How to auto-populate renders with Autodesk 3ds Max

How to auto-populate renders with Autodesk 3ds Max

If you’re presenting building plans to clients, it’s always good to give a bit of human context. The 3ds Max auto-populate feature in the 2015 version is more than just putting people into renders to help the idea of scale – you can make the automatically generated people follow defined paths around scenes and more.

The auto-populate function hasn’t just been limited to large scenes (visual garnish), and can actually be used for smaller indoor scenes, with people reacting with the furniture in the room appropriately. There are also some large customisation capabilities so you can have a lot more control over how every person looks.

Check out the video below for more on how to use the auto-populate functionality in Autodesk 3ds Max 2015.

Want to know more about Autodesk 3ds Max? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email autodesk@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news and tips follow us on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

Are you using the right hardware for your Autodesk software?

Are you using the right hardware for your Autodesk software?

Whether you’re sculpting in Mudbox, animating characters in Maya, whipping up pre-visualisations in 3ds Max or drafting like billy-o in AutoCAD LT, some of the basics of what makes a good Autodesk workstation stay the same (stock up on RAM and pack in as many cores as possible), but with so many different software suites and qualified components out there, it can be difficult to work out which workstation is best for you. To help make things easier, here are our top tips for choosing Mac and PC workstations for your Autodesk software of choice… 

For AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT for Mac users

We have good news: virtually any Mac will run AutoCAD or AutoCAD LT, from the beefiest of Mac Pros (ideal for handling big models quickly) to the smallest Mac mini (great for setting up freelancers with temporary desks, or if you want to take your setup with you to meet a client, as it’ll plug into any keyboard and display).

We know that a lot of users are sticking to their ageing Mac Pros in order to keep using NVIDIA Quadro 4000 or Quadro K5000 cards due to their higher fidelity, but the latest models have a huge amount to offer. With powerful 12-core CPUs on offer, the latest Mac Pro can help you create and navigate simulations far faster. The fact that the usual lumbering hard drive has been replaced by a fast, agile SSD means you’ll also be able to work with huge models far more efficiently.

If you’re really itching to customise your workstation, we’ll say it again: you can never have enough RAM. Get in touch with our team to find out how easy it is to pack your Mac with some extra memory.

For 3ds Max users

Autodesk 3ds Max 2014

If you’re working in a field like games development, odds are you’re using 3ds Max or a 3ds Max-based Entertainment Creation Suite (if you’re not, you might want to drop us a line…). You’ll want plenty of processing power, so we’d recommend opting for a 16-core HP Z820 for maximum responsiveness, although a high-spec Z620 will do the trick if you’re budget-conscious. While the new Mac Pros look promising, we’re still waiting for Autodesk to qualify a configuration, so if you need an interim Mac workstation go for a 27” Quad-core i7 3.4Ghz iMac with at least 8GB of RAM – preferably more.

If you invested in iMac before the latest Mac Pro was announced and are wincing at the cost of replacing them, remember that you can use the iMac screen as a second display and harness the internals as part of your rendering setup, meaning that artists can continue working on their Mac Pro while their iMac takes care of rendering work, rather than sitting and watching the progress bar.

When it comes to graphics, you need to bear in mind that Autodesk recently rewrote 3ds Max’s viewport engine, moving it over to DirectX from OpenGL. This means you’ll get faster performance for your money using gaming cards than you will using traditionally professional cards – which is great news for your wallet, and means you can design your work on the same card your end user will be playing it on.

One good choice for working with Autodesk software is NVIDIA’s 6GB GeForce GTX Titan, as it has the kind of stamina you usually only see in pro cards and so is least likely to melt under constant use. However, it’s not qualified yet and is also pretty expensive, so you might want to opt for Autodesk’s qualified card, the lower-spec 4GB GeForce GTX 680, which delivers a surprising amount of power for such an affordable card.

