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jonmoore

Thea for FormZ - Call for Beta Testers

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Does anyone know if this is integrated into Form.z in the same manner as Maxwell?  I am always looking for alternatives that actually improve quality and speed at the same time.  No easy feat. 

 

It's early days of the beta as yet so the level of deep integration may change before launch but at the moment the workflows are comparable. There will of course also be an option to export the scene to Thea Studio too but the majority of functionality is directly accessible via the FormZ interface.

 

With regards to speed it's worth clarifying exactly what you're getting with Thea.

 

- Unbiased TR1: 'Path Tracer'; with comparable speeds to Maxwell. Good for exteriors or product visualisations.

 

- Unbiased TR2: 'Bidirectional Path Tracer'; slower than Maxwell but better on difficult to light interiors

 

- Biased BSD: Equivalent to V-Ray/Mental Ray approach but includes a unique technology called 'Field Mapping' which speeds this engine up considerably. Good for all situations and at higher quality settings shows very little compromise over the unbiased engines. The best option for interiors for many as TR2 involves lengthy render times.

 

- Biased AMC: This is an adaptive engine that uses biased techniques to speed up the standard TR1 path tracer. The adaptivity is a simple % level of bias.

 

- Presto AO: Biased engine that 'cheats' by providing the majority of the solution via Ambient Occlusion. This is the fastest engine but the least accurate. I would personally never use it other that for stylistic reasons but it's perfect for situations where realism is less of a goal.

 

- Presto MC: Close to TR1 but a lot faster because the path tracing aspect can be enhanced by the GPU. It's also faster when using CPU only as it's a compromised version of TR1 (reasonably compromised in my opinion). The main speed enhancement is that in enables you to control the ray tracing depth. For many scenes you can keep this to something around 5 without any discernible loss of quality. This compares to TR1/TR2 which are have unlimited ray depths.

 

The beauty of Thea is that you decide on the level of compromise appropriate for your scene. My favourite engines are Presto MC and Biased BSD which strike a good balance between compromise and speed. The Biased BSD engine requires a little more knowledge to set up properly but it's unmatched on difficult to light interior scenes.

 

There's a great comparison page on the Thea site that shows exactly which features each engine includes (it also details a couple of deprecated 'Progressive' engines which are accessible via Thea Studio presets but not currently part of the plugin versions).

 

http://www.thearender.com/cms/index.php/features/engines/293.html

 

Hope this helps clarify things a little.

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Hi Jon,

 

Thanks for the nice summary, I am sure this will help users decide which of the many render modes would best apply to a particular situation!

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Good info coming in here!

 

Anyone able to take this Plug-in for a spin yet and perhaps share some demonstration video?

 

The beta has started (I believe there are 5 testers in total as the Solid Iris folk like to keep things focused, at least in the early stages of beta testing) so I'm sure it will be fine for us to post some images (once we've had clearance from Solid Iris team).

 

The Thea engine is mature so you can get an idea of the capabilities by perusing the Thea Gallery (especially the 'best of' gallery) on the Thea website. The demo version of Thea Studio (and the plugins for SU, C4D, Rhino etc) aren't time limited and allow you to render up to 720p. The main restriction is that the demo outputs watermarked renders. There are also plenty of demo scenes to download for the Studio version and the various plugins and plenty of presets for both materials and render engine setups. Backward engineering these demo scenes and presets is the best way to learn about Thea. You'll have a head start if you already know how to use Maxwell as they share many parallels but digging into the demo's/presets will teach you more than any screen grabs we can share here (not sure video grabs will be viable as the screen capture software will fight with the GPU engine for resources, and Solid Iris may not be happy for specifics of the integration to be shared whilst it's still embryonic).

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The beta has started (I believe there are 5 testers in total as the Solid Iris folk like to keep things focused, at least in the early stages of beta testing) so I'm sure it will be fine for us to post some images (once we've had clearance from Solid Iris team).

