View Full Version : Best standalone renderer

09 September 2002, 11:46 PM
I am trying to render a scene with HEAPS of geometry in Maya about 220,000 faces and I havn't put all the stuff in that scene yet. I'm using the GI_Joe lighting script from Highend3D with 128 lights each with a 256 DMap which gives a sort of fake GI. I need to render at print res.

I'm not really getting the rendering results I'm after and it takes forever to render even on my fairly grunty machine (Dell Precision 530). Sometimes it doesn't render at all.

I'm just wondering what would be the best rendering solution and what kind of prices you would be looking at. I was suprised at how expensive Mental Ray was - just under $9,800 australian :surprised .
I'm looking for something under $1000 AU.

09 September 2002, 06:48 AM
I dunno if another renderer is the solution.
I watched a classmate render a huge polygonal scene with 3 lights in mental ray. It took him practicly all day. 1024by1024. No textures.
I dont know much about renderer's and such but i know the more polygons the slower the render. And i think that is universal for all the renderer's.
Doubt that helped you at all. But thought id reply anyways.
see you around.
Squirrel Boy

09 September 2002, 11:20 AM
If you want you can try some Rman compliant renderer, like AIR (there is a demo available), PRman, and so on. REYES technology is very powerfull in handling complex scenes. But generaly I Think that you should forget GI_GOE and try to setup lights in little bit gentlier way. Brute force techniques are not always the best solution. Good Luck.

09 September 2002, 12:46 PM
Definitely cut the lights down, that's going to be your major trouble. PRMan won't render your scene any quicker with that amount of lights, in fact I think it'd be a darn sight slower than Maya, PRMan doesn't like lots of lights for some reason.

Do you really need a GI-effect for your scene? With some careful light placement you can get a nicer effect.

If it's absolutely necessary to have this thing photoreal, then think it through in terms of light rays. You shouldn't need more than a dozen lights for an adequate skylight, after all there are many parts of your scene that won't ever be scene by the camera.

Trace the path of your sunlight through the scene in your mind and think about which objects would give the most significant 'bounce' contributions.

Granted it's a lot more work than simply checking the radiosity box, but it's also more worthwile.

09 September 2002, 06:06 AM
After about 8 painful hours of test rendering and tweaking and test rendering... I got the lighting close to the look I wanted with a strong directional and GI_Joe for ambience. Set it off doing the render this weekend the resolution is something like 8000 x 5000 px, hope the Maya renderer doesn’t die this time.

I'm going to be doing some animated HD renders in the future so I will probably need a rendering solution anyway. I doesn’t necessarily have to support GI. Is Renderman the solution? And does Maya Fur, Paint FX and Liquid render in external renderers or do you have to render it in Maya and comp it in? Does anyone have approximate prices on these renderers?

Ed Lee
09 September 2002, 07:53 AM
Try this nifty plug-in called Ray Diffuse at:

U can download a demo and tut.

It's about $50 -- sure beats the price of MR if u
just want GI look.


09 September 2002, 08:16 AM
couple quick suggestions.

How much physical ram do you have? The amount of ram you need to render a scene goes up exponentially as the resolution goes up in most renderers. So an 8k image is going to need like 10-20x as much ram as a ntsc rez image. So your probably going into swap which slows down the renderer tremendously.

Also Make sure you're rendering out to iff and not another file format and just convert it after. From the release notes:

>Rendering 6k x 6k resolutions
>When rendering larger than 6k x 6k resolutions, Maya will require
>large amounts of memory if the saved output image is one of: tiff,
>SoftImage, Alias-PIX, JPEG, EPS, or Cineon.
>In such cases, render to any other Maya supported image format,
>and use conversion tools (such as imgcvt) to convert those
>images to the desired format.

Also check out rendering the image in tiles and then reassembling after. Just make a batch of a 4-8 tiles for the commandline and use the commands(these are in the commandline render reference in the Render Utilities book):

xLeft -xl set X sub-region left pixel boundary of the final image
xRight -xr set X sub-region right pixel boundary of the final image
yLow -yl set Y sub-region low pixel boundary of the final image
yHigh -yh set Y sub-region high pixel boundary of the final image

You can split the image up between multiple machines or just render on one box. Also I would check out rendering on linux instead of windows. You get a 10-30% speed increase in rendering and it uses 1/4 the ram to render the same image as in windows.

