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Render Test: Mental Ray VS Cycles VS Luxrender by BrentOGara Render Test: Mental Ray VS Cycles VS Luxrender by BrentOGara
Edit 1/9/13 - Added Luxrender test of the same scene.

Just a test see how well Blender's (in-progress) Cycles render engine stacks up against the (somewhat more expensive) Mental Ray... and how Luxrender beats them both.

MR is standard in Softimage, and a very popular renderer for Max and Maya as well... since Autodesk owns them all, and MR works very well, it's probably one of the most used render engines out there.

Then there's Blender Cycles... still in progress, a GPU accelerated unbiased physically accurate render engine... and it looks just as good.

As an added bonus Blender is free, where the programs that MR comes with cost thousands... and yet, they all do the same things, in much the same way, in the same amount of time.

Luxrender uses some very nicely optimized bi-directional path tracing algorithms with full-spectrum lights (allowing for real dispersion and prismatic effects) to quickly render true-to-life images. You can even choose real world film stock and actual real world lights inside the render engine to exactly match the real world conditions (and that's a lot of real!).

For any 3D work dependent on realism (as so many of them are), having an accurate model of how light actually works is pretty important, and the subtleties of reflected and refracted light is often critical to making a group of digital objects feel like they are real, solid, and sharing the same space.

Here's hoping all of these renders have fooled you into thinking these are all real objects in a real box with a real light on top... and just take a moment to realize one of these renders "cost" thousands of dollars... and the other two were "free".
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:icontoonymanstudios:
Toonymanstudios Featured By Owner Edited Dec 25, 2014  Hobbyist Filmographer
you sir! are a god! blender for life! you forgot to mention that maya and max has a mandatory update each year $2500 at least for those who want to work for someone else making there dreams real while your will never reach surface unless you like waiting in line for 30yrs of which by then your energy will be drain and your forget about it and retire an old man scratching your head on, what if's!.
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:iconbrentogara:
BrentOGara Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Wow... and here I thought I was just pointing out the obvious... but maybe that's what God's do? ;)

Yeah, I will admit, Maya and Co. are pretty polished, and have a lot of users and plugins... but I love me some Free Blender (with awesome users and addons, of course).
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:icontoonymanstudios:
Toonymanstudios Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2014  Hobbyist Filmographer
um... i,m on blenders side that was an attack on maya and 3d or the likes!
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:iconbrentogara:
BrentOGara Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Oh, I know, it's all good! I just try to be 'fair and balanced'.
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:icontoonymanstudios:
Toonymanstudios Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2014  Hobbyist Filmographer
cool! but still do you think those maya in company are being fair with there price!? i mean what is it about them and there techs, that makes them so special! it's like there saying we can do it and you can't! blender just needs to get more popular and in time it will grow if not already have the best! to offer than the rest! that's because it engineer by the world! and not some little company with a few employees! tell me when it comes to smarts there who do you think will prevail?
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:iconbrentogara:
BrentOGara Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
The price of a good/service is not, and never has been, related to 'fair' (which is a completely meaningless word to begin with).

The price of any piece of software is whatever the publisher thinks the target audience can afford... and for any professional 3D studio (even a small 1 person studio) several thousand dollars is a small price to pay for the polish, compatibility, support, and massive library of plugins and addons Autodesk products boast of.

The value of Blender is, as you say, in its core users and programmers. The core users will continue to use Blender even if they can afford an Autodesk product. The hundreds of dedicated Blender programmers (and the thousands of 'casual' programmers who code bug fixes and niche plugins) are the real reason I use Blender.

Anyone computer-savvy enough to use a 3D program can pirate a 3D program. If I, or any other Blender user, wanted Maya or Max or XSI or Lightwave or Modo we could have it.

I don't use Blender because I'm "too poor" or "too honorable" to buy/steal a 'better' 3D modeling program... I use Blender because I like it better than the others. Blender does what I want, how I want, and does it well. It updates constantly (check out graphicall.org... you can literally have a new Blender every day.) and it has an insane number of plugins that do almost anything I want.

Maya has some texture/node tools I like. Max has some character tools I like. XSI was what they taught me to use in college. Lightwave has some lovely procedural/fractal textures I love.

