Many beginning 3D animators assume that rendering is the easiest step in the process, but, in reality, it is one of the most difficult parts of the job. 3D artists should have a good knowledge of lighting techniques and keen eyes to observe the world around them in order to create a realistic look in rendering. Of course, a powerful rendering tool is also essential. That’s why Discreet has included mental ray 3.2 in its 3ds max 6 package.
It’s important to note that mental ray is the first rendering software to combine the physically correct simulation of the behavior of light with full programmability for the creation of any imaginable visual phenomenon. To date, it has been integrated into Softimage|3D and Softimage|XSI, Discreet (Autodesk) 3ds max, Alias Systems Maya, Side Effects’ Houdini 5, SolidWorks PhotoWorks 2 and Dassault Syst’me’s CATIA V4 and V5 products. A number of translators and translator plug-ins allow for using mental ray in conjunction with various 3D modeling and animation front-end systems.
Discreet’s 3ds max rendering panel offers some extra options and mental ray-specific controls. I tried rendering some scenes on my hp xw4100 workstation and the results were stunning. I started with a photograph of a simple room lit by sunshine and rebuilt it inside 3ds max 6, and then rendered it using mental ray. The photo realistic results were almost indistinguishable from the actual photo. New render elements such as flat Diffuse, Lighting, and Matte are also available for mental ray. There are also contour shaders, camera shaders and other features in 3.2. Not only can you blur shadows with the software, you can also split images into strips and allow different servers to render each for faster results.
The Good News: Mastering mental ray may take some time, but if you stick with it you’ll discover that it’s actually quite easy to use. Seriously, you can start rendering beautiful images instantly.
The Wish List: Although one appreciates all the hard work that has gone in to making mental ray a superior product with excellent performance possibilities, the bar can always be raised by increasing rendering speed.
The Bottom Line: If you are a pro 3D artist, you should seriously look into getting plugged into the mental ray world as soon as possible.
Web Address: www.mentalray.com, www.discreet.com
Animation Magazine’s Seal of Excellence
Ease of Use: ****
Rendering Quality: *****
Rendering speed: *****
Quality and Depth: *****
The Final Score: *****