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LuxRender, an Open-Source Non-biased 'Maxwell-style' rendering engine

Ever since getting heavy into Radiance back in the day, and producing bad renderings on my beloved Amiga 2000 (until I got my MacBookPro, that was the last computer I honestly liked) with Caligari before that as a kid, I've always been a big old rendering geek. Heck, I'm even going to be teaching a lab on it (Mental Ray in Revit) at this year's Autodesk University. Ever since getting heavy into Radiance back in the day, and producing bad renderings on my beloved Amiga 2000 (until I got my MacBookPro, that was the last computer I honestly liked) with Caligari before that as a kid, I've always been a big old rendering geek. Heck, I'm even going to be teaching a lab on it (Mental Ray in Revit) at this year's Autodesk University.

While there is a huge number of open source rendering engines out there, the latest one that caught my eye is called LuxRender. It's very much along the lines of a Maxwell, in that it's a non-baised physically-based rendering engine. And much like Maxwell it's slow as all get out and takes forever to produce renderings, but can produce some very impressive renderings indeed.

I've always thought that Maxwell was over-rated somewhat. People get funny about renderings. I mean, I've seen renderings that Radiance or this new LuxRender have produced that looked as good as those produced by Maxwell, and they even have similar technology under the hood. These kinds of renderings take a ton of time, the material and lighting setup is very complex, and honestly, while great for a particular niche, aren't the be-all-end-all of rendering systems I feel. Those who don't have a heavy rendering background sometimes sadly seem to just pick whichever one has the nicest looking gallery and buy that, then get frustrated when they find that it's not really the sort of tool they needed or that it's really, really hard to get images that match those they see in the gallery.

I've always personally thought that using the right tool for the job is the way to go, and sometimes a tool that's difficult to use and takes forever to produce a decent rendering isn't the right tool. It's more about communication I feel than it is about having a perfectly rendered texture. For example, if I'm using the built-in rendering engine in Blender, and I'm producing renderings in under three minutes, and you're using something like this LuxRender or Maxwell, and it's taking a half hour for you to produce an image, well my images will work better if we're both on deadline. My rendering will be better, because I'll simply have more time to get it right, more tests, more tries, more drafts, and more time to adjust and tweak things. More time to focus on what I'm trying to communicate with the image and less time on prefect sun and shadows. Once you add an honest assessment of production time to the picture, buying the best-looking rendering engine, setting all the sliders to 'best', and then hoping for the best will rarely give you the best.

It works great with Blender so far, and there are plugins for Max, Maya, and more. And being open source you can download it and give it a go for free. It's complex (way, way complex) mind you, but if you're a rendering geek like me, well, that's just an upside.

Now I just need to get a good workflow from Revit to Blender and I'm set. Sadly the free FBX converter from Autodesk doesn't seem to like Revit 2009 files very much, and until Revit can directly produce an .OBJ I'm gonna have to figure something else out...

Jeffrey McGrew