Quickstart Guide to Using Virtual Reality in SOLIDWORKS Visualize Professional 2018

Quickstart Guide to Using Virtual Reality in SOLIDWORKS Visualize Professional 2018

*This blog has been UPDATED for 2018 SP1 release:

Have a smartphone or VR headset and wish you could teleport yourself into your Visualize project? Well wish no more! New for SOLIDWORKS Visualize Pro 2018 is the ability to create immersive Virtual Reality images and animations. This adds yet another level of photo-realism to the already awesome Visualize content you have relied on to get your products to market faster:

• Drastically reduce physical prototyping costs
• Improve internal design/engineering reviews
• Make important decisions much earlier in the development process
• Create viral marketing experiences to promote your newest products

Visualize 2018 allows you to create ‘360’ cameras, which render out a flattened-spherical image, changing how you design, develop and deliver your products. This image can then be viewed with any VR headset (from HTC Vive all the way to even a $15 Google Cardboard). We’ve even given you an option to preview this 360 image before you render it – saving annoying rework time. You can also create proper stereo (left eye, right eye) as well, however it’s not required for this new 360 content.

Let’s see exactly how this works.



1) Create a camera and select the new ‘360’ option from the ‘Type’ dropdown in the Cameras Tab ‘General’ sub-tab. This will automatically set your camera to the required 2:1 aspect ratio.

2) In Preview mode, you will now see a slightly wider view of your scene in the Viewport. Only Fast and Accurate (and of course PowerBoost) raytrace modes will show you the warped photorealistic final image, so you will need to use either of those modes to see how the final image will look.

3) Using the keyboard/mouse shortcuts to Pan and Zoom, position your new 360 camera into the desired location. You will notice the new 360 camera icon next to your mouse cursor, letting you know you are moving a 360 camera. This 360 camera type is omni-direction and will always remain level (non-twisted). You can even use Multi-Viewports with another camera to manually drag the 360 camera’s manipulator into the desired position. Another helpful trick is to enter the desired height of the camera in the Cameras Tab > Transform sub-tab > Camera Positioning > “Height from Floor” (in meters).

4) Once you’ve roughly positioned the 360 camera, go to the new ‘360’ sub-tab in the Cameras tab and enable ‘Preview 360 Panorama.” This unique view changes your Viewport to what you’d see in the final 360 VR experience. It’s also raytracing live, just like your normal Viewport! Use this preview to make sure your camera positioning is exactly where you want it – perfectly positioned over a seat, in the middle of the hallway, standing next to a table, etc. Only rotating the camera around in this Preview 360 mode is possible – you cannot move the position of this 360 camera. Disable ‘Preview 360 Panorama’ to re-adjust your 360 camera positioning, then re-enable ‘Preview 360 Panorama’ to see the results. Repeat as necessary until your placement is just right.

Once your 360 camera is perfectly positioned, and with the ‘Preview 360 Panorama’ enabled, rotate your view to where you want to start in the VR experience – then click the ‘Set Startup View’ button. This sets the first view you see in the final VR experience.

5) Turn off raytracing by selecting Preview mode from the Main Toolbar. With the new 360 camera active, left-click the Render button in the Main Toolbar. Select JPG as the Image Format and make sure to enable the new checkbox “Adjust for Virtual Reality playback on social media.” This makes sure you’ve selected the right render settings and can view your immersive 360 image on supported VR devices.

Note that very high resolution for 360 images playback is required, since only a portion of the entire 360 image is visible in your viewfinder. In order to minimize any pixelization in your Virtual Reality experience, you need to select much higher resolution. We’ve included several resolution sizes to choose from.

6) Start the render and when it finishes, see the next steps below.


First and easiest, with Windows 10, you can view your 360 images and animations directly on your laptop/desktop using either of these pre-loaded apps:  ‘Photos’ or ‘Movies & TV.’ I’ve never gotten the regular ‘Photos’ app to work for me with my 360 content, so I recommend ‘Movies & TV’ app on Windows 10. Continue reading to view this hot, new 360 content on your smartphone!

Since everyone has a smartphone these days, we’ve first focused on that device for experiencing this new Virtual Reality content. Plus this new VR content is perfect for viral social media campaigns. That said, you can still view this new VR content on any VR device, including Vive and Oculus with their installed viewers.

