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Render Engines 2019 – Overview

Render engines 2019
Introduction

There are so many renderers available out there. How do you know which is the best for you?

Each renderer works differently and gives different results. Below is a breakdown of what the different renderers offer, not a review, so you can decide which renderer is right for you.

But firstly, we will see the main technical concepts to consider for evaluating a render engine: CPU vs. GPU, Biased/Unbiased, Physically-based rendering.

CPU vs. GPU Rendering

Think of the central processing unit, or CPU, as the brain and control center of your computer. A graphics processing unit, or GPU, is there to render 3D graphics and to help the CPU perform its calculations. The CPU is based on single cores so it works on one bit of data at a time. The GPU is designed for parallel processing so they can work with a lot of data at once. Kevin Krewell from Nvidia explains it well: “Architecturally, the CPU is composed of just a few cores with lots of cache memory that can handle a few software threads at a time. In contrast, a GPU is composed of hundreds of cores that can handle thousands of threads simultaneously.”

Some 3D renderers will utilize the GPU instead of the CPU, which can mean faster renders, but the downside is that GPUs are limited to the amount of VRAM or video memory. Many renderers are hybrid and use both the CPU and GPU.

GPU vs CPU Video Rendering and Video Editing

Roberto Blake gives a great overview of whether you should choose GPU or CPU rendering.

Biased vs. Unbiased

Biased means that the renderer will estimate values, or do a bit of educated guessing using mathematical functions, and not calculate every single pixel. The benefit is that it’s much faster. The downside is that the results may not be absolutely accurate.

Unbiased, on the other hand, means that every pixel is calculated with no interpolation between pixels. Biased rendering methods include light tracking, path tracing, bidirectional path tracing, and metropolis light transport.

Many renderers are capable of producing both unbiased and biased renderers.

Grant Warwick about Bias and Differences of 3D Rendering Engines

Further reading:

Global Illumination

Global Illumination is the algorithm that the software uses to recreate natural lighting from the real world. There are several types of algorithms such as radiosity, ray tracing, beam tracing, cone tracing, path tracing, Metropolis light transport, ambient occlusion, photon mapping, and image-based lighting. Even more, these can be used on their own or in combination with each other to create better results. (Source: Wikipedia: Global Illumination)

C4D Fundamentals | 07 – Advanced Rendering – Understanding Global Illumination

While this video is targeted to Cinema 4D, much of the information applies to any other 3D software.

Physically-Based Rendering

Finally, Physically based rendering, often abbreviated PBR, uses mathematical theories that allow for photorealistic renderings.

What is PBR? Physically-Based Rendering Explained

Further Reading:

Render Engines – Comparison Chart

(Render engines are ordered alphabetically. Data extracted from their respective websites. May 15, 2019)

RendererHost SupportCPU/GPUBias / GI MethodComments
Arnold RenderMaya
Cinema 4D
3ds Max
Houdini
Katana
CPU
GPU (beta)
Unbiased
Physically based
Uni-directional path tracer
Oriented to feature-length animation and VFX
Corona Render3ds Max
Cinema 4D
CPUUnbiased & Biased
Path Tracing
Oriented to architectural & product visualization
Cycles RenderBlender
Cinema 4D
3ds Max
GPU/CPUUnbiased
Physically-based
Path Tracing
Free / Open source
Oriented to animated films
FinalRender3ds Max
Maya (beta)
GPU/CPUUnbiased & Biased
Physically-based (Spectral)
Wavelength Simulation
Oriented to architectural & product visualization
FStorm Render3ds MaxGPUUnbiasedOriented to architectural & product visualization
IRay Render3ds Max
Maya
Rhino
GPUBiased
Physically-based
Bi-directional path tracing
Oriented to architectural & product visualization
Maxwell RenderMaya
3ds Max
Form-Z
Modo
Nuke
Rhino
ArchiCAD
Revit
Sketchup
GPUUnbiased
Path Tracing Photorealistic
Oriented to architectural & product visualization
Octane Render3ds Max
Cinema 4D
Maya
Unity
GPUUnbiased
Physically-based
Spectral Light Transport
Oriented to photorealistic animation, VFX, architectural & product visualization
Redshift RenderMaya
3ds Max
Cinema 4D
Houdini
Katana
GPUBiased
Ray Tracing
Oriented to animation and product visualization
RenderManMaya
Houdini
Katana
CPUUnbiased & Biased
Physically-based
Uni-Directional Path Tracer
Bi-directional Path Tracer
Oriented to feature-length animation and VFX
VRay RenderCinema 4D
3ds Max
Maya
Rhino
Modo
Nuke
Katana
Sketchup
Revit
Unreal
Blender
CPU/GPUUnbiased (optional)
Path Tracing
Oriented to architectural & product visualization

Main source: Toolfarm

Renderers sites: Arnold, Corona, Cycles, FinalRender, FStorm, Maxwell, Octane, Redshift, RenderMan, Vray