>>Is Renderman the solution? And does Maya Fur, Paint FX and Liquid render in external renderers or do you have to render it in Maya and comp it in? Does anyone have approximate prices on these renderers?
Prman is about 2x the price of Mental Ray and you also need to buy the Artists tools if your not a programmer which runs US$8k total. None of the third party renderers support Paintfx. Not sure about the Fluids yet. Prman is the only 3rd party renderer that supports fur, but not directly.

09 September 2002, 11:59 AM
Thanks Ed for the link.

Thanks for that useful info Beaker! I had been rendering to tiff. I'll see if it's done tomorrow otherwise render in parts as iffs. Buying Metal Ray or Render Man will blow the budget so I'll just have to make by with the Maya renderer. It's not such a bad renderer anyway. :shrug: PRMan and Artist's Tools about US$16K, wow you could buy 8 Maya licences for that... although this probably isn't much for any Hollywood studio.

09 September 2002, 06:25 PM
>>PRMan and Artist's Tools about US$16K, wow you could buy 8 Maya licences for that... although this probably isn't much for any Hollywood studio.

The big thing is that time is money and PRman is about 5x faster than most renderers. So if it costs 5x more, then it is worth it becasue your saving that much time in production hours. Also when you buy enough licenses for a small renderfarm you can wheel and deal and purchase the licenses for atleast half their retail price.

09 September 2002, 10:08 PM
You got a point there. 5x faster is amazing and we all know time is money. I'd love to get it but I don't think I can really convince my boss, especially since I'm in such a small team (2 ppl). :annoyed:

09 September 2002, 10:30 PM
and PRman is about 5x faster than most renderers

hi beaker, are you sure about that? i mean 'most of'
maybe in maya, but it's slower than max' renderers,...sure. ;)

09 September 2002, 12:39 AM
and PRman is about 5x faster than most renderers

I can't imagine how to back up such a statement but consider that PRMan is a REYES renderer. This renderer and others based on that architecture render scenes with zillions of polygons since years w/o any problems. They use mircopolygons and when PRMan was created, machines with 16 MB RAM would cost a TD year's salary.

I know all available RMan compliant renderers very well and they all behave excellent when thrown complex scenes at. If you really need GI, Entropy used to be the best renderer memory and speed wise but it#s no longer availble. :(

Otherwise you could use 3Delight (free) with the ambient occlusion shader from this year's SIGGRAPH course notes by ILM.
You only need a 'bridge' to get your geometry out but if it is a still image only, you can use Maya's crappy RIB export an tweak the RIB using e.g. RIB tickler. Otherwise MayaMan is cheapest or ask Colin Doncaster if he sells you a 'Liquid' license.

This solution is practically free and you can give it a try at least. You won't need any lights in your scene with that 'occlusion' shader (except for directional shadows) and using 3Delight, millions of polygons will not be any problem anymore. If you used mostly NURBS in you scene you're even luckier as tesselation is done automagically and render times will even be faster due to less memory access.


09 September 2002, 01:52 AM
>>hi beaker, are you sure about that? i mean 'most of'
maybe in maya, but it's slower than max' renderers,...sure.

It averages about 5x faster. As soon as you get into the millions of polys, displacement, motion blur, dof, and any type of fur or hair, then speed increase can be more like 10x faster. Motion Blur and Displacement being the biggest offenders that will add 5x the render times and in PRman it is maybe a few seconds longer.

09 September 2002, 06:48 AM
I've started experimenting with the 3Delight renderer ( ) and I've found it to be faster and higher quality than the default Maya renderer. The only problem is i'll have to start writing my own shaders or buy MayaMan or Artist's tools. It handled my huge scene with no probs. If anyone is interested I can write you a breif tutorial on how to render from Maya. It took me a while to figure it out.

Here is a little comparison I did:

09 September 2002, 10:39 AM
Found this really cool freeware called ShaderMan:
Thought you might be interested.

09 September 2002, 01:45 PM
3Delight is an ideal PRMan replacement when used with RAT. I also got SLIM to compile the shaders for 3Delight w/o any problem. The only difficulty is the resource-path format in the RIBs. I already sent this to 3Delight's authors and they promised to modify the RIB parser to understand this format too.

