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Guest post: James Coleman – The use of Maxwell Render at the University of Brighton

Maxwell Render is an external CAD/3D render engine made by Next Limit Technologies, used to make photorealistic images of models generated by a wide range of modelling software. It is recognised as being one of the most realistic render engines in the world.

The CDT’s involvement with Maxwell Render began with students experimenting with it in their own time. They were attracted to its ease of use, realism and cross-platform nature. In industry, product designers may not be expected to be able to use a render engine as accurate as Maxwell Render. However, as a student, having an outstanding CAD render can make a huge impression on lecturers, external companies and potential employers, particularly as time and finance constraints can limit the production of quality physical prototypes.

Gradually, more and more students became interested in Maxwell as its reputation grew. Students began helping and learning from each other – driven by the strong reactions that the rendered images generated. It soon became clear to staff and students that it would be useful for everyone to have access to and be taught how to use the software.

In late 2010, I started basic tutorials on CAD rendering for all years on the product design course. These focused on general aspects, such as overall style and resolution, which were relevant for any render engine. The purpose was to test whether, organised and student-led CAD rendering tutorials could be effective. Later, these tutorials began to focus more heavily on Maxwell Render as interest continued to increase. It quickly became obvious that the course would have to purchase some academic licenses of the software in order for tutoring to continue.

Dr Derek Covill, product design senior lecturer, had always had an interest in Maxwell Render and how it could be integrated into the product design communications module, which would help to teach students how to show off their CAD models. In the summer of 2011, he purchased six permanent Maxwell Render licenses for the CDT.

Using the licenses purchased by Dr Covill, I started mentoring the product design final years in Maxwell Render. These tutorials, which proved to be a success, paved the way for paid training in Maxwell Render at the Centre for Design Technology.

Due to demand, the training was made available to all courses at the university. The training was optimised to three hours of training covering the essentials of Maxwell Render, with additional support as required. The money raised from the training has made a significant difference to the product design final year exhibition at New Designers in London.

When Next Limit announced the Educational Certification Scheme, the CDT expressed their interest, but despite the obvious benefits, the financial cost of certification was prohibitive.

In March 2012 the CDT approached Next Limit to ask if they would be interested in sponsoring the final year exhibition, as their software would be included in the exhibition. It was agreed that Next Limit would provide every final year student with a license of Maxwell Render, and 20 licenses for installation in a classroom.

We hope to work together with Next Limit in the future, with the goal of potentially making the Centre for Design Technology an officially certified education centre of Maxwell Render.

In the summer of 2012 I will resume Maxwell Render training at the Centre for Design Technology, raising money for the 2013 final year exhibition, when I will be displaying my project. We will cover:

A small history of Maxwell Render.
The Maxwell Render interface.
Object settings.
Material settings.
Render settings.
Camera settings.
Environment settings.
Plug-ins.
Post-production.

For more information contact j.coleman3@uni.brighton.ac.uk

Render courtesy of James Coleman  – James’ portfolio

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