3D Rendering Choices

Date: 20.May 2006 | Reading Time: 2 minutes, 27 seconds

There are a lot of nice rendering choices out there. The range goes from free - like Aqsis, Blender or Yafray - to bundled renderers that come with the 3D package of choice - Maya software renderer or Lightwave come to mind - to seperate high-end renderers - like MentalRay (although that comes bundled with a lot of big players nowadays) or Renderman. Which one to choose? And which one is actually affordable? That is indeed a tough question. The guys at ZAON studios have a nice overview of what makes a renderer good. It is all about what the renderer is supposed to be used for. Nothing more nothing less.

In the case of Fridthjof Film, we need a renderer that is able to be as fast as possible, while doing a great job with fine detail. Flickering is one of the major issues we deal with. As we are working with Maya, MentalRay seems to be the logical choice, but it is damn slow when it comes to make fine details really smooth. MentalRay doesn’t allow to adjust the pixel sampling independent from the sampling of shaders, which makes us increase overall render time when we only needed to increase the render time of one parameter - and that in the long run increases the render times into unacceptable regions. Sad but true.

Now Renderman seems to do the trick, which I already new from the start (being pro-Renderman for quite some time now). The crux with that is, that there is not really a good bridge to Renderman for small companies that cannot afford to program their own. Sure there are free Renderman renderers, but what good are they if I only have an interface only I can use (as the other 3D guys are not as technically oriented). Even 3DeLight which has a nice interface recently is not up to par in integration with Pixars newest coup - Pixar’s Renderman for Maya.

Renderman for Maya seems like the ideal option for a small studio like F-Film, where we are three guys right now — and only one (me) with previous Renderman experience. It might miss some nice features like RIB im- and export, but that is something I could live with, because the prime feature is usability by non-technical 3D artists.

But then again, a license for Pixars Maya plugin is not exactly cheap with $995,- per license. A major block on the road to bring this baby to the company - at least as far as my boss is concerned. I need to set up a test case (at least one) to show him the advantages and show him that they outweigh by far the disadvantages. Well, I guess there I have my next step.