But I use Blender because it has all of that and more. Because hundreds and thousands of users and programmers take every little thing that they like about other programs, and simply add it to blender.
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:icontoonymanstudios:
Toonymanstudios Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2015  Hobbyist Filmographer
yeah but you said yourself! if blender already has all those things that maya has or max or other software. then why is it that blender has it for free! when autodesk is selling you a pocket full of holes? they are not making it fair (or if you prefer another word "greedy") for the rest of the people! they are being assholes about it! non of there technical in there software aren't even rare or something that anyone in the same expertise can't do! like you said anything they got blender is already doing it! so tell me why would you pay for the same things!? when it's already free and with no limitations, just because it's "industry standard" it those not make it the prime choice! it's like your pay to have those limitation! sure you can take from a pirate site but in the end your going want the license especially if you don't want a headache when your starting to have success! they would make you out to be a thief! not a good reputation to have for an artist who will have to show his face to the public!
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:iconbrentogara:
BrentOGara Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Blender has these things for 'free' for two main reasons:

First, because Maya/Max/XSI/Lightwave had it first, with their paid programmers and designers to come up with the idea. Then Blender users saw the idea and implemented it in Blender.
and Second, because Ton and thousands of others have spent an immense amount of time and money developing Blender, and they have chosen to give it away for free.

You would pay for 3D software if you:

1- Need to use it for a job that has specific software requirements
2- Need a polished, 'finished' piece of software with fewer undocumented features
3- Need to use the same software your studio uses in the pipeline
4- Want to take advantage of industry-standard plugins and addons
5- Are forced to use it by decades of industry practice
6- Are taught to use that one piece of software in school

Really, these are the reasons Autodesk has any market share... the 3 programs they sell (Maya, Max, XSI) are what's been used for decades, and that's given them a huge user base, tons of 'lead' in the market, and all new users of 3D software in colleges and universities are taught these programs because they are what the production houses have been, are, and will be using.

It's pure, unadulterated momentum and inertia. When two of the three laws of motion are in your favor (or against you) it's really hard to make a change.

It will take time, and pain, and much shouting and waving of hands, but Blender will catch up... as long as Ton and Co. keep improving it.

You and me, we are on the same team. YOU are the 'cheerleader' jumping up and down and foaming at the mouth, telling everyone how Blender is 'best software'. I am the stats-fan, keeping track of all the ways 'team Blender' meets or beats the competition. Your cheer-leading will get a lot of attention, but some people will be put off by your focus and volume. My facts and figures will not get attention from many people, unless you send them over to 'see the truth'.

Blender can use us both. :D
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(1 Reply)
:iconwrathofcat:
WrathOfCat Featured By Owner Edited Oct 16, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
To get dispersion in cycles you actually need to make that a part of the material nodes. 

i.e. blender.stackexchange.com/ques…

Also i'm having a hard time believing that's 8 hours in cycles :v
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:iconiamzandar:
IamZandar Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
I did recent work in Cycles that ended after 2 days, to complete reduce noise.  So I do believe.  I hard time believe that Luxrender came to no noise in just 8 hrs. :D (Big Grin) 
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:iconluxxeon:
LuxXeon Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
I agree Luxrender has one of the most sophisticated light transport algorithms of any engine, but having worked extensively with both Luxrender and MentalRay in 3dsmax, I can honestly say I suspect the MR settings were not fully optimized for performance/accuracy here.  Notice the splotchy shadow results, which indicate some low final gather settings.  At 8 hrs, the results of this simple scene should have been much much more refined in MR.  I'd be curious to see an Octane render or Corona render of the same scene for comparison, being they both also use full spectral light with dispersion as well.
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:iconbrentogara:
BrentOGara Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I'm sure my MR settings were less than optimized, I've not done a ton with it since I left college. If I had Octane or Corona I'd certainly add them!
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:iconluxxeon:
LuxXeon Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
I see.  Otherwise, I think it's a fair test, and set up properly.  I could help you with MR settings, if you ever decide to revisit this test.  I think speed vs. quality, MR should produce a much more viable result, and certainly much faster than the competitors.  It's been a go-to realistic engine for some very large and reputable studios for over a decade, and there's a valid reason behind it.  I've personally found it to be very reliable and predictable, once the settings are mastered, but the problem is that settings need to be adjusted on a scene to scene basis, which isn't the case in path tracing render engines.  I prefer path tracing to other algorithms, for accuracy and ease of use.  The fastest path tracer I've ever used is Corona.  The results are amazing, but the algorithm doesn't seem to be quite as accurate as Luxrender, in my opinion.  It's not bi-directional, but does have a built-in secondary algorithm which can be made to do bi-directional path tracing.  The results of that are, however, far slower than the standard progressive algorithm.  Regarding many scenes, the difference between single and bidirectional path tracing is irrelevant.  You wouldn't notice the subtle difference.  However, scenes with a lot of refractive materials benefit greatly from it.
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:iconbrentogara:
BrentOGara Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I loved MR when I was using it in college. We used Maya and XSI, and some students chose to use Max. By the time I left school Autodesk had bought them all, and the MR was identical across all 3 systems. I never had much luck optimizing MR's Photon Mapping or Final Gather. I read a lot of information on it, followed every tutorial, but I never could get the balance of speed/accuracy where I wanted it. I recall that when I first ran the tests, I was surprised that it took 8 hours to complete the MR render, as I had expected closer to 2-3 from my college experiences with it.

