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MitchVFX
08-17-2004, 09:50 PM
Hi all,

Yet another noob stupid question:

I'm one of those people still on the fence. I'm going through the tutorials, liking what I see so far (I come from LW/C4D). One of the final sticking points to whether to take the plunge is the viability of using Mental Ray. Not because of it's quality (that's the selling point), but I don't have enough experience with it to know how it will fair in a solo artist's production environment. I have heard that it's more of a render farm kind of engine and am concerned that i'll be spending more time waiting than working. Can anyone shed some light on this subject? I so want to join the club!

Thanks

JDex
08-17-2004, 09:57 PM
While it's true that MR is not the fastest renderer about... in general if you set up proper passes and logically plan your renders it is not a production killer. The combination of GI/FG/Caustics/AreaLights/RaytracedShadows/MotionBlur in a single beauty pass can really add up though, but this is the case in any renderer.

Take advantage of passes and compositing to cut times down and you'll be good to go.

The price drop, addition of Advanced Rendering and Batch will really make a difference in my work as I get up to speed with V4. A seat of Essentials and a seat of Foundations will assure that I can render and work at the same time without needing a dedicated renderfarm.

SevenString
08-17-2004, 10:01 PM
As once XSI noob to another, I initially found MentalRay to seem a little slow, but as I've experimented with tuning over the past week, MR is starting to seem pretty snappy, and I've also had to take into consideration the extremely high quality of MR's output.

This experimentation was done "on the side" though, since I'm more focused on coming up to speed with modelling, rigging, and animation at the moment.

It's ALWAYS a tradeoff: render speed vs. quality. However, MR is pretty scaleable in that department, and the tight integration with XSI makes tuning very interactive.

XSI vets, correct me if I'm wrong.


edit: what JDex said!!! lol

MitchVFX
08-18-2004, 01:19 AM
What you guys are saying makes sense. I can see planning passes for adjustment in After Effects--even rendering objects seperately. I had a feeling what I was hearing was from folks that want to set up a huge scene, a long animation, and then press render. I didn't expect to do that.

Thanks.

tredeger
08-18-2004, 03:51 AM
One thing to bear in mind as well--you can't just compare renderers along single metrics. There are lots of different tasks you can ask your renderer to do and each renderer has its strengths. No single renderer is fastest in all cases and MR, despite a reputation as being on the slow side, may well be the faster solution in numerous situations. Seach this site for some detailed analysis of different renderers and their strengths and weaknesses. The thing you'll quickly learn is that you'll save the most time by really learning how to optomize your scene for your chosen renderer and that each one will require particular tricks.

Of course, you can always write your own render engine ;-)

Hope this helps

ThE_JacO
08-18-2004, 04:11 AM
mental ray is not the fastest 1click solution, but the reputation of MRay being slow has been created by all the warezkids who only recently started having it in their applications and that compare it to other (arguably more modern) rendering engines that shine at showoff features.

MRay is an incredible allrounder
-it's one of the best raytracers around
-it has a production proven SDK
-while not as easy to use as some plugin renderers the depth of the customizability just with options (or hacking MI files if you get an essentials or advanced version) is pretty good, rivalled and beaten only by PRMan (at a high cost in learning curve and need of specialization though).
AND it recently became incredibly good at things that not long ago were a PRMan exclusive, blazing fast motion blur and displacment.
-on top of all this, if you really need a still picture showoff it can still do it.

it will not be as fast as Vray at blurry reflections (partly also because in that case the shaders around are mediocre, but somebody is planning a fairly fast freebie) or global illumination.
but it has both, unlike PRMan whose raytracer is still primitive and completely separated from the core, and it also does the important things right.

I know showoff features are cool on galleries, but at the end of the day I need good AA, MotionBlur, Displacment, volumic/deep shadow maps and a proper node based material system all the time, and those can't be faked, and those in MRay are REALLY FAST.
pretty reflections... maybe once or twice a year and I can blur a reflection map and go scanline.

MRay isn't a pretty stills rendering engine, but paired up with the rendertree it's a brillant tool ESPECIALLY if you are on your own.
granted that it takes some learning, but so does almost everything worth using in my experience, and anyway we are not talking years of studying mathematics, only very basic understanding of rendering principles.

MitchVFX
08-18-2004, 04:26 AM
I know showoff features are cool on galleries, but at the end of the day I need good AA, MotionBlur, Displacment, volumic/deep shadow maps and a proper node based material system all the time, and those can't be faked, and those in MRay are REALLY FAST.