 

The Thea engine is mature so you can get an idea of the capabilities by perusing the Thea Gallery (especially the 'best of' gallery) on the Thea website. The demo version of Thea Studio (and the plugins for SU, C4D, Rhino etc) aren't time limited and allow you to render up to 720p. The main restriction is that the demo outputs watermarked renders. There are also plenty of demo scenes to download for the Studio version and the various plugins and plenty of presets for both materials and render engine setups. Backward engineering these demo scenes and presets is the best way to learn about Thea. You'll have a head start if you already know how to use Maxwell as they share many parallels but digging into the demo's/presets will teach you more than any screen grabs we can share here (not sure video grabs will be viable as the screen capture software will fight with the GPU engine for resources, and Solid Iris may not be happy for specifics of the integration to be shared whilst it's still embryonic).

 

iPhones take great video these days....  :)

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Five beta testers?  The wide variety of user techniques and different machine configurations makes this seem like a very small test.  I will definately be purchasing Thea when it becomes available and then I will take it for a spin.  I still have yet to find a program I couldn't crash.  Even Photoshop.

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I will definately be purchasing Thea when it becomes available and then I will take it for a spin.  I still have yet to find a program I couldn't crash.  Even Photoshop.

 

:)

 

The day I discover any software package that's crash proof, never mind a DCC/CAD/Rendering package, I'll know I'm in the afterlife!

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Do those come with a free NDA waiver?

 

Obviously I'm only suggesting showing APPROVED videos.  I would think that both Thea and Autodessys would be thrilled to share any positive experiences.  All you have to do is ask.  

 

The comment was referring to using another device (iPhone) to record the video so that it wasn't slowing down the computer running Thea.  

Edited by Justin Montoya

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Justin,

 

An NDA is a NON Disclosure Agreement -- which means that anyone who has access to Thea can't say anything about it.  If you are so eager, did you sign up to be a tester?

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I'm aware of what an NDA is, and that there is likely one for the Thea plugin.  Yes, I did sign up to be a tester as soon as I read this news, but disappointedly never heard a response from Solid Iris.  I would still love to join that group if possible.  

 

I'm not asking anyone to break the NDA, but rather, submit some teases to be approved by Solid Iris, so we can share in the excitement of the development.  Ideally, Solid Iris would be doing this themselves via this forum or their own forum - https://thearender.com/forum/    This would help build the momentum in launching a sucessful new plugin.

 

If I can be of any help, please let me know!  I'm willing and able, and even minored in Interaction Design at SCAD in addition to a MFA in Industrial Design.  Hence you can see where all my interface and efficient workflow comments and suggestions come from.

 

Many Thanks!

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I'm aware of what an NDA is, and that there is likely one for the Thea plugin.  Yes, I did sign up to be a tester as soon as I read this news, but disappointedly never heard a response from Solid Iris.  I would still love to join that group if possible.  

 

I'm not asking anyone to break the NDA, but rather, submit some teases to be approved by Solid Iris, so we can share in the excitement of the development.  Ideally, Solid Iris would be doing this themselves via this forum or their own forum - https://thearender.com/forum/    This would help build the momentum in launching a sucessful new plugin.

 

If I can be of any help, please let me know!  I'm willing and able, and even minored in Interaction Design at SCAD in addition to a MFA in Industrial Design.  Hence you can see where all my interface and efficient workflow comments and suggestions come from.

 

Many Thanks!

 

Justin,

 

I alpha/beta test for a number of different developers including Chaos Group (V-Ray), The Foundry (Modo), Pixar (Renderman) and Solid Iris (Thea). In each and every case nothing can be disclosed during the closes stages of the beta other than the occasional output render and in the case of Thea there's nothing you can learn from the beta testers about render quality that you couldn't learn from downloading a demo version of Thea Studio (which has no time limit and is only really limited via watermarks on render outputs).

 

What we can't discuss is details of the integration within FormZ as this is still very much a moving target.

 

I'm sure more info will be forthcoming as and when Solid Iris see fit. But beta programs can sometimes take a long time to mature to commercial release so a little patience may be necessary. V-Ray for Modo has been in beta for close to 18 months and is still yet to be released commercially. I'm sure things won't be as drastic with Thea for FormZ, but it's certainly not likely to be released in the very near future.

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Hi John,

 

That's an interesting experience you've got there.  I would almost think that some of those are conflicting interests, but hey, what do I know.  I'm sure having the overlap allows you to better recommend things that work and things that don't across the various renders.  

