3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 65: Basic MAX NURBS Surfaces
Lesson 65 - Basic MAX NURBS Surfaces - Part 1
Before we get back on track with MAX NURBS, I'd like to touch on an important piece of news that will undoubtedly change the 3D landscape quite a bit.
A big complaint with MAX has always been about its render quality. In the end, you're selling pictures. It doesn't matter how good your modeling and animation tools are if the rendered images come out looking cheap or unconvincing. More than anything else, MAX's inferior rendering powers have kept it from competing for a place in film-quality work.
The Mental Ray renderer offered with Softimage is an extraordinary tool. The beauty of its rendered output is unsurpassed. Mental Ray is a programmable renderer, offering the kind of precision control required for very high-end work. One of its greatest strengths is in its power to use custom shaders, which are small programs that sophisticated users can write to extend Mental Ray functionality. Shaders are magic. The range of effects possible with custom shaders is startling, from the creation of ultra-realistic material surfaces to fluid substances like fire and water. If you want to be impressed, visit the mental images (always spelled in lower case) site at www.mentalimages.com. Check out the hair on the gorilla created with a Mental Ray shader. This is the state of the art.
mental images is a German company that has been in a development partnership with Softimage for a number of years. As a result, Mental Ray is composed of technology that is jointly owned with Softimage and technology that in owned entirely by mental images. There have been a lot of rumors about Mental Ray being made available for MAX 3. Mental Ray can be roughly divided into two branches. One part does the geometry work of converting NURBS and other free-form curved surfaces into a polygonal mesh for rendering. This aspect of Mental Ray is extremely important, as we will see in this series of lessons. Apparently, this portion of Mental Ray was not shared with Softimage, because it is integrated in MAX 3 (and from what I can tell, has already been used to some extent in MAX 2.5).
The other half of Mental Ray is the part that draws the pixels. It is therefore the part for which shaders can be written and the part responsible for the beautiful color and lighting quality of Mental Ray renders. On April 13, Avid (the owner of Softimage) and mental images announced a deal whereby the full Mental Ray renderer would be made available to other vendors. On April 15, Autodesk announced a deal to make the full Mental Ray available for MAX 3 as a separate product by mid 1nineninenine. This is a huge break for the MAX world. MAX users will now be able to produce the finest quality rendered imagery.
The announcement is even more exciting because mental images is about ready to release the next generation of Mental Ray. The new version of Mental Ray is to be the single most important feature of the long-awaited Sumatra and Twister products from Softimage. With Mental Ray 2.x available to MAX users, the most important advantage of Softimage over MAX will evaporate. I'm not saying that MAX will ever really be at the level of Softimage, but the distance between these platforms will close up significantly. MAX users will really be in the big-time. (But don't expect Mental Ray for MAX to be cheap!)
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Created: Apr. 28, 1999
Revised: Apr. 28, 1999