For its speedm stability and feature set we're currently looking into using 3Delight for our next animated feature film project.
3Delight e.g. is the only renderer that currently supports deep shadow maps.


09 September 2002, 05:19 AM
Thats cool that 3Delight has deep shadows. I guess they can get away with this because it is free. Like the stochastic point samplingm, etc... Not a big deal, but all these features make it so they could never make the software commercial. Either that or lots of VC to license those patents from Pixar.

A couple questions aimed at Mauritius, but anyone can answer if they know:

Do they have any plans to support subdivs? I didn't see them listed in the feature list. Also how does the 3d motion blur and displacement speed compare to Prman? Especially since they have this in the FAQ:
9) Can 3Delight ray trace displaced objects?

Yes. As a matter of fact, 3Delight always ray traces fully displaced objects.

Just curious how much the displacement slows down since they still tesselate everything to micropolys but raytrace it on top of that.

09 September 2002, 06:12 AM
3Delight's home page says"

"Current version of 3Delight is 0.9.6. Updates are provided on a regular basis (every 4 to 6 months). Our next release is due for October 2002, and will include, among other things, subdivision surfaces. It will be version 1.0."

09 September 2002, 10:14 AM
As tomb already said, SDS will be in one of the next releases -- very likely the next one. We really need this here and production starts later this month, so I guess the guys are on it already.

Another very nice thing that will be in it is direct support for ambient occlusion via Entropy's occlusion() function. This was used by ILM to fake a 'GI'ish look in "Pearl Harbour", "Episode II" and by Sony Pictures Imagorks for "Stuart Little II". A demo shader by ILM that uses rayhittest() to collect the samples is included with the latest SIGGRAPH RMan coursenotes.
But occulsion() uses the renderer's internal code for multiple samples and hence is a lot faster that the demo shader that on the other hand already now works with BMRT, AIR or 3Delight. The biggest plus is the use of an ambient oculsion cache that saves a lot of rendertime on rigid geometry like e.g. buildings. It basically resembles the function of an irradiance cache as found in BMRT, Entropy, Brazil or fR.

Regarding the sampling patent (it's not about stochatic sampling but ridiculously about any sort of discrete sampling) -- don't forget that the makers of 3Delight are located outside the US. MentalRay was not available in the US unless Softimage was bought by MS who had already licensed the patent from Pixar. But outside the US it was already a successful renderer. In Europe it's currently not possible to patent algorithms and even if it was, Pixar would never have gotten a patent on a technique that is use for signal reconstruction for half a century just because they narrow their view to one application (CGI).

3Delight is btw. used in professional production environments. They do have paying customers and features are added to the renderer upon their request, I was told. On the other hand these customers seem generous when it comes to gving the renderer away for free otherwise. Consider, however, that they get free testing by this approach and this is very valuable as two coders never can deliver the same level of QA as e.g. Pixar can or Exluna could.
The first thing I tested in 3Delight was NURBS and I found two bugs in one day that where fixed by these guys in another (so if you experience crashes with 3Delight from Rhino, drop them a note and they'll be glad to send you that fixed release).

Overall, 3Dl is a very promising looking renderer, I'd say --


09 September 2002, 10:54 AM
this is a little off topic, but mauritius, do you always write posts that long?:rolleyes:

btw: virtualight might be a good's only $50 if you want to use it commercially, and free if not.:bounce:

09 September 2002, 02:02 PM
I don't write often as you can see from the number of posts under my name, but if I write, I try to be explicit. ;)

Regarding VL:

- it's not RMan compliant which is the first reason I personally would avoid having to use it.

- it doesn't have programmable shading which is a feature I could never live w/o.

- it can't output arbitrary mapped colors/intensities. This is a must-have for any serious compositing work.

- it doesn't have motion-blur which renders it completely useless for animation production.


