Tech Thursday: Fake It To Make It
While most 3d modeling is a fairly straightforward process, and doesn't vary too much from platform to platform, rendering is an entirely different animal. For example, the realtime shading in Alias Studiotools looks better than the stock rendering engine in Rhinoceros 3d, even though Rhino's renderer can take 20-30 seconds to render a similar scene (ok, obviously, this varies from computer to computer, but you get the idea.) In fact, before we go on, we're assuming that you aren't using Alias Imagestudio for your renderings, because if you are, you're not only spoiled rotten, but you can easily do as good of a job as the ones we're showing off. For those of us that don't have 1400 bucks to spend on just a renderer, there are some other options.
If you're using Rhinoceros, you've got a couple choices for getting better renders. The best option is to use a plugin rendering engine to replace Rhino's standard one. You might try Flamingo, Mcneal's own raytracing renderer. It's got a great materials library built in, so you can get started right away. And, the options for soft shadows, as well as raytraced reflection and refraction (don't sweat it, we're covering all this stuff in next week's TT) really lend a nice realism to renders. Still, you might be looking for more realism than it can give you.
In that case, you'll probably want to wait for 6 months or so, until the first release of Brazil R/S for Rhino is released. It's no secret, we love this rendering engine. It's got all the advanced features like displacement mapping, HDRI lighting and reflection maps, and caustics and translucence for super realistic glass, plastic, ceramic and stone. It does an unbelievable job with interior shots, and product shots look incredible.
But maybe you don't feel like plunking down 1200 bucks for all that power. Alright, for just $470 US, you can get most of the same functionality with the Air engine. Air runs through a free intermediary program called Rhinoman that translated your rhino file into one that Air can understand.
As for other programs like Solidworks, Solidedge, or Catia, your only real option is export to a program with a better rendering setup. You can either use the built in import-export options of these programs, or a program like Polytrans, or Npower Power Translators could be really helpful. Both these programs do an extra bit of work to make sure that what you sent from the one program comes into the other whole. Power Translators can even preserve nurbs-type surfaces in 3D Studio Max for super smooth renders.
Once you've got export ability, you're open to the big boys, like 3DS Max and Lightwave. We could talk for a couple of posts each on these behemoths. If you want more information, you're probably best off checking out Newtech's Lightwave ID gallery and Max's ID showcase. Both these guys will add a decent amount to the cost of your system, and your learning time, but you can do anything you want on them, including animation and super realistic lighting effects.
If you're still not quite sure about 3d program choices, Core77 has had some interesting discussions.
We'll see you again next week when we tackle lighting setups for optimum rendering results. Until then, take 'er easy.
Copyright 2004-2006 Dominic Muren and IDFuel Team