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Using the Autodesk A360 Cloud Rendering in 3ds Max 2016

This powerful new rendering service brings the massive Autodesk cloud compute-capability to bear for our artists, and greatly speeds photorealistic rendering workflow

NEW! A360 CLOUD RENDERING SERVICE FOR 3DS MAX

This powerful new rendering service brings the massive Autodesk cloud compute-capability to bear for our artists, and greatly speeds photorealistic rendering workflows.

Using the Autodesk A360 Cloud Rendering Service in 3ds Max 2016

Image by Dave Tyner, Autodesk Plant 3D – P&ID

The new A360 Cloud Renderer is a physically-based render that quickly produces highly realistic images. It can render multiple camera views simultaneously on high-end cloud servers, and will greatly expand your rendering capacity without capital investment or technical know-how.

A360 Cloud Rendering is ideal for:

  • Architectural and Industrial Design scenes.
  • Design Development requiring fast iterations
  • Preview and Final Quality Still-Image and Panorama renderings
  • Lighting analysis (illuminance rendering)
  • Any time you can’t tie-up local machines for rendering, or need serious rendering horsepower.

It is a “send-it-and-forget-it” rendering queue with high speed and high reliability. Creating realistic images has never been easier, or faster, with 3ds Max and A360 Cloud Rendering.

Using the Autodesk A360 Cloud Rendering Service in 3ds Max 2016

Image Credit: Russell Energy Corporation

20 MILLION RENDERS AND COUNTING

Just recently the A360 renderer produced its 20 millionth render, with 10 million renders happening in just the previous eight months. With 3ds Max 2016 you can now take advantage of that amazing technology for your projects. It has high availability, high reliability, and zero maintenance for you.

You can check out examples of some of the work produced in the A360 Cloud Renderer at the Public Gallery – we would love to see your 3ds Max models in the gallery soon, and if you have something you want to show off, let us know! Find me on Twitter @3dsMax_Designer and share a link.

SO, WHAT IS A360 CLOUD RENDERING?

The first thing to know about the A360 renderer is that A360 not is mental ray, Iray, Scanline or Quicksilver. It is an entirely new renderer for 3ds Max, and I’ll dig into some of the details later in this post. Since A360 is something entirely new, this means that you may have different results than mr or Iray, and may need to work a little differently.

If you have been using cloud rendering in Revit, then many of the steps in 3ds Max should be familiar to you. If you are working with Revit imports into 3ds Max, you should have good results right away if the model, lights, and materials were correct in Revit.

The A360 service currently only renders sill images, although animated turntable and solar studies are possible, along with mono and stereo panoramas. I’ve found that clients often preferred panoramas over animations as they gave them the opportunity to look areound at-will, and were quick and cheap to produce.

For a general Frequently-Asked-Question on rendering in A360, check out their support forum FAQ Post.

Using the Autodesk A360 Cloud Rendering Service in 3ds Max 2016

Image Credit: Marion Landry, Autodesk Media & Entertainment. Model by Dionissios Tsangaropoulos, Delta Tracing.

CLOUD CREDITS

The A360 Renderer uses “Cloud Credits” to render, but allows you to send smaller images for free. As you begin to use A360 Renderer I encourage you to send small renders before committing to larger images, as there may be changes you need to make in lights and materials in 3ds Max for best results.

Cloud credits are usually provided to organizations that have product suites. Educational users also have access to cloud rendering as part of their license. You can find out more information on that here.

Users of Educational cloud credits will see the size of jobs limited per-submission (explained below), and will also be at a lower priority in the queue.

USING THE A360 CLOUD RENDERER

New on the 3ds Max tool bar are two icons; one to bring up the settings for A360 Cloud Renderer, and another to open your A360 Rendering Gallery:

Using the Autodesk A360 Cloud Rendering Service in 3ds Max 2016

Clicking on the teapot will open the Render Setup dialog box and switch your render “Target” to “A360 Cloud Rendering Mode”:

Using the Autodesk A360 Cloud Rendering Service in 3ds Max 2016

You can also switch to A360 by selecting it from the Target drop-down in the Render Setup dialog box. 3ds Max automatically saves your A360 and Production render settings in your project’s “presets” folder as separate presets as you switch back and forth.

