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VRay - The Complete Guide

Barbara Witkowska 2009-02-02 00:00 article  > Article

Among a number of rendering engines, in terms of popularity, VRay has his permanent place in the lead. It is the one of the most widespread rendering plug-ins worldwide. Though, as far as I know, a great majority of VRay users have only superficial knowledge of VRay possibilities. The book might be a good occasion to change it: start learning or develop and strengthen this knowledge.

When I first time took VRay - THE COMPLETE GUIDE into my hand, I thought to myself: how to read through such an amount of information and don't give up? But it was just the first impression. The second was completely different: I couldn't help feeling that it's more a book of graphics provided with explanations, than a text supported by graphics. It's because of author's assumption: "images and tests (...) can explain a renderization program better than words". That's why we can find here over 2300 color images and around 3200 renders, referring to all the VRay commands. A whole closed in a hard-covered, 1024 page book.

But let's start from the beginning: what kind of publication are we talking about? Well, as we can see on the hardcover, it is "a book for professionals". But please don't be put off by these words: the "reader's system requirements" are just basic knowledge of 3D technology and 3ds Max or other 3D software, such as Rhino, Cinema 4D and more. The word "professional" in this context means that it's mostly destined for CG artists working in 3D section. Just like Francesco Legrenzi (born in 1977), the author of the book. Currently he is a freelancer, after four years working as a director of the Modeling & Lighting department in an architect's studio in Milan, Italy. With VRay renderer he met a bit earlier, in 2001, when he had started taking part in the management of a small Italian CG portal,

The main aim of the book is to show how to create photorealistic visualizations and simply achieve the result we want to. Author believes that to gain this purpose, one should has, leaving aside the VRay itself, a basic knowledge of instrument we use: a computer with it's software and hardware and a little bit of art and science information. As VRay renderer versions for different programs vary from themselves only by interface, the guide is helpful for all the VRay users. Thus, in this book it's secrets are presented on the 3ds Max VRay version example. Let's take a look inside.

The VRay guide is divided into 9 chapters, which consists of a number of sections.

CHAPTER 1 - Introduction 14 pages
CHAPTER 2 - The complete story of Computer Graphics 132 pages
CHAPTER 3 - VRay: Renderer PART 1 178 pages
CHAPTER 4 - VRay: Renderer PART 2 204 pages
CHAPTER 9 - UPDATES 74 pages

In the book one can find some references to the DVD. For example when still image can't explain discussed issue as animation can, or to observe some images enlarged. Enclosed DVD contains 32 animations, many illustration and software: DEMO version of 3ds Max 2009, all VRay DEMO versions presently available (for 3ds Max, Maya, Rhino, SketchUp), also 2 plug-in freeware: Color Correct, Greeble and GUI4vrimg2exr, graphic interface for VRay's vrimg2exr tool.

WEB pages supporting the book (in English and Italian version):

For full table of contents click here


The most important and at the same time the largest part of the book, is the one dedicated to renderer panel (chapters 3 and 4). It covers all the VRay parameters that we can see after pushing F10 button (let me remind, that we are talking about 3ds Max VRay version). All discussed in the book issues are preceded by brief introduction. In VRay: Frame Buffer (VFB) case it includes clear explanation what VFB is used for and where we can find it's two separated tools. Then VRay: Global Switches role is clarified with simple discussing all the parameters it is composed of. Every particular issue is illustrated, what makes the learning process very easy. The great chapter's 3 space is devoted to VRay: Image Sampler (Antialiasing). Author analyzes here aliasing phenomenon and shows the sampling process. After reading it we will know, among the other, how subdivision number affects both rendering time and it's quality, or with use of which techniques antialiasing is computed. What's more we will exactly know why. Apart from those information, Francesco Legrenzi presents a set of 10 examples to this theme: from very simple, explaining on two renders instance what antialiasing really is - to more complex, clearing up how antialiasing affects textures, bump, DOF, or moire effect. Some of these includes short tutorial showing how to prepare scenes for discussed problems step-by-step.

"Rendering test with variation of three antialiasing computing methods."

The next VRay parameter presented in this chapter, that is absolutely essential for making realistic images is Global Illumination (GI). Again, one brief glance on compared renderings with schematic explanation on it clarifies what this term means. Methods for computing an image (such as Radiosity, Ray tracing, Irradiance Map, Light Cache and more) are presented and compared with each other. Then we can get familiar with those, used by VRay. They are briefly described with it's advantages and disadvantages and classified in relation to indoor/exterior animation and interior/exterior still image. With this help it's much easier to decide which to use in terms of the best quality or the shortest rendering time, and also in combination of those two.

VRay: environment is another discussed parameter, that has huge impact on final image appearance. Not only because a background texture often makes a huge part of final render or animation space. It may affect it also by skylight or reflection/refraction features. The environment feature analyze touches the issue of HDRI maps used for that purpose and relation between 3dsMax's and VRay's environment option. Next, under the 'environment' position in renderer rollout, we can find a caustics parameter, that is needed in the scenes including objects with refractive or reflective materials. It's good to acquaint oneself with a graphs explaining this phenomenon and two methods for it's computation in VRay. It is worth paying attention also to those parameters, that allow us control the caustics, which won't be found inside 'VRay: Caustics' rollout.

"Variations of the parameter Search distance for modifying caustics."

