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Review: OneRender, Rendering in the Cloud

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I recently got an invitation to try out OneRender, a cloud-based photorealistic rendering solution. OneRender is a web app that allows you to upload your scene or model, configure lighting and materials, create cameras, and render, all inside your internet browser. This means you should be able to work with complex scenes using fairly modest hardware.

Right now OneRender is in beta, so if you want to try it out for yourself you will need to request a beta code (I am not entirely sure how that works).

The workflow is pretty simple. When you first start the app, you are shown a window where you can select an existing scene, or upload a new (zipped) scene. When you're done uploading, the app will process the scene and show in the main view.

Inside the application, you can tweak your lighting or use HDR image-based lighting. You can also modify your materials and add textures. The preview window has a fairly good quality, so you can get a good idea of how the final composition will look, and when you are ready you simply need to add a new camera and then render the image.

While creating the camera, you can set different settings including image quality. As you can imagine, better quality takes a longer time to render, so it's a good idea to render draft quality images first, and only render full quality images when everything is looking correctly.

One of the problems I see with current software-based renderers is that they can take a long time to render, so iteration or tweaking can take a long time. OneRender is a GPU-based renderer (I'm not sure if they use a specific technology or an in-house rendering solution), so you don't need to wait hours for your rendered image to show up. Images are usually rendered in a matter of seconds so you're left with a lot of room for tweaking and iteration, since you can make changes to your lights and materials, hit render, and see the result a few seconds later.

Another advantage I see is that settings are pretty easy to follow and straightforward. In render engines like V-Ray, which I reviewed some time ago (http://www.renderosity.com/v-ray-3-0-in-review-cms-17158), you have a lot of different settings that give you the power to really micro-manage all aspects of your rendered output. However, this means you need to tweak a lot of things until you find the best configuration for your scene. OneRender has very little parameters so it can be very easy to find the right configuration for your scene.

This is not to say that OneRenderer can be considered a "rendering engine for the masses" since rendering is just one part of the entire workflow, and the best and fastest renderer in the world is not very useful if you have problems with your models and textures.

As you know, FBX files can store textures, but if you import an FBX file into OneRender, you need to include your textures in your zip file, as the program will not read the embedded textures. This is somewhat of a hassle when you're used to working with FBX files and you expect your textures to be decoded, but there's nothing you can do about it.

OneRender is a very good web application if you need to render images, but you don't have the horsepower to do it yourself. The application produces very good results in a very simple to use interface, and very quickly. On the other hand, if you're used to software renders like V-Ray, where you can fine-tune all the different settings, you may feel limited with what OneRender has to offer.

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