For Maya and Mudbox

For areas like graphics or post-production work, we’d typically recommend Autodesk Maya or a Maya-centric Entertainment Creation Suite (Autodesk’s Entertainment Creation Suite Ultimate gets you Maya, 3ds Max, Motionbuilder, Mudbox, Softimage and Sketchbook Designer, so it’s a good option if you want to make sure you’re covered for every eventuality). The main difference between Maya and an application like 3ds Max is that you really need a NVIDIA Quadro card to get the best possible graphics performance. The Quadro drivers are optimised for Maya, and going for something like the ultra-powerful Quadro K5000 or the K2000 if you’re kitting out an assist station will give you the smoothest, most accurate viewport performance.

While we’re still waiting to hear how Autodesk plan to handle the dual GPU potential of the 2013 Mac Pro, if you need a Mac in an interim then your only real option is the top spec 3.4GHz i7 iMac, with 8 or 16GB of RAM depending on the size of project you think you’ll need to handle (this can always be repurposed as a combined second display and a render node if you decide to upgrade to a Mac Pro further down the line). For PC workstations, we’d recommend going no lower than an HP Z620 (ideally a Z820) with as many cores and as much RAM as you can pack in, as both will help you complete projects in the fastest possible time.

Want to know more? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email Autodesk@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow us on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

How to stay on top of your Autodesk licences

How to stay on top of your Autodesk licences

We’ve banged on about how we think every Autodesk user needs a subscription, we’ve told you about all their latest offers, and now it’s time to reveal what comes next. Keeping your Autodesk licences in order and making sure all your subs are in sync can look like a tricky business, but we’ve got our team on hand to help.

Consolidating your licences

If you’re a busy facility with ten copies of Maya, five of MotionBuilder and a few copies of 3ds Max just in case, the last thing you want to do is waste time performing admin tasks for eighteen different products, each with a different serial number, each of which were forgotten by everyone about ten minutes after the software entered the building. One of the (totally free!) services we can provide is the consolidation of all your licences for each Autodesk product, so you’ll have one serial number that covers all your Maya licences, another for all your MotionBuilder ones and a third for 3ds Max. Far easier to manage, no?

Aligning your renewal dates

Alas, subscription plans are not indefinite. At some point, your time will be up, and you’ll need to pay for the next year, three years or what have you, and if you’ve got a lot of subscriptions to manage, that can become a major budgeting headache. If you’d like to align your licences and subscriptions so that all of them expire at once, or clusters expire at the same, convenient time, we can help with that too. Give our team a call (or ask the fella on the end of the phone when you call up to buy) and we can arrange to have your licences and subscriptions expire when it’s convenient for you, making it easier to budget for renewals.

We can either help you produce a plan of what you need to renew and when in order to get out of whatever rats’ nest of licences you’re trapped in and into a smooth software management workflow or, if you’re already organised, we can arrange it so that any additional licences you take on expire at the same time as your existing ones.

If you’re phone-phobic, there’s always the Autodesk Subscription Centre

The Autodesk Subscription Centre is where you can track your own subscriptions and licences, and keep an eye on which are coming up for renewal. As well as being the place where you access all your Autodesk 360 cloud benefits, the Subscription Centre is where you go to request access to an older version of your software should you need it, download new releases and request any serial numbers that you’ve lost, so it’s well worth a bookmark.

Visit the Autodesk Subscription Centre

Want to know more? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook

Speeding up rendering at the University of Glamorgan

Speeding up rendering at the University of Glamorgan

The University of Glamorgan were looking for a solution to improve render times on their animation courses. We helped them set up a render farm that would allow quick, collaborative rendering and reduce their workstation downtime. We also provided them with all the animation and rendering software they would need to give their students experience using industry-standard applications.

Eliminating downtime

Before coming to us, the university were using localised computers (i.e. not networked to each other) when rendering animation students’ projects. Each render had to be done on these individual workstations and so, while one machine was busy rendering, it was out of action, and any further design work would have to wait until the process was complete. On top of that, Glamorgan were also using external hard drives for backup, as there was no central server to store files on. This made collaboration difficult and working from home virtually impossible.

Glamorgan needed a solution that could render jobs from an entire class at once, and free up workstations so that students could make the most of their time on campus. They were also looking for a truly collaborative environment that would let their students work together on joint projects, sharing files across a network.

