Review: DAZ 3D’s Victoria 8

Victoria 8: an evolution

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Image courtesy of DAZ 3D

Well, I’ve gone and sunk a good number of hours into playing with the Victoria 8 Pro Bundle, and I have to say I’m pretty impressed, not so much with the content of the bundle, as high quality as those products are, but with Genesis 8 Female and Victoria 8 in general. We’ll get to the content later on.

In every way, DAZ has improved Genesis 8 over Genesis 3, which was a huge departure from Genesis 2, though something of a less exciting release. DAZ has stuck with the “General” weight maps, introduced with Genesis 3, which continues DAZ’s direction of making their figures more compatible with third-party applications. Similarly, DAZ has changed the default pose, to be more current. Daz state this is meant to facilitate content creation.

For content creators, the move away from TriAx weight map is a mixed blessing. Instead of having to deal with many, many weight maps, they now have to contend with dealing with many, many JCMs, some of which will run amok and require lots of corrections.

Genesis and Victoria 8 aren’t a revolution over the previous generation, but it is a very nice evolution. The default Iray materials are a significant improvement, and incorporate new additions to DAZ Studio’s Iray Uber Base.

Genesis 8 base mesh

Inspecting the geometry, and comparing Genesis 3 and Genesis 8 side-by-side reveals they are cut from the same mesh. G8 is slightly lighter on the poly count, coming in at roughly 16.6K vertices, vs G3’s 17.4K, which again was less than G2’s 21.5K.

Arguably, and not without merit, Genesis 2’s mesh offered the most physically accurate base of any of DAZ’s figures to date, but along with that mesh comes a very hard, and toned figure. The mesh offered clear muscle boundaries, and deforms very nicely with the TriAx weight maps, but perhaps as a general base, from which to build new characters, the mesh is too specialised. Some areas of the mesh were messy and perhaps, needlessly intricate.

Genesis and Victoria 8 continue the simplification that Genesis 3 introduced, and while the meshes have been getting smaller, DAZ has clearly been working hard to refine a figure that offers a compromise of detail and simplicity. Many areas of the G8 are much improved over the predessors, including G2 (the figure I have primarily worked with up to this point). The shoulders and neck of Victoria 8 are a nice example of these improvements.

Left to right: V8, V7, V6. Victoria 6 wins the cute award, but V7 shows better and finer details, particularly with expression morphs. V7 apparently never learned how to smile.

Left to right: V8, V7, V6. Victoria 6 wins the cute award, but V7 shows better and finer details, particularly with expression morphs. V7 apparently never learned how to smile.

Genesis 8 muscle flex and more realistic joints

For me, this is one of the biggest changes for Genesis 8. With each figure iteration, DAZ has been working on improving the realism of joint deformation, and with the new muscle flex JCMs in G8, the figures are looking better than ever. I did a quick bicep flex comparison between Victoria 8 and G8 and found that the morphs are present in both figures (which logically flows), though V8 has a more nicely defined and significant bicep bulge.

I also tested the bicep flex between Victoria generations and found, unsurprisingly, that V8 does have the best bulge. In the past this was something that DAZ’s Published artists would create products to achieve, and they probably will still do so. There is always room to improve the base figure and morphs.

Below are demonstrations and comparison of bicep bulge, or lack there of. The first image also makes use of the Head and Body Morphs.

Genesis 8 and Victoria 8 backwards compatibility

Texture compatibility

Genesis 8’s UVs are almost identical to Genesis 3’s. Overlapping them in LightWave we see this quite clearly. The biggest deviation is the eyelashes (not shown here). With G8 the eyelashes have been moved to a separate mesh. Seemingly, reversing this direction, the finger and toenails have been welded into the base mesh. I’m not sure of the reasoning behind these design tweaks, and I’m not going to speculate and risk being horribly wrong (that would be embarrassing).

Victoria 7 and 8 UV maps compared and overlayed in LightWaveThe benefits of having such closely matching UVs are obvious: once again, DAZ has given us the option to use the textures of the previous generation figure, something that they were heavily criticised for breaking with Genesis 3. So while we don’t have out-of-the-box texture support for G2, or older figures, at least we can keep our favourites from the previous generation (assuming you adopted G3).

Victoria 8 selfie styled image demonstrating Victoria 7 texture compatibility.

My rather pasty reworking of a Victoria 7 character texture set on V8.

