Review: Thea Render
Its support for both biased and unbiased rendering is just one of this new system’s many delights
A simple scene using Thea’s biased render, showcasing depth of field effects. © Image by Peter Stoppel
• £263 / $429 / €295
Render slave licence
• £85 / $138 / €95
3D package plug-in
• €20 to €40
depending on app
Windows / Mac / Linux
Solid Iris Technologies
- Biased and unbiased rendering
- Biased supports GI, final gathering, photon mapping and irradiance
- Instant relighting for unbiased rendering
- Physically accurate layer-based material system with SSS and displacement mapping
- Supports animation
- Depth of field, motion blur, and post-prod effects
- Plug-ins for 3ds Max, Blender, Cinema 4D, modo, Rhino, SketchUp and Softimage
Unbiased rendering engines have caught on in the last few years, and are developing rapidly.
With relatively mature unbiased engines such as Maxwell Render available, what can newcomer Thea Render offer?
A great deal, as it turns out. It’s the first commercial solution to offer biased and unbiased rendering in one package.
Use biased rendering when speed is important, or for animations, then switch to unbiased for greater realism.
Both approaches use the same materials and lights: there’s no need to convert a scene should you want to flip between biased and unbiased.
A fairly new addition to Thea builds, the interactive preview render works quickly and is superb for quickly adjusting lights and materials
Thea actually has three render methods. The biased engine has ray tracing, GI and photon mapping, with optional final gathering, caustics and an irradiance cache, much the same as V-Ray or mental ray.
The two unbiased engines are tuned for different render speed requirements.
There’s really not much to do otherwise: just specify a time limit or number of passes, and start rendering.
Biased rendering, however, has a whole wodge of parameters; as with any GI tool, there’s a lot to consider, and time spent test-rendering could easily be saved by going unbiased from the off.
To counter this, Thea sports a wonderful interactive renderer that updates on the fly as you adjust lights and materials.
Thea’s materials are key to making any scene appear realistic. There are just five discrete material types, but these can be mixed.
If you’re used to more conventional renderers, creating materials can be confusing at first: it’s best approached by breaking down a material’s real-world properties rather than ‘what looks nicest’.
Any render engine lives or dies by its output quality and speed, and here Thea shines.
Providing meaningful comparisons between rival render engine times is almost impossible given that they all use different algorithms, but in our subjective experience, it’s impressively fast.
Image quality has improved substantially since pre-release versions, and features such as on-the-fly relighting and Camera Response Function are welcome additions.
There are downsides, of course: the biggest is Thea’s interface, which might kindly be described as quirky.
The manual is missing new features, and Thea is crying out for some well-written tutorials.
None of this should put you off investigating Thea if you’re looking for a fast, fully featured renderer. And with plans for major additions such as GPU acceleration, there’s plenty to look forward to.
• Fast and stable
• Potentially massive time-saver
• Inadequate, confusing UI
• Poor documentation
Kerkythea’s commercial successor is already accomplished, and looks set to become even better this year. Give it a go.
on Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011 at 2:33 pm under Applications, Reviews.
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Tags: rendering, review, Thea render