REVIEW: Chaos Vantage
Chaos Group’s latest application for 3D visualizers, Vantage, was released towards the end of 2020. Check out our review of this real-time engine...
All image credits supplied by Chaos Group
At the end of 2020 Chaos Group released Chaos Vantage, a new application in their ever growing arsenal of tools for 3D visualizers. Vantage, formerly Project Lavina, is an exciting new player in the real-time engine market. It sits alongside the likes of Unreal Engine and Unity 3D, and will no doubt be a force to be reckoned with in the coming months and years. In this review we put it through its paces and see whether it’s worth your time giving it a whirl.
Setup & V-Ray
The first thing you’ll notice with Vantage in comparison to other real-time engines on the market is how little setup is required. I’ve lost count of the number of hours that I have spent optimizing, unwrapping and baking my lighting in 3ds Max to make it remotely workable in an engine like Unity. The process is slow, frustrating and can really slow down the creative process. Chaos Vantage does away with all these tedious steps, enabling you to simply drag and drop your V-Ray scene in and start exploring.
This will be particularly pleasing to existing V-Ray users who are already used to working in V-Ray. If you are new to V-Ray and you want to make use of Vantage then unfortunately you’ll need to set your scene up using V-Ray before you can export it for use in Vantage. This will be disappointing for some but Chaos Group understandably wants to pigeon-hole people into having to make use of V-Ray.
They’ve not created a real-time engine that fits into any workflow but have instead created an application that fits specifically into a V-Ray workflow. As a V-Ray user this doesn’t bother me but if you want something that will work independently of V-Ray then you’ll need to use an engine like Unity or Unreal and go through the process of UV unwrapping and light baking.
With no light baking required it probably begs the question of how Vantage actually works. In essence, Vantage is a ray-tracing engine. It uses the materials and lights that you have set up to display your scene in real-time. It is therefore dependent on the quality of your hardware, especially your GPU, and that that brings us to the issue of speed.
This is one of the most important considerations for real-time applications, and especially their ability to maintain good framerates with complex scenes. So how does Vantage cope with this? Assuming you have the necessary hardware (NVIDIA RTX GPU, NVIDIA Driver 419 or later, and system RAM equal or exceeding GPU memory) you will be more than capable of handling massive scenes with billions of polygons.
For many scenes you might have to get out of the habit of optimizing your geometry as you go! This also means that the same complex scene can be used in both real-time environments and for your final renders. Vantage handles complex scenes with relative ease and as with any real-time engine, the better hardware you have the better your results will be.
It’s a shame that you need NVIDIA RTX GPU cards as it’ll alienate many users who don’t want to change or upgrade their hardware. If you want to include Vantage in your design and delivery process then you may feel that the hardware upgrade is well worth it.
Having seen that Vantage can handle hugely complex scenes we now turn our attention to the level of quality that it can recreate in real-time. There’s no use adopting a new engine if the visible results are disappointing. Once again Vantage does not disappoint. Because it is a ray-tracing engine it is physically accurate and therefore the final quality only depends on the quality of your materials and lights in your scene.
So the more quality you want, the more you’ll need to push your skills and develop your abilities with handling V-Ray. On the Vantage website you can see a showreel from Brick Visual which demonstrates the impressive results that are possible. They demonstrate that Vantage doesn’t fall far behind it’s rendered counterpart.
On the subject of quality it is worth noting that there are a different set of supported features depending on the host software that you are using and the version of V-Ray that you have.
Aside from what we’ve already discussed there are some great tools inside Vantage that enable you to create, edit, and render animation. This will come in particularly handy for users who want to create a quick video to test the results, or to display camera movement through the scene to a client. The tools provided will make the pre-viz process a lot quicker and more enjoyable.
Before summing up, it’s worth noting at this stage that if you are a V-Ray user currently then you may as well take Vantage for a spin! They are offering a free 1-year license until the 2nd June 2021. After that it’ll be £300 per year. Alternatively, Vantage comes bundled in with the V-Ray Collection which gives you access to a whopping 15 V-Ray tools for only £539 per year. All in all this will be great news for existing V-Ray users and who knows, maybe it’ll tempt others across.
A short video to see a showcase of Brick Visual’s work using Chaos Vantage (previously Project Lavina), including their test results with V-Ray and Chaos Vantage. Video credit supplied by Brick Visual.
In summary, it’s a shame it only works with NVIDIA RTX GPU cards and lacks a Mac version, but overall Vantage is an impressive real-time engine. It works with a range of applications including 3ds Max, SketchUp, Rhino, Maya, Revit, and Modo. It is easy to set up, navigate, and make use of. You can easily animate and transition between cameras and arrange a sequence in the animation editor. Well done Chaos Group.