1) Once your 360 image render has completed, you now need to host it online somewhere to view it on your smartphone. There are several ways to do this – the following is the one I like to use.

2) I choose to upload my images to Flickr. Once your image has uploaded to Flickr, click on the image to view it. This displays the direct URL needed for the next step. Copy this unique URL.

3) This next step takes your freshly rendered 360 image and zips it up for viewing it on any smartphone. Follow the instructions in this link and paste your unique URL in the first step. Then select ‘360’ and keep the defaults. Click load (sometimes twice) and you’ll see your 360 image in the preview below. Almost done!

Note: if you’ve rendered a proper left/right eye stereo image, then choose ‘Stereo 3D’ at the top and alter the settings accordingly.

4) Now all you have to do is share this modified 360 image. Scroll down below the Preview section, expand ‘Export/share’ and click ‘Shareable URL.’ This will open a new tab with your final VR 360 image. Copy this link and paste it into an email, for the final step below.

5) Email yourself this link, open it on any smartphone, then place your smartphone into your VR device of choice: Samsung GearVR, Google Daydream, $15 Google Cardboard, etc. Now you’ve teleported into your CAD file, with full photorealism!

There are other ways to view 360 images on your smartphones in Virtual Reality; this is just the method I normally use. Another cool way of showing off your 360-VR content is using theViewer.co | VR Tours from your 360s. You can add interactive hotspots for text cards, images, links to other 360-VR content (like additional 360 camera positions), sounds and more.


Since the new 360 option is a camera type, you can use this new camera type to create any animation supported by Visualize Pro and experience it in virtual reality. This includes walkthroughs, camera flys, exploded views, fading the opacity of parts/models, Sun Studies and more.

Simply set up your animation, create your 360 camera, and then render out the animation. Make sure to enable the new checkbox in the render settings “Adjust for Virtual Reality playback on social media.” This encodes your 360 video with the metadata required for instant playback in YouTube. You cannot playback your new 360-VR video without this checkbox.

Once the 360 animation is finished, upload the MP4 to YouTube. You can set any confidential videos to Private or Unlisted to share internally.

Don’t forget to download the latest YouTube app on your smartphone to view this stunning 360-VR content! My $15 Google Card works just fine with my iPhone. Tap the VR goggle button at the bottom to experience your freshly-rendered 360-VR video!



Below are some example VR links to experience the immersive photo-quality for yourself. Simply open this blog post on your smartphone, click on one of the links below, tap the VR goggle icon at the bottom, and pop your phone into your VR headset of choice. These links were made by editing the 360 images from Visualize into a video to upload to YouTube. I’ll write a separate Tech Blog post on this workflow.


And check out these YouTube videos of 360 animation examples created in Visualize Pro 2018. We’re the only visualization company in the world to offer 360-VR animations!! Buckle your seat belts…

TRAKKA – 360 animations


AIRPLANE – 360 animations


BONUS! This example below shows proper stereo support for separate left eye and right eye. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, proper stereo isn’t required to experience Visualize’s 360-VR content. You can see a difference though in the “depth” of the scene, compared to mono (non-stereo) 360 images.

TRAKKA – 3D VR – 360images


Don’t forget to follow SOLIDWORKS Visualize Product Manager @bhillner on twitter for product news and updates, and share your SOLIDWORKS Visualize creations on social media with #swvisualize and #gettinvizzy!

More Resources to get started with SOLIDWORKS Visualize:

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE SEAT OF SOLIDWORKS VISUALIZE right now to bring your products to market faster than ever before.

WATCH TWO WEBINARS on SOLIDWORKS Visualize and its many benefits to up your render game to a whole new level.

WATCH THE TUTORIALS to master SOLIDWORKS Visualize in no time and impress your boss with photo-quality content.

*SOLIDWORKS CAD Professional & Premium users on active Subscription receive the matching number of complimentary Visualize Standard seats. Learn more here.

Brian Hillner

Brian Hillner

Brian Hillner is a Senior Product Portfolio Manager for SOLIDWORKS, responsible for Education and Early Engagement, and specializes in the intersection of business, technology & user experience. He focuses on creating customer-driven software products tailored for schools, educators and students to develop designers, engineers and dreamers of the future. Prior to joining the Education team, he was the Product Manager for SOLIDWORKS Visualize, eDrawings and the Extended Reality (XR) workflows.