16 Mar 2019
It took a while, but I believe it was well worth the waiting. Here is the very first beta version of the upcoming Boxshot 5. Read on for more details and downloading instructions.
The first beta of Boxshot 4 was released in 2012, so it’s been like 7 years of Boxshot 4 here. Now it is time to move on, so please welcome Boxshot 5:
Development stats shows 273 completed tasks and about 12000 code changes between the latest Boxshot 4 and the current Boxshot 5. That’s quite a lot, to be honest and there are many new features and ideas in the new version.
I’ll start with some of them today and continue in the future posts, but you can try the software yourself and discover new stuff before it is posted here.
This post is going to be somewhat technical, so feel free to scroll down to “Before you start” section, if it is too boring.
Exactly as with Owlet, Boxshot has been switched to linear workflow which is physically correct, but gives slightly different (yet correct) resulting colors. Do not be surprised by that.
The left book below is rendered in sRGB color space, while the right one - in linear. You may see that the right book is not that contrast and has a better reflection on its front. That’s roughly the amount of changes you should expect from the linear color processing, compared to the old one.
When Boxshot 5 loads images it converts them to the linear color space from their original color spaces (like CMYK profiles, sRGB, etc). Then it performs the rendering and saves the result back. Depending on the output format, it saves to either sRGB color space for low-definition range images, or to the linear color space for high-definition range formats. So if you plan to print the rendering, it might be a good idea to save to HDR format and then convert to CMYK manually.
Consider using EXR or PSD image formats if you need linear, high-definition range output. This way you get exactly the copy of Boxshot rendering buffer with the maximum quality and without any color profile applied.
New Light Processing
Another big thing in version 5 is the way it renders light. Boxshot 4 used to compute shadows instead of lighting. This way it was much easier to keep the original colors of the artwork, but many other effects were impossible. Unfortunately, this can’t be changed unnoticed so we had to wait for the major update.
Here is the difference it makes:
The green balls above are illuminated by omni lights. The left ball is rendered by checking shadows, while the right one is rendered by computing light instead. The difference is clear.
This feature is the main breaking change in version 5. The lighting is completely different now, the scene is illuminated by the environment map and extra lights, so this is what you are going to adjust first after loading your projects to the new version.
Again, that’s for good, as Boxshot 5 is a huge step towards unbiased physically correct rendering, same as Owlet. If you use both apps, you’ll find that the rendering results are much more similar now.
Boxshot 5 features path tracing engine, as in Owlet and many professional renderers. The main difference to ray tracing (used in Boxshot 4) is that path tracing also computes indirect lighting. Here is a simple example:
Notice the orange tint at the white plane - that’s indirect lighting, as it happens in real life. It’s been in Owlet for a while, now it is in Boxshot.
Also note the difference in balls appearance - that’s because of the linear workflow. As I said, that’s for good, you’ll love it.
Boxshot 4 used local shadows to reduce noise. This means if nothing occludes an object nearby, then nothing occludes it at all. This way we kept the noise at the minimum, but shadows were not always realistic. Boxshot 5 fixes that by processing global shadows instead:
Left object is rendered in Boxshot 4 with local shadows, while the right one is done in Boxshot 5 with global shadows and environment-based lighting. See the difference?
Noise. All the tricks we did in Boxshot 4 were done to avoid noise. By implementing the proper rendering pipeline in Owlet and testing it with you guys, we decided that realism is better than longer rendering.
Yes, Boxshot 5 takes longer to render an image - about the same time as Owlet. We’re going to address noise and rendering speed in both apps, so you should expect rendering speedup in the future updates.
On the bright side, we added “Good enough” button that stops rendering if you are happy with the results.
A lot. But I’ll save it for another post about another beta somewhere this or next month. Keep an eye on the blog to get all the news, or give the new version a try yourself.
Your Feedback is Essential
This is a beta version and it is only available here, in the blog. The main site still offers version 4 of the software. The plan is to release a couple of beta-versions, fix all the problems and then switch to version 5.
This means the beta version we’re showing today has a good chance to become the official “Boxshot 5” in a couple of weeks. That’s why it is essential to hear what you guys think. If something is not ideal, or inconvenient - we’d better know it now, while it is still a beta.
Please try the new version, it can be easily installed next to the current one and shouldn’t affect it in any way. Your feedback is very welcome by using our contact form (scroll it to the bottom).
Share your positive or negative experience, ideas of improvements, typos etc. Please no shapes requests at the moment, let’s focus on the application itself, renderer, materials and user experience. We’ll have a lot of time to add more shapes later.
Before You Start
Boxshot 5 is a major update and it is not 100% compatible with Boxshot 4. We tried our best to keep all the version 4 updates backward-compatible and ended up with lots of semi-deprecated features and options for 7 years. Boxshot 5 drops some of them and changes others quite a lot, so check your projects and adjust them if necessary. It might be a good idea to use both old and new versions at the same time, they work just fine together.
Another thing to note is that it is a beta version. Although it is quite stable and I personally believe it is more or less production-ready, it is still a beta. It may crash, it may have bugs and so on. Use at your own risk and please report any issues you experience.
Boxshot 5 have its own project format that is not compatible with Boxshot 4. The project file extension is also different, so you can’t accidentally overwrite an old project with the new one, but any changes you make in Boxshot 5 will only be available there, so it is a one-way conversion. Plan your migration.
Your current Boxshot 4 license should work with Boxshot 5 and the editions are still the same, we plan to make no changes there.
That’s All For Now
Please leave some feedback after trying the new version. I’ll be waiting here :)