Late 2010 I heard about new renderers, that somehow were able to render scenes faster, something like twenty times or even more! That seemed “a bit” out-of-a-dream..
I started searching for information online, but I haven’t found much back then, to be honest. One of the biggest projects that atracted my attention was Folding@Home. Though it wasn’t related to architectural or product visualisation, but it was one of those fields that took advantage using GPUs to calculate way faster and way more efficient than ever before.
While struggling to find some more information I accidentaly get into a website of a company called Refractive Software. These guys were making a GPU renderer. At that time it was in beta stage (and still is) but that didn’t stop users from posting really amazing stuff – some of these were rendered in minutes instead of hours (what I was used to see from typical CPU renderers).
After some time spent in their forums I’ve actually bought a licence of Octane Render and was very excited to try it. 99EU for something that could cut rendertimes so drastically sounds way better than You could ever think of. Pluss the fact that Octane is unbiased render engine was also very tempting.
Keep in mind that in order to use the program You need a graphics card that could run CUDA, here is a list of supported hardware , the faster is the card, faster render will clean out from noise (hardware is a topic on it’s own and I’ll probably write an entire article covering it).
With all the excitement I installed the package and tried playing around, but..it seemed that the first look, first try to get my hands on was frustrating to say at least.
Maybe the navigation, that I didn’t like; maybe the node-based editor or some weird acting sliders with cosmic amounts; maybe some other issues. My enthusiasm was actually brought down pretty fast, soon it was totally devastated and the idea of learning the program was thrown out of my head!
In the end of 2011 I had a chance to stay in London at the time when 3dsLondon event took a place in HD studio with Peter Giuthrie as a guest speaker. He was presenting his projects and among them beautiful set of nicely framed photographic renders for Strom Architects. Since then one thing kept spinning in my head, the fact he mentioned while he was talking about workflows:
I do all my renderings BruteForce in Vray. I also find that wherever I start messing around with irradiance maps and Light cache or other methods of rendering..all the sudden two days of testing dissapears and in that time I might be finished the job.
This kept me thinking a lot. Basically because I’ve seen a lot of artists around variuos forums that praise unbiased renderers or some were using Vray in brute-force mode instead of digging into other methods.
Brute-force or using unbiased renderers were computationaly more expensive (need much more time to get clean, noise-free pictures out). On the other side You need less time to fine-tune Your engine. Idea behind unbiased renderer is simple – leave the render long enough and the noise will be gone, it’s probably the only ‘artifact’ but this way of working leaves more time for You to focus on the artistic aspects of Your work rather than tweaking the technical side.
While I was thinking about this in circles back then I remembered the engine I had tried before, but somehow couldn’t get into, the one that was left untouched for about a year then. “Is it really so hard to learn it? Let’s try, again”..- I’ve tried to convince myself..
So, I start playing around. This time everything seems little bit different. Maybe because of the fact that I’ve actually read the manual inside out few times, maybe because I’ve read their entire forum inside-out or maybe because I’ve added second GPU card into my system that actually improved it’s responsiveness..
Wanna look inside Octane? Keep reading =)
There is a demo version with several limitations if You prefer to try it for free (Render resolution output is locked to 1000×600 pixels; Project and render output cannot be saved; Online LiveDB material database functionality is not included). I don’t use online material library, so material database is not so important to me, but saving images and being able to save files is the thing that matters, even if I’m just trying to learn something new, so I went for full version instead of demo.
I don’t believe the fact, that You can actually write everything on paper, in manuals. Maybe ‘rules’, but certainly not all ‘exceptions’ and those really matter on the long run. Just think how much time You can save, when program just doesn’t work as You expect and You have to figure a way around. Having a possibility to avoid those stressfull moments that has a tendency to appear on tight deadlines is a big deal in some cases.
Usually test builds might be a bit unstable, but they get some functionality earlier, so community could test that before official version would appear. When You get Your hands on those test builds, when You see the package in all those revisions with all the bug fixes, tweaks etc. then You get to know it much better.
So, after You download the program, instalation is pretty straight-forward (next, next, next..) To start a program simple double click on it’s icon and here is the first nice surprise: something You might already been familiar appears on screen! An image from well known artist Bertrand Benoit project called Octane Corners
Few seconds after the program is loaded and ready to use.
It doesn’t seem to be so scary, isn’t it? The interface is divided into four areas . I’ll leave details for succeding articles, but here’s a rough idea of what You are looking at: on the left is Outliner (allows the user to view the current project in an outliner format), on the right Node Inspector (a place where You can tweak various parameters), two windows in the middle – the Render Viewport (where all the magic happens) and bellow is the node based Graph Editor.
Program itself is pretty friendly as You can actually hover on any icon and the program will write next to Your cursor what the button is all about.
It doesn’t say too much, just a name of the function, though usually it’s more than enough if You have any experience working on other packages or don’t bother to google-up/read manual.
So what’s next?..there is a preview configuration already setuped for You. The only missing element is geometry. If You want to import a model, simply press right mouse button on node editor, choose add Node > Objects > mesh and import any .obj file.
Here it is – You actually started rendering your model!
You can tweak Your materials in the Node Editor or You can create a material node and connect it to model. The amount of ‘dots’ ontop of Your imported geometry node depends on the exact amount of different materials You have applied to your mesh before exporting. If You leave Your .obj model with one material – there’s no chance to use more later, unless You already unwrapped it and have several maps for masking.
One thing to note is that You can actually change the way you navigate the scene.
Basic navigation might seem a bit awkward for some, but after some time You might actually get used to it and I would say it’s comfortable enough even if You use a tablet and stylus to navigate (what is not the very best way to manipulate 3d scenes anyway).
If You want to change something (lighting, materials, etc.) simply explore the possibilities in the Node Inspector and see the preview in realtime..
& don’t forget to have fun while playing around!
This is not the article to show of how to make stunning looking renders out of the box, I’ve just wanted to introduce Octane =) just as it is..for those who have never tried it before. Technical talking about different Kernels (rendering methods), how to organise Your scenes, how to work with cameras & imagers, etc. – will take some time to cover with hands on actual scene files (that I’m going to provide).
Stay tuned & feel free to follow me on twitter – that’s the fastest way to be informed about news pluss get some other related information. Feel free to drop a line bellow if there is something You want to ask or simply leave a comment.
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