HyperShot ’10 for Mac: Part I

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This just in from DEVELOP3D’s Mac:Design sister site: I’ll make no bones about it. I love rendering. From when I started in the world of 3D-based design, I used to dig into 3d Studio when it was a DOS product and horrendous to use.

All the way through my professional career as a designer, it stayed with me and even when I moved into the world of publishing I found myself still engaged (and still do, to this day) in freelance gigs.

There’s something engaging and addictive about taking staid, boring looking CAD geometry that’s at the heart of the design process through to create photorealistic assets (be it imagery or animations) that shows the viewer exactly how that product is going to appear when manufactured.

The problem has, until very recently, been that rendering, both to set-up the scenes, materials, textures, lighting then processing that information, has a headache. to create truly photorealistic images takes time and skill to do, then, when you’ve got it about right, even with today’s ultra powerful machines, took time to process – and when you consider that creating that imagery (whether it be static images or animations) was typically a highly iterative process of set-up, test render, tweak, render again, the whole thing took more time than it should have.

This, I’m glad to say, has changed in the last year or so. There are a number of applications launched onto the market that make this process much more efficient. Progressive rendering technology, whereby you don’t have to wait for a render to complete before you get a good idea of what your project look, makes things easier. This, combined with technologies like HDR (High Dynamic Range) images that make lighting set-up much easier as well as multi-core processing workstations (progressive renderers are typically CPU driven). One of the leading lights of this movement has been Bunkspeed (www.bunkspeed.com), established a few years ago, to bring a core technology to market that enables the 3D user to create stunningly photorealistic imagery, without the headaches traditionally associated with the process and the flagship product in the company’s portfolio is HyperShot.

HyperShot was launched two years ago and has been growing in popularity amongst many industry sectors and professions since. The core concept is that you connect to your CAD data, read it in, add materials, choose an environment (based on HDR images, which contain both scene information and a greater amount of information about lighting conditions within that scene than standard images) and watch the display update to show you what you’re going to get. While it’s heavily skewed towards the number of CPUs or core you have your workstation, even on the most modest of laptops, Hypershot gives you update speeds that are close enough to real-time.

Now, while HyperShot isn’t a unique application in using this type of technology, the things I’ve always loved about it are two fold. Firstly, it’s both Windows and Mac-based and has been since the very early releases and secondly, the interface is so sparse, typically driven by keyboard shortcuts and mouse interaction, rather than complex dialogs. This makes for a very intuitive working process and if I’m honest, it get very very addictive. HyperShot’s been through a pretty rapid release cycle in the last two years and while the latest version, 1.9, has just been released, the last few months have also seen the Beta program for the next major release, HyperShot 2.0, get underway.

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HyperShot 2.0?

Image courtesy of Peter Allen, Marketing Director at UC Santa Barbara.

I first got a peak at HyperShot for Mac’s next major release at the PTC World user event last this year and saw something that took my breath away. While many organisations are looking to ‘go mac’ of late, it’s not often you find a 3D professional application that is atuned to the Mac way of things working and following the Cocoa UI guidelines closely. But this is what the Bunkspeed team has been working on and I can finally begin to lift the lid of what HyperShot 2.0, or as it’s to be called, HyperShot ’10 is going to bring to the Mac community. Before we do that, I wanted to get an insight into what Bunkspeed have planned, I got on the phone to Thomas Teger.

Thomas is the Director of Marketing and Strategic Planning at Bunkspeed (you’ll guess that from the picture, right?) and one of those people I love running into at the various events – mostly because he’s 19 feet tall and because he’s German, can enjoy a drink without disappearing off to bed at 10pm. Thomas is a CAD industry veteran, having worked at both PTC and UGS (now Siemens PLM) and was influential in bringing both NX to the Mac and driving the development of a now defunct PTC product called Pro/Concept (also Mac-based). These days, he’s one of the four provisional patent holders for HyperShot (together with Founder & CEO Philip Lunn, COO Anthony Duca, and Chief Scientist Dr. Henrik Wann Jensen), and the driving force behind any new development for HyperShot. His passion for the Mac and Apple products started in 1992 while writing his Master’s Thesis on a PowerBook 170 at BMW AG in Munich, Germany.

Al Dean: Hey Thomas. Let’s talk about HyperShot and the Mac. You’ve had a Mac native version of HyperShot pretty much since inception. Could you explain why you made that choice?

Thomas Teger: When I first saw the concepts of realtime raytracing that turned into HyperShot in early 2006 I knew that this had great potential in a number of markets. Since HyperShot breaks down the barriers of traditional raytracing, it opens up the door for many more people who would never been able to create a photographic image from 3D data. The Mac community is traditionally all about the creativity. Photographers, retouchers, marketing people – all Mac. This made it easy to decide to port HyperShot to the Mac. On top of it, HyperShot has been built on an incredible advanced, flexible, and state of the art architecture. “Porting” – if you want to call it that – to the Mac was basically “free”. When we showed the concept of HyperShot in 2006 at the IDSA international conference in Austin, TX, we had both versions running side by side. It was awesome.

AD: How does the Mac user base stack up against the windows variant?

