News Roundup – Poser, Renderman Non-Commercial

Poser Pro 2014 On Sale

Poser’s back on sale at 55% off. There’s that and then it seems Poser 10 has dropped in price significantly to just $69.99. Not sure when this happened, but if you can live with rendering with the 32-bit limitation, then it’s a good buy.

Poser Service Release 5.2

Along with the sale, Smith Micro has pushed out the “5.2 service release”, which includes a bunch of enhancements and fixes. I hadn’t updated since service release 2, so it was a nice surprise. Installed just today. As only an occasional user of the software I haven’t noticed much of a change, but there are likely others out there that are eager for their fixes and boosters.

Renderman Non-Comercial

The really big news comes from Pixar, who have just released a fully featured non-commercial release of their wildly famous Renderman. While this is super-cool news, it’s also somewhat muted by the fact that Maya and Katana are the only programs currently supported by Renderman directly via plugins. There are a number of other programs that have various levels of compatibility with RM. DAZ Studio with it’s tight integration with 3Delight (which is Renderman compliant), can export RIB files, which can be readily rendered with RM standalone. Poser, as far as I can tell is also RM compliant and can also export RIBs. So, great news, and ok news right there.

Commercial versions of the engine have had a huge price cut. Happy 25th birthday to Renderman!

Iray Tests

And just because, here’s a few tests I did recently with Iray. Happy days!


Iray by Jim-Zombie on DeviantArt

Unbiased GPU Rendering in DAZ Studio with Iray

DAZ Studio DAZ Studio users have been enjoying unbiased and GPU based rendering for a good while now. The go to for many users up till now has been LuxRender via the Reality and Luxus series of plugins. Octane and it’s tightly integrated plugin for DAZ Studio has been embraced by both, professionals, and enthusiasts with more cheddar to throw at their hobby. Now with DAZ Studio 4.8x (aka Project Iradium – a clever little play on words), DAZ 3D has gone big and, thanks to a recent deal signed with Nvidia, brought production grade unbiased GPU rendering to the masses.

Not familiar with Iray? Just type “Iray” into Google and prepare to have your jaw dropped. The exact details of the deal aren’t clear. I’ve contacted D3D for comment and will post any details that come to light, but any way you slice it, unbiased GPU at this level is a very cool tool to have tightly integrated into DS, especially when sitting alongside 3Delight, DS’s long-time primary render engine.

In this article:

  1. The usual explanations – CUDA, OCL, Unbiased etc (for dinosaurs and noobs)
  2. Basics of using Iray – surfaces and rendering
  3. Iray vs LuxRender

CUDA, OpenCL, Unbiased, GPU – What Does It All Mean?

There is still a good deal of confusion in the community about CUDA, OpenCL, unbiased rendering, and GPU based rendering. As some already know, and others will guess, Iray is a CUDA based engine, so those with newer and beefier Nvidia cards (ie. those with more CUDA cores) will have the most to gain from the new engine. Those with AMD cards (myself included) miss out on all the accelerated goodness, but luckily, we can still make use of Iray as it also includes CPU options.

So, the short:

CUDA is strictly a technology accessible to only those with Nvidia cards

Iray is CUDA reliant for GPU modes of rendering, but those with cards without CUDA cores can still make use of Iray’s CPU modes.

OpenCL is supported by both AMD and Nvidia, but AMD have adopted it to a greater extent. Most examples of programs that utilise OpenCL tend to be much faster on AMD cards.

Unbiased rendering algorithms simulate the way light interacts with geometry and materials in such a way that the results are physically plausible, sometimes to the point where observers are unable to determine the difference between a photograph and a 3D rendering. It is therefore easier to light a scene for unbiased rendering than for one that will be rendered with a biased engine, which often require the placement of more lights and wizardry to produce plausible or aesthetically pleasing results.

