View Full Version : which render engine is the best?

07 July 2011, 05:43 PM

i've put my time lately to study all the Maya deafult shaders (blinn, lambert, phong etc..) only to find out that they're barely beeing used.

mental ray gives much more realistic and higher quality results, and of course it supports Maya shaders, but not when it comes to render passes, plus - it works best with it's own nodes and shaders.

so - should i dedicate my time to study mental ray's nodes and shaders? or v-ray's? or maybe something else?
which one is the best / industry standard?

i just don't wanna waste my time.

thanks :)

07 July 2011, 05:56 PM
It really depends on what you're doing and what kind of budget you have really. Do you need GI/FG? You're going to want to look at VRay (though MR can do this well too) or even Maxwell. Are you doing lots of hair/fur or 3D motion blur, you're going to probably want to use Renderman (3Delight or what have ya). It almost all cases you're going to use specific shaders for the render engine so it's a good idea to learn the concepts and be prepared to apply them to different renderers. You're not wasting time learning Mental Ray since the concepts are very similar to other renderers really. That's just my opinion though, others might disagree.

Generally asking what is "best" isn't a solid question because render engines have pros and cons just like all software.

07 July 2011, 06:46 PM
ya, i know that each and every render engine has it's own pros and cons.

i just wanted to know if there's a render engine that ["generally"] worth studying about more than others.

07 July 2011, 08:47 PM
generally speaking, study renderman renderers. every flavour and variant.

07 July 2011, 09:48 PM
Since you already have Maya, go ahead with studying MentalRay. It's one of the most used renders in the CG industry. And most of the stuff you'll learn can be applied to most other rendering engines, especially shader wise. If you can learn to make great looking work with MR, VRay and others will be a breeze.

You'll get varying opinions on here about Renderman though. A lot of people are thinking it's slowly starting to die out and be replaced with pure raytracing renderers now that they are becoming more optimized and negating some of the benefits Reyes used to provide.

But it's still a very valid and useful renderer to learn, since it's still used quite a bit and isn't going to die any time soon. So if you can, learn both.

07 July 2011, 07:23 AM
This question gets asked a lot in various ways. You are certainly not the first person to go down this well worn path. The best advice I can offer is to search a bit on this and other forums. You will find many discussions and opinions which may seem, at first, confusing, but you will eventually become better informed, which could help you avoid some of the inaccurate statements that accompanied your question.


07 July 2011, 01:45 PM
The engine which you understand completely and know how to optimize it,peoeple will say different things but it is upto you .
Some say raytracer ,some say rasterizer but which one you are comfortable.people have made brilliant picture with some ordinary renderer aslo people have made crappy images with highend renderer.I hope you understand what I mean.

07 July 2011, 03:11 PM
Im helping setup a small CG studio, and were currently facing the same dilemma. Up till now we have been using MentalRay, however were finding the version bundled with Maya to be slow and producing more problems than it solves. It is also extremely slow at Motion Blur, DoF and anything fur based. We have looked at Renderman, however licensing costs are the biggest problem. Licensing aside we have achieved excellent results that render quickly however more time needs to be spent setting up lighting/faking raytracing. I was really impressed with the whole package and Pixar make the best complete package in my opinion. Also worth nothing Renderman produces the best SSS result and Deep shadows and fantastic.
3Delight is just as good as Renderman and produces results even to Pixar's Renderman, however its much less user friendly, and REYES rendering aside, its a difficult transition from MentalRay to 3Delight. PRman is much easier in this regard and much more user friendly, however the final output is virtually the same. Some features are missing but can easily be scripted in such as Point cloud Occlusion.
We are currently evaluating VRay for maya, and it is a very good raytracer. It has one of the best GI solutions on the market, and is much quicker than MentalRay for displacements, fur, motion blur and dof. It produces nice clean passes and its extremely easy to setup a linear workflow. The only downside i can say is that noise and flickering are more troublesome and its hard to find the right balance between speed/noise. Using the nederhorst settings it is extremely user friendly however there are plenty of options to tweak every setting if you prefer. Most importantly for us, it is a very affordable solution and we can export out a VRScene similar to renderman RIB files which are editable and make distributed rendering much easier.

Renderman is the quickest renderer however requires more time to setup shaders/lights.
Mentalray is the slowest renderer that i have tried (i havent tried physically biased renderers) but easy for end users
Vray is in the middle, easy to use and quick to learn, with average rendertimes.

07 July 2011, 03:53 PM
Exactly for Prman or renderman compliant renderer like 3delight ,you need more resources you need a shader writer,pipeline TD,lighter who knows renderman etc.Though I still beleive 3delight is much better than Prman not only it is cost effective but it produces excellent result ,it even takes your mental ray shaders so no need to write seperate shader if you are already aware of mental ray.
Mentalray has improved a lot in past few years and also become fast but yes you need to optimize it according to your scene requirements.
Among the new rendering softwares I found Arnold is quite good but you need to buy atleast five licenses Or if speed is your main concern I would say go for GPU based rendering softwares that are quite good too like Furryball.

07 July 2011, 12:57 AM
I wrote this, which might answer your question

07 July 2011, 11:02 PM
Thanks for the article, it helped clear some things out :cool:

07 July 2011, 07:12 AM
If you want to works as a lighting / render artist i would definitly learn Mental Ray. Even if all the bugs and paranormal phenomena that will happen to you will cost you hours and hours of your time !

