03 June 2012

Sebastian Koenig - V-Ray - Introduction - The Blender Connection - Streaming Video

Sebastian Koenig has been busy making video tutorials, this time it covers V-Ray a 3D render which supports many advanced rendering features a well as being very quick to render.

V-Ray was created by a software firm called Chaos Group. It is a proprietary, closedsource render, which comes in many different versions. One of those versions being V-Ray Standlone, which is the V-Ray render working without the use of a graphical frontend.
  • Product Specifications:
  • Name : V-Ray - Introduction - The Blender Connection
  • Price : £19.95 (on 13th January 2010)
  • Runtime : 2 Hours 16 Minutes (roughly)
  • Format : Streaming Video

Sebastian describes the various steps involved in obtaining, installing and configuring for use both V-Ray and Blender, so as to integrate them together into Blenders workflow.

It is important to note though, that V-Ray unlike other renderers such as Yaf(A)Ray or LuxRender is not free and is not opensourced and comes with a DRM dongle. If you do not want to install the commercial version of V-Ray you can get the demo version but you must register with the chaosgroup.com website to download it (very annoying). The demo version limits the maximum resolution at which you can render a scene (600 x 450 pixel according to Sebastian), this won't be an issue if you are following along with Sebastian's tutorial apart from at the very end when he renders a scene which is larger than the limit imposed by the demo version.

The V-Ray Standlone render costs $299 U.S. Dollars (as of 13 January 2010) according to chaos groups website. Also V-Ray requires a dongle (a USB key) to run with a valid V-Ray license key installed on it. The DRM issue with the license dongle, I know is a big issue with a lot of people (me included), as is the fact that it is closed source. I have no real issue with the price for this version of the render (as it is an excellent render) but I do with the closed source, DRM'ed, status of it. I run Fedora 12 Linux which is completely opensourced and totally free, I also feel that V-Ray goes completely against the spirit of Blender. My innate distrust of all DRM based hardware and software (aka potential for root kits and the like) made me loath to review V-Ray at all but Sebastian put a lot of work into making the tutorial, so a review of it seems only fair.

So with the above in mind, I know all the criticisms above are not things Sebastian can do anything about. With this in mind I will review this tutorial ignoring the issues above and just rate the video in terms of the information Sebastian provides and how well he presents it.

At the beginning of the video Sebastian goes through downloading both the Blender V-Ray export script and obtaining and installing the V-Ray Maya software (which contains the V-Ray Standalone executable). After having obtained all the relevant pieces of software and scripts, Sebastian goes through how to configure them on both Windows and Mac platforms, though not for Linux platforms, although the procedure is pretty much the same for the Linux platform as it is for the Mac platform. One issue to be aware of is that Sebastian installs the software using root account privileges, this is not needed and should not be used unless you are sure you know what you are doing. Also when Sebastian was going through the procedure to connect to the License server he used ip addresses to specify the address of the license server, if you are using dhcp to assign addresses you may have to adapt the method used by Sebastian. More information on getting the information required for the license server (such as ip addresses) could have helped the viewer here for those that don't know networking specifics, though Sebastian does mention that V-Ray comes with a good online manual to explain setup, though if you are going to read the V-Ray manual it could somewhat negate Sebastian video tutorial, at least as far as license server setup goes.

Having got all the software and script installed and license registered, Sebastian moves on to briefly describing and setting some of the most basic and important settings that the Blender V-Ray script exposes inside the Blender interface, demonstrating a large number of the scripts features on a demonstration scene. The resolution of the streaming video from cmivfx.com causes a slight issue here as it was often difficult to tell the effect of various settings and changes Sebastian made to the V-Ray interface script even though he did a lot of compare and contrast shots of render results. Though Sebastian was careful to explain as well as he was able the various features verbally, so the low resolution issue was somewhat mitigated. Another issue with the video was that the streaming site must have been under heavy load, because at certain times of day the video would not stream without stuttering and occasionally dropping the video stream, causing me to have to retry to watch the video later. This did not happen often but is always an issue with streaming media that don't allow you to download the videos you have paid for (another of my pet annoyances).

Once Sebastian had explained some of the basic features he gave a very useful description of the various Global Illumination methods and settings, covering how they relate to Blender and the V-Ray script. Strangely even though V-Ray supports caustics this was only briefly mentioned and not used in the tutorial, because Sebastian says it was really an advanced feature, which was a shame as really it should been used.

Especially informative was the information on Irradiance Map and Light Map Caching and the ways in which it could be used to speed up the rendering times. The other major features are also covered in some detail such as Multi-sampling, and various other features to numerous to mention.

One area where I think a clearer explanation would have been useful was for Hemi-spherical Subdivisions. I was not really clear on what they were representing as far as lighting and shadows were concerned, and to me it just seemed to be some arbitrary value which makes the quality of renders improve, but what it actually did was never explained (at least as far as I could tell).

At about an hour into the tutorial video, Sebastian having covered the basic settings, changes topic to focus more on lighting an outdoor scene and the various light setting of the V-Ray script. Areas that stood out in this section were the coverage of how to use HDRI images and light sources and using Blender node editor with the render images produced by V-Ray Standalone, very useful and very informative.

After having gone over various techniques for outdoor lighting, the tutorial then goes on to describe the various settings and techniques used to light an indoor scene, showing how to both light and assign materials and textures of an indoor hallway type building, and using various settings to make it look semi-realistic.

Toward the end of the video, as a bonus Sebastian demonstrates briefly how to setup V-Ray by rendering the tutorial title scene, showing some of the more advanced settings like two-sided V-Ray materials and sub-surface scatting settings.

So all in all a good tutorial with basic explanations of most of the things you will need to know to get started using V-Ray from within Blender. So if you are a V-Ray person you will find this a very useful tutorial.

Now all Sebastian has to do is give us a tutorial on LuxRender and Yaf(A)Ray, so us Opensource types can play as well, as I don't much enjoy reviewing the dark side closedsource stuff!

Review Score 75%