Also on the topic of UVs and texture compatibility, the genital geograft prop that come with the Pro Bundle of Victoria 7 and 8 share identical UVs. I only got to check this out because I got the V7 Pro Bundle included in the purchase of V8 (nice!).

Genesis 8 hair and clothes compatibility

Whereas texture compatibility is limited, hair and wardrobe compatibility is much more extensive, though, as with previous generations, still subject to the limitations of the Autofit Tool. Where Genesis 3 offered us compatibility with G2 content (extended with further scripts), G8 gives us compatibility all the way back to Genesis. There is little doubt this will be expanded (by PA add-ons) to include Generation 4 figures such as Victoria and Michael 4.

Hair

Autofitting hair from previous generations does a nice enough job, and will generally keep most morphs, though additional rigging is lost (a disappointment we have all come to live with). It is a little perplexing to see morphs disappear from the shaping tab, but generally, these morphs can also be found in the parameters tab. Some longer hair props could use some additional work on their weight maps to get them working at their best. There are some work arounds to fit hair, and keep the additional rigging, though this might be a topic for a future tutorial.

Wardrobe

We are all familiar with this process by now, and generally we know what to expect. Items, like panties, tend to get trashed when they are converted from one figure to another, as are details of pants, such as belts, buckles and pockets. Some of these issues can be fixed with a simple smoothing out with the weight brush.

Tau Ceti Overseer native fit on Victoria 6 (right), and Autofitted to Victoria 7 (right).

Tau Ceti Overseer native fit on Victoria 6 (right), and Autofitted to Victoria 8 (right).

Generally, the more extreme a pose the more we will come up against the limitations of Autofit. A pair of pants, for example, might look fine with a walking pose or animation, but when crouching, where the legs are bent up quite far and to the sides, distortion in the crotch is likely to be quite noticeable. Luckily, for those that don’t want to get into weight mapping and morphing, lighting and textures can hide a multitude of sins.

G2 item autofitted to V8 (left). Quick weight painting fix (Right).

G2 item autofitted to V8 (left). Quick weight painting fix (Right).

Long dresses and skirts tend to suffer more than a lot of other items when converting between figures, especially for ones that include additional rigging to control the flow of the longer fabric. Again, there are work arounds for retaining the rigging, but that goes beyond this review.

Poses

Genesis 8 backwards compatibility with poses is limited, but there is some functionality. I found that the arms were the least responsive. At best you have a horribly butchered base to work from, at worst you’ll be rolling on the floor laughing (which is actually good). The key is to have low expectations in this area.

I found that there was actually greater compatibility between G2 to G3 poses then there was from G3 to G8.

testing poses on various generations of Victoria 8

The inverse is also true. G8 pose on V6 (left), V7, V8 (right)

Victoria 8 Pro Content

Victoria 8 posing in red and black custom shader Andromeda outfit. One of my biggest criticisms of DAZ’s Pro Bundles, from G2 through to present, is that other than additional content (which while good quality, is obviously consumer oriented) and genitals, there is nothing to distinguish the starter and Pro Bundles. There is no extended functionality, which one expects from the title “Pro”.

My memory could be faulty, but I seem to remember the original V5 and M5 bundles coming with the Evolution Morph Bundles, which included the head and body morphs. I have gone and looked, and they aren’t included, so it might just be my faulty memory after all… To me, giving the Pro bundle some more flexibility would make it a truly “Pro” bundle, hell let’s get carried away and throw in HD morphs while we are adding stuff to the wish list.

This is not to diminish the value of the Victoria 8 Pro Bundle. The content, as always, is top shelf stuff, and this time we have a great mix of contemporary, sci-fi, and fantasy themes. The included hair is of particular note; both offer a lot of detail and a high realism quality, which is always very welcome. The Voss hair comes with the Starter Bundle, and the Vertigo Ponytail comes with the Pro set (the starter set being included in the Pro set).

Victoria 8 side profile demonstrating subsurface scattering (sss) and translucency of hair.

FW’s Rebekah HD with Vertigo Ponytail.

The content I was particularly interested in added up to over $150, so right off the bat the Victoria 8 Pro Bundle is already worth it, especially if you are getting it at the opening discount price, and more-so if you are a Platinum Club member (which unfortunately I’d let slip). So clearly, my criticism isn’t so much about value, it’s more of a petty (I’m big enough to admit it) disagreement of the definition of “Pro”.

