Have you thought that the market with renderers is full and thus there is probably nothing that could come up with something almost revolutionary to stir things up? So did I. But man, was I wrong!
Introducing Corona, the unbiased, CPU based renderer that will kick asses of even the most high-end and proven renderer on the market, such as VRay, finalRender or Arnold.
It’s still in its Alpha stage of development, but let me tell you, I’ve been using it for over a year and have done quite a few TV commercials with it without too much of a hassle.
Now, you can read more about the renderer on the official page, even download the full-functioning version and try it out for yourselves. So, I won’t go into how awesome, simple and brutally fast the renderer is, but instead, I’ll write a bit about how we used the renderer for a slightly different purpose than just final rendering.
Corona, being an awesome software designed, also comes in a standalone version, which you can call using a few parameters and supplying it with a few config files (all fully ASCII editable, which is awesome) and render out the same stuff (minus a few 3ds Max specific shaders obviously) you could inside 3ds Max, but without the burden of launching Max and devouring a ton of RAM.
So, with such a feature, we developed a few Python scripts that can take an FBX or OBJ file and render out thumbnails of certain sizes etc… This was extremely helpful as we needed high fidelity previews of FBX files that our users uploaded to our server without having to setup Max with all its plugins and within a tiny amount of time. Loading Max up would take a few minutes alone, but generating the previews this way took only about 5 seconds (200x200px)!
So, how did we set this up?
Unfortunately Corona Standalone, at its current state, doesn’t directly support FBX files, so we had to extract OBJs out of that first. That can be done with the Autodesk FBX SDK, or alternatively with the FBX Converter.
After we obtained the OBJs, it was just a matter of generating the required scene description and material files, which are all ASCII text files. So it was trivial to set this up in Python.
Corona Standalone requires you to supply the OBJ model file, a material description file .MTL, a scene description file .SCN (environment settings, camera settings etc…) and a renderer config file .CONF (num. of samples, AA settings etc…). With all this, you can call the corona.exe in the command line (or via the process routines in Python) and have it do its magic.
As I’ve said already, the previews took about 5s to render at a very reasonable quality setting at 200x200px for our website usage.
So, go give Corona a good try. It might seem rather feature lacking at first, but believe me, once you get rid of the over-the-top settings mentality of VRay or finalRender, you’ll realize that most of the settings were there just to bend the renderer to either render nicer quality, or faster. But none of them come even close to how friggin’ fast Corona is. The quality is also very high, though it can be a bit noisy in very specific situations. But let me tell you this, with Corona, I finally started using in-camera motion blur and depth of field! That’s how fast the renderer really is! I could never have afforded this luxury with any other renderer for our TVC jobs here at duber, since it’d take too long to render and the turnaround times would sky-rocket!
Also, a very important thing to mention is that the developer, Ondra Karlík, is very quick to respond to bug reports or feature requests. Without his agile development and fast turnarounds I would have never dared to implement such a renderer at such an early stage of development into my studio pipeline.
Yep, Corona and Ondra are that awesome!