Review: MachStudio Pro 2 – the future of rendering?
Seamless interoperability with RenderMan and mental ray, as well as its own real-time engine. Is MachStudio Pro 2 the future of rendering?
Price: $3,999 / £2,523 / €2,896 | Developer: StudioGPU | Platform: Windows
- New shader editor based on mental mill
- Hybrid renders can combine real-time passes with mental ray and RenderMan
- Real-time global illumination
- New light types and lighting options
- Numerous production/pipeline improvements
One of the areas of rapid change in the computer graphics industry in the last few years has been the emergence of a variety of GPU-accelerated rendering solutions.
Generally, these solutions fall into one of two camps: traditional software rendering enhanced by offloading much of the computation to the GPU; or real-time game-engine rendering, which uses the methods and techniques developed by the games industry.
Progressive rendering solutions such as Octane Render and Bunkspeed Shot are examples of the former. They are similar to the software rendering we are all used to, but enhanced by displaying a grainy approximation that’s rapidly refined over time.
Interactivity is improved, although getting each frame to its final quality can still take many minutes. Game engines, on the other hand, are interactive in real-time, typically at the expense of image quality.
MachStudio Pro 2 is at its core a realtime engine that borrows much of its technology from the world of games, but enhances quality at the expense of frame rates (a few frames a second compared with the 60fps needed for games).
The result is a renderer that can rival traditional software in quality, while delivering a massive improvement in interactivity and final rendering speed.
A number of studios (including Weta and Zoic) have adopted MachStudio Pro, and
it’s also been used as a primary renderer for a full-length animated feature.
Inspired by a year of production feedback, StudioGPU has introduced a number of enhancements to MachStudio Pro that go a long way towards taking it from an interesting first-generation product to a powerhouse production tool.
Node-based shader development system
The most visible addition to MachStudio Pro is the shader editor, which is basically a modified edition of mental mill, a node-based shader development system.
Users of mental mill will find that it’s almost identical. You may think that this isn’t a mind-blowing improvement, but don’t be fooled. The shader editor does something very, very cool. It converts its native MetaSL into shaders that work identically in mental ray, RenderMan, and MachStudio Pro, with support for other renderers likely in the future.
StudioGPU uses this cross-compatibility to shunt desired passes to the software renderer, giving the user a lot of power and flexibility.
Any aspect of rendering that isn’t feasible or robust in a real-time engine – ray-traced refractions, for example – can be rendered fully and seamlessly in software within MachStudio Pro, while the rest of the render passes benefit from
game engine-like speeds.
Shots can be lit and shaded in real time and rendered out in seconds for review and changes, with the final output using mental ray or RenderMan where necessary to get the best possible quality.
The result is a hybrid solution, where artists are free to choose the best of both
worlds and define exactly where they want to sacrifice speed for increased
Not only are passes broken down as desired, but the hybrid result is also pre-comped to a beauty pass, both onscreen and (optionally) at render time.
MachStudio Pro’s beauty composites are robust enough that it’s actually reasonable to bypass additional compositing in many cases. The new Unified Pass Render tool makes it easy to define passes for specific needs, and an EXR sandwich tool takes passes and combines them into layers ready for compositing.
on Tuesday, February 1st, 2011 at 5:08 pm under Applications, Reviews.
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Tags: arch-viz, gpu-accelerated, MachStudio, rendering, review, software