A while back I made a few compounds in ICE to light pointclouds, but am still not satisfied. There is a tradeoff between physical accuracy and speed, and I’ve been hunting for the best of both worlds. My latest approach, used in a compound I’m calling RTlight, is by far the fastest I’ve made while still being “true” enough to be useful in a production situation. Here are a couple of tests:


Some images

I have a backlog of unseen work- tests, art, screenshots – which I’ve not posted because I’ve been super busy. Work for the studio, the green lantern film as well as other projects, articles for 3dWorld magazine, continuing work on an ICE terrain generation system, etc, etc. But here are a few images I have handy…

MSP vehicle render
MSP vehicle render
msPro realtime test
msPro realtime test

MSpro from XSI

Models in .obj format into XSI, then to MSpro for materials, lighting and a 5k render. The sculpture mesh is a full res scan, about as thick as a zbrush export with several hundred thousand polys.

Screen capture

More realtime test renders

Since I’ve been putting MSpro through it’s paces today, I decided to see how it did with a larger data set. So I fed it a reasonably large model of Manhattan. Mach Studio did great, export/import was fast, the machine was responsive, and even hitting it with realtime ambient occlusion, shadows and depth of field didn’t get the scene to a point where it chugged. Rendering this scene with similar settings in Mental Ray would have meant significant time per frame, certainly enough to preclude much in the way of any kind of immediate feedback. MSpro was fine onscreen and rendering 5k resolution images with settings turned up relatively high resulted in render times still under a half second a frame.


Not high art, but we’re talking test images people. I rather enjoy the simcity look of the orthographic one…Hey it looks like I nudged the ground mesh in one of those images. That would be a serious drag with a traditional render process, you’d have to submit it to the farm again. Realtime, it’s no big deal. Of course, there’s a lot of room for improvements on these images… the majority are not issues with the renderer but the artist (errr, me) who for some reason didn’t want to spend all night obsessing over test images. You can speed up render times, but there’s still tweaking galore. But at least you can tweak interactively.

XSI toon shader

Did some more work on a basic realtime toon shader for XSI (and maya, it’s CGFX.) Here’s a sample…

Me. Me me me. Me too.
It's Agent Smith(s), toon style.

Functionality is pretty basic at the moment: Ink threshold, 2 levels of paint and a hard spec hilight, overall color control, a single point light source. I still need to introduce diffusion and spec mapping, possibly some reflections and bump/normal. Remember, if you see an agent, run.

CGFX shaders

I’ve been playing around with CGFX realtime shaders and mental mill. Here are some basic first shaders. Mental mill makes creating this kind of stuff pretty fast, and you can edit the generated code by hand once you’re in the ballpark.

A simple realtime toon shader for XSI and Maya viewports.

Mach Studio Pro

I have been testing Mach Studio Pro for PLF for a while now, and while it’s a very new tool I am pretty pleased with it’s capabilities and potential. MSpro is an application which accepts scenes from most 3d packages (including Max, Maya, XSI, sketchup etc) and enables the artist to shade/light/render in realtime. Quality is high, with renders being competitive (and sometimes mistaken for) mental ray/vray etc in many cases. Being a realtime application there are caveats and limitations of course, for instance raytracing is not (yet) supported, nor are true radiosity/GI effects. Fair enough. And you’ll still need to render out vFX passes like particles and volumetrics in another app.

But most CG isn’t about all that – it’s about the basics and that’s where MSpro shines: on the 90% of the work you render which you can now do so in seconds rather than hours. It’s very liberating being able to light shots with immediate visual feedback, and MSpro was written with a fair eye towards being a production-friendly application with python scripting, linear lighting and HDRI workflow, output to open EXR as pass breakdowns etc.

This is clearly the direction the industry is moving and Mach Studio is not without competitors, but as a just-out-of-the-gate package they are off to a great start. And don’t get me wrong, MSpro isn’t just about the bare minimums… realtime microtesselated displacement maps aren’t basic, and realtime AO and SSS go a long way towards giving you the tools you need to create great imagery. In real time. No more waiting on farms. No more unpleasant surprises a day lat