Thursday, May 21, 2009

Real Time Rendering - is it possible?

What if I told you it were possible to have instantaneous feedback on changes made to your rendering? What if individual frames could be rendered in sub-seconds instead of 20-40 minutes a piece? What if you could work with your animated content from any program and render out Beauty, AO, DOF, etc. passes for editing in post - still in sub-seconds? What if poly count was no longer something you needed to worry about and could deal with scenes in the billions of polygon range? What if I could do this all on ONE desktop computer and ditch my hoard of render farms?

Would you think I'm on crack? Probably. I thought the people telling me about this were too - until I saw it with my own eyes.

I visited a company called Studio GPU this week. I can't tell you how incredible it was to see this first hand! Whether tuning your AO pass or playing with lighting conditions or camera bloom effects or scrubbing through the fully rendered animation - it's real! The DoF pass was so easy to tune and you could do it real time as if you were in post! You can even generate volumetric lighting in real time. HDR lighting is supported too for matching existing environments. It was so sweet it almost made me break down and cry. Pure joy!

Check it out!


J said...

you will want to look at Artlantis.

Steve Bennett said...

From what I have seen, Artlantis is still taking minutes whereas MachStudio Pro is taking SECONDS to render an image!

Unknown said...

So how do you see this changing your workflow? Also do you use Max mostly? I see there is a 3ds Max 2009 exporter for transferring animations and geometries into MachStudio.

Steve Bennett said...

I see it changing my workflow in that I can now focus more on the artistic side of my production instead of worrying about how long it will take to render an animation. Yes, I mostly work with 3ds MAX along with a few other Autodesk applications. MachStudio is working feverishly at not only updating their exporter for 2009 to 2010, but at adding new capabilities. I will be meeting with them in a few minutes about the future and where they plan to go from here...

James said...

Hi Curious if you have any follow up thoughts on MachStudio which I just discovered tonight (being a max guy) - I think I see a few things that might escape immediate attention - motion blur for example looks a little "staccato" (I'm not even sure its in the image at all) - all told though it's a wet-your-shorts system at first glance. Any impartial feedback appreciated.

Steve Bennett said...

There are a number of things that I can't answer in depth as I a) need a demo unit to try it out and see how it really works & b) I haven't received any official training on it yet to really get my hands dirty.

I plan to get in depth training on using it over the summer. I know it does not currently do caustics at the moment, however their lead developer said they are working on it. Currently it is only in pre-release so it can only get better from this point forward.

As I get more in depth with it I plan to post more insider info. Stay tuned!

James said...

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts - keep us updated! Thx. James

Unknown said...

Quick Comparisons:

Machstudio Pro is about $4000.

Vray RT is about $250 on top of owning VRay (less than $1000).

Holomatix Rendition is about $900
and is aimed at Mental Ray.

Shaderlight is currently free, and
if downloaded will have a starting
price of about $450

(For prices I'm putting "about" because this is from memory).


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.

Shaderlight is for 64bit systems and explicitly requires at least 8gb ram, which is a lot more than the average desktop (around 2-6gb in a common bundle from a shop) but not that much trouble to upgrade to, given the cheaper software overhead.

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.

Fryrender is supposedly to come out with a RT solution soon, which should be interesting given their proximity to the Maxwell renderer. The next version of Maxwell seems to be only a bit faster than the current one, so the users hardware probably will need to be heavy to make it worthwhile using.

Indigo, the so far free, physically based renderer for 3DSmax is going pro soon, which may or may not be due to enhancements they're making.
I'd like to see how much it'll cost.


For actually rendering, Maxwell and Machstudio Pro send out content for rendering to an external application.

Vray RT, Holomatic Rendition and Shaderlight are quite embedded into 3DSmax. They also involve adaptiveshade methods, so you see what the render is doing interactively.

It would be nice to know to what degree Shaderlight can understand 3rd party renderers such as Cebas finalRender. It's such a pain to have to convert with each renderer a whole library of textures and shaders. Maybe someone should invent a universal shader type that every render can leverage without the user having to sweat?

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. This is mostly aimed at still image rendering it seems.
I haven't seen an example of that for an animated character sequence for instance.


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.


A further comparison to consider is completeness:

Vray has several subsidiary plugins (like vray scatter and a few others I forget the names of).

finalRender has several too (such as finalDOF and finalShaders).

Maxwell and Machstudio Pro don't seem to have any, as yet.

Personally I like to see feature additions to software added as a point release rather than an external plugin (especially given some of the renderers themselves are plugins).

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.