 

Quite frankly for our workflow and many others, Thea Studio or any other standalone render is useless.  We need to be able to actively change the models and provide new renders constantly.  A live Plugin or built in render is the only way this is ever going to work.  I'm disappointed to hear that the Plugin would take more than a few months of Beta testing to be released.  Upon studying the previous plugin releases for Thea, they appear to have taken anywhere from 2-4 months to be released after going Beta.  That makes it sound more like it is in Alpha testing.  This image posted by Thea on their Facebook page on October 8, makes it look further along.

 

12139909_1237018392990632_51058541189691

 

If we are looking at another year or more of development, there's going to be some complications just convincing the groups I work with to stay with FormZ.  Clients and our bosses are demanding better and better renderings to stay competitive.  With the news of Thea and V-Ray I was able to buy some time, as everyone loves modeling in FormZ on their Macs.  Renderzone can almost get to the level we need when you turn on all the bells and whistles, but it's inability to scale up in performance past 6 CPU threads has made this ineffective, as it slows renderings down tremendously.  We all have 12+ core machines now, but Renderzone isn't any faster.   This is why Thea has so much interest with it's CPU + GPU Presto engine.  And yes, we have NVIDIA CUDA cards at the ready.  

 

V-Ray just looks like Maxwell to me.  Complicated and slow.  If they added GPU acceleration, for more than the viewport (VRay RT?), it could be worth the complication to learn as the speed would start to justify the quality.

 

I understand these things take time to become robust and mature.  But, I don't think we even need a fully robust Thea at launch.  Most users will get lost in all the options anyways, and stick with the easy to configure, known settings for default scenes.  Professionally, it's a lot of rinse and repeat.  For better or worse.  

 

Still very excited for Thea inside FormZ, and willing to help in anyway possible.  But in the meantime, it might be worth another request to AutoDesSys to get RenderZone scaling up properly.  I know they've said it's a problem stemming from Lightworks, so who knows if that can even be fixed.

 

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Speculating on a release date is merely speculation, so I wouldn't read anything into that.  Perhaps you can contact Solid Iris for their take, and see if your qualifications would allow you to be included in their testing (if you really want to test and not just try).

 

VRay is very different from Maxwell, and you should probably study up a bit more before making such generalizations...

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Speculating on a release date is merely speculation, so I wouldn't read anything into that.  Perhaps you can contact Solid Iris for their take, and see if your qualifications would allow you to be included in their testing (if you really want to test and not just try).

 

VRay is very different from Maxwell, and you should probably study up a bit more before making such generalizations...

 

Tech, I'm sure you can tell I wasn't intending Justiin to speculate on release dates but I sensed he's getting a tad impatient for an alternative to RenderZone to be available within FormZ so I wanted to let him know it's unlikely in the coming weeks.

 

And spot on that V-Ray is nothing like Maxwell but somehow there's a common perception out there that there are GPU renderers that the answer to all our prayers and then there's the boring old slow CPU based ones. And as we both know that's just baloney!  :)

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Thanks you two!  I am eager to work with something built into FormZ other than RenderZone.  I'll reach out again to Solid Iris, and see if I get a response this time.

 

Good to hear about V-Ray.  I will keep all judgement to myself until I learn more.  From the surface it just looked very similar to a Maxwell experience.  V-Ray certainly has a huge following and tons of materials and tutorials online that would make the transition easier.  My apologies for jumping the gun there, though it doesn't help Chaos Group that they have a reputation for developing very slowly.  We've been hearing about a FormZ plugin for YEARS.   It's also upsetting that they have removed the GPU accelerated RT for OSX.   The reason everyone gets excited about GPUs is because they are much easier to manage and cheaper to upgrade than a whole farm of render node computers.  I realize that CPU renderers can be more accurate, but that's not really something everyone needs, but improved speed is definitely needed across the board.

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Yes, I did sign up to be a tester as soon as I read this news, but disappointedly never heard a response from Solid Iris.  