Victoria 8 yay or nay?

And that’s it! That’s my review of Victoria 8. I like her. I think she’s a good and valuable evolution in DAZ’s line of figures. She offers greater physical accuracy with the new muscle flex JCMs. While some are mixed on whether a more general, less detailed base figure is better or worse, or whether moving to a JCM dominated figure is better or worse, DAZ manages to offer an improved figure that offers a good compromise which expands its utility to more users.

PowerPose

…I realised I hadn’t talked about the update to Power pose, and the new template for Genesis 8. It’s a great addition to Genesis 8, and a long overdue update on DAZ’s behalf. It can be a little counter-intuitive and awkward, but it is a worthy tool that is worth persevering with and developing a feel for.

Demonstrating PowerPose in DAZ 3D with Victoria 7

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Review: Iray Light Manager Pro (for Daz Studio)

413243Ordering Lighting Chaos In DAZ Studio

With the inclusion of Iray into DAZ Studio, managing lights became a lot more complex. With 3Delight, most of the lights settings could be configured via the properties or, alternatively, the lights tab, but now we have our lights spread over three tabs and a multitude of sub menus. We have our environment lighting, a physical sun and image based lighting maps (IBL) in our render tab; we have standard DAZ Studio lights available via the “lights” or “properties” tabs; and then we have our surface based lights accessible via the “surfaces” tab. In some cases you are going to be using all these tabs to configure lights for scenes

For some users, this is all fairly new and complicated. Users, familiar with Omnifreaker’s amazing shader and lighting tools for 3Delight, know the pain of having lighting settings spread out all over the place. It’s quite apparent that the way DAZ Studio currently organises lights is wildly inefficient. Thankfully Iray users now have Iray Light Manager Pro. This tool collects all environment, traditional lights (point, distant, spot), and surface lights into one interface.

And here enters Iray Light Manager PRO by V3Digitimes. I’m going to start with the fact that Light Manager Pro isn’t perfect, but it is worth the imperfection. It is a lot quicker than drilling down drop-down menus over several tabs. To start with I had to train myself not to go digging around in DAZ Studio’s menus (bad habits die hard), but once I got a feel for Light Manager, it became a new habit to use this. Clunky as it is, it is hands-down more efficient than clicking around the DAZ Studio interface going from tab to tab, to sub menus.

54233What Does Light Manager Pro Do For Us?

Light Manager Pro’s interface is simple and neat. It divided into six tabs, but most of the work will typically be done within three of those (DS Lights, Environment Light, and Surface lights). These tabs give near full control over our lights, and identify them clearly by type/label (DS Lights) and node/surface (Surface Lights). Controls include everything you find in the light type’s respective tabs (Surfaces, Parameters, Render > Environment), including the ability to apply IES profiles and set the geometry type for point and spot lights.

What is missing, is the ability to change light names (would be handy), and there is no option to set an environment texture. It would also be a bonus to be able to add or change textures on surface lights. These little changes will require going back to the lighting tabs. Everything else is here.

Now, the tabs that are bound to be used less. The Collective Actions tab is handy for quickly changing settings globally, such as increasing the intensity of all lights in a dark scene, or lowering them, if need be. Temperature and colour can also be changed.  There is also a handy feature to exclude categories or individual lights from the edits. The other two tabs provide controls to move lights and cameras.

Iray Light Manager Pro for Daz Studio in action.

Light Manager allows for rapid configurations of many lights.

Things I Didn’t Like

In addition to the small items I mentioned above there are some real gripes. My primary complaint about Iray Light Manager Pro is that opening it makes DAZ Studio inaccessible. You cannot interact with the rest of DAZ Studio at all while Light Manager is open. This is something that really ground my goat (whatever that means) with Reality 2. There is no reason for this. I often work with two monitors and I’d be very happy to work with Light Manager open, taking up a portion of the secondary real estate. Hell, it is so handy that I’d be happy to run it taking up part of the primary display.

Another issue I had with the fresh install of Light Manger Pro is it comes without a menu entry or hotkey. I found it by digging around in the content library. Obviously, having to go scrolling through the content library each time would be the opposite of saving time. That would be extremely annoying. Luckily it is easy to create a “custom action” which creates a script that activates Light Manager (see our tutorial on creating custom actions and keyboard shortcuts). This is very easy to set up by right clicking the icon in the “Scripts” folder and clicking “Create Custom Action”.

