Arion stand-alone v2.5.0 is out

RandomControl is very proud to announce the availability of Arion stand-alone v2.5.0, a major leap forward in unbiased rendering.

A rendering revolution is en route, and Arion is leading it.

This new release brings to everyone, but specially to the professionals of animation and VFX a set of very interesting technical improvements.

New render passes (AOVs), Lightmixer layers, multi-layered EXR output, Metropolis sampling, CUDA 5.0, faster rendering... Are only examples of the many improvements since version 2.4.x.

Improve your productivity and the quality of your work today. Choose Arion's excellence.

Key features:

Finite sampling Exit colors Importance sampling Metropolis light transport
Improved physical sky Stable noise pattern LightMixer layers Render AOVs
Faster core Very large renders HDRI LIGHT STUDIO connection Render region

Finite sampling per component

The Arion v2.5.0 rendering core features a brand new set of controls to constrain path-tracing depth on a per-feature basis.

i.e., now you can control the maximum number of specular/glossy/diffuse/refraction/scattering GI bounces independently.

Cropping the maximum number of GI bounces in a scene allows for a significant speed increase in exchange for a controlled darkening of the GI in hard-to-reach areas.

Note that this feature does in no way break unbiasedness. However, if you want to stay fully physically-correct and render times are not your main concern, then you can just crank the GI limits up to their maximum values to fully disable bounce cropping.

Exit colors

Each render component features an Exit color, which can be used to compensate the darkening coming from a too low path recursion depth.

Some very important speed increases can be achieved on dielectrics and Sub-Surface Scattering materials if exit colors are used properly.

Below you will find some more examples, where every SSS material is using an exit color, and the total number of SSS bounces was cropped to 6. As you can see, it renders not only faster, but also cleaner:

IBL importance sampling

Arion v2.5.0 features a brand new Importance Sampling system for Image-Based Lighting that immensely improves render speed in HDR-illuminated scenes. The speed improvement becomes really massive as soon as the HDR environment starts to be heterogeneous enough (i.e., contains some particularly bright spots such as the sun, etc.)

IBL-IS (Image-Based Lighting Importance Sampling) analyzes the HDR environment map, splitting its surface in areas classified by brightness. From then on, the brighter areas are sampled more often than the darker areas, so variance (noise) is reduced much faster. The speed improvement ranges from faster to extremely faster.

The most typically extreme case for IBL-IS is an HDR photograph of the sky, because most pixels are even in brightness and color, except for the sun ball. With regular stochastic sampling, the sampler would need to hit the sun ball by chance. But thanks to IBL-IS, light paths are automatically driven towards the sun area more often than they are to the rest of the sky.

In other words, it is now possible to render efficiently any HDR environment with fast and nearly-immediate hard shadows, even if the map features tiny bright spots, a sun ball, studio light gear, or anything that you can think of.

This feature is a blessing for product-viz and exterior shots.

Metropolis Sampling (MLT)

Arion v2.5.0 comes with a new optional sampler for those cases that just won't make it with path tracing alone.

For the first time on a full-featured renderer, Metropolis Light Transport can run on the GPU.

This is not a MLT look-alike amputated from its glory to run on a GPU. This is the true, full-featured Metropolis Light Transport algorithm.

And as always with Arion, it's hybrid and can run on your GPUs, your CPUs or all at once.

Metropolis sampling can help get out of previously impossible or very hard rendering situations and converge successfully to the final image.

The render above has been completed in a few hours on 2 Geforce GTX 580 cards, missing no light component at all. The blue beam that is seen in the total internal reflection of the most left prism for example, is a very hard case for most renderers. Arion does it just right and noise-free.

Although MLT can be used on any kind of render, it has a great use in optical and lighting simulations.

If you're a professional working in optics or lighting, Arion is the ideal tool for you, providing unprecedented speed and image quality, cutting no corners for a fully accurate physically-correct simulation of light, all accelerated by the GPU.

Improved physical sky

A deep technical work has been done on Arion's physical sky/sun.

The match between sun integrators in the engine is perfect now, which kills some powder or fireflies that were happening before, and cleans noise faster in general as well, as long as the sun is used.

A new feature has also been added so the sun diameter can be configured. Some users had requested the ability to achieve 'less sharp' sun shadows, for example.

Both improvements have their own importance by themselves. But when used together, it is possible to efficiently render proper sun caustics, even through dielectrics (like swimming pools or even windows with real glass). The use of MLT sampling shines in all its glory here by allowing to render this sort of images that used to be impractical before.

