Is Photview 360 too Complicated for Me?

Have you ever wanted to make your Solidworks models look real? As if you made the final prototype and had some professional studio photos taken? Well, you can get close with Photoview 360. To be honest there are a lot of little nuances to this Solidworks add-in that make it less than user-friendly but you can get 90% of the way to a studio-quality photo with very little effort. That extra 10% takes a combination of trial and error and experience, but first let’s take a look at the low hanging fruit:

Screen shot in Solidworks with perspective, shadows, ambient occlusion and real-view graphics all turned on

SW Screen Shot -cropped2

Photoview 360 rendering with very little customizing

Photoview Front View Cropped

There is more we could do in PhotoView to get it to look even more realistic, but this is pretty sharp. Notice the difference in shadowing and the detail at the bottom of the bottle as you see through the transparent plastic. Also the contrast of the reflections are much better and the overall sharpness of the picture is noticeable. It all comes together to create an impression that in most cases is realistic enough even for marketing purposes. This rendering was done with very little set-up and tweaking, so if you haven’t given PhotoView a try for fear of it being too time consuming, maybe it’s worth a shot.

So let’s talk about how to get started. PhotoView 360 comes as a Solidworks add-in with Solidworks Professional and Premium. As with all add-ins, you can turn it on with the “add-ins” selection under the tools menu. With that done you’ll see the “PhotoView 360” menu selection on the standard toolbar. Go to “Options” and set the Preview render quality to “Good” and the Final render quality to “Better” or “Best”. This will make your preview generate fairly quickly and give you a high quality final render. Next, turn on the preview window (again, under “Options”). I prefer this over the integrated preview, especially if you have dual monitors. Now you can start adding different scenes and appearances and your preview window will rebuild itself to reflect the changes so you can play around and see what looks good. When you have a result you’re happy with click final render (on the PhotoView 360 menu). This can take some time so if you have a real large and complex model you may want to let it run while you have lunch, or maybe even overnight. The length of time it takes to generate is not based on RAM as you might think, but CPU’s.

Without too much effort you can get a real nice result, and once you’re comfortable with the basics you’ll probably be inclined to start playing around with more of the options and settings. At that point the hardest part is knowing where to go to find settings that will affect your output. In addition to the “PhotoView 360- Options” menu, the other place to spend some time is in the Solidworks Display Manager tab:

Display Manager Tab- Appearances

Display Manager1

Display Manager Tab- Decals

Display Manager2

Display Manager Tab- Scenes, Lights and Cameras

Display Manager3

Here you can play around and experiment with a number of settings. For example, edit your appearances and change the illumination and surface finish settings. Add new lights to create a different effect. Adding a custom camera gives you options like “Depth of field” which lets you focus the camera on a specific point on the model:

Depth Of Field

Example of “Depth of field”

Start simple if time is limited, and the more you do it the better you’ll get! Here’s a little cheaters guide to help you keep moving in the right direction as you play around with the options and settings:

  • If arced edges are jagged instead of smooth: in Solidworks go to Tools- Options- Document Properties- Image Quality and drag the bar to the right. This Image Quality setting DOES affect your PhotoView renderings!
  • In PhotoView 360- Options:
    • “Gamma” changes the overall brightness- you generally want to stay between 1 and 2
    • “Bloom” is for a blurred effect of lighting as if your model itself is glowing
    • “Direct caustics” can be used for translucent materials
  • Display Manager tab- edit the appearance and click “Advanced”
    • On Surface Finish tab, “Bump mapping” should be used for cloth or fabric
    • On Illumination tab you can control reflections
    • On Illumination tab, “Index of refraction” will give different effects on transparent materials
  • Display Manager tab- edit the scene
    • On Advanced tab you can rotate the environment to get a different result from your shadows and reflections
    • On the Illumination tab you can change the overall brightness of the scene

I think a lot of people don’t ever get started with PhotoView because it can be intimidating. Remember, you don’t have to know everything right away. Schedule yourself an hour to just start playing with it and keep it simple. The rest will come in time!