different stages of the design process. You can now easily create impressionistic and stylized images for early stage visualization and concept reviews. You can generate a variety of expressionistic effects that make the image appear as if it were done by hand. Several artistic render modes are available, including cartoon and hand drawn. To adjust the render type, right click on the Render Editor from the EdgeBar, select Edit Definition (figure 4), and choose a different type of render mode. Experiment with all the render types and settings to see which will work best for you. A live preview shows you the finished result.

Figure 4. The software offers new tools to make your visualizations look hand drawn and more conceptual.

Animated Fly-Through
Solid Edge Virtual Studio+ extends Solid Edge's fly-through capabilities, so you can create animated views of your product designs. Presenting a product idea using animated video is a powerful addition to any design review, as well as for promotional materials. Select the flight path wizard from the main toolbar and then choose the settings from the three-step wizard. The timeline and playback dialog is used to play the animation and edit and insert key frames to adjust output. It's also used to save your animation or create a new flight path.

By interactively exploring various lighting conditions and viewing the product from different positions, you can get immediate, realistic feedback about what the final product will look like. And, of course, with the work being done upfront, it's easy to create high-quality images for marketing and presentation purposes.

See you On the Edge next month.

About the Author: Russell Brook

Russell Brook

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