Reality 4.1 Set For Release 21st September


Faster Physically Based Rendering For All!

Exciting times coming up for Reality users. The recent release of LuxRender 1.5 is everything many LR users have been waiting for, and a huge step towards what others are nervously scratching themselves raw for – full featured LuxRender GPU rendering. Taking advantage of the recent release, Reality 4.1 is a grand update for both DS and Poser users. Both Reality and LuxRender have had an extraordinary impact on the community over the years, bringing many artists (hobbyist or otherwise) their first taste of physically based (and accurate) rendering.

For much of that time users have struggled to balance render times with quality, but now with LuxRender 1.5 we are seeing large speed gains on CPU – up to 21 times faster according to the latest YouTube post by Paolo Ciccone. This is the big draw for current Reality users, and will likely be an equally big draw for those considering their PBR options. On top of the gains in CPU rendering, LR 1.5 also includes updates to their OpenCL GPU based renderer.

It would be hard to argue that the inclusion of Iray in DAZ Studio, and to a lesser extent, since the development of Poser, DS and Carrara plugins for Octane, there hasn’t been a diminished interest in LuxRender. I’m one of them. I’ve always stuck with the budget mid level AMD cards, but with Iray effectively halving the “get PBR quickly” entry point, it was too good to pass up. So seeing these latest developments with LR and Reality (not to mention the tantalising future LuxusCore hints at) is a very welcome development. It feels as if balance is returning to the force. Artists wanting in on the PBR racket now have more choice. It’s no longer a matter of go CUDA or wait for the glacial beauty of LuxRender. AMD or Nvidia, CPU or GPU; all DS and Poser users can look forward to faster PBR on a budget that suits them.

It’s Not All About Speed With Reality 4.1

For me, the Reality interface has always been a weak point of the product, particularly when it comes to editing materials. In versions prior to 4, like many other users, I found configuring materials, especially in larger scenes with many surfaces (sometimes with obscure naming conventions), a frustratingly laborious task. Even with updates in this area included in Reality 4, I still often found the messy but natively integrated Luxus much quicker to use. Now it looks like Reality 4.1 is set to squash even more UI nitpicks with the ability to easily bulk edit materials within and across objects.

There are many more very welcome upgrades and additions in Reality 4.1, but I won’t go into them here. Some can be seen in Paolo’s YouTube presentation.

4.1 will be a free update for all current Reality 4 users. Users still on older versions can buy an upgrade direct from Preta 3D – currently $9.95. Reality 4, for those that don’t own it or a previous version, can also pick up DAZ Studio and Poser versions from the previously mentioned Preta 3D, from DAZ 3D, or just about every conceivable DAZ/Poser community store around.

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 (PBR) GPU Rendering in DAZ Studio with Iray

*See this article for graphics card suggestions.

DAZ Studio DAZ Studio users have been enjoying unbiased, physically based rendering (PBR) via GPU 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.

 

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.

Poser Pro 2014 60 Percent Off

For a limited time Smith Micro is offering Poser Pro 2014 for $199, which is about 60% off the regular price. Upgrades from previous versions of Poser are also on discount, ranging from $140 for older versions down to $100 for Poser Pro, Pro 2010, and Pro 2012.

What’s So Good About Poser?

Considering the amount of content and features Poser Pro 2014 packs, this is a pretty darn good deal. For DAZ Studio users looking for something a little more robust, while still very cost-effective, Poser might just be the way to go. I personally use both. I love the additional features of Poser, especially the easy to use “indirect lighting”, physics and animation tools. I prefer DAZ Studio for its user interface, integrated 3Delight render engine, and native Genesis support.

Poser Pro 2014 features include:

  • Full rigging and weight mapping
  • Physics simulation – Soft and hard body dynamics (cloth, hair, jiggly fleshy bits etc)
  • Morph tools
  • Hair creation tools
  • Fitting room (refit clothing designed from one model to another)
  • Advanced OpenGL preview – high quality shadows and materials
  • Node-based material editor
  • Indirect Lighting (Global illumination)
  • Image Based Lighting
  • True HDR support
  • Robust animation tools
  • Pixar subdivision surfaces (OpenSubdiv)

…and much more.

Reality 3

Also hard to pass up over at Smith Micro, is Pret-a-3D’s Reality 3 for Poser (currently $27.95). For those unfamiliar with the product, it is an scene translator and exporter for LuxRender, which is a physically based unbiased render engine. Essentially LuxRender is capable of producing physically accurate images as it closely simulates the behaviour of light and how it interacts with materials and objects.

Skilled use of the render engine can and does produce photorealistic images. The main drawback with LuxRender and unbiased rendering in general is that it is typically much slower than biased engines like Firefly (Poser) and 3Delight (DAZ Studio), though with the continued development of LuxCore, much faster GPU rendering methods are becoming more feasible.

A Note on Poser 3 for DAZ Studio

The good news for DAZ Studio users (that have been waiting, both patiently and otherwise) is that Reality 3 for DAZ Studio is in rapid development and will contain new features not yet in the Poser version. Paolo Ciccone, the developer, regularly posts updates on development progress at Pret-a-3D’s blog.