The other day I purchased an upgrade on my FryRender plugin to the new maxlive renderer from RandomControl. In this post I’ll describe my initial thoughts on this plugin.
Before I begin let me clarify that this is NOT a full-on review of the product. At this point I’m not familiar enough with the application to provide such a review. However, I wanted to pass along what I have discovered up to this point because it may be helpful to others that are considering the purchase or have already purchased it.
The other day I saw the announcement for “Arion 2.0, The hybrid GPU renderer for 3ds Max“. I started reading about it, and it sounded pretty good. I noticed the upgrade options for Fryrender 1.x which I have a copy of so I figured I’d give it a whirl. I purchased the upgrade and had the application installed shortly afterwards. I encountered no problems with the install/licensing procedure. However, it’s about this time that I noticed there’s not really any helpful documentation available for the maxlive plugin. :/
There was no documentation with the installer and if you go to the “docs” page on the site you’ll likely encounter this message “This section of the Knowledge Base is not yet finished. Expected date for completion: End of summer 2012.” when clicking most any of the topics. No biggie, I’ll just check out the forum…oh wait, they have no user forum either. I quickly realize that I’m left to figure out this one on my own.
I fire up 3dsmax and assign the maxlive plugin as my production and activeshade renderer. I wasn’t able to immediately illuminate a scene. The passes/render elements, things like AO, normals, depth, etc., came out fine but the beauty pass was black. I tried various lights, emitter materials, etc., nothing. At this point it was late in the evening so I sent an email over to their tech support link and the next morning I had a friendly reply. Turns out that you need to have a 3dsmax skylight for HDRs/EXRs and/or a sunlight for daylight lighting. I had a skylight in my test scene, but it was disabled. User error on my part in other words. Anyway, that solved the black renders.
With lighting out of the way I started exploring the materials. Again, some documentation would be great. With that being said, I was up and running with the materials in a short amount of time because the settings are logically named and similar to other render engine material settings. To my surprise I found the option to automagically convert existing scene materials over to Arion/maxlive materials. I ran that option and it did a pretty good job of converting the VRay materials in my test scene.
With the materials converted and lighting issues resolved I was ready to render, here’s the first render (click for larger version):
Not bad! I really liked the ‘richness’ in the colors and many of the film options available in maxlive. I did however find it difficult to get a completely ‘firefly’ free image. The render above is scaled down which can help mask those issues. Here’s a small crop from the original 8k render showing what I’m referring to. The original render ran for 5 hours using my single quad-core processor, Quadro 6000 and two Tesla 2075′s. That seems longer than it takes to get a cleaner image with either Vray r/t or iray. I’d have to run a test with this exact scene to confirm that point though.
I only encountered one bug at this early point. It seems that if I try to modify any of the maxlive CPU settings it will immediately crash 3dsmax 2013. I also noticed the activeshade option works really well but seemed to distort my camera angle, but that’s probably something I’m doing wrong and will need to figure out. Other than that, it runs smoothly and seems very stable.
Overall I was fairly pleased with where this render engine is going. The materials, lighting, and options are pretty nice. I’ll need to spend more time with it to figure out how to reduce the fireflies and render times. I also wish the documentation was complete at this point but hopefully it will be complete soon.
NOTE: I purchased the HDR and roadtexture in this test from HDRI-Hub.com. They offer some nice textures/HDRs at reasonable prices.