That's what I was hoping for. :thumbsup:

I've actually been working texturing tutorials and am really impressed with the power.

Thanks for the input.

ThE_JacO
08-18-2004, 04:32 AM
btw in your place, if I had to absolutely sell one of the tools I had, I would sell LW.
C4D is a rapidly evolving application, and it can complement XSI much better then LW.

also I think the best definition of what MRay IS NOT is "a print rendering engine", but C4D's engine can be pretty good for that side of business.

JDex
08-18-2004, 05:07 AM
also I think the best definition of what MRay IS NOT is "a print rendering engine", but C4D's engine can be pretty good for that side of business.
raffaelle... are you saying that MR is not suited to print, or just not intended for print? Please elaborate, because I find the MR rendered images in publications and books like Expose to be perfectly executed print renders.

yog
08-18-2004, 07:58 AM
For print work I find XSI's ability to tweek it's AA settings to be a major boost to what I am used to. I've not yet found a situation where I couldn't blend those pesky overblown jaggy pixels that boarder dark areas. Filtering with depth also gives a much more pleasing look.

Where C4D probably scores a little better for print work is it's ability to automatically (or with just a little work), produce correctly layered Photoshop PSD files.

ThE_JacO
08-18-2004, 10:33 AM
raffaelle... are you saying that MR is not suited to print, or just not intended for print? Please elaborate, because I find the MR rendered images in publications and books like Expose to be perfectly executed print renders. with that I meant that when you work for print you rarely need the things where MRay is world class, and many others are not. reliable scanline, motionblur, shadow maps, extensive SDK...

all things to save time, resources and problems in rendering during animations, while for print results one usually wants things that save time during execution and no-brainers to setup.
on an animation you will get away with the lousiest reflection maps and the most improbable shadows, on print, especially architecture prints and stills, I've seen a completely different execution process and focus from most artist. In that case one's got to admit that one click solution DO have a place in the market, a large one too at that.

MRay will obviously get you anywhere quality wise and colors wise, but so would do Maya's default engine, or anything else, if you don't animate. People usually want to get there as quickly as possible, fire a single rendering and go to sleep.

I put it between quotes because it was sort of a blanket statment, take it with a pinch of salt :)

MitchVFX
08-18-2004, 01:09 PM
Yeah. I wasn't planning on giving up C4d. It is easy to use and they do listen to users. And the render passes -> photoshop is awesome. At the moment we're just wrestling with the CA tools.

richcz3
08-18-2004, 05:01 PM
Well a Lightwave user here as well.
I am just barely working through the tutorials on the XSI 4 Demo. The Layout is a whole new world to figure out but it's better to make a move now than later. Do the DVDs in the current Foundation package do a better job than the html tutorials?

Thanks,

richcz3

DougNicola
08-18-2004, 06:02 PM
I've heard the DVD bundle in fantastic. Completely packed with great info.

SheepFactory
08-18-2004, 06:37 PM
Well a Lightwave user here as well.
I am just barely working through the tutorials on the XSI 4 Demo. The Layout is a whole new world to figure out but it's better to make a move now than later. Do the DVDs in the current Foundation package do a better job than the html tutorials?

Thanks,

richcz3

you can read my review at cgnetworks

swampthing
08-18-2004, 06:58 PM
What kinds of things do you do on the modelling DVD? Is it all, here's how to make a cube, this is how to chamfer an edge type stuff or is it project based stuff, or what? Your review didn't really mention exactly what type of things it uses.

titaniumdave
08-18-2004, 07:06 PM
The modeling dvd basically introduces you to the majority if not all of the modeling tools. He shows you where the tools are and how to use them. It is not a modeling tutorial per se where he shows you how to mode a organic or non organic model. There is a short litte tutorial where he makes a low poly box modeled helicopter. I don't know your experiance but modeling is modeling if you can do it in one package you can do it in any. A bevel is a bevel, a extrude is a extrude, etc. I'd recommend watching the dvd first to learn your tool set, then do the modeling if there are any I'm not sure what kind are available right now. But like I said in the beginning if you can model in any other program it shouldn't be a problem transfering your experiance once you know the tools available.

yog
08-18-2004, 07:11 PM
What kinds of things do you do on the modelling DVD? Is it all, here's how to make a cube, this is how to chamfer an edge type stuff or is it project based stuff, or what? Your review didn't really mention exactly what type of things it uses.
Certainly not as basic as your first two example. There is a 40 minute tutorial in the middle to show how to build a sci-fi plane, which will be inspirational to those starting off in modelling, but fairly basic if you are a competent modeller.
There is a fair amount on different selection methods, a lot on different deformations, a fair bit on transformation co-ordinate systems (and there are a lot), with a dash on different ways to set up how transformations work. The last 1/5 is on UV mapping.