Finding a render management solution

Peter Hodges, head of animation at Glamorgan, gave Jigsaw24 a call and arranged a consultation with our 3D specialist, Ben Kitching, and together they looked at options for the university. They decided that Qube! (a render farm management system) would be the best solution for cutting downtime and allowing collaborative working. Qube! is able to handle thousands of student projects at one time, and its multi-threaded Supervisor tool would make management of the system easy. It would also provide support for a wealth of modelling and animation software and came with a number of application pipelines, including Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya.

The university had also invested in a set of render nodes (computer clusters that form the render farm). These were sent to Jigsaw24 HQ for a system preflight, which involved our engineers making a carbon copy of the disk that could be deployed across all of the other render nodes. We then went onsite to check the farm was running as it should by submitting a number of test jobs.

Software and training

Ben suggested an exhaustive arsenal of exceptional modelling and animation software to complement Glamorgan’s new outfit. These included professional 3D tools such as Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya, Maxon’s CINEMA 4D and LightWave, and plug-in rendering tools like V-Ray and iray. Softimage, Boujou, ZBrush, SketchUp Pro, Brazil and Renderman were also included, so students could add greater detail and effects to characters and scenes. We even supplied Adobe Production Premium, Apple Final Cut Studio and Logic Studio for integrating animation into broadcast workflows.

As part of the installation, we went to the university to configure all the software and, while there were a few initial teething problems in arranging licences for the university, Ben soon ironed them out. He then provided training for the staff at a time that was convenient for them, as well as adding onsite and remote support to the package so we would always be on hand to solve any problems with the system.

Efficient, collaborative rendering

The whole solution has allowed for greater collaboration between VFX and animation students. With the help of Qube!, their new render farm can now be managed more easily and run more efficiently – the Integrated Charting feature lets staff create reports on frame times and CPU usage right on the GUI. Qube! has allowed Glamorgan to push through jobs faster, and to save all their work on a single, central server without being tied down to rendering times.

The students’ experience of working on the new farm will set them in good stead for getting a job once they graduate. The Autodesk software we provided is something everyone starting out in animation will benefit from experience using. And a few of the more specific apps, such as Brazil, will really make the students’ CVs stand out to potential employers, as they will have a wider knowledge of different animation techniques.

Commercial potential

Glamorgan have even thought about the commercial advantages of their render farm, and aim to get the system turning a profit to put back into the university. Their new setup is powerful enough for outside companies to hire for rendering, even while being used by students. As a Citrix Silver Partner, Jigsaw24 have been looking at virtualisation technology options at Glamorgan to give companies secure, collaborative access to the render farm, while also allowing their students to work from home and have access to their applications, shared storage and render farm.

For more information speeding up render times, get in touch with us on 03332 409 306 or email sales@Jigsaw24.com

Using Photoshop in your post-production process

Using Photoshop in your post-production process

Many of us have experience using Photoshop in our post process, but it’s always good to see an example of an extremely experienced 3D artist at work. Step forward Ramy Hanna.

Ramy has written a step-by-step guide to the post process from part of one of his recent projects to design a Media Centre for Klein High School. Whether you’re an expert keeping tabs on the industry or a newer artist looking for ideas and tips: this blog post is well worth a read.

“Many of you have asked for my post production process and here it is.  I typically use AE (Adobe After Effects) for my post work, but for this post I’m demonstrating in PS (Photoshop) because most people use PS over AE for stills. However, the principles apply to all software. Also, I’m trying to keep it ‘out-of-the-box’, rather than show a lot of plug-ins. I always suggest learning the techniques with the software then, once you understand how to create them, go get the plug-ins to make your job faster.

“Some of you already know, but I do most of my modelling in Google SketchUp (SU). Not because it’s better than Max, but I find it super-fast for building design processes. Because we do architecture, SU is apt as it is very good with boxes and simple shapes. If you want to get into character modelling, 3ds Max or Mudbox would be better.

“I also start materials and texturing in SU.  I find SU super easy and fast for texture layout. If I texture most things correctly in SU, I can almost avoid the UVW layout process in Max entirely. The materials in SU are nothing special, just place holders really for the maps I want to use in 3ds Max.

