Review of RTSquare plugin for 3dsMax
October 1, 2006 11:41 pm
It's GPU based and so it operates much faster than the default renderer that ships with 3dsMax. It includes features such as soft shadows, reflections, refractions, global illumination, caustics, depth of field, fog, lens flare, etc..
To install it, run the exe, and direct it to your 3dsMax directory. Upon running it for the first time you are given a request code, which you then submit via an online form to get the authorization code, pretty much the same way you activate Max itself. Upon selecting RTSquare as your renderer, you are then presented with an interface as in the attached illustration.
As you can see there are a number of options available:
Antialiasing: Allows you to choose the quality of the antialiasing in the finished render.
Shadows: Allows you to add or remove the shadow option, and includes several options to adjust the quality and appearance of shadows.
Reflections/Refractions: A similar option to include or exclude reflections and refraction of light.
Global Illumination: Allows you to include global illumination, and adjust the level and brightness of the radiosity.
Caustics: Allows you to include caustic effects, and includes several options to adjust their quality.
Skylight Rendering Options: Includes the option to add a sky dome, and to adjust its brightness, scale, etc.
Environment Rendering Options: Enables you to compute a background environment for your render.
Fog Rendering Options: Enables you to add fog, and includes several options to adjust its density, color, and other attributes.
Depth of Field Rendering Options: Enables you to compute a depth of field effect, and includes options to adjust its quality, blur intensity, far depth, and near depth.
Motion Blur: Enables you to include a motion blur effect and adjust its quality.
Cartoon Rendering: Enables you to have a cartoon effect, and includes options to adjust outline width and gradient quality.
Lens Flare Rendering Options: Enables you to include a lense flare effect, and has several options to adjust its quality.
Light Cone: Allows you to create a light cone for spotlights. It includes options to adjust its quality, as well as the density and noise scale of dust within the cone.
The plugin requires DirectX 9 to function, so if your 3dsmax is not set for directX you will have to change the settings before you can use the plugin.
When I ran it for the first time, I did a couple of test renders with some pre-made scenes, comparing the render times for the default renderer and RTSquare. I was pleasantly surprised at the much faster render time of RTSquare.
It also calculates radiosity solutions much faster and the adjustable options allow for much more flexibility and variety in the finished render.
Here is one of the test-renders with the "still-life" scene that ships with 3dsmax. The top image is the default renderer, and the bottom image is RTSquare (the slight distortion of the shapes in the bottom picture was done by my image editing software and not the renderer).
The lights, etc are the same, but the settings in RTSquare allow you to get a varied look without changing the setup of the scene.
There are a couple of minor issues, however. One of them is that the renderer seems to have trouble with very large high-poly scenes. This issue is currently being looked into by GPU-Tech and will be addressed in a future release.
The other issue, is that the textures for the scene must be stored in 3dsMax's default Maps directory for RTSquare to find them.
As of the time of this writing, GPU-Tech has just released version 1.3 in which global illumination, area lights, and render elements have been improved.
Taking everything, both advantages and disadvantages, into account, I'm of the opinion that this plugin is definitely well worth the price. Its improved render options and much faster render speed make it an essential addition to the toolbox of any serious 3dsMax user.
Hardware minimum requirements:
A Graphics Board that is DirectX 9.0 compatible, and supports Pixel Shader 2.0.
3DS Max version 5.0, 6.0, 7.0, 8.0
Operating System requirements:
RTSquare is designed to run on PCs equipped with Microsoft Windows 2000 or Windows XP and Microsoft DirectX 9.0c.
copied, printed, or reproduced in any manner without written permission.
Special thanks to Guest Columnist Jeffrey Graham [martian_manhunter], Renderosity Moderator and artist.
October 2, 2006
I'm having a hard time understanding your favorable review of this plugin. The quality of the render samples are quite bad. Vray free while being a stripped down version of Vray Pro, is miles ahead of this $560 plugin in terms of image quality and is FREE. Why should anyone buy this?
Hi pixelwks, I'm not sure which render samples you are referring to. The comparison renders that I viewed in the link provided looked really good to me. I think the review was thorough, unbiased and well written. Good job Jeff! All the best, Lillian
Those render speeds are impressive indeed. There's still some work to do, but this render engine will be well worth the price, especially for animations. Though I think that for stills you're better off with Brazil, VRay or Mental Ray. Just my impression from the render comparisons. I wonder how it will perform on a really fast graphics setup, such as two nVidia 7900GTX cards in SLI, when the render times on a lowly 6600GT are already so fast.
I first heard of GPU renderers when Gelato was released (nVidia's renderer). I've been interested on trying it but I own a lame Geforce card, heh. I would be very interested on knowing if the new videocards would have any impact on the visual quality (for example, improved GI or SSS capabilities). Pixelwks, the problem is that you are comparing a hardware renderer to a software-GI renderer (which btw is slow...). That would be like me saying "Maya is miles ahead of Poser". Just my personal point of view. I think this plugin delivers acceptable quality based on the fact that it's a hardware renderer...
"One of them is that the renderer seems to have trouble with very large high-poly scenes. " This would be a weakness of any GPU-based approach (eg Gelato suffers as well). There's an interesting battle developing between rendering on the CPU and rendering on the GPU. My own preference is for FPrime like CPU raytracing . . . its interactive, and works fine with giant scenes. Looking over at the GPU tech reference renders that you link, I note that none of them are terribly good (neither the mental ray, nor the GPUtech), and they come out looking very differently. Both things are puzzling-- folks who make renderers generally post "knock your socks off" images, which these are not. That's not a criticism of the review though-- good job, and thank you for introducing us to something new!