I’m exploring GPU rendering now, inspired mostly by the work of Daniel Reuterswärd and Johannes Lindqvist who share so much of what and why they do what they do. To get on track fast, I have approached them both seeking insight I can use and share with you all here. Today I’m publishing this hybrid thoughts and making-of by Daniel as he makes his first steps with the new FStorm Render engine. More on this, Octane Render and general GPU tasty bites to follow this week by Johannes as well. Enjoy!
I’ve recently tried and documented my first attempt with the new GPU renderer, FStorm Render.
Ronen approached me asking if I can share my thoughts about it and about GPU rendering in general, and in this article I will mix both my thoughts and the making-of my first FStorm scene. It is based on my personal opinions derived from my personal experience at an early stage of using a new render engine, so please treat it as such.
So, who am I?
My name is Daniel Reuterswärd. I´m an architectural visualization artist and the owner of Daniel Reuterswärd Visualisation. I’m striving to create photo-realism. it is my passion.
What is GPU rendering?
GPU rendering calculates the 3D image with the help of your graphics card instead of using your CPU for that task. The biggest difference between CPU and GPU rendering is what kind of hardware you need for rendering, which in turn impose some limitations on what you can or can not do (until new hardware is introduced).
My background in render engines
So, I thought I should start with some background to explain how I ended up using GPU renderers for both personal and commercial work.
A couple of years ago a new renderer engine popped up in forums here and there so one day I finally decided to test it. The render engine was Corona Renderer and I fell in love in an instant.
Suddenly I didn’t need to tweak any settings and could focus on creating better materials, composition, lighting and, in the end, have a higher quality image.
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A few years later my friend and fantastic 3D Artist Johannes Lindqvist showed me, Octane Render. I must admit, I was quite skeptical in the beginning but thanks to a competition I got the opportunity to try the full version of Octane Render for almost 2 months.
I did try Octane Render many years ago before there was a 3ds Max Plugin, but that experience was long gone from my memory. So I tried Octane Render. It took me a while to get used to the different setups I needed for HDRI lighting, materials, etc, but with some pointers, I started to get the hang of it.
Now that you know how I came in contact with GPU renderers. You might ask…
How switching to GPU render engines benefited me?
And why do I prefer GPU render engines now…
I need only one word to answer this – Interactivity.
The interactive speed I work in since moving to GPU renderers has helped me to achieve better results faster since I get almost real-time feedback for materials, lighting, etc.
The unbiased quality of the render engines I’ve used also makes sure of calculating everything correct without any artifacts.
These render engines also have a really nice interactive glow & glare which means I no longer have to rely on post processing to achieve a nice glare from spotlights or a soft bloom from my windows in an interior rendering.
When it comes to materials I have really noticed how I´m much faster in creating and tweaking materials. By using a second instance of 3ds Max I can tweak the model with as good as live /real-time unbiased feedback and then easily copy it to the main scene. This is, of course, possible with a CPU renderer, but the feedback is beyond anything I have seen so far.
So now you might think : ”Well this sounds fantastic!” However, there are a few…
Drawbacks to using GPU renderers
The biggest issue is the memory limit on GPU’s, this issue is slowly disappearing since the amount of GPU memory is increasing.
Another drawback is that some plugin features such as ForestColor in Forest Pack Pro are not supported.
I’ve recently started using a new GPU render engine called FStorm which is very promising. FStorm is currently in Alpha stage and for free.
Making of an FStorm Project
This is my first project done with the new GPU render engine FStorm Render.
I will start by covering how to download and install FStorm and how to set up HDRI lighting. After that I’m going to dive in to the scene you can see images of below and cover how I set up the lighting, some of the materials and some post production tips.
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Introduction to FStorm Render
FStorm is a new GPU render engine that is developed by Andrey Kozlov.
At the moment FStorm is only available for 3Ds Max, but other 3D softwares will be supported in the future. Only Nvidia GPU’s are supported and it´s always a good idea to update to the latest drivers.
How to Download & Install FStorm Render
Download FStorm Here
The installation is a simple procedure so you just have to follow the instructions.
As you can see below, all the necessary render settings can be easily found in one single tab under Render Setup. The settings you see are the default settings in FStorm.
How to Setup HDRi Lighting in FStorm
So, lets dive in to the fun stuff. I thought I´d start off with some basic things…
How to set up HDRI lighting.
- Start off by creating a new FStorm Bitmap.
- Make sure that the “Gamma” is set to “2,2” and the “Mapping” is set to “Spherical Environment”.
- To load the HDRI you would like to use click on “None” next to “File”.
- Copy the “FStorm Bitmap” as an instance to the Environment slot in “Render Setup”.
Don´t forget to tick “Importance Sampling”.
- Here´s a quick rendering showing that the HDRI lighting works.
Lets start of with lighting setup in the project. I have done the same thing as I covered previously when setting up the lighting for this project. I´m using an HDRI from Cg-Source. These HDRIs have a great dynamic range.
I have also enabled DOF and some Glare, however these parameters are very scene specific so you will have to experiment to find a good balance for your scene.
For the lamp I have used a FStorm Sphere Light that I have put inside the glass lamp.
That is my complete lighting in the scene! 🙂
Time for materials! I will start with the glass vase since I really like how glass and metals behave in FStorm. This is fairly basic glass material setup, but I added a noise to the bump slot for some irregularities and also a gradient to create a nice effect of the glass going from black to clear.
Here are the settings for the FStorm Gradient and FStorm Noise.
Next material is the carpet. I have used the same approach to the carpet as I would any fabric material. The original texture is plugged in to the “texture 1” slot in a “FStorm Mix” texture and a lighter version of the original texture is plugged in to the “texture 2” slot. These two textures are then mixed with a “FStorm Falloff” so the lighter texture appears at the grazing angles.
Lets move on to the plant shader. This is how I usually set up vegetation. You can of course take this one step further buy adding color variation etc, but I felt this worked fine for this plant.
As you can see in the image below I have used a “FStorm ColorCorrection” node between the original texture and the input for “diffusetex” and “translucencetex”. This is to have control mostly of the tint and the saturation on the plant and the translucency. For this plant I made the translucency a bit more yellow and also desaturated both the dIffuse and the translucency.
The final material I will look at it is the metal for the lamp on the windowsill. Here I have added textures to the reflection and reflection glossiness to add a more old, used look to the metal. I have also lowered how much the texture affects the reflection glossiness since I felt the effect was too strong. There´s no diffuse in the material at all and the IOR is set to 6.0. The IOR value of 6.0 gives (in my eyes) a more deeper looking metal with a bit more contrast.
The Post Production Stage
Time for post production. First off all, I don´t have a strict post production workflow. My post production changes from time to time and also every scene needs a slightly different post work.
I will go through the first image in this project, the other images had the same post production applied. Here´s the raw render that I got out of FStorm.
I started off by opening the image in Photoshops Camera Raw filter and did some minor adjustments. I later had to change these based on the ColorLookup/LUT I chose. Here are the things I adjusted in Camera Raw.
I almost always use LUTs on my images as I feel the right LUT can bring out a bit more realism in the image. Here´s how the image looked when I applied a LUT at 30% opacity
At this point I wasn’t completely happy with the image so I played around a bit more and ended up using 2 more LUTs with a very low opacity (about 20%). I then added those to a group and lowered the group opacity to 75%.
With those 2 LUTs added I was happy with the final image:
I´m very satisfied with FStorm and I´m sure it will only get even better. All of the things I have covered here are based on my personally opinions and approach to photo realism. The best advice I can give is to not be afraid of exploring new things and testing new software.