Streamlined Workflow: Final Thoughts on Light Manager Pro

Stalker: DAZ Studio Iray render. Ominous back-lit figure menaces in background as woman poses under soft lights.

Putting Light Manager Pro to the test and getting out of hand.

For me, having all the lights and controls located in a single place is intuitive and far more efficient than clicking all around DAZ Studio. The limitations of the program are mostly small, though I would love to see an update to allow DAZ Studio and Iray Light Manager to both be open and usable at the same time. That one point would raise my rating from a silver to gold, even with my other minor complaints left in.

If you wish for a simpler and more efficient lighting experience with DAZ Studio, then this is the plugin for you. As the plug-ins title suggests, it is intended for Iray, but I imagine it would be handy for controlling DAZ Studio’s traditional lights with 3Delight, though most features would be superfluous.

As I was writing the original copy of this review (which I ditched), I was working on a scene to give all the features a good testing, but as with such things, I got carried away with adding more things, and now I’m in the process of texturing a parasol. However, I did find that working with Light Manager Pro prompted me to be more creative with lighting, something I assume grows out of the streamlined workflow. And how can I offer greater praise than to say a plugin promoted greater creativity.

Parasol 3D model work in progress. Rendered in DAZ Studio.

Quick render of the item that kept me away from finishing this review earlier.

 

Review – Refined Rigging: Clothing Case Studies

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Esha’s Refined Rigging: Clothing Case Studies is part of 3D Art Live’s webinar catalogue, which luckily for us, are now being released in DAZ 3D’s store. This is the first time I have picked up a product from them, and given my experience of the presentations and content, I have already gone back for more, picking up information products delivered by Arki and Esha.

What Brought Me to Refined Rigging?

For me, one of the most interesting parts of 3D is the modelling side, but I didn’t realise this until I wanted to make my own content for Genesis. There it was, this lofty and intimidating goal, but I knew I’d need to get into the nitty gritting of rigging, weight mapping, and morphing. Serious “too hard basket” stuff, but little by little I crept towards making wearables. My first experience was using the transfer tool to fit old Michael and Victoria 4 shoes and boots to Genesis. Still, I wasn’t ready for serious rigging, and did my best to avoid it by using cloth dynamics in other programs. Of course, dynamics is very slow and rigging gives us a lot more flexibility. It was clear I had to learn rigging to progress.

 

Notes on Other Handy DAZ Studio Rigging Material

 

tvtkrzs0Now I’m serious about rigging. I’m not hiding from it any more. First I turned to Blondie9999’s Rigging Original Figures and Advanced Rigging in DS4 Pro. These documents are fantastic, and I recommend them to anyone getting into rigging in DAZ Studio. Unfortunately they don’t cover general weight maps, which the current Genesis 3 (Victoria 7/ Michael 7) models use, but they do cover TriAx weight maps, used by Genesis/2 figures (which is technically more advanced, but more of a faff to work with). The information in both documents is still useful, and the sections on weight mapping are generally transferable to the “new system”.

One area Blondie’s documents don’t cover is creating JCMs (Joint controlled morphs). Well, they are mentioned in one document, but only in passing. I suspect that Blondie didn’t spend time talking about JCMs because of the comprehensive nature of TriAx weight maps. TriAx offers maps to control joint deformation for each axes, so three weight maps per joint, plus two extra to control bulge, such as muscle flexing. With this level of detail achievable with weight maps, the use of JCMs is bound to be greatly reduced.

tj7a2nwiThen along comes Victoria 7 and Genesis 3 figures, ditching TriAx, and utilising general weight maps. General weight maps are much easier to work with, but offer far less control, thus less detail. To overcome this limitation the Genesis 3 base figure relies heavily on JCMs to produce those realistic bends.

So, while Blondie’s documents don’t cover working with general weight maps and JCMs, they are still easy to recommend for anyone learning about rigging content and original figures. Advanced Rigging in DS4 Pro contains lots of great topics including geo-grafting. The information on weight mapping in these documents is still invaluable, and TriAx weight maps remain a viable option for those rigging original figures or working with Genesis/2. Similarly, for those that are working with TriAx, a working knowledge of creating and setting up JCMs is still valuable information.