“Using 3ds Max has been great, because I can import SU files straight from Max without needing to export models from SU. The new importer in Max is incredibly powerful. It respects instanced components from SU, remembers UV texture position from SU, and converts SU materials to A&D materials automatically – an amazing tool.

“During import I opt not to import the SU cameras. I prefer navigating in 3ds Max to get my actual camera angles. This is where I add any entourage from my library of 3ds Max models. Furniture, cars, plants, trees, etc all get added here. Then I begin texturing. I swap out SU textures for better texture maps. Or sometimes I replace a texture map with Max procedural maps like tiles and gradients.

“Some of the general settings for my A&D materials: If I can keep glossy samples to 8 then I do. Under Special Effects, I usually turn on Ambient Occlusion, and set the distance to 3′. Under Advanced Rendering Options, I make sure that backface culling is un-checked so I can render both sides of a mesh. If I have a single plane of glass then I check Thin walls.  If my glass is a box or has thickness, then I leave it as solid/thick. I find the real magic behind getting realistic renders lies in the material reflections. I usually have a reflection map that drives how much reflection takes place. In this tile material, the grout lines are black meaning no reflection, and the tile is more white meaning a lot of reflection. I use the same map for a bump effect. I almost always have my glossy reflections lower than 1.0. For this example I have it set to 0.4 – meaning the reflection is scattered at 60%, in this case with eight samples.

“Next I go to lighting.  In this scene I have one Daylight System, 309 photometric lights, and five MR Sky portals, for a total of 315 lights in my scene. This many lights in a scene would typically be brutal. However, for my photometric lights, I opted to use Point for my Shadow type. It doesn’t look as good as the other options (Line, Rectangle, Disc, Sphere), but renders much faster than the others at their default setting. For every shadow that Point renders, the other options render 32 samples per shadow. So this is a big render saver. For my photometric lights, I usually use the default light levels, and switch to photometric web using an IES file for the distribution. As for the MR Sky portals, I try to limit their use to where the large windows are.  Render times take a big hit from MR Sky portal shadows as well.

“This image is what the render straight out of Max looks like, known sometimes as the beauty pass. I render inside models with GI & FG. Surprising to me, I rendered this scene with the default settings for both GI & FG. I was reasonably happy with the results. I did get noise near some of the clerestory windows, but I was willing to live with it. I left all of my lights on, then calculated GI, saved it to a file, then rendered FG from each camera adding onto the previous FG map. Before rendering the final renders, I had one GI map and one FG map for the entire scene. This made it easier for me to switch cameras and not have to worry about changing light maps. The GI map ended up being 154 MB. The FG map was rendered at 50% from the final renders at 800 x 400 pixels, and ended up being 34 MB for all 11 camera angles.

“This is the Ambient Occlusion Pass. If you want to know how to do this, check this post out.

“This is a flare pass for the lights. This can be created in 3ds max, or in post. I usually create this image in Photoshop – it’s faster and gives me greater control on what the flares look like.

“This image is a dummy people pass. I rendered this one out to give me correct scale for adding people in Photoshop later. This way my people won’t look like giants or elves when I scale them.

“These are the people that replace the dummy people. To each person I add motion blur, reflections, shadows etc. Then I save this as a .png file and add it to my beauty pass.

“This is a volume pass that I render in 3ds Max. It is created using the Parti Volume Shader. I then add it in PS and tweak it to the right look.

“Lastly, I render a Z depth pass. Depending on the rendering I sometimes use this. If there really isn’t an object in the foreground then often I don’t use this at all, and rather just manually blur the edges of my image.

“With all of these passes combined in PS, AE or other compositing photo/video editing software, you can take your original image and turn it into something much stronger visually. This quick video should give you an idea of how I add all of these elements together using colour correcting, layers, levels, to transform a raw rendering into a finished rendering.”

All of Ramy’s renderings from the KHS project can be found here.

Source: Ramy’s Renderings on 3ds Max Rendering.

If you’re keen on using Photoshop in your post-production process or would like more information about the software, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email sales@Jigsaw24.com.

