Review: V-Ray for Softimage rendering program
On the ten-year anniversary of the original release, Simon Reeves explores whether V-Ray fits neatly into Autodesk’s Softimage
- ICE Support
- V-Ray proxy cross-application
- Efficient accurate global illumination options
- Hair and fur shading
- Physically correct lighting and cameras
DEVELOPER: Chaos Group
Softimage lives a bit on the sidelines compared with its adopted siblings 3ds Max and Maya, but it’s far from being just a particle simulator – and now Chaos Group has released its well-established renderer V-Ray for the software.
It’s been 10 years since V-Ray was first released for 3ds Max, and during that time it has become the default renderer in 3ds Max. Other third-party renderers have never quite managed to get an equal foothold in the market, and the mental ray integration for 3ds Max was disjointed. V-Ray’s speed and flexibility, particularly in global illumination, gained it extensive use throughout the industry. Migrating V-Ray to other applications, especially the two other major packages (both now in the Autodesk stable), always seemed a sensible move.
CHAOS GROUP BRINGS V-RAY TO SOFTIMAGE
Chaos Group has been quietly developing V-Ray for Softimage over a number of years. V-Ray was released for Maya in 2010, and for SketchUp and Rhino in 2011. The latter two applications are primarily used in V-Ray’s core markets of arch-viz, product visualisation and the automotive industry.
Softimage has always had a solid integration of mental ray and, with a user base built from experienced artists in established companies, it’s a tougher market to infiltrate than previous applications such as 3ds Max.
Recently, however, quite a few of the major commercial houses have investigated, and are gradually switching to, the Arnold renderer. Perhaps with one eye on this growth, Chaos Group’s development was focused on the Softimage version of V-Ray.
V-Ray’s speed and flexibility have made it a popular option for Maya and 3ds Max users, and it’s a welcome addition to Softimage
Softimage has a very organised workflow and rendering is no exception, but mental ray has been the only realistic option in terms of renderers. There are other third-party renderers available, such as Maxwell, but nothing dominates the market the way that V-Ray does in 3ds Max, and so mental ray has reigned.
Until recently, it wasn’t practical to use global illumination (GI) on every job – a six-week project to create a fully CG 60-second commercial couldn’t afford the render times, especially through mental ray. But as hardware and software naturally progresses, more features become time-affordable, and more complex GI solutions – as opposed to traditional manual lighting and ambient occlusion – are possible.
FAMILIAR LOOK AND FEEL IN V-RAY FOR SOFTIMAGE
Chaos Group has been able to recreate roughly the same layouts for dialogs to match the other versions of V-Ray. Having some continuity in these dialogs makes the software easily accessible for anyone already experienced with V-Ray, and the same applies with converting over shaders and maps. It offers as much control as possible for the artist, but often the dialogs have a mass of settings. However, with continuity between the various versions of V-Ray, the detailed options can quickly be located.
This continuity also helps existing (non V-Ray) Softimage users. There’s a huge range of tutorials and guides available for V-Ray, as well as the official documentation, and most of them are based on 3ds Max. Even the Maya tutorials and guides could easily be transferred into the new Softimage version.
ICE IS MAJOR FEATURE IN SOFTIMAGE
ICE is now a major feature of Softimage, and this alone will attract users who have never tried the package before. Instancing geometry en masse is a very powerful feature of ICE but, while handling millions of instances and huge amounts of geometry is not a problem, rendering them can be a challenge – especially for mental ray. V-Ray handles this much more easily.
V-Ray-specific objects, such as lights, cameras and lens effects, are integrated nicely into the existing workflow of Softimage, using the existing light/camera objects and a V-Ray shader.
Chaos Group has been able to recreate roughly the same layouts for dialogs as those found in versions of V-Ray for other software
FEATURES WITHIN V-RAY FOR MAYA. 3DS MAX AND SOFTIMAGE
With V-Ray now available in 3ds Max, Maya and Softimage, you can import and export some V-Ray features within files. Importing and exporting V-Ray proxies, for example, could be a life-saver in 3ds Max, and useful to have in Softimage even though there’s already a native external referencing object. You’re also able to import models created in one app into another, and keep them offloaded in both.
ADVANTAGES OF V-RAY OVER MENTAL RAY IN SOFTIMAGE
V-Ray has a number of advantages over mental ray in Softimage: it’s fast, and its flexibility gives the artist options for major controls such as anti-aliasing and global illumination. At first, the variety of options can seem daunting, but the UI is well laid out and there are presets for global illumination. Where mental ray has been a bit limited in terms of GI options and troubleshooting issues, V-Ray is very open and easy to adjust in this area.
PERFORMANCE COMPARISON BETWEEN ARNOLD AND V-RAY
VRay’s physical camera is applied as a lens shader on a normal camera. The UI is much like in Maya
But what about Arnold? As mentioned, some Softimage studios have started to adopt it as their primary renderer, and Arnold shares many traits with V-Ray: they’re both faster than mental ray with reliable GI and anti-aliasing methods. Because V-Ray has the option of being biased – rather than purely an unbiased renderer like Arnold – the user may be able to optimise simple scenes and get quicker results but with reduced accuracy. Arnold is more large-scale-project-focused and has relatively simplistic controls, so for very simple scenes it could feel somewhat wasted where you could optimise, but you get highly accurate, unbiased results. Currently, Arnold isn’t marketed towards small studios or single users, which make up a large base of V-Ray’s primary customers – mostly because of 3ds Max.
V-RAY FASTER AND MORE FLEXIBLE THAN MENTAL RAY
What this boils down to is that the Softimage version of V-Ray is likely to be what you expect – it’s not a new renderer and it doesn’t have any new features, but it’s faster and more flexible than mental ray. Many of Softimage’s best features are in the rendering workflow, and V-Ray uses these to its advantage. A Linux version is in the pipeline, and will be added free in a future update.
V-Ray for Softimage still has some bugs to iron out, and support for certain shaders and so on is still in development. But for freelancers and small companies that already use Softimage, or those looking to change from one of the other two main Autodesk packages but still stay with V-Ray, this version is well worth looking into.
- Fast, flexible global illumination
- Standardised cross-platform rendering
- Smooth integration
- ICE support not 100 per cent
- Potentially overly complicated
- No V-Ray RT
V-Ray is a very welcome addition to Softimage, adding to its appeal as a great application for the smaller studio
About the author
Simon Reeves has been working in 3D for over 10 years, and has freelanced at a large variety of studios, working in many different media.
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on Wednesday, November 14th, 2012 at 2:00 pm under Applications, Plug-ins, Reviews.
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Tags: renderer, Softimage, V-Ray