With the release of KeyShot 6 there is no doubt that Luxion have made major improvements on their previous releases. In the past, KeyShot has been known for specializing in the product and character visualization market. This is clear from much of the gallery on their website. Let's see whether they've improved their offering in that market, and whether they have the tools to break out more broadly.
"It really enables you to focus on creating a piece of art rather than getting bogged down with technical details and having to wait ages for test renders to complete"
One of the main selling points of KeyShot is its speed. It can render complex scenes and shaders on the fly with any unpleasant noise being removed rapidly. Version 6 is no different and it'll please artists. The two main elements set up in KeyShot are the materials and lighting, and Luxion have improved them both. There are new material presets and even new materials types such as translucent, plastic, dielectric, and gem. This continual commitment to providing photo-realistic materials that render quickly is a dream come true for an artist. It really enables you to focus on creating a piece of art rather than getting bogged down with technical details and having to wait ages for test renders to complete.
To help with material creation, KeyShot have also introduced their very own Material Graph. This opens in a separate window and displays all the materials, textures, labels ¬– and more – as nodes in a graph view. This is very similar in essence to other node-based material editors such as 3ds Max's slate editor. It enables artists to quickly set up connections and relationships within complex materials.
"These presets let the artist focus on what's important. You can tell KeyShot what you want and it'll make sure the settings are correct"
With materials aside, KeyShot have introduced more of their lighting presets and modes. There is now a bespoke Interior lighting mode and it contains lots of pre-configured settings for six different light modes including Performance, Basic, Product, Interior, Full Simulation and Custom. Once again, these presets let the artist focus on what's important. You can tell KeyShot what you want and it'll make sure the settings are correct.
There are many other improvements to this version of KeyShot, but I think that based on the improvements to the materials and the lighting alone it'd be worth an upgrade.
Now let's tackle the question of whether it's worth switching from another renderer like V-Ray or mental ray. Let's take a look at some of the new features and then we can make a call on this very important question.
If you're involved in the creation of stills then you'll enjoy their multi-layered PSD export, and their new shift lens which allows for vertical alignment. A secondary camera can also be used for easier positioning of physical lights in your scene.
If on the other hand you create videos then you'll love the fact that animations can be played back at a true 1:1 speed. You can also set up camera path animations and even animate the depth of field to control where your viewer is focusing.
If you want a responsive renderer that makes setting up photo-realistic materials a breeze then KeyShot is definitely worth considering. For me though, I would still only use it for smaller more containable scenes such as products and characters. Other renderers such as V-Ray and mental ray provide a much more extensive set of features and tools as well as increased realism. They are therefore for the near future likely to be the renderers of choice for many 3D artists. That is obviously not to mention other excellent renderers which are continuing to surge into these markets such as Corona.
With all that being said, it's a strong release and it's a good step forward. I can't help thinking though that for a very similar price you can purchase V-Ray with all its bells and whistles. Only you can make the choice based on your set of circumstances and you may well find that KeyShot is exactly what you need and if that's you, let me congratulate Luxion for creating the software that you need.
Score (out of 5): 3
KeyShot HD = $995
KeyShot Pro = $1,995
KeyShot Pro Floating = $2,995
KeyShot Enterprise = $3,995
KeyShot HD for Education = $95
KeyShot Labpack for Education – Floating = $1,495
Easy, Fast, Accurate, CPU-Powered, Tight Integration, Large Data Handling
• Minimum 2GB of RAM
• Minimum 2GB hard disk space
• 3 button mouse
• Monitor resolution of 1024 X 768 or greater
• Any graphics card
• Internet connection for product activation