An additional resource worth mentioning is The Comprehensive Guide to Rigging Tools in DAZ Studio by Thomas Windar. This document is boss (aka really good). It explains all the tools necessary for rigging TriAx and General weight figures and props. If you are new to rigging content, this document is worth grabbing. I found the section on the mystical Rigidity Groups useful and illuminating.

 

Esha’s Refined Rigging to The Rescue

 

Late last year I was creating content, primarily for personal use, for Victoria 7. When it came to rigging I encountered strange mesh deformations, most noticeably in a gasmask. I checked my weight maps, and as far as I could tell there was nothing there to cause the problem. I poked about on the forum and ended up starting a new thread, but I never got to the bottom of the problem. Eventually I put the content aside and decided to come back to it later… which I still have yet to do.

When I saw Esha’s Refined Rigging I had a feeling it would give some insight into the issues I’d had. A few minutes in, and behold, Esha was describing exactly what was causing my problem. It turns out that Victoria 7’s JCMs were transferring to my rigged props, causing unwanted deformations.

But it wasn’t just this vague hope that Esha would have some solutions to this problem that lead to me purchasing the tutorial. It was the fact that it covered weight mapping and creating mesh morph/JCMs for troublesome spots. These topics were of particular interest to me because I have been transferring old content to new figures and it was becoming apparent I needed help with pesky spots, like the groin. This tutorial came along at the perfect time.

Anyone that has used the transfer tool and auto fit between generations of figures has witnessed the horror it does to items like shorts and panties. The problems are also common in long pants that aren’t skin tight. The shorts I was working on at the time were a particular mess, so again, Esha’s Refined Rigging promised helpful insights, and again, it delivered.

Esha shows how to fix weight maps for those tough spots and create corrective morphs to replace the base JCMs (which spontaneously generate, even after being deleted). Esha used ZBrush for the tutorial, but I was able to easily apply the concepts in Lightwave. Esha also demonstrated how to use ERC freeze to set up complex morphs that apply when multiple joints are rotated. In this case it was having both thighs spread to the sides (splits).

These images show some of my journey from the horrors created by the transfer tool, though to a pretty decent looking morph I used as a JCM. For a long time I have known I need to learn how to do JCMs, but the documentation is hard to find, incomplete and vague. Esha’s tutorial did a great job of filling in the blanks and making the process easier to understand.

JCMs and custom weight maps bringing old content to Victoria 7

 

Some Issues

to find JCMs that are affecting a mesh the "show hidden" option must be enabled.As much as I found the material informative, and as much as it helped with current projects, I did have some issues with the provided information. It wasn’t quite exhaustive enough. That is the nature of video tutorials that have set times.

My first problem was finding which JCMs were affecting my mesh. In the tutorial Esha shows that they are found in the “Currently Used” tab in the properties menu. I clicked the tab and found nothing! I clicked around for way too long and eventually turned to Google, but unfortunately I found no info on why I couldn’t see them. Eventually I stumbled upon the “Show Hidden” option (after more clicking around). Why this wasn’t mentioned is beyond me. It is extremely important information.

The second problem was that I couldn’t find the section on how to hook up JCMs manually. I ran into an issue where DAZ Studio was not applying a JCM correctly and I wanted to hook it up manually to see if that resolved the problem. I skipped through the tutorial a number of times looking for the section, which I’m fairly sure is in there, but I couldn’t find it. Again I had to go back to Google, and luckily this time there was a solution. DAZ provides information about hooking up JCMs manually.  The information is for an older version, and things have slightly changed, but the process was basically the same.

Indeed, there was a maths error that was causing my morph to apply incorrectly as the thighs were rotated to the side, but the solution was as easy as dividing one number by another. Now my morph applies correctly ever time, and I’m much happier.

These points are minor. The first was frustrating and would have been resolved with a quick demonstration. The second one could have been remedied with a PDF transcript or perhaps a simple index of topics and the times they are discussed.

Why We Need Esha’s Refined Rigging

Overall I would highly recommend Refined Rigging to anyone that wants to make content or alterations to content for Genesis 3 based figures such as Victoria and Michael 7. JCMs play a huge roll in DAZ’s new figures, and it is a key concept to understand and control.

Esha’s presentation is concise and packed with information demonstrated with practical applications. This tutorial is perfect for anyone that wants to go deeper than using the auto-fit tool and fix those troublesome issues to make the best content and content refinements possible.

I also found it handy that the package came in standard definition and HD. As someone that has somewhat limited data budget, the standard definition was a valuable data saver.