 

I am sorry Justin, not having replied. Same issue has happened with other applications we received. This is not something personal in any case. But due to the number of emails we receive in cases of beta testing, we usually respond only to the selected beta testers. [i admit that it is also somewhat inconvenient to reply that it is not possible for someone to join... :(]

 

The beta phase is moving on quite nicely at this point - my colleague Manolis will give more detailed feedback. We started with more beta testers than initially planned (I think 6) because, it happens eventually that a tester does not give much feedback at the end (for various reasons). I think that we should start seeing some renders made with Thea from beta testers (but please, without sharing yet any other information or screenshots).

 

What I can say at the moment is that Thea for FormZ will be a true integration inside FormZ, not an exporter or another process. We have still things to do though before publishing the integration but it shouldn't be that far away. For this, the opinion of the experienced beta testers does matter a lot.

 

Best wishes

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Five beta testers?  The wide variety of user techniques and different machine configurations makes this seem like a very small test. 

That is true, five is a small number. On the other hand, going with many more than such a low number, the situation may turn into a chaotic one. To be honest, the integration at the moment of publishing the initial post here, was like "Pre-Beta" -> meaning that we were (and still are) making design changes to the workflow and various additions. This is the moment where it is not a matter of getting feedback from too many; but just getting the right feedback. Having a small group here influences is important that the communication stays strong. At least, that 's my personal experience over the years.

 

Indeed though, when it comes to testing the software/engine, the more users the better. On the other hand, we have the advantage that the engine has been generally extremely well tested over the years (from the existence of the standalone and other integrations).

 

Best wishes

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It's early days of the beta as yet so the level of deep integration may change before launch but at the moment the workflows are comparable. There will of course also be an option to export the scene to Thea Studio too but the majority of functionality is directly accessible via the FormZ interface.

 

With regards to speed it's worth clarifying exactly what you're getting with Thea.

 

- Unbiased TR1: 'Path Tracer'; with comparable speeds to Maxwell. Good for exteriors or product visualisations.

 

- Unbiased TR2: 'Bidirectional Path Tracer'; slower than Maxwell but better on difficult to light interiors

 

- Biased BSD: Equivalent to V-Ray/Mental Ray approach but includes a unique technology called 'Field Mapping' which speeds this engine up considerably. Good for all situations and at higher quality settings shows very little compromise over the unbiased engines. The best option for interiors for many as TR2 involves lengthy render times.

 

- Biased AMC: This is an adaptive engine that uses biased techniques to speed up the standard TR1 path tracer. The adaptivity is a simple % level of bias.

 

- Presto AO: Biased engine that 'cheats' by providing the majority of the solution via Ambient Occlusion. This is the fastest engine but the least accurate. I would personally never use it other that for stylistic reasons but it's perfect for situations where realism is less of a goal.

 

- Presto MC: Close to TR1 but a lot faster because the path tracing aspect can be enhanced by the GPU. It's also faster when using CPU only as it's a compromised version of TR1 (reasonably compromised in my opinion). The main speed enhancement is that in enables you to control the ray tracing depth. For many scenes you can keep this to something around 5 without any discernible loss of quality. This compares to TR1/TR2 which are have unlimited ray depths.

 

The beauty of Thea is that you decide on the level of compromise appropriate for your scene. My favourite engines are Presto MC and Biased BSD which strike a good balance between compromise and speed. The Biased BSD engine requires a little more knowledge to set up properly but it's unmatched on difficult to light interior scenes.

 

There's a great comparison page on the Thea site that shows exactly which features each engine includes (it also details a couple of deprecated 'Progressive' engines which are accessible via Thea Studio presets but not currently part of the plugin versions).

 

http://www.thearender.com/cms/index.php/features/engines/293.html

 

Hope this helps clarify things a little.

 

Jon, thank you for the intro to Thea engines.

 

If you permit me a correction though!

 

Your description for TR1 and TR2 is probably simplifying how these engines operate. They are both more sophisticated than a 'Path Tracer' or a 'Bidirectional Path Tracer'. TR1/TR2 were personally for me, the holy grail for achieving the best unbiased quality ever when we started (and doing that with great speed on the CPU). The speed is coming purely from algorithmic design (i.e. convergence speed) rather than the "brute force" fast pace of taking samples achieved by Presto. It is sometimes amazing to see that TR2 (what is considered to be the slower one) is actually the faster one (even compared to Presto) for scenes with difficult indirect lighting (for example, lot of dominant caustic lighting).