The trade-off that has kept unbiased engines in the domain of super geeks and the artistic fringe is that all those simulated photons and surface interactions are incredibly expensive, in terms of processing power. For film and television all those extra cycles can quickly blow the budget. In recent years the massive parallel processing power of graphics cards has seen the development of software to move the burden off the CPU and onto the GPU.

That’s the basics, and in a few short years anyone that happens to read this will smile at my quaint assumption that such things still need to be explained.

Using Iray: The Very Basic Basics

Iray stuff in action.

Iray stuff in action.

Getting The Latest DAZ Studio Public Beta

If you have not yet picked up a free copy of a beta from the DAZ store, pay a quick visit to the DAZ Studio Beta page and add it to your cart. If you have already participated in a beta from the post 4.5x days you can download it from DIM or your product library on DAZ 3D’s site. The steps are a little convoluted for DIM, but if you check out the beta thread on the forum you’ll get there. [Ed] Somehow I missed the fact that the beta page also includes screen caps to show the exact process for installing with DIM.

Surfaces

DAZ have clearly done a lot of work integrating Iray into DAZ Studio. Though the current offering is still a public beta it is easy to get up and running with Iray in minutes. The default DAZ shader translates quite effectively into Iray, as does Age of Armour’s Subsurface Shader Base (SSB), but for best results it is suggestible to apply the Iray ubershader or a fitting shader preset. These presets are all easy to access from Surfaces (tab) > Preset > Shaders > Iray.

Anyone that has any experience SSB or UberSurface should be able to quickly recognise the various inputs and controllers. There is also a pretty darn good preset for G2 characters, though I think it works best for those of lighter skin.

A scene I made to test out our new engine. Original image took about 2 hours to render. 600K+ poly scene with 18 mesh lights + 1 spot.

A scene I made to test out our new engine. Original image took about 2 hours to render. 600K+ poly scene with 18 mesh lights + 1 spot.

 

Rendering

Rendering is also a breeze. Render Settings (tab) > Engine > NVIDIA Iray. In many cases you can simply hit render. There are some options to play with, especially when it comes to playing with the sun/sky model and tone mapping. Think photography on the latter there – all very familiar to Lux users and photographers, though the values and controls seem to produce some odd results.

45 mins to render? Don't recall exactly now

45 mins to render? Don’t recall exactly now

 

LuxRender Vs Iray

There has been a good deal of debate on the various community forums whether Lux or Iray is faster in both CPU and GPU modes. Given that I’ve slipped behind on LuxRender in recent times I don’t have anything solid to add to the debate. With CUDA and Iray being more mature than both OpenCL and LuxRender I’d take a punt on Iray in both cases. For those willing to forego the most physically accurate results Lux probably has the upper hand as both Luxus and Reality expose a number of Lux’s alternate algorithms, which can produce some great results quickly.

A bonus of Iray is that DAZ have implemented a very nice progressive preview viewport option. This means we can see all the tweaks we make rendered before our eyes in a close approximation to how our final render will look. Compare this with Luxus’ preview, which is perhaps marginally faster (and more restrictive) than exporting to the Lux GUI. Of course, 3Delight users have been enjoying a progressive preview since the DS 4.7x general release.

I have noted that the Iray viewport preview, at least on my CPU, lags and crashes Studio if I ask too much from it too quickly. Given the CPU intensive nature of the preview this is not unexpected, but hopefully DAZ will have a solution to minimise this inconvenience, assuming this is a problem for CPU users in general, and not just me.

The one department Lux stands head and shoulders over the current implementation of Iray in DAZ Studio is its external GUI. With Lux’s GUI you can alter tone mapping and light settings on the fly, along with adding and configuring post effects such as bloom and vignetting. Hopefully we will see similar features for Iray incorporated into the DS GUI.

With OpenCL, and the render engines that utilise it, still playing catch-up to Nvidia’s CUDA technology it is likely plugins like Reality for DAZ Studio will take a hit, but with AMD cards remaining considerably cheaper than those offered by Nvidia , and with more advanced rendering algorithms moving into LuxRender’s pure GPU, it is likely that Lux and Reality will be with DAZ users for years to come.