Tips for teachers: Demystifying 3D software

Tips for teachers: Demystifying 3D software

When it comes to CAD and 3D modelling there seem to be a never-ending supply of different applications out there, each trying to make teachers’ and students’ lives that much easier. While they all have their benefits, Elliott Smith (friendly 3D consultant) decided to put together a simple guide to help you choose between them.

First thing’s first, if you’re going to give students one piece of advice this September, I recommend telling them to visit Autodesk’s student portal. That’s because Autodesk (arguably the market leader in 3D right now) have decided to offer their software to students for free.

The process is simple: students just need to enter their student email address (one ending in .ac.uk) or have a faculty member sign them up, and can then download their choice of software. As well as a way to access the applications, it’s also a great place to post work, learn new tricks and make contact with peers. Of course, there are other helpful resources that you can direct students to, such as 3D forums, which all provide industry professionals with advice on aspects of a 3D workflow.

Once they have the free software, students will need to know how to get started. A good place to learn the basic interface is the Services and Support section of the Autodesk website. This lets you select an application and then navigate through video tutorials, relevant documents, receive updates and much more.

Ultimately, the type of software students will need is going to be prescribed by the course they are studying, with many of those applications falling into one of five categories (Engineering, Product Design, Built Environment, Multimedia (inc. Animation) and Games Design). But to give students a better idea of what software is out there and what each one can be used for, here’s a brief summary of the major contenders.

 

Application Summary Platform
Autodesk MayaMultimedia

Games Design

Maya is one of the easier pieces of software to understand and learn, and provides comprehensive tools for animation, modelling, visual effects, simulation and rendering. It is a great all-rounder that can be used for just about anything. A lot of film visual effects are done in Maya. WindowsLinux

Mac OS X

Autodesk 3ds MaxEngineering

Product Design

Multimedia

Games Design

3ds Max is perhaps the most difficult application to master. It has been around in different guises for years and has many features that make it incredibly versatile and powerful but also very complicated. Because of this versatility, it is used in a diverse range of industries, from games design to architectural visualisation. Windows
Autodesk 3ds Max DesignBuilt Environment There are two versions of 3ds Max: Max and Max Design. Max Design is used primarily for architectural modelling and designing, and has additional features that do not come with the other version. These include daylight analysis and BIM (Building Information Modelling), which allow architects to model a building and then analyse how it will function under certain circumstances. Windows
Maxon CINEMA 4DMultimedia

Games Design

Product Design

Built Environment

Engineering

CINEMA 4D has engineering, architecture and broadcast editions that are tailored to each specific need. Where it really excels is in animation. Using the built-in MoGraph toolset (made for creating motion graphics) is easy and delivers amazing results very quickly. The BodyPaint module also sets it apart from other applications as it gives you the ability to paint a texture directly onto a model. Without the need to arrange textures over specific co-ordinates, texturing your models becomes fast and more intuitive. CINEMA 4D is used heavily in both film and TV for these reasons and is a great option for most 3D needs. WindowsMac OS X
Mental RayRendering Plug-in Mental Ray is a rendering plug-in that comes free with most Autodesk 3D applications. The plug-in is used to design and apply materials to your models, add lights to a scene and much more. Mental Ray is not used to make models, only to give them the material that you want, such as a wood texture for the floor and paint finish to a wall. It’s a fairly complicated plug-in to learn but does yield fantastic results when you get a bit of experience. Windows
V-RayRendering Plug-in V-Ray is a separate render plug-in for 3ds Max, Maya, CINEMA 4D and a few other leading 3d applications. Like Mental Ray, it is used to apply materials and lights to a scene. In many industries, V-Ray is the standard choice of renderer as it is considered the best at generating photorealistic renders. V-Ray is packed with features that make it more than just a renderer and is highly respected within the industry. Depends on application it is being used on.
Autodesk MudboxGames Design

Multimedia

 

