There’s been a rebellion of sorts. SolidWorks, to the mild dismay of the regular PR and ad agency channels, has gone out on their own. Not in any permanent way, mind you. Regular programming will soon return, but in the meantime, SolidWorks is getting back to their roots and dishing out a little emotive attitude to prep you for SolidWorks World 2011 and make you think back a little bit on your own roots of design and engineering. And SolidSmack? Well, we have a glimpse behind the scenes to see why and how this all came about.

The Drive to Design

You may have seen it. A couple weeks ago, SolidWorks launched a new site Drive to Design.

This site revolves around a new video we’ve created that goes through the life of a fictional engineer, from childhood to adulthood, and shows some of the steps that lead him to his vocation.

Rebellious I TELL YOU! Producing a video all on their own…and a website? Well, there had to be a story behind it all. Sure enough, there was… but it didn’t involve only SolidWorks. Oh no. The 3D hole goes much deeper. This was done with help from the crew at Luxology, creators of modo. We caught up with Mark Biasotti, Product Manager – New Product Concepts at SolidWorks, for all the finer details and images. First, you might want to check out the final cut of the video.

Cool? Cheesy? Before you make a decision, take a look below at the story, the images and the video of why and how it all came together.

From Mark Biasotti:

The idea for this video came from a series of discussions we had at SolidWorks about the work that we do, and how it corresponds with the work of our customers. We talked a lot about the amazing things that our customers develop, and how it’s our job to provide the tools they use to create things that change the world. As we talked more, we thought it would be cool to put together something that truly illustrates that idea, a sort of a tribute to engineers and designers.

We thought if we created something really cool, maybe we could show it off at SolidWorks World. So, last May, we put together a team to brainstorm and build a video for SolidWorks World 2011. The original idea of a single video quickly turned into an idea for a video series. Lesson number one… be careful what you wish for.

In late May, the team met to come up with some ideas. Two of the more compelling stories were selected and “Dream to Design” was one of them (the other is currently targeted for SolidWorks World 2012.) The video script was written by Chin-loo Lama, a member of the SolidWorks User Experience team, who is a fantastically creative individual with a gift for storytelling and storyboarding. Besides her day job working on the GUI for SolidWorks, she poured herself into refining the story with me and the production team.

We wanted to make sure we had some cool, futuristic visuals in the video. A robotic hand that Jay Patterson, Mark Gibson and myself are developing for an interactive display for SolidWorks World 2011 lent itself perfectly to the story, and we ended up using it in the climax of the story.

Earlier in the year, I had a conversation with Brad Peebler (CEO of Luxology) about ways we could collaborate on some new projects. Brad was eager to take part in creating the videos we show at the conference, and was wondering if his CGI software, modo, could play a part. Remembering that conversation, I got in touch with Brad. After talking again, I knew that modo could help bring this story to life.

The live action for “Dream to Design” was shot the first week of August in Norwood, MA and at Boston College. After all the of the live action was complete, Greg Leuenberger and I divided up the CGI shots. Greg did the more difficult shots of the robotic hand and the bunk bed, while I did the other work such as the lathe tailstock redesign, interior rooms, all the SolidWorks screens and models and the “mind’s eye” sketch overlays that appear throughout the story.

While on location, I had “Light Probes” shot for all the CGI scenes. These were key in getting the realism that we were after because Modo works so well with HDR light probes to realistically light the scene for rendering and animation.

The presets of Modo 401 were a real pleasure and a timesaver when building the interior CGI for Sam’s lab and the operating room theater. I was able to drag and drop many of the available assets into the scene, and do a few tweaks and then render/animate. Because of the interoperability of SolidWorks and Modo, I was able to quickly go to 3D ContentCentral and grab other props for my scenes, including an electron Microscope and a fire extinguisher. As a long-time Lightwave user and having switched over to Modo 18 months ago, I was pleased with the quality, speed, and ease of doing CGI work with this program.

We shot the live action and CGI at 24 frames per second in full HD (1920×1080.) Unfortunately, most will only get to see a lower resolution, highly compressed version, but viewing the full HD version is amazing. The level of detail is incredible. In fact, there is an “Easter Egg” two thirds of the way through the film that I doubt anyone can pick up on unless they are viewing the HD version.

We all enjoyed the experience of creating this video and it was great getting so many people throughout the SolidWorks organization involved. Right now, we’re thinking about this project as a “warm up” to the next film we have planned, which will take the “Dream” theme even further.

How about it? Did you find the “Easter Egg” about two-thirds of the way through the video? While you think about it, here’s a visual feast of some bits and pieces that went into the making of it, from Chin-loo’s storyboards to production scenes with a video at the end to tie it all together.

I gotta admit, when I first saw the video, I thought the narration was a bit cheesy. (Personally, I’d change the voice over and have Sam tell his own story.) But, seeing the process and preparation behind the creation of the 3 minute video, to convey the idea of our emotional attachment to design, makes me remember a few things about why I went down the path I did and makes me even more excited to see the wheels turning in some other little heads scampering around my house. That, to me, is the ultimate emotional attachment in the whole cosmos of design. What about you?


Josh is founder and editor at, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.