Tuesday, November 10, 2009

MachStudio Pro is the real deal

Well, I have to say that I'm thoroughly impressed with MachStudio Pro (or MSP for short). I made a previous post about this technology on my blog earlier this year and got some great feedback via the comments. One blogger (tomacmuni) made a very interesting comment about MSP and other technologies that I wanted to address.
Quote from tomacuni: "Machstudio is graphics card based and you get the so-called partnership ATI provided card to make sure that it works well.
You can't buy the software without the card - I asked. They said no.
Presumably your computer itself will also contribute to how well that performs.

I asked myself, to what extent might it be the graphics card that boosts the render time, as opposed to the software?

Vray RT is CPU based -- without a networked suite of *up to to 10* slave processors for instance, from what I can tell it's not going to be that helpful for acceleration.
....
I'm not sure, but Artlantis seems to be a kind of intentionally optimised renderer, using simple material presets and simple render settings that look at best adequate ... a bit like Vray with 'low' quality sampling. I haven't seen high quality rendering from it."
The ATI card (or GPU for short) does all the heavy lifting when it comes to rendering the image. Your computer specs need to be able to support the ATI card, but do little else when it comes to pushing the limits of MSP. MSP is coded/written to take advantage of the processing power of the GPU. None of the other softwares you mentioned do that to my knowledge. The ATI V8750 has 800 cores to process data. 800!!! The unfortunate reality is that most applications today have not been written to take advantage of the GPU and its processing power. How many CPU's can you link together for VRAY's RT technology - ten? Alright, so then what? After you link them together and preview your render in the viewport, are you able to save that image or can you output it to a full HD image plate without having to render and use a render farm? As for Artlantis, I have yet to see high quality renders, much less renders completed as fast as what MSP can do set to full high quality.
Quote from tomacuni: "For actually rendering, Maxwell and Machstudio Pro send out content for rendering to an external application."
Vray and Mental ray do this too - its just transparent to the user. As far as I have been able to tell, MSP does not send anything out to an external application for rendering - it is all done in the same interface with the same program and nothing needs to be translated (another one of the problems with mental ray or vray).
Quote from tomacuni: "It seems to be that these render 'solutions' may mark the fin de si├Ęcle of standard renderer software given they're based on technology that's aging fast. It seems there's a looming shift in approaches to rendering. I wonder in two or so years which of these 'new' renderers will attract the larger user base.
...
I'm a 3DSMax user mainly, so
I wonder if, at some point, 3DSMax itself may ship with some kind of 'real time' rendering technology which simply eclipses all the tools commented on here. A few years ago I guess that's what the incorporation of mentalray aimed to do."
I come from a background mostly utilizing 3ds MAX too. I look forward to seeing which technology will attract a larger user base as well. If Autodesk has an ounce of smarts in their R&D team, they are already looking at how their products can take advantage of the GPU to increase render times. I know a couple products already do but it will likely take time for a company the size of Autodesk to move it into production for 3ds MAX and Maya (I hope I'm wrong on that though).

3D World magazine recently had a review from Dan Alban of AGA Studios published and gives yet another testimony to MSP. I personally am just starting to get my feet wet with MSP and how it can integrate with Architectural Design Visualization workflows. There have been some great studies done already on StudioGPU's website. In the image that was posted to this blog post, can you tell which was done with MSP or VRAY? There are some great examples done on their site as well that incorporate Architectural Design Visualization use of MSP. If you want to get more discussion on what MSP can do in this regards, there is a great discussion thread already unfolding on their forums.

Yes, this might be a brand new technology, but the potential is so big, I can't imagine this technology sitting idle - I see it advancing further very rapidly. I love the feedback this technology has prompted - I hope this post will spark further interest!

2 comments:

James said...

I am very interested in MSP - one thing I notice about it (apart from the staggeringly fast rendering times) is that motion blur is absent and that aliasing seems to be quite strong on the images - is it suitable for final "movie" quality work?

Chris said...

Hi guys-
I have had the opportunity to work with MachStudio Pro for a while now, and I wanted to comment on a few points that have come up here and in the previous thread from May that Steve mentioned.

-- Yes, by default MSP ships with the ATI FirePro V8750; this is currently the top-of-the-line graphics card that ATI offers. StudioGPU just started selling MSP without a graphics card though, for $3999. A student license is also available I think for $999, but it comes with the slightly older ATI FireGL V8650. Considering that card alone costs more than $1000 on the market... not bad.

-- The main reason for the ATI card is that in contrary to other graphics cards it supports hardware tessellation - a great feature that MSP uses for real-time geometry tessellation and displacement mapping (which, by the way, is another one of those mind boggling things having used displacement maps in traditional software for so long). Having 800 cores helps, too of course. Having said that, MSP will work just fine on other graphics cards as well, ATI or not (minus the hardware tessellation feature). The main thing you'll want to look out for is VRAM (the 8750 has 2GB), and of course a serious workstation card will always give you better results with a GPU-based app.

-- tomacmuni mentioned that Maxwell and Shaderlight include post-rendering tools - ways to change light values in the image AFTER a render is finished without having to recalculate the whole scene. The thing I have come to realize with MSP is that it's ALWAYS rendering - this is the biggest shift in thought process I had to get used to. In most applications I have used you do all your work and then you render. Because MSP is GPU based, it's always rendering. When the user reaches the point where he/she wants to do a final render, the software considers this "capturing", because it's simply capturing the data it's been rendering all along and writes it out to the hard drive. So, adjusting lighting or shaders happens real-time while you're working on a scene, and while you're looking at an image that pretty much matches your final rendering. So while post-rendering tools are nice, there is no need for them in MSP, because you see it all happen even before you render. And even if you need to render your final image again - it's fast, as mentioned. And by the way, having large scenes with characters & animation (including camera & light animation) is not a problem in regards to adjusting light values and such and playing it back right away.

-- As Andrew mentioned, MSP does NOT send any data out to an external application - everything happens within the software.

-- Currently, MSP does not support motion blur as a real-time effect. However, it supports rendering out a separate velocity map pass, which gets saved as a 16-bit half-float EXR file. This can then be added in any compositing software.

-- Antialiasing is done mainly in the final image capture. The viewport includes hardware-based HDR antialiasing, but in the settings for the final capture is where the user can really dial up the quality. None of the quality improvements that I have achieved in final captures made me want to go back and change my lighting or materials like it happens so much in traditional rendering environments - they are just the final polish on an already good looking image.
Anti-aliasing settings include jitter sampling and anti-aliasing filters (with variable pixel-widths) such as Gaussian, Box and Mitchell. Having said that...

@James: YES - I think MSP is definitely suitable for final movie work. I rendered full HD frames with animated characters in about 2-10 seconds per frame, depending on how high your settings for the final capture are (anti-aliasing, ambient occlusion etc...).

In case you can't tell, like Steve I am also blown away by what I have seen MachStudio Pro do. Whatever happens in the future, hardware rendering is here to stay - and this piece of software has the power to make a huge impact.