Renderer for product viz?


I’m looking for some advice on renderers.

I’d like to learn a new renderer for product viz. Mostly studio style shots, HDR, white bg etc. I want to have control of the necessary passes (eg. matte/shadow/reflection, z-depth). My priorities are photorealism and image quality. I’d like to quickly make rough renders for concept/material testing, and then HQ renders with minimal setup time, which could be rendered overnight. So I’m really looking for simplicity/speed in setup, but great results.

I’ve been looking at the unbiased renderers such as Maxwell, Octane, Thea, Keyshot etc. Has anyone done a recent comparison between any of these, or decided on a renderer for the same purposes as me? PS. I currently use Mental Ray, but I find myself spending far too much time with setup.



I have been using many different “fast and easy” solutions in the past 10 years and I have decided that in my line of work (automotive visualization) using Maya and VRay is by far the best solution, period. I have used Showcase, Opticore, Shot, Keyshot, MentalRay, etc and the control you have over geometry, scene management, shaders, animation, passes and render quality is second to none with Maya and VRay. It may only be my experience, so do your own testes and research. Others may have different suggestions. I can only say that since I have pushed for a Maya and VRay pipeline in my viz department, we have become much more efficient and the quality of images have gone through the roof.


As far as minimal setup, at least for render settings Maxwell is pretty good. It’s slower than others though so depending on the scene it can end up taking longer than overnight to render the image. And it’s a bit weird to setup things like lighting or materials since they’re not quite the same method as other renderers.

Vray is probably easier to setup than MR, and it’s faster for things like GI and DOF, but you’re still going to have to mess with render settings. I’d recommend Vray RT or iRay, but iRay doesn’t have render passes and I’m pretty sure Vray RT doesn’t either


If you are after quick, glossy, nicely lit GI renders, Vray is your friend.

If you want complete photorealism, and can wait for longer renders, there isn’t much that beats Maxwell Render on that front.

Your choice really - speedy and glossy CG look, or slow, but very photoreal, render result.

Good luck.


Sounds like vray to me :slight_smile:


Not sure what you mean by glossy CG look from VRay, because the look of the image depends on how well you light it, how well can you recreate real properties in the shaders. I have seen just as many glossy and fake CG looking mentalRay, Maxwell and (insert your choice of renderer) images in the past. It’s all abut how you use the software.


I had considered Vray, but felt that I’d be in the same position that I’m in with Mental Ray.

I was hoping for a solution that freed me up from render work. Maybe I’m being naive in thinking I’d get it from one of the unbiased engines, I don’t know. Just thought that there may be some major benefits to some of the renderers for the work that I need to do.

I mean, most of my time is spent tweaking lighting, reflections, materials, and test rendering them for photorealism. So, I guess, I’d encounter the same problems on all render engines. Any thoughts?


Well, there’s nothing that will remove the need to tweak materials and lighting, between renderers there’s mainly the difference in the settings. Even in unbiased renderers you’d have to tweak the materials and run tests, the main thing there is though that you wouldn’t have to do anything with the render settings.


The computer cant do everything for you…


Maxwell makes rendering photorealistic renders a lot easier than most render engines, as it is basically a “Light & Optics Simulator” that makes rendering work more like “virtual photography” than anything else. There are also hundreds of ready-made photoreal material presets for Maxwell Render online:

The price you pay for that easy “photoreal looking by default” functionality is long render times, particularly if you are creating animations longer than a few seconds.

If you are after photoreal stills without much manual adjustment, Maxwell Render is worth a look.

If you are going to be rendering long animations with GI lighting, Vray might be more suitable.


I think you need both Vray and something like Maxwell. Ok, I didn’t use Maxwell, but I’m yet to see the results Maxwell does for some things like metal and some other stuff. I think MR and Vray don’t make metal look too realistic from the start. Mental ray and Vray differ very much in quality of workflow, and Vray is heaps ahead. I think, Maxwell and alike is the future for still rendering and cutting-edge quality choice, for animation Vray perhaps.


actually vray can do pretty much the same as maxwell (brute force unbiased mode) if you really want to.
i agree that having only an unbiased renderer is very limiting. on the plus side, they are very simple, easy to learn, and the result looks great (if you have the time to wait for it).


Pretty nice metal parts there (Vray :wink: )


Vray and Mental Ray can get the same quality and realistic results, MR just has a lot of issues in rendering settings that can be tough to figure out. They both have very similar material setups. To me the Maxwell materials are a bit confusing, but you don’t have to do anything special for your render settings.


As someone who uses Mental Ray, Vray and Maxwell on a regular basis I thought it worth giving my 2 cents. First here is my order of preference depending on need/feature.