Mudbox is a digital sculpting and texture painting application that is used primarily in the game, film, television and design industries. Think of a lump of clay that you gradually sculpt into the final model: Mudbox works in a similar way but, instead of using a scalpel, you use a graphics tablet or mouse. It is very intuitive and is great for creating odd shapes or characters. Windows users have the option of a 32-bit or 64-bit version where as OS X users need to be working in 64-bit. WindowsMac OS X
Pixologic ZbrushGames Design

Multimedia

Zbrush is much like Mudbox and is used to create digital sculptures of unique characters for the games or broadcast industries. Zbrush has many powerful features and has a very elegant and intuitive interface that allows greater freedom and control. WindowsMac OS X
E-on VueMultimedia

Games Design

Built Environment

E-on Vue is one of the lesser known applications on the list but is actually great at generating organic scenes such as mountains, terrains, skies, trees, grass and anything else you might find in nature. It is very simple to learn and was used extensively in Avatar to populate their scenes with organic matter. WindowsMac OS X
Google SketchUpBuilt Environment

Product Design

SketchUp is great because it is free. There is a pro version thats adds more features for professional use but, for students, the standard version is a great place to start. SketchUp is probably the easiest of the 3D programs to learn. Architects love it because they can sketch out ideas for buildings very quickly and accurately. WindowsMac OS X
Nemetschek VectorworksBuilt Environment Vectorworks is a CAD (Computer Aided Design) application that is used by architects to design and analyse their buildings, but is considered to be one of the programs that is easiest to learn. One advantage over other CAD/BIM applications that Vectorworks has is that it is very customisable. If you are trying to re-design or renovate an old building, you can adapt Vectorworks to suit the specific requirement of the building and your workflow. WindowsMac OS X
Autodesk AutoCADEngineering

Built Environment

AutoCAD is probably the oldest application on the list and has been the benchmark for accuracy and precision. It is primarily used by engineers and architects for this very reason. Historically, it has been 2D but is increasingly integrating 3D elements into its features. Windows
Autodesk RevitBuilt Environment Revit is another application made for CAD and BIM. Revit helps architects and designers to capture and analyse early concepts and can then be used to design all aspects of the design process, right through to construction and handover. It is suited more to new builds rather than renovations and retrofitting. Windows-only. Windows
Informatix PiranesiRendering plug-in Piranesi is a rendering plug-in that architects use to produce initial concepts. It doesn’t try to be a photo-realistic renderer but instead excels at producing traditional sketch-like renders that both the building and architect trades still love. Windows and OS X. WindowsMac OS X

It is worth mentioning that most, if not all the non-Autodesk applications, have free trials available from their respective websites and generally provide plenty of support to get started.

If you want to find out more, give the team a call on 03332 409 306 or email sales@Jigsaw24.com. To receive the latest 3D news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or Like’ our Facebook page.

A shining example of 3ds Max, V-Ray and After Effects

A shining example of 3ds Max, V-Ray and After Effects

Unless you have been living in a cave for the past seven months, you will have probably seen and admired Alex Roman’s short film, The Third and the Seventh. It is without doubt the best photo-realistic short film ever produced and has successfully managed to make almost everyone in the industry feel woefully inadequate!

Watch the masterclass in 3ds Max, V-Ray and After Effects here.

Be sure to check out the ‘making of’ videos as well.

To find out more, call our 3D team on 03332 409 309 or email sales@Jigsaw24.com.To receive the latest 3D news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ our Facebook page.

Linear workflow and gamma correction – part 4

Linear workflow and gamma correction – part 4

This is the final part of our series of linear workflow articles. Here, I will look at the manual method of working in a linear workspace with 3ds Max and Mental Ray.

The gamma correction of the bitmap inputs is handled in the exact same way as the VRay workflow, you simply add a colour correct node to the diffuse channel and use a gamma value of 0.4545.

As you might expect, the process of gamma correcting the image output is different for Mental Ray, but is thankfully very straightforward. Press F10 or go to Rendering > Render Setup and select Mental Ray as the renderer, then switch over to the Renderer tab and scroll down to the Camera Effects section. Click on the empty slot next to the Lens shader, and choose a Utility Gamma and Gain shader.

