"The graphics engine is designed for instant visualization. Just import your models and Lumion makes them look good. No effort. No waiting. "Theater mode" allows you to us it as a 3D viewer for an easy fly-through of complex 3D models in real-time"
Act-3D is a Netherlands-based company that is focused on developing real-time 3D visualization and authoring tools. Quest3D and Lumion are the two main applications created by Act-3D. We will be looking at Lumion 2.5 in this review. And, although the primary market for this application is architectural visualization, it will appeal to a broader user base because of it's beautiful real-time engine, huge model/materials library and excellent community support.
Lumion 2.5 comes in 3 different versions: Lumion Free, Lumion and Lumion Pro. The Lumion Free version, despite limitations and watermarked output, is still a very robust application and is highly recommended, especially for machinima filmmakers. Lumion Pro is Act-3D's flagship application which contains over 1800 models, 500 materials, special movie effects, higher resolution output and advanced functionality. Standard Lumion comes with slightly fewer models/materials and slightly reduced capabilities. Both the Standard and Pro versions are for commercial use and are priced at $2,400 and $4,800 respectively, while the Free version cannot be used for commercial purposes but is a free download. Full breakdown of the difference between the three versions is available here.
Note that Act-3D also makes available a free educational edition of the standard version of Lumion. Lumion Pro Educational (with all the Pro goodies) costs $480.
One of the best features of Lumion is how easy it is to use. You start by choosing one of 9 basic environments, including an empty one where you start from scratch. Then you just drag-n-drop the elements of a scene you want to create. Lumion also comes with 9 examples of high quality environments that you can examine or use as the basis for your own creation.
The content library is quite large and well laid out using small images of each item. It's a snap to position, rotate and scale your items as you see fit. You can also import common object formats like obj, CAD formats and fbx. Changing material types is simple, too. Grab a material and simply add it or paint it into your scene. Changing clouds, time of day or weather is also easily done using simple sliders. Finally, you can choose several camera positions and Lumion creates the camera move for you. And remember, ALL of this is in real-time so you can see exactly how your actions are affecting the scene.
You can output your scene, or still picture, to a variety of common formats depending upon which version of Lumion you are using. And the output is beautiful. Lumion's second best feature is the fact that the rendering engine is gorgeous.
Here are some of the main features of Lumion 2.5:
Lumion 2.5 is a pleasure to work with. Unlike several other applications that take considerable time for scene creation, Lumion lives up to its "instant visualization" pitch. The graphic interface is so easy to use that you can create an attractive scene in less than an hour complete with environmental dynamics like sun, weather and animated models. And, as I've mentioned, the visual quality is wonderful.
Lumion 2.5 also allows for an interactive pipeline with applications like Sketch-Up, 3ds Max and Revit. I was able to import a variety of models into my Lumion 2.5 scene and adjust them without a problem. In fact, working with Lumion 2.5 was one of the most enjoyable experiences I've had with an application. The fun factor is very high and you can end up spending many hours simply playing with combinations of models, materials and environments.
Lumion 2.5 is focused to the architectural and visualization market, but I can see it having an impact in the product advertising market as well. This market has moved from traditional photography to 3D, and with Lumion's ease of use and huge variety of environments, I can see advertisers putting this application to good use.
Of course, the price of Lumion 2.5 is geared towards the professional market and this will inhibit some 3D animated filmmakers. But, the free version with its watermarked output, could still be of interest, especially to the machinima community. Once Act-3D is established in the market (and I have no doubts that they will be), I hope they will consider developing a filmmaker's license where video output will not be watermarked.
Lumion does have room for growth. Some functions improving your ability to adjust animated objects need to be addressed. You are also dependent upon the quality of your graphics card for real-time functionality. This means a relatively expensive GPU is essential. I also think a browser-based export format for visualizations you create would be better than the Theater mode Lumion has provided.
Lumion 2.5 is highly recommended for anyone interested in high-quality visualizations, but don't want to spend too much time. Its visual quality is often stunning, the community is active and growing and the company is eager to please. You really can't beat a combination like that for successful business.
While writing this review, I learned that a major update to Lumion is coming this month (November, 2012). Lumion 3.0 addresses some of my crits from this review and expands the program significantly. Global Illumination, 3D sounds and Video Textures are just a few of the new additions to Lumion 3.0. I'll be covering this release in the next few months and perhaps add an interview as well.
More information about Lumion 3.0 can be found here.
Notes: My thanks to Truls at Act-3D for making Lumion available for review. You can find the hardware requirements for Lumion 2.5 here. At this point in time, Lumion 2.5 is only available on the Windows platform.
Ricky Grove [gToon], Staff Columnist with the Renderosity Front Page News. Ricky Grove is a bookstore clerk at the best bookstore in Los Angeles, the Iliad Bookshop. He's also an actor and machinima filmmaker. He lives with author, Lisa Morton, and three very individual cats. Ricky is into Hong Kong films, FPS shooters, experimental anything and reading, reading, reading. You can catch his blog here.
Please note: If you find the color of the text hard to read, please click on "Printer-friendly" and black text will appear on a white background.