What’s next?

In an upcoming post I’ll be filling in a few blanks I think would have been nice additions to Esha’s tutorial. I won’t be recreating or going over her key points, that would be rude, just filling in some blanks.

Reality 4.1 Review

I’ve written, rewritten, performed delicate surgery, and ultimately torn up this review a number of times now. I don’t want to be the negative reviewer guy, but what it comes down to is that I’m just not very impressed with Reality 4. Sure, we have some nice features introduced since Reality 2, such as procedural textures, and SSS, but I’m just not sold (more on that later). There are many happy Reality users out there, but then there are the others like me, skeptical, on the fence, indifferent. So, I’m not saying Reality is bad, just that it’s not my beverage of choice.

Metropolis CPU 20 mins

Metropolis CPU 20 mins

Before moving on I should point out now that I’m writing this review for the DAZ Studio (Windows 7) version using a i7 4770 and two GTX 780ti cards (not AMD cards). For most GPU renders I stuck with using the 780 in the secondary slot as using the first or both resulted in slow system response. All renders in this review are raw from Reality for the purposes of test (sorry, no pretty ones here).

LuxRender Speed Increases

Given my outlook of Reality I was still quite excited by the news of Reality 4.1 and all the talk of speed. Speed increases are a huge selling point for me when it comes to LuxRender, and in this regard Reality 4.1 is a solid point release. 4.1 gives access to some of the latest advances of LuxRender 1.5, which is great. We see some nice acceleration on many recent CPUs, and we get a greatly updated OpenCL based engine, which is now well on the way to containing all the features of CPU LuxRender.

CPU Extra Boost 19 min A close examination of shows the stark differences between bidirectional and standard path tracing.

CPU Extra Boost 19 min
A close examination shows the stark differences between bidirectional and standard path tracing.

There are a number of caveats with these speed increases. First: CPU and GPU “boost” modes only support Path “mono-directional” renderer (depending on the type of scene being rendered this may or may not be an issue). Boost seems to be one of Paolo’s own “homebrew” tweaks to Lux render settings. Two: There are slight (and sometimes not so slight) render difference between OpenCL and standard CPU modes. I’ve noticed this with glossytranslucent materials, particularly when coupled with the homogenous volume for SSS. More importantly, there are issues with geometry artefacts at lower levels of subdivision. These issues appear to be particularly noticeable on models that heavily rely on subd methods for controlling shape, such as the Genesis figures (fixed as of 4.1.1).

Reality 4: A Mix of Good and Bad

Reality was my introduction to physically based rendering, which completely spoiled me for biased options. Even the pretty Monte Carlo GI in LightWave felt like slumming it afterwards. What spoiled my interest in Reality, as a bridge to LuxRender, was Luxus. Luxus is a huge ‘effing mess in its implementation (in to DAZ Studio’s user interface), but it has a number of points that, in my mind, and to a good number of others users, makes it superior. Probably the most significant of these points is that it exposes the controls for just about every feature of LuxRender.

CPU left, OpenCL right. Both metropolis. Again we see that CPU is still king in terms of quality.

CPU left, OpenCL right. Both metropolis, and both with identical material settings. We see that CPU is still king in terms of quality.

Luxus beat Reality (3, Poser) to the punch when it came to offering options for subsurface scattering, and with all the extra render and material features I could forgive that Luxus was spread all over the place with huge ugly lists of options (some of which even the hardest core of the hardcore would rarely touch). It’s a raw, barebones sort of plugin, but it makes up for it in power. I had hoped that Luxus would shake up the Reality trajectory, but every release of Reality has been an evolution of the earlier product (which, depending on perspective is either good or less good). Maybe Luxus didn’t hurt Reality, maybe Paolo (Mr Reality) never saw the endless blog and forum posts that pointed out the power aspects of Luxus. Maybe these “elite users” aren’t a big enough porting of Reality users. Whatever the reason, Paolo is happy to tell us how we should be using LuxRender.

Reality on Right, Luxus on left. Both are flawed renders but Luxus gives many more options when setting up glossy translucent materials. Texture control maps are great for subtle tweaks.

Reality on Right, Luxus on left. Both are flawed renders but Luxus gives many more options when setting up glossy translucent materials. Texture control maps are great for subtle tweaks.

