Arion for Rhinoceros 2.7.0 is out

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But is this all?

No! We are also pleased to announce updates of all our products.

We are pleased to announce a new round of updates for all our products, specially the final release of Arion for Rhinoceros v2.7.0 after a long Beta period.

This new version brings to the professionals of animation and VFX a set of powerful tools, and unprecedented rendering quality and performance inside Rhinoceros.

Much faster coatings and plastics, much better bump rendering and overall quality, importance sampling, Metropolis Sampling, BSDF clamp (aka fireflies killer), Support for CUDA 6.0, faster rendering... are only some examples of the hundreds of improvements since version v2.4.4.

For those who are not yet customers of Arion for Rhinoceros, there is a fully functional DEMO version that can be downloaded here.

Key features

Better bump

Faster coatings

Finite sampling

Exit colors

Importance sampling

Metropolis sampling

BSDF Clamp

Improved sky

Objects render region

Cuda 6.5

Better bump and normal mapping

The engine now makes use of a small numerical 'gap' when surfaces are hit which allows the ray-tracing/RC-BSDF routines to make sure that no rays are bounced off inwards the surface (i.e., canceled out) when the geometry and the interpolated normals diverge

This results in a better rendering of curved surfaces at grazing angles in general, but most importantly in perfect (no energy loss) bump and normal mapping, even when the maps used are abrupt or the % is cranked up to a high value.

Faster coated reflections

We are pleased to announce a very important improvement in rendering performance of coatings.

Until now, the Importance Sampling scheme that was distributing samples between the coating and its substrate was based on the amount of reflectance (which is proportional to the Fresnel value). This used to make perfect sense, but in practice the visual importance of the coated reflection is much higher than the raw amount of reflectance. i.e., because of directionality, a noisy specular reflection is much more disturbing to the eye than a clean reflection with a noisy diffuse substrate.

So we have changed the Importance Sampling scheme, to give much more priority to the coating over the substrate. This results in coatings that render as fast (and usually even faster) than 2-layered materials. Until now, users were reporting that coatings were looking significantly better than the equivalent 2-layered solution, but were leaving much more residual noise. That's no longer the case.

Finite sampling per component

The Arion for Rhinoceros v2.7.0 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/diffuse/... 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 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, Arion renders not only faster, but also cleaner:

IBL importance sampling

Arion for Rhinoceros v2.7.0 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 for Rhinoceros v2.7.0 comes with a new optional sampler for those cases that just won't make it with path tracing.

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

This is not a MLT look-alike or simili-MLT amputated from its glory to run on a GPU, it's the true, full-featured Metropolis 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 rendering situation and produce an astonishing output.

The render above has been completed in a few hours on 2 Geforces GTX 580, 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.

BSDF clamp (aka the fireflies killer)

There are situations were waiting for caustics to converge is not an option or they won't add value to the final image

For those cases, the BSDF clamp feature is the solution. The renders above have been rendered for just 1 minute on a Titan GPU.

This feature crosses the line of 'cheating physics', but the negative impact in the quality and purity of the render is often 0, while the benefit of removing fireflies entirely is probably the long lasting dream of every unbiased render engine user.

In most practical uses, and specially in sun-lit scenes, the following is true:

With this feature, you can get rid of most (often ALL) of the fireflies in your render without (generally) affecting the render or losing visual components.

Improved physical sky

RandomControl is proud to announce that some 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 fake '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 that sort of images that used to be impractical before.

LightMixer layers

LightMixer light layers, as used in fryrender, are back.

It is now possible to output all the LightMixer layers in a scene to a multi-layered EXR file and then tune it either from the ArionFX panel, or 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 and can be visualized as the render is progressing.

But that's not all, thanks to the ArionFX panel it's possible to edit LightMixer layers in real-time.

Arion for Rhinoceros v2.7.0 offers up to 8 LightMixer channels, plus the environment and sunlight channels, adding up to a total of 10 exploitable 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.

Advanced render region

Render Region has been implemented in Arion for Rhinoceros v2.7.0, but with one particularity.

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

This allows for making great compositing works and even 'swap' one object for another and 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 so you don't have to worry about rendering an extra alpha layer, making the production of variation very quick and easy.

Render region also supports multiple objects at once for an even easier workflow.

CUDA 6.5

Arion for Rhinoceros v2.7.0 makes use of CUDA 6.5 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 programs, Arion comes with everything you need to run it out of the box (except video drivers).

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 a lot of small bugs.

Complete features list

Technology and performance

  • Hybrid acceleration (GPU+CPU).
  • CUDA-based Multi-GPU core.
  • Multi-processor / multi-core / multi-thread CPU core.
  • Based on highly optimized and elegantly crafted code.
  • CPU SSE/SIMD support.

