Reallusion, maker of easy to use animation software, has released their latest update to iClone version 7.4. This update brings the much anticipated and long awaited Iray render plug-in to iClone instead of just Character Creator 3. Both now share the ability to use the upscale renderer for still or animations.
It was only after months of testing that Reallusion brought the Iray Plug-in out of beta and released it to the user base. One thing I can say… after being fortunate enough to spend time in various beta tests over the years, we all owe a huge pat on the back to a small pool of dedicated users that really thrashed this plug-in.
In fact, they were so brutal from the first to last beta versions that Reallusion team members probably have nightmares about the whole thing. I, for one, will say this was a difficult beta as it was way over my head in terms of the technology used.
Normally I would at least have an inkling if not an understanding of the tech I use but alas… that is not the case here.
Rendering falls into the same class as a video card to me. It is tech that I use but don’t always grasp… at least not in the way I do with the software and other aspects of the hardware.
I don’t really want to understand the render part even though I know its just as important as any part of a project.
I just want to check a few boxes, maybe click a few buttons and use it.
By the render stage, I’ve spent so much time on everything else I’m ready to move on.
Just render. Don’t care how. Just do it.
What I have witnessed over the testing is the team at Reallusion did all they could to de-mystify the process of using a 3rd party, high-end renderer.
Using the suggestions they were given, a lot of the complexity of external vs internal rendering was eliminated while providing us with options.
Now that the user base has the plug-in there are sure to be more problems added to the Feedback Tracker as a wider audience of hardware is introduced to the upgrade but at the same time, the bug hunters tracked and eliminated many bugs the general user base will never have to tolerate.
I upgraded via the Reallusion Hub which itself had an automatic upgrade. From there it upgraded the Curve Editor, 3DXchange, iClone, and Iray plug-in. As of this writing, there seems to be no problems with the upgrades installing.
Now the fun starts. Putting together a nice scene or image is always satisfying but when you can render that out in photorealistic quality it just gets better.
The good thing about Iray is it produces a good render without a lot of tweaking. If, however, you wish to fiddle, tweak and tune then you can do that too.
Iray Plug-in for iClone - Image Courtesy of Reallusion
Interactive Mode – (From Reallusion webpage) high-speed realistic rendering that can handle most naturalistic visuals including metallic surfaces and subsurface scattering.
Photoreal Mode - (From Reallusion webpage) advanced effects like caustics, reflections, refractions and complex global illumination at the expense of time.
IBL & Basic Light
Image-based lighting using HDR images provide scenes with highly detailed, real-world lighting. This can synchronize to sky textures or you can create 3D scenes to save out as custom IBL maps.
This part is a bit more exciting in that scenes can be lit by any object that uses emissive lighting. A radio dial, TV or monitor screen can add light to a scene. Any prop that is textured with emissive elements can become a light of some sort.
A Sun and Sky based system for more accurate simulation of the time of day or night. And IES (Illuminating Engineering Society) file format was developed for transmitting photometric data via the web. The Reallusion webpage highlights free resources for these profiles.
Real life cameras are another feature that many have requested. From the Reallusion webpage:
Iray for iClone plugin translates cameras directly into Iray while retaining key attributes such as positioning, aspect ratio, depth of field (DOF) and FOV. Realistic camera effects can be achieved with a combination of Iray tone mapping, white balance, bloom, exposure value (EV), and render passes.
More details from the webpage:
Smart Render View-port
- Use Preview Region tool to refresh only portions of the Preview Render image.
- Includes tools like Zoom, Fast Scale, and Auto-fit to Window.
- Pause and resume the render to focus system resources when needed.
- Copy and Paste rendered image to another application
- Direct access to render passes.
- Set background transparency and include alpha channel in supporting image formats.
- Adjustable sample times and the ability to adjust render iterations anytime.
- Turn on auto-refresh for interactive rendering or turn it off to eke out performance.
Management Over CPU & Multi-GPU Resources
- Memory status indicator
- Hardware assignment.
- Nvidia AI-accelerated denoiser for spotless image creation at record speeds.
- Iray supports any number or combination of GPUs and CPUs running within the same machine and gives you fine-grain control over allocation. This makes multi-GPU systems the preferred choice for Iray applications.
As you can see Reallusion has taken measures to provide us with a rendering tool that contains enough options to produce great renders while at the same time not being too complex.
The exciting part is this is just the beginning. With the plug-in in the hands of the iClone community, there will be many improvements over the coming months. What we see now will be nothing like what we will see this time next year after the plug-in has matured in the hands of its capable users.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website.