But the core of mental ray is very very solid ! mental ray can do nearly everything ... if you start with vray and that you need to use mental on a show you gonna be dead in 1 weeks :) so starting with mental and then going to vray is in my opinion more strategic ...

You will find lot of ressources to learn it ( gnomons are great ) ...

I will go to the prman / 3delight way only if you want to focus on a Shading/FX/TD career ! i kind of agree that one day or another , companys will be tired of baking, shadowmap, export ribs ... Renderman is long and tricky to control, not because it is ultra complex, but because you will find nothing and nobody to help you ...

If you get a job in a company that use renderman you will learn it there ... Learning tools like RMS is kind of a waste of time because big companies don't use it ... If you really want to learn it the most rewarding would be to downlaod 3delight and learn shading language function and RIB language, but lot of coding involve and few Creation ...

07 July 2011, 07:38 AM
May be most of you think that it is out of the context of current discussion but don't you think if we have prices of all the renderers avaialble in this forum decision making becomes more easy like price of Prman,3delight, MentalRay ,Vray, Maxwell,Arnold, etc.
For a beginner setting up a small setup costs a lot and at that time most people are not even aware of their future projects so choosing a renderer according to your need and price makes a lot of difference .

07 July 2011, 04:11 PM
I have heard lighting artists are talking about the new renderer Anold lately and it seems quite interesting.

07 July 2011, 08:42 AM
ok, thanks guys! :)
i think i'll stick with mental-ray for now :)

07 July 2011, 01:07 PM
I'm in a similar situation at the moment. I'm close to be finished with my short film and I am debating which one to learn and use. I do only animation so everything else is more like a hobby or addition rather than a desired skill that I would like to use at work (if you are an animator you dont have much time for anything else unless you are a generalist :) )
I've searched on the web as people suggested but found that because this topic is asked a lot then there are loads of outdated threads so I thought I would ask here as well so I know what has changes since 2009 or so from the threads I've found :))

I'm thinking of going for VRay as people say its easier to learn and more artist friendly for those of us that are not super technical and prefer to spend the time creating something rather than fighting the technicalities. Would you still say that VRay is easy to learn and use?
My short has these things shots
- 3 outdoor scenes (so physical sky and sun to use? right?)
- 1 scene with nparticles (snowing)
- 1 outdoor scene with ocean (people sitting by the beach)
- 1 scene with DMM dynamic (snowball shatters over a surface)
rest is indoor with nothing that fancy.
I'm not looking for photorealistic render in the short.
Would you see any potential problems or any suggestions to what would be good for me?

I read somewhere that VRay has limited shader support but that was in a thread 2 years ago so is that still true or its ok now?
Can I ask you for your thoughts please? I hope its ok as I don't think I'm hijacking the thread as we still stay on the topic, right? :)
Thank you

07 July 2011, 02:31 PM
You can try all of the things you are interested in by downloading the trial version. Its limited to 5 lights and 640x480 and a limited number of objects, but other than that is fully functional. The manual is online.
I think most of your assumptions are correct though, and I do think it is easier than most to learn - although to get good optimised renders there is still some initial technical stuff you need to work through.
The materials and shaders look simple, but dont let that put you off. You can do a lot with them and there are quite a few max plugins that have been ported for use in building textures and materials, so you can get fancy if you want to.
On the minus side... Last time I looked not all particle types were supported and fluids did not render as well as in mentalray or mayaSoftware. I dont think native maya fur is supported either.


07 July 2011, 05:32 PM
Thank you David,
I'll give it a shot as people tend to say the same. I was only asking because I didn't want to spend my valuable time to learn something that is not the best thing for me. You know, its easy to make that mistake especially when its not your area of specialisation :))
I've found nice site with loads of shaders and it does look like there is enough materials for me so lets hope it all works well :)
For others, this is the site I'm referring to. Looks like way more shaders than I've ever found for mental ray but maybe I wasn't looking effectively :))

07 July 2011, 10:40 PM
Unfortunately those are all max materials. If you have max, then there is a way to export a vray scene and then in maya import the materials from that scene, which translates as much as possible, but still requires some tweaking in maya.

The only other place I've found for prebuilt vray for maya shaders is here (


07 July 2011, 12:12 PM
oh no, :(
I was so excited with all those shaders as they look really good that I didn't notice that they are not for maya :(
Hmm, and I thougt it would be perfect to have such a huge selection to chose from. :)
So I guess I'm back to learning and do all the shading network myself too :)
Thank you for the link, I'll check it out. Maybe its as big as the otherone so I'll have easier time :)

07 July 2011, 02:22 PM
Unfortunately those are all max materials. If you have max, then there is a way to export a vray scene and then in maya import the materials from that scene, which translates as much as possible, but still requires some tweaking in maya.

The only other place I've found for prebuilt vray for maya shaders is here (

I'm still a bit sad about that site. Is there no way to just import the shader to your Maya hypershade network seeing that its VRay material? I mean if I don't have Max is there another way how to get those shaders working? The site is full of amazing ones and it would save a lot of time trying to do the same on my own :)
Any idea how to get those working with just Maya?

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