I love that Luxus lets us tweak render settings, access multiple subsets of rendering engines. I love that it gives us sensible access to the basics such as glossy translucent surfaces and volumes. Yes, I know Reality has these surfaces and volumes, but even then Reality gives us the “light version”. Why, in this wondrous modern day and age, or we not given the option to input textures in to our absorption and scattering slots? Why is Reality lingo inconsistent with LuxRender lingo? Why does it require google to learn how to setup a glossy translucent surface specifically for Reality? The manual is obscenely vague on this process.

One would assume the glossy trans would be sitting right next to glossy and matt materials, but nuh-uh. We unlock this obscure material via volumes. Why? And why is there a separate tab for volumes in the first place? Yes, I guess it might make it easier to share volumes between different surfaces, but what about good old copy past? After all, we are probably going to have to tweak those volume settings from one model or character set to the next.

OpenCL having a fit on left. CPU doing weird stuff on right. Presumably the patchy areas in the CPU image is working to clear noise.

OpenCL having a fit on left. CPU doing weird stuff on right. Presumably the patchy areas in the CPU image is working to clear noise (noise aware).

Reality has gone a good distance on squashing some strange idiosyncrasies and quirks, but these seem to be rooted in Paolo’s design process and ideas about how things should be, both in terms of design and how users should relate to LuxRender

To cut through it all, and paraphrase so many posts I’ve seen on the subject, Reality is great for novices and those that just want to get on with the business of rendering. If Reality were a book it would be “LuxRender for Dummies”. This is certainly not a bad thing. Many of the render settings are superfluous for many users, as are texture control maps, but for hardcore render geeks and artists that really want to push their work to the next level, it is limited. There, that’s it! Reality is limited.

Final Thoughts: Reality 4/4.1 and LuxRender

Reality’s Good Points
  • Reality is great for new users, and those that want to render without having to worry about a huge list of engine configurations.
  • It supports a good chunk of what LuxRender has to offer
  • It is relatively easy to work with (though with some frustrating quirks)
  • Some love the Reality GUI
  • Speed increases
  • Procedural goodies
Reality’s Bad Points
  • The first point on the list isn’t about the program so much, but this seems rather big to me. On the Reality “Details” page there is one mention of LuxRender, and it’s all the way down the bottom of the page. This seems to be a systematic tactic taken on other pages on Preta3D.

“Reality is a rendering solution that extends DAZ Studio and Poser providing the most advanced Physics-Based Rendering system in the market.”

Is it just me, or are we correctly attributing the awesome rendering power here? Let’s give Paolo the benefit of the doubt and say he’s concerned making too much out of the external render engine (which Preta3D has little to do with) will unnecessarily scare people away. Something like that?

  • Reality hides many of LuxRender’s rendering and material features (more so the former). Some of these would be very beneficial to intermediate and advanced users.
  • Reasonable manual
  • Reality GUI – though considerably improved since Reality 2 (first version I used)
  • Convoluted glossy translucent and volume setup
  • Would love to see more of the procedural options available for use in the diffuse channels (as opposed to being strictly for displacement).
  • Manual has some serious limitations and oversites
  • Reality lingo is not always consistent with LuxRender spec
  • Does not include the LuxRender environment camera (why?)
On LuxRender Speed Increases

Metropolis CPU is still by far the sharpest tool in the LuxRender arsenal. Comparing OpenCL, accelerated, and “Extra Boost” render side-by-side with CPU renders will often be as day is to night. Sometimes speed just isn’t worth it. OpenCL just isn’t there yet, but we are so close!

If you have a reasonable NVIDIA card LuxRender might not be the best option, certainly not in all situations. See the next post for a head-to=head LuxRender vs Iray.

On Luxus vs Reality

For the sake of final balance it is necessary to make a notes on Luxus in its current state.

  • Has not been updated in quite some time. As a result it doesn’t support all LuxRender’s latest features, though it does include text boxes to input code.
  • Its incorporation into DAZ Studio makes an art of mess.
  • Poor documentation.
  • Bug where Luxus somehow fails to export materials. A very frustrating bug.
  • Exports scenes to a temp folder (that wipes on closing DAZ Studio). However, this can be changed.
  • No environment camera (why?).

In short, I would love to see this plugin updated and tidied up. In its current state Reality is the better plugin for most users. You can pickup Reality 4 for DAZ Studio and Poser from most DAZ/Poser community brokerages including DAZ and directly from Pret-a-3D.