Spectral unbiased rendering

  • Unbiased and physically-based light simulation.
  • Progressive rendering.
  • Automatic Full Global Illumination.
  • Path tracing core.
  • Metropolis Light Transport core.
  • Physical atmosphere (sun and sky).
  • Image-Based Lighting (HDRI).
  • Mesh emitters.
  • Automatic camera optics and full motion blur.

Physical camera simulation

  • True optics and reflex camera simulation.
  • Focal length.
  • Diaphragm aperture (f-stop).
  • Shutter speed.
  • ISO film.
  • Focal distance.
  • Film shift.
  • Barrel and pincushion lens distortion.

Physical materials

  • Advanced multi-layered material creation system.
  • Opacity mapping.
  • Global or mapped roughness.
  • Fresnel and falloff controls.
  • Colored dielectric absorption.
  • Dielectric dispersion (chromatic aberration).
  • Bump/Normal mapping.
  • Per-map UVW and RGB modifiers.
  • Plastic coatings.
  • Sub-Surface Scattering.
  • Micro-Polygon Displacement Mapping.
  • Local exit color.

Micro-Polygon Displacement Mapping

  • No warm-up overhead implementation.
  • Memory-less render-time implementation.
  • Configurable micro-polygon density.
  • Waterlevel height (compatible with opacity mapping).
  • Configurable mid-point for compatibility with the most popular digital sculpting packages.
  • Optimized parallel (2D) displacement for flat surfaces.
  • Curved (3D) displacement for generic curved surfaces.

Compositing channels

  • Unbiased render (Main).
  • Background.
  • Lights.
  • Direct (default/raw/filter).
  • Indirect (default/raw/filter).
  • Shadows (default/raw/filter).
  • Glossy (default/raw/filter).
  • Diffuse (default/raw/filter).
  • Refraction (default/raw/filter).
  • SSS.
  • Volumetric.
  • LightMixer channels (Ambient, sun and 8 custom layers).
  • Normals (World and camera space).
  • Velocity (World and camera space).
  • Material ID (random or custom colors).
  • Object ID (random or custom colors).
  • Alpha (Opaque or transparent modes).
  • Depth.
  • Roughness.
  • Fresnel.
  • Coverage.
  • Ambient occlusion.
  • Matte floor.

Sub-Surface Scattering

  • Physically-based participating media simulation.
  • Configurable scattering distribution (supporting forward, isotropic, and backward scattering).
  • Configurable media density to simulate a wide range of media, from thin fog to skin or hard rubber.
  • Optimized Single-Sheet SSS (S5) for thin surfaces such as curtains or tree leaves.

Physical atmosphere

  • Physically-based sun and sky simulation.
  • Accurate geo-location and celestial body positioning simulation.
  • Customizable sun color temperature.
  • Customizable sun power intensity.
  • Customizable sun diameter.

Image-Based Lighting

  • Easy-to-use and highly efficient IBL support.
  • High-Dynamic Range input.
  • Image warping (i.e., latitude/longitude, light probes, etc...).
  • Background mapping.
  • Importance sampling.

Mesh emitters

  • Support for colored and mapped RGB and Kelvin emitters.
  • Efficient render-time spotlights with control over the emission shape.
  • Projection maps.
  • IES photometric profiles.

Full motion blur

  • Automatic efficient 3D motion blur.
  • Camera motion blur.
  • Object motion blur.
  • Global and per-object sub-framing control.
  • All features are compatible with motion blur (even emitters, MPDM, and instancing).

Render-time Sub-D surfaces

  • No warm-up overhead implementation.
  • Memory-less render-time implementation.
  • Per-triangle geometry smoothing provided as a displacement mode.

Geometry instancing

  • No warm-up overhead implementation.
  • Memory-less render-time implementation.
  • Support for point clouds for particle rendering and object scattering.
  • Supported natively by the LIVE plug-ins.

Supported image I/O formats

  • RGB output (8-bpp or 16-bpp).
  • Raw High-Dynamic Range (HDR) formats.
  • .jpg, .bmp, .png, .tga, .tif, .hdr, .exr.
  • OpenEXR support for multi-channel HDR output.

Interactive tonemapping

  • Exposure control.
  • Gamma control.
  • Real Camera Response tonemapping operators.
  • White balance compensation.
  • Vignetting.
  • Brightness control.
  • Contrast control.
  • Saturation control.

Licensing system

  • Floating file-based (.lic) software licensing.
  • The .lic file is assigned to a user and is transportable (not node-locked).
  • The LIVE plug-ins unlock an unlimited number of render slaves with just one master license.

... and much more to come very soon!