TT: Our Mac user base is at about 10% of our entire install base and growing strongly. More and more people are converting to the Mac, now that you can have dual boot capability. Students in particular are gravitating very strongly to the Mac, but also more and more design houses. Of course you know what the major obstacle is: the support of common CAD formats on the Mac. When we came out with the Mac version of HyperShot, we only offered support for OBJ. Quite limiting, isn’t it? Today we are offering support for native Rhino and SketchUp, as well as OBJ, Collada, FBX, and 3ds.

AD: I’ve been playing with the HyperShot 2.0 Beta and the interface has been shifted to a Cocoa-based UI. It’s looking slick. How much more work have you got to do before you take 2.0 to market?

Image courtesy of Carter Hickman Design (www.carterhickmandesigns.com)

TT: Thanks, Al. We worked long and hard on developing the interface that turns HyperShot into a true Mac application that will be appreciated and embraced by all Mac users out there. As you know we have started our beta program about 4 weeks ago. We started with a small team of 10 people representing various industries. With the improvements that we made over the past few weeks we are close to being feature complete, and the app is also very stable. Some folks like Carter Hickman for example are using v2 4 hours a day to do production work. He can’t go back – you saw his comments. Same with Peter Allen from UC Santa Barbara. The biggest hurdle right now is to make sure that everything works with Snow Leopard. And then there is some more cleanup required, bug fixes and UI polish for the most part. We are close! The official name will be HyperShot ’10 to match the rest of our product line. Following the Apple lead here … iPhoto ’09, iLife ’09, iWork ’09 – you get the picture ;-).

AD: One thing that’s kind of irritating is that the Mac platform has much fewer translation options that the Windows version (predominatelty, the SolidWorks and Pro/E connectors are missing). Could you give me an explanation of why they don’t work on the mac platform?

TT: Agreed – as mentioned above this is a big reason for the adoption rate still being small is the lack of support for traditional CAD formats. We are getting many requests for support of additional file formats. IGES, STEP, and SolidWorks are the top requests, followed by the support for AliasStudio Tools. I am happy to announce that we will support IGES and STEP in version 2. I am personally rather disappointed that SolidWorks is not releasing the API for eDrawings on the Mac. It is so close. This would solve my, or better the users problem. I’ve asked repeatedly for it, but the answer was always “sorry, not available”. On the other hand we allow people to run HyperShot on the Windows side with the same license, as long as it is installed on the machine. So if you have SolidWorks or Pro/E installed on the Windows side, install HyperShot and the plugin (free on our website) and then import your CAD files into HyperShot and save out the .bip file. And then continue to work on the Mac side. Works great.

AD: Any plans to bring HyperMove or HyperDrive to the Mac

TT: Plans – yes, time frame – no. We are carefully evaluating the needs and market requirements here.

AD: Have you got a feeling for any performance difference between Windows and Mac? Anything to be gained?

TT: Since HyperShot is 100% CPU based you are getting identical performance on either platform in realtime. I found though that the final rendering is about 10% faster on Mac OS X compared to Windows Vista 64bit. Even though the realtime performance is identical on Windows and Mac OS X, it still “looks and feels” better on the Mac. There is just something about the Mac – it is hard to describe.

AD: Is the Snow Leopard release giving you any headaches?

TT: I’ve been running Snow Leopard since the day after it came out and have not experienced any problems with the current version of HyperShot. I have a few customers that are reporting some issues, so I will need to figure out what is going on. We are experiencing some unexplainable things with HyperShot ’10 that work great under Leopard but fail under Snow Leopard. That is now our major focus until the release – make sure that everything is working flawlessly under both Leopard and Snow Leopard. Tiger, by the way, will no longer be supported.

AD: I’ve heard (mostly from your competitors, I’ll admit) all manner of rumours about Bunkspeed. Do you want to clear those up and talk about the company’s performance in the last few years and how you’re doing in the market place?

TT: Absolutely, Al. Bunkspeed is stronger than ever. The fact is that Bunkspeed is 100% self funded and profitable since year two of its inception (Bunkspeed was founded in 2002 by Philip Lunn, CEO of Bunkspeed). HyperShot has been incredibly successful since its introduction in June of 2007. To date we have close to 2,000 customers that are using HyperShot on a daily basis. We started out really strong in Industrial Design, and are now tapping more into Engineering, and of course marketing. We are very successful in “building the bridge” from design and engineering all the way into marketing. Despite economic downturn, our year to date revenues are up compared to last year. As companies are cutting cost, they still order more software from us to help with that process. We certainly made some internal adjustments earlier in the year to make sure we focus on areas that promise growth. We are still a small company, so we must be careful on how we spend our money and where to ensure maximum return on investment. Rumors where of course fueled by the fact that we didn’t have a presence at Siggraph this year, since we had a fairly large previous two years. We carefully evaluated the situation. Fact is that many companies cut down on “unnecessary” expenses and would not send any representatives, and trade show attendance was the first one to be cut. Also, Siggraph for us has been a branding event more so than a revenue generator. We felt that our brand has been well established in the industries we are going after – ID, Engineering, and Marketing. This was another reason for us to sit this one out. We are continuing to focus on being present at other events that cater to our markets we are going after such as user conferences and IDSA conferences (Industrial Designers Society of America). Being part of the PTC User conference this year for example opened up many doors to new accounts. As I said before, Bunkspeed is stronger than ever and poised for some serious growth.

Later this week, I’m going to give you a sneak peak into what’s coming up in the next release, so stay tuned.