The overall impression I got was, the DVD is not intended to teach you how to model, rather how XSI does it differently than other programs.
For a person new to XSI, but not modelling, it has given me pleanty to get me working, but I can see myself reviewing it again in a few months in order to pick up some of the smaller neat tricks I might have forgotten in the mean time.

fez
08-18-2004, 07:21 PM
I do quite a bit of print work in Lightwave. In a crunch I think you might be better off with Lightwave and Fprime just because you can let the render bake until deadline. The render region certainly has its advantages but for the time being I still personally prefer Fprime for texturing and setting up a scene. It seems simply to be a much faster raytracer. I also really miss the iterative rendering of Fprime when working in XSI. On the other hand Mental Ray presently offers vastly superior antialiasing when you boost the settings. Though that shortcoming and others will supposedly be addressed in the next Fprime update. Also, if you do not have a deadline breathing down your neck, the render passes offer an amazing amount of control and could potentially save a lot of time and strife, especially if you have a finicky client who has no clue what she wants.

But then again I am far, far from an XSI expert, though I am working on it...

yog
08-18-2004, 07:36 PM
Now wouldn't that be someting, "Steve Worley joins Softimage development team" :D

I really like Fprime, especially for GI work in LW (forget GI if you haven't got Fprime). The only trouble with it is that it doesn't currently support G2, which I found a lot more flexible for fine tuning materials. Unfortunately we wont see a G2 - Fprime integration until Steve has worked on it, which wont be to after the next maintanence release of LW, which could be anyone's guess :shrug:

Obizzz
08-18-2004, 07:53 PM
that's exactly what I want from the DVD's. I know how to model, texture and setup materials but not how it's done in XSI or what tools there are and what they do.

Struggling with it on my own now but I bet it'll be a lot easier when I've gone through the DVD's.

I haven't even touched UV mapping yet only done some basic modeling.

fez
08-18-2004, 07:55 PM
"it doesn't currently support G2, which I found a lot more flexible for fine tuning materials"

I agree. Also, the ability to click on a surface in the G2 view and tweak out parameters is absolutely awesome. Fprime is great for setting up renders and texturing but for finetuning final renders, especially GI renders, I don't think it gets much better than G2. I wish they would hurry up!

swampthing
08-18-2004, 08:32 PM
Thanks, that's what i wanted to know.

I prefer project based tutorials as they are more interesting to learn from and it shows alot more techniques in a practical application. They still sound helpful though.

MitchVFX
08-18-2004, 09:09 PM
Actually, I have found the downloadable tutorials to be better than your garden variety basic tutorials. No doubt the DVD collection is much more in depth, but it is a good start.

young_927
08-20-2004, 08:17 PM
Obizzz

The DVDs does a really good job going over UV mapping and the Texture Editor~
I certainly learned a lot from the modeling and texturing DVD~ which took me about 2 days to go over..

Still the Render Tree kind of confuses me...

Obizzz
08-21-2004, 09:57 AM
sounds great, hope I get my package this week :)

Polou
08-21-2004, 10:35 PM
Hi Guys

I'm also a solo artist starting character animations. I use Cinema 4D, Animation Master and Blender. I'm wondering about "building" & "animating" with Foundation?
I know that XSI is very good at animations. I've heared/read that modeling a character is also very good. Is it like MakeHuman in Blender?
What about Foundation..?
Thanks

SheepFactory
08-21-2004, 10:37 PM
what is makehuman in blender?

Polou
08-22-2004, 06:59 AM
what is makehuman in blender?
It's here http://www.dedalo-3d.com/

Cheers

SheepFactory
08-22-2004, 07:15 AM
XSI has something similar for faces (face builder) but not for body/ though it comes with a generic human body model you can build on. I personally have no use for those so didnt spend much time with it.

ray
08-24-2004, 06:47 PM
it will not be as fast as Vray at blurry reflections (partly also because in that case the shaders around are mediocre, but somebody is planning a fairly fast freebie) or global illumination.

Raffaele, I'd like to contact him/her for checking out the shader, so if that's ok, could you tell me who it is? (I'm planing to use it as a photon replacement, for cleaner GI).

Cheers,
Ray

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