Instance this to the material editor and make the changes as shown in figure 1.

gamma 4

This will bake the gamma correction into your outputted image, which is ideal for test renders or if you aren’t planning on doing any post-production work on the image but, if you are, you will need to remember to return the gamma value to 1 when you are ready to start your final render.

As you can see, it is a very simple process and one that is very easy to implement. And that concludes this series of articles. I hope you have found them informative and interesting.

If you have any questions, call me on 03332 409 306 or email sales@jigsaw24.com. To receive the latest 3D news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or Like’ our Facebook page.

GPU rendering: an update

GPU rendering: an update

Over the past few months, GPU rendering has taken a few steps forward and, whilst we are nowhere near where we need to be, it does look promising. So let’s review what has been happening.

3ds Max 2011 Quicksilver Renderer

3ds Max 2011 was released in April 2010 and took most of us by surprise when it was revealed that Autodesk had included with it the CPU / GPU Quicksilver renderer. As this was the first GPU-based renderer actually integrated into a mainstream 3d program, we were hopeful that it would provide the perfect solution to the ever increasing problem of render times.

We did some tests on Quicksilver and concluded that it is far from perfect, but that it is looking promising and should improve with future releases and service packs.

VRay RT

It seems ages ago now when we saw the demo of VRay RT GPU at SIGGRAPH 2009. Since then, Chaos Group have released the nearly brilliant CPU version of RT for 3ds Max.

Whilst the CPU version is a massive step forward, it is clear that we are all still waiting for the fully-fledged GPU version. Our excitement grew when we saw the most recent video by Chaos Group (released 14th May), in which they say that VRay RT on the GPU is ‘practically a completed product’ and also that a version for Maya will be available within about two months time.

They have also conducted tests which demonstrate the huge leap forward in quality and speed. Another interesting fact about RT is that it runs on OpenCL, meaning that it will run on graphics cards from both Nvidia and AMD.

iRay

The announcement of iRay, coupled with misleading documentation, has successfully managed to confuse most of the 3D industry that has been anticipating its release. Let’s try and clear things up.

Mental images, the developer, stated in their documentation that ‘iRay is provided with mental ray from version 3.8 and RealityServer from version 3.0′ and then clarify this by saying ‘iRay-enabled products feature an iRay rendering mode’.

I suppose that this statement is true, in that, mental ray when bought as a standalone product is iRay enabled, but the confusion seems to be that, whilst the 2011 releases of Autodesk products do ship with mental ray 3.8, they haven’t enabled the iRay rendering node.

iRay remains something we are very much looking forward too, but it seems that we will have to wait the best part of a year before it is integrated into the Autodesk suite of products.

Unbiased renderering

iRay is an unbiased renderer meaning that there are no settings for the renderer as such, you just import or create a model set iRay running on it and watch as the image quality gets progressively better over time. Items such as materials and lighting can be changed with near instant feedback.

Many people think that this kind of workflow will be restrictive but we found quite the opposite. It feels liberating to just make edits to your materials and lights without having to worry about using render settings and tricks to improve your image quality. All of that is left to iray which uses real world physical properties to calculate its images and is extremely fast compared to traditional renderers.

There seems to be two ways in which iray and other similar renderers can fit into your existing pipeline. The first way would be to use it as a production renderer. At present, this limits you to only using mental ray materials and as iRay is not integrated into the Autodesk line up yet adds an extra step to your workflow.

The other, more sensible use, would be to use it on location with clients, so that you can get immediate feedback on colour schemes, materials and lighting.

For example, you are an interior designer and have already modelled the set in 3ds Max. You can now import the scene into iray and then light the scene and apply the materials. You could take your laptop to the client, and right there and then change anything that the client wished. This would then eliminate the back and forth nature of finalising and perfecting a job to the clients’ needs.

The rest is then up to you and your client. If they like the GPU-produced render, then fine, but if not, you could take all those tweaks made in front of the client and then re-create them in the 3ds Max, knowing that there won’t be any further changes necessary.

We are currently testing several other GPU-based renderers similar to iRay so watch this space for reviews.

For now, if you want to know more, you can get in touch with us on 03332 409 306 or email sales@Jigsaw24.com. To receive the latest 3D news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or Like’ our Facebook page.

