An Extra Set of Hands – Visualize Professional

Tips on creating videos with motion blur can be found here in this article. You will need Visualize Professional for these options.

I’ve heard it said that SOLIDWORKS Visualize Professional is like adding another member to your team. And I agree. If you look at some of the efficiency tools that Visualize Professional brings to the table, there’s no question it’s here to save you time. Tools such as configurations and batch rendering can save enormous amounts of effort when they are needed. So much so, that I’ve always thought that Visualize Professional is one of the best bang-for-buck products in our lineup. Like a good employee, you can have a quick meeting to point it in the right direction and let it do it’s thing. For example, I grabbed the Visualize file for this project, set a camera, made 5 different color configurations, and sent them all out to get rendered in 10 mins. You can’t beat that kind of efficiency! (If you’re wondering how I did the motion blur on the blades, that’s another great bit of functionality in Visualize Pro. Learn how to do it here!)

A quick setup in Visualize, Render All Configurations, and blended together in a GIF using Camtasia.

However, if you don’t have a batch of renderings to do, a multitude of camera angles, or a load of colorways, what else can it do for you? Can it still be helpful when you’re off doing other things? That’s what I set out to determine.

A little while back, I was completely swamped with work. If you’ve ever called in looking for me, you know that I’m usually up to something but at this point I was even busier than usual. It occurred to me that this was a perfect time to add something else to my plate! Call me a masochist if you must, but I’m out here in search of the truth for you folks.

My concept was simple:

  1. Spend very little time or mental effort setting up animations at the end of the work day.
  2. Let them render overnight.
  3. Hopefully assemble them into something useful at the end.

Without question, one of the main deterrents of rendering animations is the time it takes to do so. With animations running at 30 frames per second on average, that means that 30 renderings have to be created for EVERY SECOND of final footage. That math turns into a mountain fairly quickly that some people aren’t willing to climb. But a shift in my thinking really cut that mountain down to a mole hill.

That shift was that any evening that I didn’t render something, I COULD have. That means that if I had a few mins to set something up, I could be quite a bit farther by the next morning with very little effort. If I’m not happy with it when I come back the next morning… so what?! I was guaranteed to have nothing if I didn’t render anything.

So, I started setting up renderings that came to me and kicking them off in the evenings. Some came out alright, some didn’t. Ultimately, I felt like I had only something to gain and nothing to lose. I would estimate that I spent 15 mins per set up on average once I got my main scene done. Most set ups were pretty basic, but you always end up fiddling with something. As I made one, an idea for another would come. Some setups were more complex than others but even that led to more opportunities to let Visualize Professional help me out. Check the breakdown at the bottom of the blog for more information on that.

After a week or two of sporadic rendering here and there, I dropped it for a while. But when I came back, I had a pile of media that was ready to be used! I spent half a day or so to find some music and figure out how I could put them together into a sample "promo-style" video for the fictional company "Flyblade" I had created for my original project "The Process". The edit itself felt like the most I worked on the entire project! See how it turned out here and let me know what you think:

Could this have turned out better if it had my full attention? Almost certainly.

Would I have gotten it done at all if I had tried to wait for the time to do it? Almost certainly not.

Am I happy with the result for a seemingly miniscule amount of effort? You bet!

Does this mean that every animation project from now on will be a snap? Of course not! Planning and executing a specific animation can take a lot of thought and effort. But I do believe it means that Visualize Professional is there to help you capitalize when the time comes. Worst case scenario, you spent a few minutes practicing your animation techniques. Best case scenario, you end up with some great product media that cost you nearly nothing to make! It’s a win-win. I’ll chalk another one in the "W" column for Visualize Professional.

In the meantime, if you want to learn more about Visualize Professional, you’re in luck! Visualize is one of our favorite products to train (and don’t forget we offer online course attendance now)! If that’s too much of a project to take on for you at the moment, give us a call! We offer visualization consulting services as well!

If you're interested in how I did it, here's the breakdown:

The Breakdown

  • 1st Shot: Static image - No drama there.
  • 2nd Shot: Blades Spin - This is easier than it looks. I used the built-in rotation animations and double clicked the animations in the timeline to adjust the number of rotations and motion easing. The I simply added a couple of camera keyframes with motion blur turned on.
  • 3rd Shot: Liftoff - This is the same shot as above with the blades already spinning. I placed a few position keyframes on the whole assembly to lift it off the pad. The mountains in the background are just a backplate. This leaves them looking noticeably flat but hey... this is a no-effort project. I wasn't about to go modeling and texturing some mountains! I probably could have found some to download or purchase to spiff this up but I decided it wasn't worth the trouble for this application.
  • 4th Shot: Overhead Fly-Away - This is again, just a variation on the previous shot. I flipped the camera overhead and added the keyframes to the assembly to rise and move off screen rather than just lift off of the pad.
  • 5th Shot: The Slow Mo - This is probably the most complex shot of the bunch. That being said, the setup is still pretty straightforward. I simply kept the blade animations from previous shots and added in some translation animations. This small exploded view was created directly in Visualize rather than pushing it from SOLIDWORKS just due to the convenience of already having the animation started. Since I had no concept of how these were all going to fit together, I rendered the whole clip at 60 frames per second. This would give the flexibility to slow it down at any point but also means that twice as much rendering needed to be done. Luckily, Visualize stayed up to keep working while I went to sleep. In the morning, I had another clip done. This is the only shot with any real post processing done on it after Visualize. I time-remapped it using Adobe Premiere Pro to get the slow-down and speed-up I was looking for. The orange flashing of the components was done by simply exporting the whole animation again from Visualize using "object" instead of rendering out the beauty shots. This is a very quick process and creates a convenient mask that follows the components wherever they go. I used this to overlay the flashing texture. I composited this all in Adobe After Effects and quickly made up the callouts and the shade on the left hand side of the screen there as well.
  • 6th Shot: Shadow Sweep - This is also an incredibly simple setup. I key framed the camera and I keyframed the rotation of the environment and hit render!
  • 7th Shot: Light Sweep - This is the same concept as the previous shot. I isolated the quad and moved to the front view. I can think of a few ways this could be done, rotate a custom HDR made within HDR Light Studio, Add a light in Visualize Pro and move that, add an emissive solid and move that. In this case, I did this with an emissive solid that I moved around the model with the HDR turned all the way down. I have no particular reason for doing it this way, it's just the way I did it at the time. I think any of those options would be plausible in this scenario.

And that's it! It may sound complicated on paper, but if you look at the actual animation work for any one of the shots... there is barely anything to it. A handful of keyframes is all it required for any one of those shots. The only shot I did anything to in post, other than some mild color correction, was the slow motion shot which I had a specific idea for. Everything else was straight out of Visualize!

See What Rendering Can Do For You.