Subject: General Tech | November 19, 2017 - 02:15 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, mental ray, iray
Back in SIGGRAPH 2016, NVIDIA announced that they would take control of Mental Ray’s licensing and development. The new product was in beta at the time, boasting a new global illumination solver that was 4x faster on CPUs than the previous method, and 25.9x faster when you add a pair of Quadro M6000s into the mix. Access to the beta was free until it launched, which happened in Autumn 2016.
We’re now in Autumn 2017, and NVIDIA is discontinuing the product.
NVIDIA is not leaving the rendering market, though. The graphics vendor has several products in that space, including the very-similar Iray. In fact, it was kind-of odd to see NVIDIA maintain both products with some weird cross-overs, like how they’re bundled on 3D Studio Max for the same price as either product purchased individually in Maya. They also maintain the OptiX and IndeX APIs, which is used all over the place, even for non-graphics workloads. (VRWorks Audio, for instance, uses OptiX to ray-trace video game audio for environmental effects, which is a fairly good model of high-frequency sounds.)
Current users of the Mental Ray plug-in, or those who purchase a license before the 20th of November, will receive “maintenance releases” through 2018 (presumably while they plan their transition elsewhere). These updates will be “bug fix” updates, although NVIDIA does state that one of them will introduce compatibility for Volta-based GPUs.
If you already own a license to Mental Ray, and you will need it for longer than the time left on your subscription, then you will need to contact NVIDIA for an extension. They’re not going to just throw you out if your license expires in December, but you have obligations through February (or something).
Subject: General Tech | June 28, 2017 - 06:24 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: solidworks, ray tracing, radeon, prorender, nvidia, mental ray, Blender, amd
AMD has released a free ray-tracing engine for Blender, as well as Maya, 3D Studio Max, and SolidWorks, called Radeon ProRender. It uses a physically-based workflow, which allows multiple materials to be expressed in a single, lighting-independent shader, making it easy to color objects and have them usable in any sensible environment.
Image Credit: Mike Pan (via Twitter)
I haven’t used it yet, and I definitely haven’t tested how it stacks up against Cycles, but we’re beginning to see some test renders from Blender folks. It looks pretty good, as you can see with the water-filled Cornell box (above). Moreover, it’s rendered on an NVIDIA GPU, which I’m guessing they had because of Cycles, but that also shows that AMD is being inclusive with their software.
Radeon ProRender puts more than a little pressure on Mental Ray, which is owned by NVIDIA and licensed on annual subscriptions. We’ll need to see how quality evolves, but, as you see in the test render above, it looks pretty good so far... and the price can’t be beat.
Subject: General Tech | July 25, 2016 - 04:47 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, mental ray, maya, 3D rendering
NVIDIA purchased Mental Images, the German software developer that makes the mental ray renderer, all the way back in 2007. It has been bundled with every copy of Maya for a very long time now. In fact, my license of Maya 8, which I purchased back in like, 2006, came with mental ray in both plug-in format, and stand-alone.
Interestingly, even though nearly a decade has passed since NVIDIA's acquisition, Autodesk has been the middle-person that end-users dealt with. This will end soon, as NVIDIA announced, at SIGGRAPH, that they will “be serving end users directly” with their mental ray for Maya plug-in. The new plug-in will show results directly in the viewport, starting at low quality and increasing until the view changes. They are obviously not the first company to do this, with Cycles in Blender being a good example, but I would expect that it is a welcome feature for users.
Benchmark results are by NVIDIA
At the same time, they are also announcing GI-Next. This will speed up global illumination in mental ray, and it will also reduce the number of options required to tune the results to just a single quality slider, making it easier for artists to pick up. One of their benchmarks shows a 26-fold increase in performance, although most of that can be attributed to GPU acceleration from a pair of GM200 Quadro cards. CPU-only tests of the same scene show a 4x increase, though, which is still pretty good.
The new version of mental ray for Maya is expected to ship in September, although it has been in an open beta (for existing Maya users) since February. They do say that “pricing and policies will be announced closer to availability” though, so we'll need to see, then, how different the licensing structure will be. Currently, Maya ships with a few licenses of mental ray out of the box, and has for quite some time.