Below the Preset drop-down is the A360 widget which allows you to log in, and once logged-in, will display job and credit details based on the quality, size, and number of cameras you have defined below the widget:

Using the Autodesk A360 Cloud Rendering Service in 3ds Max 2016

If you are a corporate user you may need to contact your account admin to get an account with cloud credits for you to use. Small images are always free, and we encourage you to play.

As you change settings for your A360 renderings you’ll see the “Required” value (on left of image, above) change. As you would expect, more credits are required when you have more cameras, larger images, and higher quality settings. The screen shot above is from my university account, and that limits the “Max per request” to 16 credits. Educational accounts limit a single job size and are a lower priority in the queue; students and faculty may see longer delays in getting images completed than corporate accounts, particularly with very large images.

Below the Cloud Credits widget you’ll notice that the “Common” tab in the render settings has disappeared, and you will only have the settings for the A360 Cloud Renderer. The A360 renderer defines your image’s file names based on the scene name, date and time, and the camera name – you have no control. When you download images you end up with long file names with all that information, and that helps you manage where and when an image was sourced. A360 also does not support animations, so there are no useful settings in the Common tab.

Using the Autodesk A360 Cloud Rendering Service in 3ds Max 2016

Image Credit: Blue Marble 3D. This interior with high-poly equipment and 700 photometric area lights rendered in 6 minutes.

A360 CLOUD RENDER SETTINGS

All A360 renders must have a camera selected before 3ds Max will let you send the job. A big difference with this new renderer is that you can send ALL of your camera views at the same time, and with a single upload:

Using the Autodesk A360 Cloud Rendering Service in 3ds Max 2016

The only camera quantity limitation is with educational (EDU) accounts – the more cameras selected, the more credits you use, and you’ll need to watch the widget’s “Max Per Request” limits. With EDU accounts you may have to send several jobs with different groups of cameras to get all your cameras rendered.

The next settings apply to all the cameras you are sending: Output Type, Render Quality, Image Size, Exposure, and File Format. Other than the camera selection, many settings can be changed in the online A360 Gallery. This allows you to send quick draft-quality renders, and if it looks good, trigger a larger best-quality image right from the cloud gallery.

Output Type

The A360 renderer supports several output types:

Using the Autodesk A360 Cloud Rendering Service in 3ds Max 2016

The Interactive Panorama uses your camera as the center point for a panorama, and is best for scenes like architectural interiors where you need to look in all directions. You can re-render any view as a panorama – including creating the new Stereo Panorama type – once your still images is rendered on A360. Simply go to the image in the online gallery and choose a new format:

Using the Autodesk A360 Cloud Rendering Service in 3ds Max 2016

The Solar Study options, as the name implies, are for evaluating daylight in a scene. I’ve found that it is better to select a rendering in the cloud gallery and choose the “Render as” and then Solar Study option (shown above) in order to get the proper settings to produce an animation. This also gets you access to new features not yet supported in 3ds Max, likeStereo Panorama.

Illuminance allows you to do lighting analysis on your model. Other than choosing theIlluminance setting, there is no set-up needed in your scene besides what you need for a realistic rendering: a scene of the proper scale, photometric lights set to realistic values, and physically-based materials like the Autodesk materials (Generic, Ceramic, Hardwood, etc.) or the Arch & Design material:

Using the Autodesk A360 Cloud Rendering Service in 3ds Max 2016

Image Credit: Restaurant interior illuminance rendering by Blue Marble 3D.

Illuminance is how much incident light illuminates a surface. Each Illuminance image comes with a scaled gradient along the right side (in lux) to help you exaluate your lighting. This, like all A360 Cloud Rendering, is amazingly fast and gives design visualization specialists another powerful tool beyond realistic rendering.

SO, WHAT IS THE A360 CLOUD RENDERER?

First, it is not mental ray, or Iray, or any renderer that you can buy for 3ds Max, and it is built entirely by Autodesk. It is a Lightcuts-type renderer – an entirely new technology for our artists – and for best results will require some adjustments in how you work.