VRay: rQMC Sampler rollout has only few controllers, but knowledge how to use them may significantly affect both render time and quality. Again, multitude of illustrations with specified render time and used parameters allows quick learning.
What has to be emphasized, topics in the book are presented in a very comprehensive way. At occasion of presenting VRay: Color Mapping tool, we also learn what a light from a physical point of view is, the solar beam is composed of what colors, or even how the process allowing sight unfolds. Phenomenon of color sight from a biological perspective and some methods for expressing those colors are explained: for example by means of hue, luminosity and saturation, or numerically. With this basics we get to know how computers "perceive" and project colors, and also how to manage the color using software and hardware devices. Finally the color management systems discussion reaches Linear Work Flow system (LWF). VRay: Camera is the next rollout in the renderer panel, but the discussion about it starts from 3dsMax camera parameters description, including the focal length, field of view and the others. Then options from VRay: Camera panel are explained: a set of camera types, field of view term or motion blur phenomenon.
The discussion about generating displacement consists of two tools VRay offers. The first is VRay: Default displacement which can be controlled via renderer panel and the second is VRayDisplacementMod. As it's name suggests we can't find this tool in renderer rollout. In this topic the difference between bump and displace is clarified and showed factors which a good quality render with displacement depends on. Due to renderer panel layout, the next issue we are to talk about is VRay: System. Francesco Legrenzi follows the rollout division and presents six groups of parameters separately: Raycaster params, Render region subdivision, Frame stamp, Distributed rendering, VRay log and Miscellaneous options. These groups differ considerably from themselves. Describes such problems, as VRay's Binary Space Partitioning (BSP) tree, which author comments as essential knowledge "(...)for anyone working in the field of 2D or 3D", explains how to control buckets parameters, or the way of computing an image over several different computers.


The next chapter in terms of volume, is the fifth one. It presents a variety of VRay shaders and maps. On the ground of great amount of referring images (both renderings and photographs) it's easy to find out it's best using for different needs.

"The three modes for translucency made available in VRay."

The another example when we are given really large introduction before discussing is Vray: Psychical Camera tool, which illustrates main concepts concerning traditional and digital photography and cameras. These information are exceptionally useful for VRay users, as Vray: Psychical Camera works in similar way to a real one. Unfortunately nowadays ordinary people tend to forget the focal length, objective luminosity, film sensitivity, or shutter speed terms. It may be caused by progressive simplification of photography, that no more requiers that knowledge from non-professional users. Here in the book we have all these explained, starting with primitive camera obscura issue.
It is said, that light can make or break the image. VRay Light and VRay Shadows book's sections are to help us control it's effect in 3D space. Starting from describing parameters "(...) both of geometric and psychical character, such as the radian, dihedral angle, angoloid, solid angle, steradian, the lumen and so on", we get on to "(...) the main types of light sources offered on the market". It's very useful knowledge in comparison to 3ds Max light types and possibility of reading photometric curves and information from professional light appliances catalogues. After brief describing VRayShadows parameters, VRayLight is widely presented: for what purpose to apply which type of VrayLight, what terms such as luminance, radiant power or radiance means, how HDRI and LDRI maps can work with VRayLight and more. Also VRaySun and VRaySky are clearly presented as a unique, working together objects. Among VRay Object types in VRay: Object and Environment part of the book, VRay Proxy, VRay Plane and VRay Fur are explained. All very useful and really worth knowing tools, especially when making a heavy scene, or need hair, whorls of grass or filaments. In case we want to create a cartoon-like rendering, here is an explanation of VrayToon tool that causes such an effect in post-production. Complicated, but, at the same time, useful, is the topic that explains a composition tricks: necessity in animation, also helpful in still images. In this part we can get familiar with VRaySphereFade issue. 3ds Max enables post-production process by Render Elements system and VRay exploits some of its features. With the use of Render Elements, it's possible to separate reflections, refractions, shadows and so on, to work on it separately. Here we can find three methods of visualizing and saving different channels: via Frame Buffer of 3dsMax, the VFB or the propriety image format .vrimg.

As writing VRay - THE COMPLETE GUIDE lasted about 2 years, it's understandable, that there was a necessity to bring "(...) the book up to date with the innovations introduced by VRay's v 1.5RC3, 1.5 FINAL, VRay 1.5 SP1 and SP2". For this reason the last chapter of the book was created. Updates included in this chapter refer to VRay: Frame buffer rollout, VRay VFB, Antialiasing, Irradiance Map, Light Cache, rQMC and Color mapping features.

The icing on the cake in VRay - THE COMPLETE GUIDE is the part about the history of computer graphics. "Names like Catmull, Blinn, Phong and Photon Map are, nowadays, known, but where do they find their origin?" Indeed, I found it very absorbing to study all these facts, each one accompanied by an illustration, composed in chronological order. A valuable addition to this research is a brief history of VRay.


Unfortunately it seems impossible to discuss in this review, in sufficient detail, all the features VRay - THE COMPLETE GUIDE covers. As you can see, the book far exceeds the scope of simple explanation of VRay parameters. What makes this book so helpful, is there is no more need to do many, many render tests on your own. Here can be found set of illustrates of some problem gathered in one place. Each one with precisely specified rendering time and applied options. Topics are discussed very comprehensively: with the explanation of physics, biology, photography laws. The versatility of presented issues, profound analyze of discussed subjects and, above of all, thorough illustration with full-color, makes this publication worth strong recommendation.


Author: Barbara Witkowska
Tags: v-ray
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Kitfisto 20:47:36  |  19-02-2016
Where can I purchase the Vray book
arsu 07:38:28  |  30-07-2016
i want 3ds max v-ray materials.
TomDArch 20:31:15  |  13-05-2017
Any update on the fraudulent use of other people's work without credit or compensation??? Or, is this publication still a piece of plagiarized copy/paste?
Hkpatel 14:44:32  |  09-11-2017
Where can I purchase the Vray book