Conclusion: Being a lover of new toys I am once again considering Nvidia cards against a list of priorities.

DAZ 3D Printed Figures

DAZ 3D – Embracing the 3D Printing Revolution

Cute sci-fi character – one of the current 3D prints offered by DAZ 3D

I’ve put so many blog posts on the back burner over the last several months that there really is no best place to start. So many cool things have been going on in the 3D enthusiast arena. Hell, I didn’t even do a write up for the amazing DAZ Studio 4.7 release back in November last year. At some point a blogger needs to pick an interesting piece of news or topic and dive in.

DAZ’s move into offering 3D a href=”http://www.anrdoezrs.net/links/6269025/type/dlg/http://www.daz3d.com/prints”target=”_blank”>printed sculpts of their content is just one such interesting piece of news. Most of us with an interest in technology and 3D arts have been following the development of 3D printing with great interest. To hold your very own 3D creations and fill your man cave, living space, workstation etc is a very appealing idea. 3D printer “nutters” have been doing this with varying levels of success and sophistication for years now, but the technology has remained too expensive and primitive for the general home user or commercial scale production, though it is now starting to filter down into the mainstream. Point in case, we have DAZ 3D now offering the service.

 

Currently DAZ is only offering a small range of printed figures, possibly as a trial phase, but appear to be poised to roll out the service for fully customised creations. The 3D printing promo video (above), and the 3D printing section of DAZ’s website clearly suggest as much.

While there are only four items to choose from right now, a number of very lucky DAZ 3D customers received a free promotional print of this very spiffy sci-fi character. Congratulations to all you lucky recipients, you have my most sincere jealousy ;)

RWBY Season 2 – Poser Powered Animation



The butt-kicking warrior students from Beacon Academy are back! RWBY season 2 is just around the corner (online premiere 24th July). Just yesterday the trailer for the 3D, beat ‘em up and RPG inspired anime premiered at Rooster Teeth’s very own convention (RTX). Obviously, as posted above, the trailer is now available online. The second seasons boasts better visuals – gone are the black silhouettes that constituted character extras. This in itself will please many, but visuals have been improved in many other areas including shadows and greater utilisation of Poser’s physics engine for hair and cloth (perhaps other stuff too – not sure).

RWBY Production Diaries – Interesting Tidbits

During development a number of “Production Diaries” were filmed and offer some interesting insights into how the anime is put together. Areas covered (albeit far too briefly) include: modelling, uv mapping, texturing, motion capture and animation, voice acting and sound effects. Though us 3D nerds would have sunk our teeth into deeper production diaries, there were some areas clarified from earlier technical discussion that took place at the previous RTX and elsewhere online.

I found the section on animation particularly interesting. It has been known that the RWBY team use a mix of motion capture and keyframing, but it was never clear how much of either was used. As it turns out much of the fight sequences are animated with traditional methods. Motion capture, on the other hand, seems to be heavily used for scenes that are heavy on character interaction, where emotion and subtle nuances are more important. Given Monty Oum’s previous projects this approach is not so surprising. This guy has built a cult following with his rapid paced hand-animated fight scenes.

RWBY: Inspiring and Guilty Pleasure

The work Rooster Teeth do with Poser on RWBY and Red Vs Blue continues to be inspirational, and I have to admit I have become a little intrigued with the plot. What are The White Fan up to, and is going to what about them? Any bets the young women with their male sidekicks (makes for an interesting change of pace, doesn’t it?) won’t be pushed to the fore of the coming conflict? No, I thought not. Of course a bunch of children with insane weaponry and magic will once again save the world. And why not? Adults are far too busy playing Politics and Tycoons™ to get involved with such noble endeavours.

Catch up

If you haven’t yet seen RWBY season 1 you can catch up at Rooster Teeth’s website and on their YouTube channel. You can also pick up RWBY season 1 on DVD/Blue-ray at Amazon.