Stable noise pattern

We have been reviewing and reworking the random number generation system a lot for Arion v2.5.0. Besides fixing a small bug in v2.x (Arion was sometimes repeating some seeds in the first frame if multiple rendering devices were involved), we have finished a feature that never worked in fryrender when the QRN seed was configurable, or in previous versions of Arion:

Now when you select a fixed number of passes, it is guaranteed that all devices in all stations will compute the exact same sequence of QRN seeds, and in the same order.

That is, there is a function that tells for each pixel at each pass what QRN seed will be used, and that function is 'universal' across all stations and devices.

Furthermore, the rendering loop makes sure now that if you set a fixed number of P passes, the accumulation buffer will keep the first [0..P] samples for each pixel and rule out any other seeds that might arise early due to the difference in speed between devices.

The full video of the introduction example above can be seen in its entirety here.

LightMixer layers

LightMixer light layers are back.

It's now possible to output all the LightMixer layers in a multi-layer EXR file and tune it in your favorite editing software such as Photoshop, After Effect, Nuke...

Just like AOVs, LightMixer layers are computed on the fly during the standard calculation of the full unbiased render or AOVs.

With this method, it's now possible to re-light in full 32-bit floating point a complete animation sequence with any software that supports EXR and multi-layer EXR without the need for extra plugins or limitations due to proprietary formats.

Arion v2.5.0 offers up to 8 LightMixer channels, plus the environment and sunlight channels, adding up to a total of 10 exploitable light channels.

RandomControl has been working with FnordWare to provide you the best multi-layer EXR output possible. We strongly recommend their plugin ProEXR to read multi-layer EXR files in Photoshop and After Effect. Other softwares such as Nuke handle this natively just fine.

Render AOVs

Arion v2.5.0 extends the existing render channels, adds new ones and makes their use more productive than ever.

This is probably the most powerful feature of this release. You can find a tutorial of one of the many uses, where the Caustic AOV is rendered to de-noise an unfinished render here.

Arion v2.5.0 can render all the render channels (now called AOVs for Arbitrary Output Value) at once along with the regular full unbiased render.

Here is an exhaustive list of all AOVs available in Arion v2.5.0:

Render AOVs (HDR)

  • Main
  • Background
  • Lights
  • Direct
  • Direct Raw
  • Direct Filter
  • Indirect
  • Indirect Raw
  • Shadows
  • Shadows Raw
  • Caustics
  • Specular
  • Specular Raw
  • Specular Filter
  • Glossy
  • Glossy Raw
  • Glossy Filter
  • Diffuse
  • Diffuse Raw
  • Diffuse Filter
  • Refraction
  • Refraction Raw
  • Refraction Filter
  • SSS
  • Volumetric

Render AOVs (LDR)

  • Normals
  • Material ID
  • Object ID
  • Velocity

Render AOVs (Graysale)

  • Alpha
  • Depth
  • Roughness
  • Coverage
  • Ambient Occlusion

Render AOVs (LightMixer)

  • Ambient
  • Sun
  • 8 LightMixer Layers

It is possible to define a custom range of rouhness to set apart specular-glossies-diffuse materials to send the appropriate pixels to their respective AOV, giving you full control on your output.

All these AOVs can be output to 32-bit float HDR, EXR or multi-layered EXR.

RandomControl has been working with FnordWare to provide you the best multi-layer EXR output possible. We strongly recommend their plugin ProEXR to read multi-layer EXR files in Photoshop and After Effect. Other softwares such as Nuke handle this natively just fine.

Faster, stronger, better

Arion v2.5.0 raw raytracing speed is up to two times faster.

But is it? Well, it's even faster than that.

Beside a deep optimization of the core that affects raw speed, we've completely reworked the sampling strategy, leading to a better image convergence in the same time.

So not only Arion v2.5.0 is faster, more responsive and smoother to use, but it also renders with less noise, resulting in an approximated 3x speed boost over Arion 2.0.x.

And since a good news never comes alone, this speed boost also applies to the Metropolis sampler.

256 Mega-pixels on the GPU

Arion v2.5.0 introduces a brand new framebuffer feature that compromises just a little performace, to allow very high resolution rendering.

This feautre called 'Dicing' is part of the super-sampling paremeters group.