The A360 renderer is built for speed and realism. With a rendering engine, these two qualities are usually mutually exclusive – you can’t have both. The A360 Cloud Renderer, however, achieves both by re-lighting your model (transparently to you) with point lights that simulate what the direct and indirect illumination would be if fully-computed. A photometric area light may be simulated by several point lights, and an HDR Image-Based-Lighting (IBL) setup may contain hundreds of thousands of point lights just to simulate the HDR. The result is typically highly realistic.

There are some tradeoffs being made in the cloud for this high-performance, so when you compare your A360 renderings to what you may be getting from mental ray or Iray, you’ll see subtle differences. Shadows are not as soft, for instance.

Using the Autodesk A360 Cloud Rendering Service in 3ds Max 2016

Image Credit: Marion Landry, Autodesk Media & Entertainment

Because of these differences, the A360 renderer may not be ideal for all situations. There is a fair level of compatibility with basic Autodesk and mental ray lights and materials. Users importing models into 3ds Max from Revit will find a good level of support for lights and materials provided.

For those looking for more detailed info on the type of renderer, just Google “The Lightcuts Approach”, and check out research papers you might find.

WORKFLOWS FOR A360 RENDERING IN 3DS MAX 2016

As powerful as A360 rendering is, it was originally built for a fairly closed ecosystem of Revit and Fusion 360, and as such, does not always play well with the things our users may use or need in 3ds Max. 3ds Max allows you to do arbitrarily complex things with materials, in particular, and you’ll need to adjust some things for best results with A360. Some plugins that rely on specific renderer features will not be supported well, or at all, with A360.

As far as intended workflows, Revit-to-Max and Inventor-to-Max should be well supported, as well as workflows from other CAD and solid modeling applications such as SolidWorks. Revit imports were the ultimate test for this first release, and raw RVT imports render without issues. That is, as long as the Revit modeler didn’t bury lights inside of opaque fixtures, it should render in a similar way in Revit on A360 and from 3ds Max on A360.

Using the Autodesk A360 Cloud Rendering Service in 3ds Max 2016

Image Credit: Marion Landry, Autodesk Media & Entertainment. Model by Dionissios Tsangaropoulos, Delta Tracing.

TEST SCENE COMPATIBILITY

To help you with transitioning your scenes to A360 we’ve provided a “Test Scene Compatibility” button in the render settings. This will open the Render Message Window and perform a translation from 3ds Max geometry to A360, without actually triggering a render. This allows you to see if there are materials or objects that may have issues with the A360 renderer. You can fix issues before upload and spending credits, and have more confidence in the models that you upload.

Using the Autodesk A360 Cloud Rendering Service in 3ds Max 2016

Anything that is an error you will need to fix, but warnings won’t block you from rendering. Some warnings, like for hidden objects, are usually harmless. Most other warnings we see in scenes have to do with unsupported maps and materials, and those you will likely want to fix if the image is important. A360 is a physically-based renderer, and the lights and materials you use need to be physically-based, too. Most of the warning we see on legacy scenes are elements that don’t make sense in that physically-real context. The features available in Revit are typically safe for A360 Cloud Rendering.

We always recommend you send small test images, which are typically free. If the image looks good you can always change the render settings in your A360 gallery and trigger a new rendering without re-uploading your model. You can even tweak exposure and re-render in the cloud (see screen capture earlier).

GENERAL COMPATIBILITY INFORMATION AND FAQ

The A360 renderer is a system that is rapidly evolving, and you’ll see improvements in A360 and our support for its features over time. In the next section are some common things that you should be aware of as you use the A360 Cloud Renderer.

VIEW-DEPENDENT TESSELLATION

Body objects are a terrific way to bring in industrial models from Inventor and other solid modeling products. It allows for adjustable tessellation per-object, and also render-time resolution that is view-dependent.

This view-dependent tessellation can cause issues when you send scenes to A360 and select multiple cameras for rendering. The first camera selected in the list will be used for deciding how to tessellate the objects. Because tessellation is view-dependent, some objects may receive lower than expected tessellation when viewed from another angle.

So, if a body object is small in Camera001 and large in Camera002, then it likely will have low tessellation in Camera002. You can get around this by sending each camera to A360 individually instead of all at once. You can also convert body objects to poly, or place an Edit Poly (or another) modifier on the stack of the affected objects.

