3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 93: Refinements in Rendering
Lesson 93 - Refinements in Rendering - Part 1
I'm going to try and maintain a balance in these columns between the fast-moving Web 3D front and issues in the wider 3D landscape. Let's spend the next two lessons looking at some significant developments in rendering technology.
It must have been about a year ago that I was gushing over the promise of Mental Ray for 3D Studio MAX. Mental Ray is the justly famous renderer produced by mental images (never capitalized) of Germany and long offered as part of the full installation of Softimage. The latest word from those who should know is that Mental Ray for MAX is still coming, but not to expect a lot of noise about it. It will, it is said, appear quietly and take its place as an expensive option for MAX users. Mental Ray is such a superb tool, and MAX's own renderer is so awful, that the arrival of the new renderer must greatly improve the status of MAX, especially for film-quality work.
MAX will be offering Mental Ray 2.1. This is a major upgrade of Mental Ray that has already been made available with Softimage. Don't get me started on Softimage! God knows what's going on with these people. For two years, the 3D public anxiously awaited the launch of Sumatra, as the major upgrade was codenamed. Promised ship dates passed again and again, until most people stopped paying attention. Sumatra was, at least in the public mind, to be a major step amounting to the same kind of generational change that Maya represented over Alias PowerAnimator.
Now the product is out, and no one knows what to make of it. There is no Sumatra. Softimage 3.8 (Service Pack 2) has been replaced with Softimage 3.9 (not even 4.0!). And all of the cool animation advancements that were associated with the name Sumatra are now being packaged under the name "xsi." Where are the marketing people? I spent an hour on their Web site and left completely confused.
I'm yet to upgrade from the current Softimage 3.8 (SP 2), but this installation already includes Mental Ray 2.1. There are a lot of very important features here, but the most interesting for purposes of a general audience is the inclusion of radiosity and caustics. This represents a major advancement in rendering realism. Lightwave, famous for its own renderer, has added radiosity and caustics in Lightwave 6. I'm embarrassed to admit that I've been too busy to get around to upgrading my Lightwave installation yetÂI promise to review it in these columns. But given the state-of-the-art status of Mental Ray, and its promised availability for MAX, I thought it worth our time to take a look at how the new features are implemented in this tool.
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Created: May 22, 2000
Revised: May 22, 2000