It allows you to render up to 16,000 x 16,000 pixels images on the GPUs, and much more on the CPU.

In fact, over 16k, you're far from hitting the memory limits of the GPU (about 350B for such buffer), you're more hitting a hardware limit.

When you're stranded on a scene that needs to render at high resolution, dicing may help you get the job done at a little performance cost.

This feature would be particularly useful to render complex animation in large formats like IMAX.

Here is a comparative table of memory usage versus performance when using dicing and super-sampling:

1080p render No SuperSampling 1x1 SuperSampling 2x2 SuperSampling Framebuffer Memory
No dicing 1.53 Msamples/sec 1.53 Msamples/sec 1.53 Msamples/sec 40 MB
Dicing 1 level 1.49 Msamples/sec 1.49 Msamples/sec 1.49 Msamples/sec 10 MB
Dicing 2 levels 1.27 Msamples/sec 1.27 Msamples/sec 1.27 Msamples/sec 3 MB

Advanced render region

Render Region has been implemented in Arion and Max LIVE v2.5.0, but with one good particularity.

Standard rectangular render region is of course available, but you can also render per object.

This allows for great compositing works and even for swapping one object for another to make endless color and material variations in your compositing software.

When an object is isolated by the render region, no computing time is wasted outside of the isolated object and the render is already cut out so you don't have to worry about rendering an extra alpha layer, making the production of variations very quick and easy.

HDR Light Studio connection

Enjoy the comfort of editing your HDR environment texture with HDRI Light Studio directly from inside Arion Stand-alone.

HDR Light Studio lets you easily create and edit HDRI environment maps in real-time. As you work on your custom HDRI map, you see its lighting effect on your scene in real-time.

For more information about HDRI Light Studio , visit the product's official webpage here:


Arion v2.5.0 makes use of CUDA 5.0 and brings considerable improvements.

Now scenes that uses instancing or displacement do not run slower even if those features are turned off for tests, when they are not in use, Arion runs at full speed.

You don't need to worry about installing special packages other than the proper GPU drivers, since Arion comes with everything you need to run out of the box.

This version of CUDA requires the latest available video drivers for your GPU from NVIDIA. You can download them here.

Do not hesitate also to give a try to the Beta drivers, as they often run better on the newest technology and fix many of small stability bugs.

Arion is compatible with the Kepler (Geforce 600 series, Tesla K10, K20 and up.) architecture.

RandomControl SDK

RandomControl is pleased to announce that its complete SDK is now available for licensing.

RandomControl SDK, or RCSDK, is an extremely powerful development kit that gives you total control over the integration of the Arion Core technology in your own software or pipeline.

RCSDK is cross-platform and can be used to integrate Arion on Windows, Mac OSX and Linux.

For inquiries about the RCSDK licensing policy, please contact RandomControl.

And all the fantastic features from version 2.0

  • Instancing

  • 3D motion blur

  • Unbiased spotlights

  • Unlimited textures and texture size (must fit in memory)

  • Unlimited number of objects

  • Unlimited number of materials

  • Faster speed, better noise

  • Sub-Surface Scattering

  • Single Sheet Sub-Surface Scattering (S5)

  • Participating media (fog)

  • Mapped emitters

  • Real world emitter units

  • Coated reflections

  • Integratable rough dielectrics

  • Improved UI: Scene tree

  • Scenes repository

  • Decal mode shows emitters by color instead of power

  • Dispersion

  • Emitters and 'others' (like physical sky) ON/OFF switch

  • Color maps ON/OFF switch

  • Bump maps ON/OFF switch

  • Explicit material ID: custom MatID channel

  • Explicit object ID: custom ObjID channel

  • Smoother navigation noise (antialiased)
  • Displacements

  • IES emitters

  • VRay materials converter (Max LIVE only)

  • Voxelization cache

  • Much lower memory usage (up to 65%>

  • Camera roll

  • Better OBJ import

  • Direct Quicktime VR export

  • Hide & isolate tools

  • Improved physical sky

  • Draft engine

  • State of the art BRDF

  • Dielectrics improvements

  • Stereoscopy

  • Falloff shading

  • Material override

  • New compositing channels

  • Wireframe override

  • Better fresnel

  • Emitters and Sun are now working together

  • Caustics ON/OFF flag

  • Ability to rename objects, camera, materials

  • Aspect ratio is saved in the file

  • FOV is now horizontally docked

  • Editable emitters in realtime

...and more to come soon!

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