You may have a similar issue with modifiers and object types that change based on the view.

LIGHTS AND SHADOWS

As mentioned earlier, to be very fast, the A360 renderer re-lights your scenes with a LOT of point lights. Lighting is where you may notice some obvious issues in your images. Scenes I’ve tested on A360 with strings of closely-spaced LED lights (something Iray handles accurately) will see the LEDs clustered together. The A360 renderer isn’t built for that use-case, is more for grand architectural models.

Lighting in A360 always works in a physically-real manner, despite the relighting. Lights always have realistic falloff, and always cast shadows. Since your scene is re-lit with point lights, you’ll notice that you don’t get soft shadows.

Objects in your scene also always cast shadows, just like the real world.

In short, for lighting:

  • Photometric lights are supported.
  • mr Sun and mr Sky are supported in Daylight Systems.

If you chose the “Max” defaults instead of the “Design” defaults when you first ran 3ds Max 2016, then your Sun and Sky may be the Standard or IES style by default, and may need to be changed. The mental ray mr Sun and Sky objects aren’t used in A360, but their parameters are mapped to A360 objects. The Sunlight System is not supported.

Using the Design defaults in 3ds Max 2016 generally works best with A360 and mr/Iray. Your defaults can be changed from the “Customize”-> “Custom UI And Defaults Switcher”, and choosing the “DesignVIZ.mentalray” option.

The mr Sky Portal, although classified as a Photometric Light, is unsupported. The mr Sky Portal is a cheat for mental ray to pump more light through small-ish portals. It is a photometric-class object, but not physically correct and not needed in a physically-correct renderer like A360. For Iray it is just a clue to the renderer where the opening is, it doesn’t provide illumination, and is only (maybe) needed for very small openings. It is a mental-ray specific feature, and A360 is an entirely different technology; it doesn’t have an equivalent “portal” object in their system.

If you use a mr Sky Portal as a “light card”, you’ll need to replace it with a rectangular photometric light for a similar effect.

CAMERA SUPPORT

The classic Target and Free cameras are supported, as is the new Physical camera. The A360 renderer does not support effects, so you won’t get Depth-of-Field, Motion Blur, or Bokeh effects in your renders.

Important: Cameras with the Camera Correction modifier are not supported, and won’t show up in your list of cameras in the A360 setup dialog box. The Perspective Control adjustments of the Physical Camera are also not supported by A360.

The exposure settings in the new Physical Camera are supported, as long as you use the new Physical Exposure control and the “Native” setting in the A360 render settings:

Using the Autodesk A360 Cloud Rendering Service in 3ds Max 2016

EXPOSURE CONTROLS

The new Physical Camera Exposure Control, along with the classic mr Photographic Exposure Control, are both supported. You must choose the “Native” option in the A360 settings (shown above) for exposure when sending your job, otherwise you get automatic exposure control in A360. For turntable animations (selectable from the cloud gallery), using Native from 3ds Max is often required to prevent exposure change per-image.

MATERIAL AND MAP SUPPORT

Materials and Maps are the area where you are likely to run into issues with A360. A360 is built around the straightforward needs of Revit and Fusion 360, where there is a very short list of what you can change or do. In 3ds Max you can do arbitrarily complex things with materials, and that is its power and charm. With Revit, you can have a map or a color in a diffuse slot, and that is it.

The Autodesk group of materials (Generic, Ceramic, Hardwood, etc.) are well-supported in A360, and is recommended if you are going to move your workflows to this service. 3ds Max includes a library of over 1200 pre-made materials to quickly populate your model.

There are a few things you’ll need to look out for, and as you use A360 more you’ll pick up these little changes and your scenes will work in any renderer. Use the “Test Scene Compatibility” feature in 3ds Max to see what is currently supported.

The Arch & Design (A&D) material is mapped onto an Autodesk Generic material. Many of the settings in A&D are mental ray-specific, or are not needed in a physically-real renderer. You will likely get good results, but may see differences in your A360 renderer.

Standard materials are mapped to an Autodesk Generic material, and will render. Other non-physical materials are not supported.

For Bitmaps, the Crop settings are not supported. In that case you’ll need to bring your bitmap into Gimp http://www.gimp.org or Photoshop to trim your images before upload.

