27 May 2012
Clive Davies: ASCON is proving to be the ideal partner for Lightwork Design
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Lightwork Design is the world’s leading supplier of rendering solutions for advanced 3D Computer Graphics software developers. Established in 1989, Lightwork Design has continually developed Lightworks to provide customers with innovative and market-focused solutions for the creation of powerful and easy to use rendering applications. The success of Lightworks is built on our expertise in rendering, combined with our unique understanding of what designers really need. Lightworks is the de facto standard for integrated rendering in advanced 3D graphics applications, and is embedded in over 80 software applications and used by more than 3 million users worldwide.
In December 2011, ASCON Group, developer and integrator of professional CAD/AEC/PLM solutions announced that the latest release of the company’s flagship product MCAD KOMPAS-3D V13 incorporates the Artisan product from Lightworks. From that time, ASCON and Lightwork Design seem to increase their cooperation, in particular organizing joint rendering contests and other. Clive Davies Business Development Director at LightWork Design is a special guest and invited speaker of the ASCON Customer Forum “White Nights”, which these days is held in the world famous Peterhof near St.Petersburg. David Levin, Editor-in-Chief of the leading Russian CAD/PLM portal isicad.ru and Founder of LEDAS.com attended the Forum and had a lucky opportunity to prepare this interview.
Clive, cooperation with ASCON is the first experience of your company on working with the Russian partners, isn’t it? Do you have plans to expand your presence in the Russian market? Indeed, apart from ASCON, there are some other CAD vendors in Russia, who apparently can be interested in solutions of high-realistic rendering. Offhand, one may note Top Systems (one of the main ASCON competitors although a much smaller company), or, say, the company BASIS, specializing in CAD for furniture production.
Our plan is to build a significantly large end-user base for Artisan. Kompas-3D represents the ideal system as a platform leading into an integrated Artisan - i.e. a large existing user-base who mainly requires decision-making' images as early in the design cycle as possible. ASCON is proving to be the ideal partner for us offering a very professional approach to selling, delivering and supporting Artisan for Kompas-3D. We will discuss with any CAD vendor the possibility of creating an Aritsan bridge.
The market of components and solutions for realistic visualization seems to be rather saturated with a quite serious competition. What are your key advantages in such competition: speed, quality, special effects, may be – price?
Speed, quality and price are all on our side! We have also devised a simple but compelling business model that makes it very attractive for a CAD vendor to promote Artisan rather than simply directing their customers to another product.
From the Artisan point of view the key, almost unique, selling points are firstly it's ease of use. It is staggeringly easy to use, not only in its drag-and-drop interface, but the fact that the item being 'dropped' is effectively a bundle of parameters that has been fine-tuned following more than 20 years of experience in implementing the underlying render engine in many of the world's CAD systems. The user has to do very little to access the full power of our Global Illumination functionality.
Secondly, our absolutely unique 'SnapShot' functionality. This enable a designer to create an unlimited number of permutations of materials, light setup, background and views which are saved independently of the model and can then be re-used automatically following a change to the model. When this is coupled to our soon-to-be-released Network Rendering technology, we think this will represent a paradigm shift in the way rendering fits into the design process. We can now imagine a designer or review team making decisions by instantly examining many renders following a design change.
In recent years, GPU is becoming increasingly popular for high-speed computing. Realistic rendering - almost ideal field for the application of such technology. Do you use it in the current solutions or may be intend to use in the near future?
The current release of Artisan does not use the GPU. We have demonstrated over many years at Siggraph and other exhibitions our use of both the GPU and the CPU from our core toolkit product Lightworks Author. Artisan uses Author of course and our plans for future releases of Artisan are to use whatever is available on the machine, or 'off' the machine of course.
Another popular trend - mobile devices. It is not bypassed the business associated with the 3D content as well. Do you plan to create solutions of high quality 3D imaging for tablets?
Yes. The tablet is a key component for the design team through to their client. The current tablets are not powerful enough too actually perform rendering but we are creating a product that will effectively be a remote controller and viewer of photo-realistic images in a structured way. So the tablet user may ask for a number of renders with various material and lighting permutations and the 'off-machine' renderer delivering the results back. We will exploit the real-time capabilities of the tablet as much as we can to navigate to a view-point for instance.
In addition to the well-known brand of Artisan, please, tell us about other products of the company. Are you planning to expand your portfolio?
Our original product, and primary product in terms of customers and revenue is Lightworks Author. This is a toolkit product with an API that allows our customers to integrate the renderer very closely with their modelling systems. Used by 50 customers in 80 CAD systems with 4 million end-users - most of whom they have no idea they are using 'Lightworks' software. Used in product design, architecture and interior configuration (kitchen, bathrooms) systems. Customers include Siemens (NK and SolidEdge), PTC (Creo Direct), Altair (SolidThinkingI, Graphisoft (ArchiCAD), IMSI (TurboCAD), 20-20 Technologies (20-20 and Planit Fusion).
Lightworks Author is in its 23rd year and is being continually enhanced. Of course, it is the core rendering engine for Lightworks Artisan so Artisan instantly gets the benefit of Author enhancements.
Both Author and Artisan have a long roadmap ahead. The 3rd 'product' for us is the provision of Content (materials and light studios) to make the task of rendering even easier. We support this currently from 2 web-sites as well as some custom material work for large end-users of Author products. Our plans include the creation of tools to enable 3rd parties to offer Artisan content directly to the growing user-base.
As we know, you are also closely collaborating with ZWCAD. Can you compare activity of Chinese and Russian markets? Do you somehow suffer from software piracy in both countries?
Our collaboration with ZWCAD is currently with the ZW3D a product which was formerly VX and has customers all over the world. So we don't currently see major differences in the markets. We know ASCON are very keen to promote their products outside of Russia and we will help with this where ever we can. We recently helped on their exhibition stand at the Hannover Messe in Germany.
Piracy. Not that we know of! We are happy with our own licensing system and confident in our customer's systems where they exist. Of course through our Lightworks Author customers we have many users in Russia and China already.
Realistic rendering is an area associated with the use of complex algorithms, code optimization, which requires serious mathematical background. Tell me what the professional portrait of the typical Lightworks developers, what education, previous work experience? Where do you find new employees? Whether you are collaborating with universities? Are you interested in (outsourcing) partnership with the companies that are very strong in high performance algorithms and math in general?
We have a very strong development team many of whom have been part of Lightwork Design for a long time. All are graduates, many with Ph.d usually in some area of computer graphics or computational geometry. We are always keen to attract new talent and are now well known in the industry so attracting new staff has never been a problem. Sheffield, the 4th largest city in the UK is a vibrant city and a super place to live and work. We have collaborated with many universities and in particular have a number of projects currently with the University of Sheffield, a centre of excellence for computer graphics. We have outsourced a number of projects over the years and, encouraged by their success would always been keen to discuss new opportunities.
Clive, thank you so much for your answers, and I wish Lightwork Design further successes in Russia, China, and worldwide.
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