Luxion Reclaims Hypershot Technology

The advanced rendering software formerly known as Bunkspeed HyperShot is now—more or less—Luxion KeyShot. HyperShot is now Shot, but not shipping. mental images is involved, too. We sort it all out.

luxion pliers
Design for a new tool, rendered with Luxion technology.

March 12, 2010–In the last few months there has been a reshuffling of business and technology involving three players in photorealistic rendering. First, some bullet points, then the background.

  • Luxion, of Denmark, is the developer of the photorealistic rendering technology that for several years has been sold as Bunkspeed HyperShot under an exclusive licensing deal.
  • Luxion and Bunkspeed got in a dispute regarding royalties and revenue in 2009.
  • Luxion took back HyperShot technology, but the “HyperShot” trademark remained the property of Bunkspeed.
  • Luxion hired former Bunkspeed marketing VP Thomas Teger and launched a product, KeyShot.
  • Bunkspeed has now announced a new photorealistic rendering product called Shot, based on iray technology from mental images, as an upgrade and replacement to HyperShot. Shot is not yet shipping; KeyShot is.

So, now Luxion has moved from only R&D to also doing sales and marketing. Bunkspeed has given its top product a heart transplant and an name change. And mental images soon will have a client shipping its next-generation rendering technology.

Bunkspeed sample tea pot etc
An image rendered in the forthcoming Bunkspeed Shot, using mental images iray technology.

More than Meets the Eye
Luxion technology is based on research led by Henrik Wann Jensen, Ph.D., a researcher at University of California, San Diego. He is the author of two books and more than 50 research papers, many presented at SIGGRAPH. Jensen has become the leading expert on realistic image synthesis based on photon mapping. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented him with a Technical Achievement Oscar in 2004 for his pioneering research in rendering translucent materials.

When Bunkspeed lost the rights to Luxion’s technology, it turned to the best known alternative, mental images, the developer of ray tracing and shader technology for photorealistic visualization. Since late 2007 mental images has been a wholly-owned subsidiary of NVIDIA, and is aggressively making its products compatible with NVIDIA’s Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) technology. CEO Rolf Herken has assembled an impressive team of visualization

Bunkspeed’s HyperShot had gained a reputation as the go-to technology in automotive during Teger’s time there. “We can’t directly go after [former HyperShot] customers,” Teger told VEKTORRUM. “But they are finding us.” Luxion recently put out a press release with glorious renderings, touting the
achievements of David Burgess, who used KeyShot to create press images for the debut of the 2010 Ford Focus (samples of his work appear in this article).

mental images technology is on hundreds of thousands of desktops, but generally not under its own name. It is the rendering technology used by a wide variety of CAD and other graphics vendors including Autodesk, Dassault Systemes, and PTC. mental images won an Oscar in 2003 for its ray tracing technology.

The two technologies could not be more different, even if to the untrained eye the results look the same. Luxion’s KeyShot uses photon mapping and a vast library of materials algorithms. mental images‘s iray uses ray tracing and shading, calculating the effects of light. A crude analogy would be to imagine a mudball thrown against a wall. KeyShot analyzes the splatter on the wall; iray follows how the light bounces off the mud.

The Final Analysis
If you have used Bunkspeed HyperShot in the past and need to buy a license today, you are out of luck. You can wait for Bunkspeed to deliver new technology sometime in in the next month or two, or you can go across the street, so to speak, and buy a license for Luxion KeyShot.

These competing technologies take two different approaches to the science of lighting. We are not competent to judge between them. We note that the guys who spend the most money on photorealistic still imagery—auto makers—have in the past voted with their wallets for Luxion technology, while most CAD vendors are in the mental images corner. §

Images not otherwise credited are by David Burgess for Ford, rendered using Luxion technology.