Material transforms in the Bitmap are not supported – use a UVW Map modifier where needed to adjust your map transforms.

Unsupported map types include procedural maps like Noise and Marble – A360 does not have an equivalent – and some fairly common map types like Mix and Tiles will require you to find or make an equivalent bitmap.

Tip: Set your Material Editor renderer to mental ray (unlock the connection to the Production renderer before switching to A360). This way you can still edit materials while A360 is selected.

Using the Autodesk A360 Cloud Rendering Service in 3ds Max 2016

ENVIRONMENT AND BACKGROUND

For Environment maps, your images should work as expected. The A360 renderer has its own equivalent version of the mr Physical Sky environment map, and with that you cannot adjust the horizon. For night renders you’ll get a starry sky in A360.

Like Iray, A360 does not have an “Environment/Background Switcher” that lets you have two separate things. Like reality, if your environment for image-based-lighting is a warehouse, that will show in the reflections and background of your objects unless you build another environment to light or reflect.

IMAGE-BASED LIGHTING

Speaking of IBL, A360 approximates IBL by making tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of point lights, all based on the image you provide. In most cases this works great, and is incredibly fast for IBL.

MATTE/SHADOW WORKFLOWS

The A360 renderer wants to work just as the real world works, and does not have support for Matte/Shadow workflows. In that case you’ll need to build actual geometry, or do some Photoshop magic. Saving to PNG format provides an alpha channel for a transparent background which helps for compositing.

FEATURES SPECIFIC TO CERTAIN RENDERERS

I’m most often asked why this doesn’t work like mental ray. As you know by now, it isn’t mr. So things like mr Proxy objects are not going to work, and the same goes for V-Ray proxies, and many other renderer-specific objects and shaders.

Some plugins take special advantage of features in the renderers – like render-time instancing – which A360 doesn’t support. In that case you will need individual copies of the objects, not the programmatic instancing. ForestPack Pro is an example. It is the same issue with Iray – you can place the individual trees and plants from their library into a scene and they render, but relying on the plugin to generate render-time instancing will not work. A360 handles the individual high-poly plants well.

LARGE SCENES AND PARTICLE SYSTEMS

In general, large scenes work well with A360 rendering, and in my tests I’ve sent models of 300mb+ to the cloud in a matter of a few minutes, from the moment I clicked “Render” to the data was on the cloud and in the queue.

The time it takes you to send a model to the cloud may depend on scene complexity, your proximity to the render servers, and how fast your Internet connection is. 3ds Max must translate your model into a mesh that A360 can use, and that translation can take a long time when it comes to things like Particle Systems. If it looks like 2ds Max isn’t responding, check your CPU useage in the Task Manager in Windows and see if it is busy.

ATMOSPHERICS AND EFFECTS

The A360 renderer does not support atmospherics and effects. For scenes like the new “Underwater Template” that comes with 3ds Max 2016, the fog-like underwater effect is lost.

CONCLUSION

I hope this has answered your questions on this new technology for 3ds Max. If you have more questions please post them in the “Shading, Lighting and Rendering” forum here on The Area.

Would you like your A360 rendering features on our blog? Post in the forums!

– Jenni O’Connor and the 3ds Max Rendering Team

Below are some of additional examples of Revit-to-Max and Inventor-to-Max workflows (in particular) rendered in the A360 Cloud Renderer.

Using the Autodesk A360 Cloud Rendering Service in 3ds Max 2016

Image Credit: Bleck & Bleck Architects, LLC. The A360 renderer can take a lot of polygons, including the high-poly foliage throught this site.

Using the Autodesk A360 Cloud Rendering Service in 3ds Max 2016

Image Credit: Marion Landry, Autodesk Media & Entertainment. Model by Dionissios Tsangaropoulos, Delta Tracing.

Using the Autodesk A360 Cloud Rendering Service in 3ds Max 2016

Image Credit: Russell Energy Corp

Using the Autodesk A360 Cloud Rendering Service in 3ds Max 2016

Image Credit: Russell Energy Corp

Using the Autodesk A360 Cloud Rendering Service in 3ds Max 2016

Image Credit: Marion Landry, Autodesk Media & Entertainment

Reference : Gary M. Davis. blogs

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