09 September 2002, 02:05 PM
Mauritius: I see.... ;)
i dont post very often either....

09 September 2002, 11:00 AM
Hey Mauritius, I've found your posts very informative as it happens!! :thumbsup:

Not many people post informed opinions on renderman so keep it up :beer:

09 September 2002, 10:52 PM
Yeah, thanks Mauritius. Great info. You are an "Expert" :bowdown:

09 September 2002, 08:26 PM
hey mauritius and beaker dudes,
so far both your replies on this thread and others have been generously helpful and elucidating...if possible make them longer ;)

tomb:i'll take you up on the tutorial offer if possible.

tahnx a tonne dudes, most of the time technical issues/discussions turn into pissing contests...thanx for keeping the pot clean hehehe.

09 September 2002, 10:50 PM
OK Boomji, I'm a man of my word so here's the tute. This tute is only for very basic scenes, just so you understand how it works. If you want to use a Renderman renderer professionally you will need MayaMan, Liquid (N/A yet) or learn C programming. In this tute I'll show you how to install and render a basic RIB from Maya:
1) Download and install 3Delight from . I installed 3Delight into c:/3Delight/ Don't forget to log out and log in to set your global variables.
2) In Maya create your scene - a render from the one I'm using is on the first page of this thread
3) Add some lights - turn on liniar dropoff because liniar dropoff is on by default in 3Delight. In my example I added 2 point lights, one behind the camera with 2000 for intensity and a blue tinge the other light's on the other side of the objects with 600 intensity and an orange tinge
4) In Maya Window>Settings/Preferences>Plug in Manager... and load the RIB export plugin. This is a really dodgy plugin as many people will tell you but we'll use it for this example.
5) File>Export All and save it in the data folder in your project which it points to by default
6) The scary part. Open your DOS window Start>Accessories>Command Prompt
7) Navigate to the bin directory in your 3Delight directory in my case the command is (you'll need to press enter after every command):

cd c:\3Delight\bin\

Then to start the render type:

renderdl -d c:\projects\testing\data\primitives.rib (or the path you saved out your RIB file from Maya)

(the -d flag will display the image while rendering)

8) If your rendering now you will probably notice that the light is too bright and there are no shadows so to fix this open your RIB with Word Pad
9) Edit>Find search for "light" and you will jump to LightSource... edit the lights so they look like this:

LightSource "pointlight" 1 "intensity" [200]"lightcolor" [1 0.8668 0.731]"from" [-526.679 758.104 -724.851]
LightSource "pointlight" 2 "intensity" [600]"lightcolor" [0.693 0.834629 1]"from" [768.482 920.296 15.0995]

10) Edit>Find again and search for "WorldBegin" and direcly below it type:

Attribute "light" "shadows" "on" #Turn on automatic shadows

11) Render again to check it's all OK

If couldn't render check out your environment variables in:
Start>Settings>Control Pannel>System>Advanced>Environment Variables
It lists what they should be set to in the 3Delight documentation.

I put the Maya and RIB files in a zip file for you.
Good luck and happy rendering! :beer:

09 September 2002, 09:16 AM
whoa dude :)
really really appreciate that.i'll have to get used to this environment variable thingy though.herd it far too many times to ignore it now.a year back when i asked a friend what all those % squiggles/strings were he told me never to tamper with them of face eternal damnation :p sooo...

09 September 2002, 01:55 PM
You don't need to log out to make environmant variables 'known' to programs, unless you're not under NT/2k/XP.

Just close and restart the app that needs to 'know' about the variables after setting them. E.g., a shell (=command prompt in windows terms) you're working in to run the renderer. Just close it and open a new shell after setting the variables.


09 September 2002, 04:08 PM
and there seems to be some rather informed and informative idividuals out there. id like to get Mauritius' opinion on mental ray.
it would appear obvious that M. uses renderman-compliant render utilities in his production environment almost exclusively.
Why?... im really into lighting and rendering, and i work in XSI. so naturally after coming from MAX i was enthralled with Mental Ray.
And with such works as "Fight Club" and "The Cell" under their belt i realized how powerful a product Mental Matter really makes.

Now im pretty adept with XSI and MR, and the render-tree no longer frightens me. im comfortable with her even. . . but like any man I Simply Can't Refuse Dabbling, with an Attractive alternative.
i know PRMan aint no joke, and theres A TON of support\progress\peripherals for it and compliant engines.
But i just cant shake the feeling that Mental Rays extremely creative and functional interphase, development and architecture is the paradigm of render engines.

i just thought i might solicit a bit of a response, while the camparison and contrasting is still hot. . .

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