 

In any case, every engine has been developed with a lot of love. :)

 

Best wishes

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That is true, five is a small number. On the other hand, going with many more than such a low number, the situation may turn into a chaotic one. To be honest, the integration at the moment of publishing the initial post here, was like "Pre-Beta" -> meaning that we were (and still are) making design changes to the workflow and various additions. This is the moment where it is not a matter of getting feedback from too many; but just getting the right feedback. Having a small group here influences is important that the communication stays strong. At least, that 's my personal experience over the years.

 

Indeed though, when it comes to testing the software/engine, the more users the better. On the other hand, we have the advantage that the engine has been generally extremely well tested over the years (from the existence of the standalone and other integrations).

 

Best wishes

 

This is my experience too Giannis. As you know, I alpha/beta test for a number of vendors in the marketplace and it's normal practice to start with smaller groups so things are more focused. Some companies then go on to a public beta with a wider group or make their software available to purchase at a discount if customers are eager to try it out before it reaches maturity.

 

It's only once the software gets into the hands of the many rather than the few that bugs relating to individual system configurations can be squished. But nailing workflow is something that's better handled by smaller focussed groups IMHO.

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Jon, thank you for the intro to Thea engines.

 

If you permit me a correction though!

 

Your description for TR1 and TR2 is probably simplifying how these engines operate. They are both more sophisticated than a 'Path Tracer' or a 'Bidirectional Path Tracer'. TR1/TR2 were personally for me, the holy grail for achieving the best unbiased quality ever when we started (and doing that with great speed on the CPU). The speed is coming purely from algorithmic design (i.e. convergence speed) rather than the "brute force" fast pace of taking samples achieved by Presto. It is sometimes amazing to see that TR2 (what is considered to be the slower one) is actually the faster one (even compared to Presto) for scenes with difficult indirect lighting (for example, lot of dominant caustic lighting).

 

In any case, every engine has been developed with a lot of love. :)

 

Best wishes

 

I'm sure I wasn't technically correct in all I said but I simplified things in an attempt to give a good overview. I was only mentioning to another of the beta testers the other day how TR2 can be significantly faster than TR1 with difficult to light interiors. Personally I reach for BSD every time on those types of scene but that's probably because V-Ray is my main render engine and one which I've been using since it was first released so biased workflows is embedded in my neural networks...  :)

 

It's great to see another rendering engine finally coming to FormZ, and such a fantastically flexible one too.

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I'm sure I wasn't technically correct in all I said but I simplified things in an attempt to give a good overview.

It was actually a good description from the user point of view. I just can't help myself going technical... ^_^

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It was actually a good description from the user point of view. I just can't help myself going technical... ^_^

 

 You wrote the original algorithms and that seems a perfect excuse for getting a little technical to me.  :)

 

In all seriousness though. I like that you're being less dogmatic regarding the physical simulation aspects of Thea Render as it matures. Things like the Fresnel Ramp you introduced in 1.5 may not be the 'physically correct' approach but it sure is artist friendly. This is one of the things that I like most about Thea. The manner in which you manage to mix the strictly physically accurate with a selection of artist friendly workflows. This makes Thea both very powerful and very flexible.

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 You wrote the original algorithms and that seems a perfect excuse for getting a little technical to me.   :)

 

In all seriousness though. I like that you're being less dogmatic regarding the physical simulation aspects of Thea Render as it matures. Things like the Fresnel Ramp you introduced in 1.5 may not be the 'physically correct' approach but it sure is artist friendly. This is one of the things that I like most about Thea. The manner in which you manage to mix the strictly physically accurate with a selection of artist friendly workflows. This makes Thea both very powerful and very flexible.

To be absolutely honest with you... If it weren't for the users pulling in that direction, I wouldn't easily do it. :)

 

On the other hand, these non physically-based features are something that the end user can choose to use or not. And the experience shows that 98% of the users are not purist about them; if they do the trick, then they will use them by all means.

 

Best wishes

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