Solidangle Maya To Arnold v0.21.0 MacOSX -XFORCE | 141 MB
Global illumination system incorporating modern ray tracing and physically based shading techniques, which offers greater speed, more power and higher quality. This gives studios using Arnold a distinct competitive advantage - especially in big-budget productions. One of the most interesting and successfully expanding renderers is Arnold. A fully ray tracing solution, it has gained tremendous credibility in the last few years at the high end especially in major vfx feature films and animated features. Sony Pictures Imageworks was the catalyst for the professional adoption of the product, but its use and reputation have blossomed to places such as Digital Domain, ILM, Luma Pictures, Framestore, Digic Pictures and others.
The product is â€?hot' and yet remarkably unavailable. If you go to the Solid Angle web site you will be greeted with just a logo (and an equation if you can find it). No sales page, no specs, no PR, no user stories - nothing. Still the program is considered by many to be massively important, and its adoption is spreading just on word of mouth, amongst high end facilities.
Arnold is now used at many companies around the world - Sony Pictures Imageworks, Framestore, Whiskytree, Luma Pictures, Digital Domain and ILM. The last one is interesting as ILM has a permanent site license of RenderMan, having been very involved from the earliest days and of course Pixar being a spin-off from Lucasfilm. ILM came to Arnold as they were exploring Katana from the Foundry, and as Katana works well with Arnold, John Knoll said he decided he wanted to try it. It was used in the car park sequence near the end of Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol. "Pretty much every major studio you can think of is either using Arnold or is evaluating it," points out Fajardo.
A few other films the renderer has been used on include Thor, Captain America, the upcoming Marvel film The Avengers, Alice In Wonderland (and almost all SPI pictures for several years), X-Men: First Class, Captain America, Red Tails, Underworld: Awakening and in commercials such as the award winning Bear spot by Mikros Image in France. (Nearly all of these we have reported on here at fxguide.com).
Arnold does have one major client not in films, but in the related area of gaming cinematics. Digic Pictures in Hungary is one of the top three cinematics companies in the world. The company's first Arnold project was AC: Brotherhood, in mid 2010, and most recently Mass Effect 3. Everything in the cinematic was rendered with Arnold, except some FumeFX volume renders. At FMX they pointed out that the full HD frames character renders were around 45 min to 3 hours (face closeups) and backgrounds were 30 min - 2 hours.
"But keep in mind that lighting was very heavily based on indirect (big square area light behind the window, the rest is almost exclusively indirect illumination) so we needed more GI sampling than usual. And only the final renders (and a few tests were done in 1080p HD, before that the rendering and comp was in 720p)."
What goes on in Arnold's heart
At its core Arnold is a ray tracer that tries to solve as efficiently as possible ray tracing for film and media production, with as few tricks, hacks and workarounds from the end user as possible. "We are just trying to solve the radiance equation, on the fly without doing any type of per-computation, and pre passes," explains Fajardo. "So we just trace a lot of rays around and hope to get an accurate answer. The challenge is to design a system that is optimized so that it traces a relatively small number of rays for a given quality and also the ray tracing needs to be very fast. That's what we do everyday we try and optimize the renderer with both mathematical processes to optimize the Monte Carlo equations and also to make the code very fast - so those two things - the speed of the rays and the number of the rays - that is what we work on everyday."
Arnold can optimize so well as it is focused on just one task: great images for movies. The Arnold team is not trying to produce a general purpose renderer that covers a wide range of uses and industrial applications, like RenderMan it is firmly developed with a very targeted user base in mind. There are other ray tracing products but they often seek to be used in automotive design, industrial and architectural design. Not so Arnold.
"Thanks to that efficient system you can actually use the system. For many years we have been led to believe that you would not be able to use ray tracing in production, and that is just a legacy, from when the software was not ready," says Fajardo. Solid Angle have worked hard to make Arnold production ready so it can be used in production on a daily and exclusive basis. "It is paying off finally, it has been a lot of work but it is paying off."
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