New and Exciting Features of V-Ray 3.0 - New Lighting
Paul Hatton takes a look at V-Ray's new and improved lighting possibilities within 3ds Max...
Chaos Group have made improvements in pretty much every area of their software. It's refreshing to know that nothing is safe and that their development team are always looking at ways to make it better. Lighting is a cracking example of this. Rather than sitting back and enjoying being one of the most popular renderers in the world, they want to push even further. In the area of lighting they have improved how their rectangular area lights do their sampling. They've also introduced probabilistic light sampling which helps to optimize scenes with many lights. We'll take a closer look at these as well as some other exciting features.
Finding the lights
All of the V-Ray lights have been traditionally located inside the ‘Create'-> ‘Lights' panel. Once you had then created your V-Ray Light for example, you would have to choose its type from the drop-down, such as dome or sphere. This has been fine but a little laborious in terms of clicks and time spent. With the introduction of a ‘V-Ray toolbar' you are now able to access the individual V-Ray light types with the click of a single button. The toolbar is fairly self-explanatory. Just one thing to note, they have not given us access to the V-Ray disc light for some reason. This can still be found through the traditional menus.
Sampling rectangular area lights
Lighting is all about rays. V-Ray has to shoot thousands of rays around the scene and calculate all of the light and color levels for every pixel, while still maintaining quick enough render speeds for all us users to stay happy! They do a cracking job of that. Generally the less samples used, the noisier the result will be. And this makes sense. The easy way to sort that out is to up our light samples. This is still generally true but V-Ray has improved the back end so that the sampling is better and the results are less noisy.
Probabilistic light sampling
All great rendering engines try to cut corners while trying to achieve the same high level rendering quality. One area that V-Ray is doing this is through probabilistic light sampling. This means that if a scene has a lot of lights then V-Ray won't evaluate all of the lights but will make a good average guess to deliver a great result. This setting can be found in the Global Switches rollout but make sure it's set to Advanced or Expert. By default it is switched on and set to 16. Each scene will be different but this is obviously a great starting point. This setting will randomly pick that number of lights from the scene to do the light sampling.
Introducing service pack 1
V-Ray is in constant development and that is obvious from the service packs that are released on a semi-regular basis. And these aren't just speed improvements or waste of time interface changes, much of the time they are impressive feature introductions. So in V-Ray 3.0 SP1 they have released a new disc-shaped light and options to control diffuse and specular lighting contributions separately. These tweaks and improvements show that Chaos Group care about their product and want to make it as good as it can be. Let's go through those two features now.
Disc shaped area light
I love this new feature! Let me tell you why. Previously if you wanted to create a spot light in the ceiling you would either have to use a V-Ray Light Material or use a mesh light type attached to a round piece of geometry. Not anymore! Straight out of the box we can now create round lights! It seems silly but this truly is going to make setting up scenes easier, especially for those office spaces that have hundreds of recessed spot lights.
Controlling diffuse & specular separately
In V-Ray 3.2 we have the ability to control the diffuse and specular contributions separately. This is incredibly helpful. The multiplier next to the ‘affect' checkboxes controls firstly the contribution to the diffuse portion of the materials and secondly to the specular reflections. This will enable you to fine tune how your lights affect your materials. That's about it for new features so let's cover some of the lights that I use on a regular base. Sorry if this is basic but hopefully it'll be helpful if you're new to V-Ray.
V-Ray Mesh Light
This light type lets you turn any mesh into a V-Ray light object. Either create a V-Ray mesh light and pick the required geometry in the ‘Mesh light' rollout, or with an object selected pick the ‘Mesh light' option from the toolbar. The only problem with this option is that it seems to move the object. I've no idea why. Maybe it's a bug or maybe I'm doing something wrong but keep this in mind.
This light type is perfect for simulating a realistic sun. When you create it you are also given the option to add a V-Ray sky which will accurately simulate a real sky. Both the sun and the sky are customizable. Keep the sun at a multiplier of 1.0 to be physically accurate. If you want more creative license then you can adjust the size multiplier to give you softer shadows. Careful though because this will introduce noise issues. The turbidity and ozone parameters let you further customize the feel of the sun to more easily replicate any sun from any location in the world.
The HDRI light type is my go to light for setting up almost all scenes. The creation of realistic and complex reflections make the HDRI light type perfect for many scenarios. Simply add the light type and go to the ‘Texture' rollout. Add a V-Ray HDRI map type and add in your HDRI file there. HDRI's are hugely powerful because they can also be edited in programs like Photoshop. This enables you to adjust exposure values of things like the sun, enabling you to get sharper shadows for example. You can also create HDRI files in a program like HDRShop giving you immense control over your lighting and reflections.
Becoming familiar with all of the V-Ray light types is absolutely essential if you want to be able to set up a range of scenes. This flexibility will enable you to take on a wider scope of jobs and allow you to achieve results that you couldn't before achieve. Going through each light type and their associated settings won't take you long and the time spent investigating them will definitely pay off in the long run.
Top tip 1: Default subdivs
The number of subdivisions for the majority of the lights is set to 8. Even though this is the default, if you have lots of lights in an area then you may get away with lowering this. Testing it and observing the noise levels will enable you to optimize the scene's rendering times.
Top tip 2: V-Ray Sun
Adjust the height of the V-Ray sun to adjust the look and feel of the sun. A lower sun in the sky will mimic what the sun looks like at the start/end of the day so it'll be much warmer. Put it higher in the sky and it'll be bluer with shorted more defined shadows.
New and exciting features of V-Ray 3.0
V-Ray 3.0: New Features: New and Improved Shaders
V-Ray 3.0: New Features: V-Ray RT explained
V-Ray 3.0: New Features: Interface and Frame Buffer
V-Ray 3.0: New Features - Faster Rendering
V-Ray 3.0 New Features: A guide to the V-Ray clipper
V-Ray 3.0 New Features: V-Ray Hair & Fur
V-Ray 3.0 New Features: render elements & After Effects