keyshot 8

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W e’ve watched with in­ter­est how Keyshot has evolved since first look­ing at ver­sion 3 back in 2012. Ver­sion 8 rep­re­sents one of the big­gest up­dates in its his­tory, bring­ing a range of new tools, ma­te­ri­als and shaders to make your ren­ders more var­ied and more re­al­is­tic than ever.

The key fea­ture for 3D gen­er­al­ists will be the new ge­om­e­try node types, which add Dis­place­ment, Flakes and Bub­bles. Dis­place­ment works sim­i­larly to most ren­der­ers, us­ing a greyscale tex­ture to gen­er­ate sur­face de­tail that would be dif­fi­cult to model or sculpt. Keyshot’s im­ple­men­ta­tion is ex­cel­lent, pro­duc­ing re­ally fine lev­els of dis­place­ment. It’s not in­stant – there’s a bit of cal­cu­la­tion time while Keyshot gen­er­ates the nec­es­sary ge­om­e­try, but once done, there’s seem­ingly no real hit on nav­i­ga­tion or ren­der times.

To use the Flakes node, ideally you should du­pli­cate your mesh then ap­ply the ge­om­e­try node to one, and a trans­par­ent ma­te­rial to the other. This lets you cre­ate glass or plas­tics with sparkling metal flakes or spher­i­cal beads in­side. The Bub­bles node works with a sin­gle ma­te­rial to add re­al­is­tic bub­bles, which is ideal for mak­ing fizzy drinks, clear gels, that kind of thing. You can, of course, use these nodes on their own for strange and dra­matic re­sults, such as a mesh made en­tirely of flakes or tiny spheres.

An­other im­por­tant ad­di­tion is the Scat­ter­ing Medium, which can be used for ren­der­ing smoke and fog, and works nicely with the new Spot­light to cre­ate vis­i­ble light rays. You can ren­der OPENVDB files or sim­ply ap­ply it to a mesh for more ab­stract im­agery. The end re­sults are ter­rific, but the Scat­ter­ing Medium can be one of the slow­est el­e­ments to ren­der, so use it with cau­tion (or a lot of CPU cores). It’s also one of the things that make us think Keyshot would ben­e­fit from a de­nois­ing so­lu­tion, es­pe­cially with some of its new ma­te­ri­als

be­ing such ren­der hogs. The app al­ways gets you to 90-95% of the fi­nal im­age very quickly, but there’s usu­ally a wait for cer­tain ef­fects to re­solve. A de­nois­ing func­tion or adap­tive sam­pling would re­duce that fi­nal wait­ing time.

Keyshot’s handy new Cut­away fea­ture uses a Boolean func­tion to re­move sec­tions of a mesh, re­veal­ing the de­tails within. You sim­ply ap­ply the Cut­away ma­te­rial to an ob­ject, such as a cube or sphere, and have it in­ter­sect with your mesh. The sliced edges are shaded to high­light the ef­fect, and you can ex­clude spe­cific ob­jects, en­abling you to cut through a cas­ing, for ex­am­ple, and leave the gear­ing in­side in­tact. Over­all, it’s dead easy to ap­ply and the re­sults are very clean. There are a few caveats, in that it doesn’t work well with glass and ob­jects need to be solid, but it’s a re­ally use­ful func­tion and one that prod­uct de­sign­ers and en­gi­neers will love. (And it can also be used as a last­minute mod­el­ling tool in a pinch, if you need to re­move part of a model or maybe add some de­tails.)

Among the nu­mer­ous work­flow im­prove­ments, you now get built-in im­ageed­it­ing tools, with curves, tone map­ping and colour ad­just­ments. This is a sim­ple but hugely con­ve­nient fea­ture, which en­ables you to re­fine the look of your im­age – as it ren­ders – with­out end­less round-trips to an im­age editor. There’s also new multi-lay­ered op­tics, if re­al­is­tic glass is your thing, sup­port for hex colour codes, GITF/GLB ex­port, and im­prove­ments to Keyshot’s Stu­dios and Con­fig­u­ra­tor.

All in all, Keyshot 8 is a re­ally im­pres­sive up­date. Some things – such as dis­place­ment map­ping – are a bit over­due, but they’re here now and very nicely im­ple­mented, with tweaks and en­hance­ments al­ready queued up for ver­sion 8.1. It’s a shame that Keyshot’s high cost and rep­u­ta­tion as a niche ren­derer pre­vents broader adop­tion, be­cause once you try it, there’s no go­ing back. Its abil­ity to deal with multi-mil­lion-poly­gon scenes, and the sheer ease with which you can ex­per­i­ment with ma­te­ri­als and light­ing, make it a joy to use – and ac­tu­ally rather ad­dic­tive. It also helps that the end re­sults are usu­ally pretty gor­geous, too. If you’re lucky enough to use Keyshot for a liv­ing, then your job’s about to get a whole lot eas­ier.

Keyshot 8 is a huge up­date, bring­ing some­thing for ev­ery­one. It’s still pri­mar­ily a prod­uct vi­su­al­i­sa­tion tool, but these new fea­tures see it creep ever fur­ther into the realms of il­lus­tra­tion, ar­chi­tec­ture and even VFX. It’s still ex­pen­sive – es­pe­cially if you want the ‘Pro’ fea­tures – but for cur­rent own­ers this up­date is def­i­nitely worth it.


Keyshot’s ge­om­e­try node uses an im­age to dis­place a mesh sur­face. It’s noth­ing new, but it’s very well im­ple­mented and makes re­ally clean meshes

Be­low (left): the ge­om­e­try nodes can be used to cre­ate things like metal­lic flakes or bub­bles within an ex­ist­ing mesh

left: Keyshot’s not just for prod­uct shots any more. the ad­di­tion of mesh dis­place­ment opens up a world of op­por­tu­ni­ties

Be­low (right): By ap­ply­ing the Cut­away ma­te­rial to a mesh, you can re­move parts of your ob­ject and, in true en­gi­neer­ing style, have the sliced edges painted red for clar­ity

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