18 Jun 2018
This update is not about new features. Instead, its goal is to make the graphics subsystem more stable before we go to version 5. There are still some new features, though :)
Graphics Drivers Issues
Over the past few years some of you may contacted us with various issues related to the scene preview in Boxshot. It could be wrong textures or no textures at all, or completely lack of preview or accidental crashes when loading updated images. In most cases the recommended solution was to try a different preview driver using View->Drivers menu. In this update we decided to finally confront the problem in general and fix it once and for all.
We went through the code of our preview drivers (both Simple and Advanced GL, and also the raytracing one) and fixed all the “gray areas” of the OpenGL usage that could trick the drivers and lead to possible errors. We also reduced the number of OpenGL functions we use, hoping that the less we use, the less the probability that something could be wrong in that part of the driver.
This worked fine for Mac, where OpenGL support is quite consistent, but it wasn’t that good on Windows where OpenGL is painful by design. Thanks to Intel marketing guys, we have every second laptop with their buggy OpenGL drivers. On top of that, some of their adapters are no longer supported. On the other hand, their Direct 3D drivers are somewhat better, so we did the same trick as we did in Origami before and what most of the modern web browsers do for years - we switched to emulating OpenGL driver using a more reliable technology available on this particular platform.
Best of all, it worked! Old buggy Intel chipsets can now run Boxshot at almost full speed, and it now works even if no hardware graphics acceleration is available at all, thanks to software OpenGL implementation. The speed is pretty much the same, unless it falls back to software rendering. However, if it has to fall back there, it means that the graphics driver is either missing or completely unstable and the old version of Boxshot would hardly work there at all.
On Windows we added OpenGL driver selection to the settings window, so if automatic detection doesn’t work you can always hint Boxshot what OpenGL driver to try. In that case we would really like to hear from you and see the logs, so we can improve our automatic detection of buggy graphics drivers and adapters.
At the end of the day, we’ve got a better and more stable 3D preview. If you ever had any issues with preview and if we ever suggested switching to a different preview driver, you can now try your old driver again and see if it gets better. Simple GL and Raytracing preview drivers are the most stable ones at the moment, Advanced GL driver was also improved, but it may not be available on some platforms, where OpenGL is emulated using Direct 3D. We’re working on that and hope it will be there soon.
Of course (as with any major change) there could be issues. If you still have problems with preview and changing driver in settings doesn’t help, please contact us, so we can sort it out for you and everyone else.
The New Features
As the most efforts were spent on GPU subsystem, we haven’t really added a lot in this version.
The main new feature is the optional backside of decals. You can now have a different artwork at the back, if you like. It doesn’t have a lot of options, just artwork and tint, but we believe it is enough for stickers.
Another nice addition is color reflection mask. Reflection masks were grayscale before and let you choose between metallic reflection and diffuse artwork. It worked well unless you needed nice rich metallic reflection. Now you can set the same texture as diffuse and reflection mask and get a cool “deep” metallic reflection. Give it a try, we’ll probably add a tutorial for it soon.
As we’re slowly moving towards version 5, we’re getting rid of old and rarely-used features. You’ll notice the “Deprecated” section in the materials panel at the right. We moved reflection/refraction samples there, diffuse lighting and physical reflection options are also there and finally the reflection texture. All these options make no sense for physically based rendering, so they eventually have to go. You’ll hardly notice that, though.
Environment texture gamma was also removed from the scene parameters panel. It was added to improve the wrong gamma correction of old versions, but ended up useless. Boxshot works in sRGB color space and all the input and output images get properly converted to that, you don’t need extra parameters to control the process. In the near future we will switch to linear workflow like we did for Owlet and Origami.
The old raytracing renderer has been marked as deprecated for quite a long time and it will be also removed soon. Same for rarely-used export formats like POV Ray or Pixie.
If by any chance you still use any of the above - let us know.
We did some other changes to address the issues you reported:
- indexed color images loading has been improved;
- better loading of complex OBJ materials;
- “Make inside” command in loft editor lets you enter the wall thickness;
- “Copy materials” tool handles cropped textures better;
- decals are properly displayed on scaled objects;
- decimal point issue fixed in loft editor on specific locales;
- the last used folders for opened projects and saved images are now saved between sessions for your convenience.
The list is not that long, but some of you will definitely be happy to see these problems fixed. Once again, the main goal of this update was to make sure we have no GPU-related issues anymore, so we can move further.
Note for the users of old systems
Exactly as with Origami, we’re going to drop the support of old versions of Windows and Mac OS X in the very near future. The minimum Windows supported will be Windows 7, the minimum Mac OS X will be 10.10.
We’re also going to focus on 64-bit Windows only. There will be no updates for 32-bit version of Boxshot in the very near future.
If you still use the outdated operating system, consider upgrading it as soon as possible if you want to keep using the latest Boxshot.
That is all for today, cheers :)