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Alias unveils the latest version of its high-end industrial design and visualization tool
|Two halves of a symmetrical sketch. Image courtesty of Alias|
Alias Product Manager Paul Dyck and Industrial Design Methodologist Gregory Fowler demonstrated an array of impressive new features in StudioTools 13 at a recent press meeting in San Francisco. Along with new tools are a variety of workflow and interface improvements. ?We want to make new users productive more quickly, and we want to make existing users that are pretty good at it more productive, said Dyck. ?We want to occupy less of their brain if you will, and enable them to concentrate more on design and less on figuring out the product.
Aimed at industrial designers and visualization professionals, StudioTools is actually a family of four products with features tailored for different design pursuits. Each variation shares a common interface, with specialized tools added. The product family consists of DesignStudio, for ideation and content design; Studio, for taking a project from concept through final production; SurfaceStudio, which includes a high-level modeler for going from concept through Class A surface design; and AutoStudio, tailored for automotive designers with a workflow from sketches through Class A surfacing, plus tools for dealing with scanned data.
One of the highlights of StudioTools 13 is Interactive Visualization, which permits extremely high quality previews of projects on the computer screen. Another addition is Dynamic Shape Modeling, which gives designers the ability to make changes to practically finishing model quickly, without reconstructing it. Other new features include Sketch Modeling of 2D objects in 3D space, and Symmetric Sketching for updating both sides of an object as one side is drawn.
Interactive visualization involves a range of processes that can be used to create a review-ready display of an image on a designers computer screen without the need for software rendering. Elements that can be applied include per-pixel shading, ambient occlusion, procedural textures and bump-mapping. There are drag-and-drop shaders, plus light source presets, such as warm/cold and contrast, and different reflection environments. Shadows can be set to update as a model is rotated onscreen with the application of a ground plane shadowing process.
|Close up of screen capture of interactive visualization of a hardware shaded model with per-pixel shading, ambient occlusion, procedural textures. Subtle, yet effective realism achieved by bump-mapped display text and the shadowing under the hands (ambient occlusion). Image courtesy of Alias|
The new per-pixel mode offers a hyper-real display, and joins StudioTools traditional per-vertex shading. Either one can be used, depending on the quality desired. The per-vertex shader is best for quicker or less resource-intensive previews. Per-pixel mode renders out every pixel on the screen, calculating information at more points for an incredibly accurate representation.
?The per pixel mode is actually taking advantage of a lot of recent advancements in graphics card technology, so were tied closely with the graphics card developers on this, said Fowler. ?But what its allowed us to do is take a lot of the features like bump mapping from the software rendering and migrate it into the hardware rendering.
Tied to a computers screen resolution, per-pixel mode can display hyper-realistic images up to 6000 x 6000 pixels. Among its benefits is that clients presentations can be made directly from a computer, without the need for software rendering.
?This helps in understanding and communicating design, and in helping designers prepare for reviews, said Dyck. ?Instead of rendering, they can just do a screen grab. If the quality is high enough, they can just grab an image off the screen and use that. Or, we could even go into full screen mode. A lot of people run design reviews out of Studio Tools, and just run the model interactively.