Creating stereoscopic images in 3ds Max

Creating stereoscopic images in 3ds Max

Stereoscopic images have been around for years now and are an ever-popular aspect of visualisation and film, featuring in the recent box-office hit Beowulf.

Stereoscopic images are used to create 3D images that give the illusion of depth.

They work by filming the same point of focus from two points, two inches apart. Using traditional cinematography it can be really tricky to set up two cameras focused  on exactly the same point. However it can be done very simply in 3D applications such as 3ds Max 2008 and then imported into any scene.

We’ve come up with a quick workflow that illustrates how to set up cameras and helpers and add them to your scene to create stunning stereoscopic animations.

PLEASE NOTE:

This walkthrough will presume that you have an understanding of how to create basic objects, move and rotate them, and also how to navigate around the Create and Modify tabs in 3ds Max 2008+.

Firstly, we need to set up the correct unit scheme for our blank scene. To do this, select Customize->Unit Setup from the menu and set this to US Standard, Fractional Inches. It is easier to set this up now so when you place the cameras  they will be exactly 2 inches apart – you can always change back to your preferred unit setup.

positioning cameras in 3ds Max

The next step is to place our first target camera into the scene. For now it doesn’t matter where the target is pointing as we’re going to add helpers to control the camera later. Once the camera is in, select the Move tool and set the co-ordinates of the camera to 0,0,0. Then select the target and set the X to 60 and Y/Z to 0.

Select the camera again. This time we’re going to change the Y co-ordinate to 1. Now make a clone of that camera by pressing the keyboard shortcut CTRL+V which will give you a dialogue box asking you if you would like to create a Copy, Instance or Reference. In this case we want a copy. Then click ok. As we already have the new camera selected, change the Y co-ordinate to -1. You have now created two cameras that are 2 inches apart from each other.

Creating a stereo rig in 3ds Max

We’re now going to add the helper objects that will allow us to move and control the camera/target. This will make your life easier when trying to set up the camera view in your scenes.

What we want is to set up an object from which we can control the camera completely, while also keeping the cameras’ focus on the same point.

The best way to do this is to create a 3D spline that surrounds the cameras, which is easy to grab and manoeuvre.

Firstly, let’s draw a Circle Spline on the scene with a radius of 3 inches, and set the co-ordinates to 0,0,0 so that it sits around the two cameras.

circle splines in 3ds Max

Next, create an Instance of the spline by using the keyboard shortcut CTRL+V, and rotate it 90 degrees on the X-axis.

Repeat this process till you have made circles with the following co-ordinates:

1. 0,0,0
2. 90,0,0
3. 0,90,0
4. 90,0,45
5. 90,0,-45

Now that we have our circles, convert one of them to an editable spline (right click one of the circles, and select Convert to Editable Spline) and from the Modifier tab select Attach Mult to attach all the splines together.

attaching splines in 3ds Max

At this point, I would recommend that you change the colour of the spline to blue, purely to have some consistency with the 3ds Max colour scheme, as blue is associated with cameras.

changing colour schemes in 3ds max

Next we need to link both the cameras to this control object. Select both the cameras either by holding CTRL and clicking on them, or by using the keyboard shortcut H to bring up the Scene Selection window.

The problem with this is that if we move the camera around, the target stays locked in its place, which means the angle of the cameras will not generate the correct image – the target needs to be directly in front of the two cameras. This can easily be solved by adding a helper object.

From the panels on the right-hand side, select the Helpers tab and drop in a Point helper. Again, change the colour to blue.

using helper tools in 3ds max

Use the Align tool to centre the helper into the camera targets and, using the same method as before, link the two targets to the helper.

linking targets in 3ds max

You can now quickly check that when you move the helper both the targets move, and also that if you move the camera helper, the cameras move. Link the point helper to the control object and we’re done!

Part 2 coming soon…
We will add this camera rig to your own 3D scene and show you how to composite the images for your final render….

For further tips and advice call the 3D team on 03332 409 309 or email sales@jigsaw24.com. Visit our website Jigsaw24.com