I'll have to look at Corona, I do love a fast & accurate physical render engine. I simply adore LuxRender's bi-directional path tracing, it produces caustics to die for. I just with Cycles would get bi-directional tracing so I can stop crying over my muddy, scattered, indistinct glass/water renders.

Path tracing is just so easy to use... it makes all the fiddly little settings of biased engines seem so baroque.  
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:iconart-of-zanshine:
art-of-zanshine Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
I agree with the last comment. And to add more, Mental ray in Maya let's say, is all about mia_material, linear workflow and physical lighting. I would say you would have to use all three renderer with the best of their ability in some kind of standardized protocol (linear workflow and correct gamma correction at least) to make a descent comparison.
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:iconbrentogara:
BrentOGara Featured By Owner Oct 7, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
That's the problem with comparing different render engines, you have to keep the parameters very simple (like the Cornell Box) to make the comparison meaningful. With an old image like this one, it's even harder, because all the render systems involved have moved on quite a bit by now.

In the end, it's like comparing a Fuji apple vs a Pink Lady apple vs a Pineapple.

The fact that the 3 engines can produce extremely similar results in the same time frame cannot be denied, but some will quibble over specific details of implementation (or flat out call you a liar) until the end of time.
Reply
:icondynamicevolution:
DynamicEvolution Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
Problem with this test is there are no screenshots of the settings for each renderer.  So we don't know how many samples and proof of the samples used. So you can lower the sample rate on Mental ray to improve your claim.   You state 1024 @ 32 but we don't see proof of it.  I'm sorry Maybe i should get all 3 and fake a test just as you guys =3  
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:iconbrentogara:
BrentOGara Featured By Owner Aug 31, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Problem with this comment is there are no screenshots of the poster actually typing it. So we don't know if it's a sentient life form or a spam bot. So if, for some reason, some idiot did post a false comparison image, what would stop anyone else from repeating the experiment and discovering the truth?

Nothing. Nothing is stopping anyone with a decent computer and internet access from doing this same test themselves. That's how science works. You see an interesting result, and you try it yourself to see if it's repeatable.

You could, in fact, get all 3 and fake a test... but what would you gain from that? What would it profit you? What would you have learned? What good would that bring into the world? How would that help anyone?

It wouldn't even help the program you were lying in favor of, because anyone testing it would quickly discover the lie by direct, personal experience.

You'd have to be an imbecile to try and fake something like this.

You'd have to be lacking in critical-thinking ability to even believe such a transparent deception might work, or be a viable means of changing minds in the real world.

Don't be an imbicile, do a little thinking, try it for yourself. All you have to lose is your ignorance. 
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:icondynamicevolution:
DynamicEvolution Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
lawl get over yourself xD
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:iconbrentogara:
BrentOGara Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
lawl whut? 1 iz be undr me??? ;P
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:iconplayrt:
playrt Featured By Owner Oct 5, 2013
cycles is using osl by sony
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:iconbrentogara:
BrentOGara Featured By Owner Oct 5, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks for the info! :D I used the default SVM system for this render, but OSL looks cool, I'll have to check it out. Sharing materials between any OSL compatible render system is a great idea.
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:icondanielmathers:
danielmathers Featured By Owner Apr 6, 2013
blender>autodesk
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:iconbrentogara:
BrentOGara Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
:D True, if you're talking about low cost, innovation, responsiveness toward users, sense of community, frequency of updates, or number and variety of add-ons and extensions.

Sadly, not true if you're talking about actual usage in the TV/Movie/Games industry. :(
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:iconbeltminer:
beltminer Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2013
my head hurts
g
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:iconbrentogara:
BrentOGara Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Which part hurt your head? I certainly don't want my deviations to cause pain... well, not this deviation, anyway.
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:iconbeltminer:
beltminer Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2013
just kidding man, your depth of knowledge in these 3d tools is encyclopedic, i find the whole subject incomprehensible. i thought photoshop was deep!
yikes.
g
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:iconbrentogara:
BrentOGara Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
:D It's a very short encyclopedia! But really, I only know enough to be dangerous... not enough to actually use it to make great art :( But I can make pretty good 3D art, so I'm happy enough.