IBL (image based lighting with HDRIs):

  1. Maxwell
  2. Vray
  3. Mental Ray

Producing good, fast diffuse metals:

  1. Maxwell (resolves beautiful glossy reflections, depending on the scene fastest of the bunch)
  2. Vray & Mental Ray tied (neither have a real edge here, both can get the job done, so depends on the scene)

Animation (moving objects with GI):

  1. Maxwell (no light caching and no chance of flicker of any kind)
  2. Vray (gotta cache that light, refining those fine details in a lighting solution without flicker is still an issue)
  3. Mental Ray (same but GI+FG workflow is a bit more cumbersome than Vray’s and honestly I find vray’s GI modes are just easier to deal with)

Animation (static scene with GI):

  1. Vray (unless IBL only then I’d say Maxwell)
  2. Mental Ray
  3. Maxwell (unless exterior, then I’d put it at 1 or 2 depending on the scene. Since flicker isn’t an issue with static scenes we loose Maxwell’s strength in this case)

In camera Motion Blur & DOF:
1.Maxwell (by far. You get both practically for free in Maxwell)
2.Vray (Does well at both at the cost of render time. Doesn’t cripple the render or anything but it ain’t for free)
3.Mental Ray (Both MB & DOF still in need of major rework unless you’re using iRay)

Direct Light only stills & Animation:

  1. Mental Ray (I still find look dev with direct light a pleasure with Mental Ray)
  2. Vray (Could be 1 depends onthe day, unless in camera MB & DOF are desired, then 1)
  3. Maxwell (Not maxwell’s strong suit)

Myth debunking:
“Maxwell is Slow” - Not really. In fact it’s faster than Mental ray & Vray depending on the scene. Exterior daylight & IBL cook along in Maxwell. Studio lighting setups can also be quick. Though if you’re talking an architectural interior with 120 IES lights then maybe not so fast. It depends. And to the comment comparing Vray’s brute force to Maxwell, I don’t agree. There is no comparison there. Maxwell is built around an unbiased core and optimized for such. Vray brute force is just forcing a biased engine to behave like an inefficient unbiased render engine.

“Mental Ray Sucks” get Vray - I love Vray but as a competent Mental Ray user of many years I was not completely blown away when I started using it. Vray’s light engine is what sold me on using it, but honestly I was disappointed that glossy reflections were not really any faster. Also soft shadows were much slower than I had hoped etc.

"vray is a Magic Bullet, everybody’s using it! " - both Vray and Mental Ray take a lot of optimization to squeeze out great performance. Simply using it doesn’t make for fast or clean renders. I would say for a novice Vray should be easier to pick up. But that’s assuming that novice goes to make a cool IBL image for their first render. Piece of cake there! That said there are some sweet spots Vray hits just right. The physical camera is awesome! Vray lights are clear and easy to use. Passes in the frame buffer is pretty great!

Conclusion: I currently use Vray for the majority of my work due to it’s great flexibility, but I still use Mental Ray on occasion. Maxwell has been in my tool box since Beta and I use it occasionally as well, though I plan to use it more in the future as it has greatly improved over the past few years.

P.S. Just realize this isn’t as relevant to the OP as I had thought it would be. Oh well. If you want to do product viz with minimal pain. I would go Maxwell coupled with


I’ve used mental ray, Maxwell and V-Ray and I’d say that V-Ray is the best balance of flexible, fast and realistic. Maxwell gets the best results out of the box but V-Ray has full render passes, the VFB and it will scale to animation if you need it to. That said, I would still use (and own) Maxwell if I wanted pure light and high realism like this:

It’s not that you couldn’t do that in V-Ray but it would be less rich without a lot of work. But Maxwell is still too slow for all cases. I just rendered a painting-sized canvas print in V-Ray and I would hate to think of the time it would have taken to resolve to a noiseless image in Maxwell.


Not in any way saying Vray can’t make realistic metal. But sometimes it shows that Maxwell does a better job with it. It’s hard to explain, but it’s there. Once again, I saw images of quality I’ve never seen from Vray or MR (ok, some top studios did produce amazing results with MR, but it was due to production preparation and they had shot lots of reference material and had to match real original scenes).

So Maxwell still doesn’t have any passes?


maxwell is way to slow compared to gpu renderer like octane. you can use maxwell if you have time to render or, if you have some machines to split the rendering on it. if you really have simple scenes then go with a gpu renderer. i did some comparisions between octane and mr, but rendertime its hard to judge because of the different tech booth are using. the setup is easier in octane and also the lookdev. rendertime is faster for what octane does. problem with it is the flexibility. if you need it, then go with mr.

if you do productrenderings on a daily base, why not create a basic setup which is used in all scenes? basic mats and lights with reflectionplanes. its not that hard and you can create fast results without wasting time for setup everything from scratch.


Just get Modo its practically build for this.

Awesome renderer support for lots of CAD stuff, lots of presets and cheap kits.

Best of all its priced very well!


I also think modo is worth considering. One advantage that it has over the others is a best-in-class Preview render, on product shots it will update in realtime and runs faster than Octane, and is much faster than Vray RT.

This one feature makes the whole texturing and lighting workflow very quick and effiecient. In terms of render quality and speed modo is comparable to Vray, however it is not quite as feature rich.