Photoshop is pretty deep, as 2D applications go, it's almost got it all. The only things PShop is really missing in the 2D sector is procedurally generated images... and there are plugins for that!
Reply
:iconbeltminer:
beltminer Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2013
see man, there you go again...procedurally generated what? o man i need an asprin!
g
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:iconbrentogara:
BrentOGara Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
;) I know! It's just not safe to talk to me :P

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:iconbeltminer:
beltminer Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2013
and i was only typing to you!
g
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:iconbrentogara:
BrentOGara Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Typing's worse... you can't just cover your ears :lol:
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(1 Reply)
:iconschmiegel:
Schmiegel Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012
Try LuxRender with caustics / refraction / dispersion - and lots of time
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:iconbrentogara:
BrentOGara Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I'll take a look at it... when I have lots of time :D
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:iconschmiegel:
Schmiegel Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012
I commented before reading the discussions below - thanks for taking the time and putting effort in that comparison :)
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:iconbiozz:
BiOzZ Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
there are key diffrences ... speed and all of that crap but if you get a good path tracer it all uses the same math ... luxrender is my preferred renderer!
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:iconbrentogara:
BrentOGara Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Luxrender is pretty good, but I like Cycles GPU-powered real-time preview for setting up materials and lights. As for the math, yeah... raytracing is pretty much standardized, which is why the two images look so very similar, and why it's silly to pay thousands of dollars for one of them, when the other is free :D
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:iconbiozz:
BiOzZ Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
well its not raytracing ... raytracing is a bit different and is more like what blender does in blender render
path tracing is what cycles and luxrender do ... but cycles (made by just one guy) has lacks in the algorithms and just does path tracing and not bidirectional MLT, ex-photon map, SPPM, SLG, distributed path, IGI exc
the live preview helps but in the end i believe luxrender produces the better result
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:iconbrentogara:
BrentOGara Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Sorry, my bad... sometimes I type the wrong word. pathtracing is what I meant :D I've not used Luxrender beyond trying it out several months ago... perhaps I'll look at it again.
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:iconbiozz:
BiOzZ Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
we JUSTTT stuck it out of beta on the primary download site ... tho i can get you a dev releace if you want ... i also have my own build but it only works on CUDA 2 graphics cards and 16 threads (2 8 thread processors)
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:iconbrentogara:
BrentOGara Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I was looking at Luxrender last night, it seems there's an up-coming (beta) version specifically for Blender 2.65... is that one still up? I have a NVIDIA GTS 450... I'd have to look it up to see it's specs.
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:iconbiozz:
BiOzZ Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
yeah right here [link] blender 2.65 dev beta
this is the link for 64 bit windows with openCL
we also have 32 bit windows, linux and mac builds of the dev if you need those (i just guessed)
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:iconbrentogara:
BrentOGara Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Windows 64 is indeed the one I downloaded :P I'm reading the Wiki docs right now, actually... but I will have some questions once I start using it. I already love some of the things it does... and I haven't even used it yet :lol:. The ability to paint importance, and to specify samples per pixel as a render target is awesome... and the film response presets are cool... heck, the entire UI is pretty darn nice! :D
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(1 Reply)
:iconalavi-theartist:
Alavi-TheArtist Featured By Owner May 20, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Blender is developing very fast!
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:iconbrentogara:
BrentOGara Featured By Owner May 20, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Oh yes... the Google Summer of Code in '09 and '10 really gave a jumpstart to a lot of good projects that weren't doing much actual coding, and now that a lot of them are finished and being integrated into the trunk, Blender is developing at a prodigious pace.

I'm very much looking forward to the next few month's of work scheduled for Cycles... it should finally get better compositor options, hair, and possibly SSS.
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:iconalavi-theartist:
Alavi-TheArtist Featured By Owner May 20, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
If Blender developers keep developing like this then within 2 years Blender will be a full featured production-ready software, I guess. I tried the cycles render, it looks cool but my PC configuration is not that much good for interactive rendering now. I am thinking of buying a new PC :aww:.
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:iconbrentogara:
BrentOGara Featured By Owner May 21, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I certainly hope it is! I've been loving the new systems they're currently bringing on line, and the "almost done" improvements scheduled for the rest of this year look really good! :D

For Cycles you do need a fast GPU with full CUDA (or OpenCL) support to take advantage of the "interactive" part of the system... with CPU only it's really just an unbiased raytracer with decent speed.

It's always a good time to buy a new PC! :D
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:iconalavi-theartist:
Alavi-TheArtist Featured By Owner May 21, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Hmm :) Do you use other softwares?
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:iconbrentogara:
BrentOGara Featured By Owner May 22, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
In the past I've used Milkshape, Lightwave, Bryce, Softimage/XSI, Maya, Blender, and Max... so yeah, I've used a few. I really like Blender right now.
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:iconalavi-theartist:
Alavi-TheArtist Featured By Owner May 22, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
I tried Maya Softimage Max and C4D.... I am using Maya as my primary tool and besides I am learning Softimage.
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