There really are some substantial differences among rendering engines

Discussion started by Forester

This is a topic we probably don't discuss well enough, but is suitable for a forum like this one, particulary if we are trying to help others make good choices about the software they need.

Most people can't afford more than one rendering engine, so there is kind of a premium on making a good selection of a rendering engine. Up until the very recent past, there were only a handful of rendeeringing engines who had survived the long market competition of years, and each one has strived to be "The One" that will meet all a person's needs. New developments in physically based rendering, and some shifts in the costs of rendering engine developments are changing this situation. As is the fact that we have a whole new generation of very talented computer scientists creating new kinds of possibilities for rendering engines. So, ... it is my personal opinion that the days of all of us advocating for the superiority of one rendering engine over another are probably gone. We may be doing a disservice to newly come model-builders by continuing in these older ways. I've certainly been guilty of this myself in the past.

This idea was provoked by a short discussion JaguarBeastProduction and I got into in response to a question about PC specs for a person who makes jewelry models and is looking to upgrade.

( I was recommending the Maverick Render software - the choice of this rendering engines has implications for the choice of some pieces of computer hardware. JaguarBeastProduction recommended D5 Render as a good choice, and I was not familiar with it. So, I downloaded the free trial and played with it for an hour or so. In my particular case, I am a freelancer model-builder - a person necessarily forced to cover a wide range of subjects, so I am equally forced to have many kinds of software, and therefore, I subscribe to multiple rendering engines. A situation I woud not have thought to find myself in in prior years because of the heavy expense of doing this. Even if it is a ncessity of the business today.

JaguarBeastProduction's advocay led me to realize something I'd not really given much thought to before - I think we've entered into a time period where there are at least three kinds of rendering engines, and possibly more, whose differences we should be aware of and sensitive to in our discussions.

First, I think there are the "general purpose" rendering engines. These are the "big guns" in the field - the ones that have survived market competition over the years, and who truely aim to be all things to all people. V-Ray, Corona, Maxwell Render, Arnold, Keyshot and the like. Second, there seems to be a whole crop of newer rendering engines, such as D5 Render that are aimed at architecture and something that generally might be thought of as "full-scene development." And Third, there are some newer engines like Maverick Render that appear to be aiming more at product visualization than anything else. I read a recent article in 3D World that purported to talk about the choices among rendering engines, and it focused on differences like "biased" and "unbiased" engines - which seems to me to be somewhat beside the point - or kind of an irrelevant feature for a person who really might have to be searching for the one, single rendering engine that will fit his or her needs.

It seems that the big guy rendering engines are still trying to be all things to all people, ... to make sure that everyone knows they are "PBR" (physically based renderers), even if that claim is stretched quite a bit beyond reality. Certainly, it has taken V-Ray a massive effort to move in that direction, after it clearly had perfected great visualization using biased rendering technologies.But, if I take a closer look at any of these "big guys" like Arnold, for example, I can see that it has strengths for some things (cinamaphotography and animation), but, for other things, I would never recommend Arnold to a product visualization specialist, an architect or a jewlery maker. In fact, and here comes the "heresy," I would not recommend the current versions of V-Ray for these purposes either.

Meanwhile, I am finding myself somewhat enchanted by my first looks at D5 Render because it has features suited to the kind of work I do. Almost instantly, I very much like the clarity of the atmospheres and skies and lighting that play on buildings, large objects and vegetation. It is as if it has a native depth of field suited to architecture that doesn't require a lot of special camera adjustment - ditch the fiddiling around with the camera. Also, I am wierdly finding myself turning to Maverick Render over and over again for all my general purpose needs. Maverick is clearly aimed at "micro scenes" - a point I had not thought about until JaguarBeastProduction made me grapple with the differences between D5 Render and Maverick Render.Maverick has an ease of use for product renders that is superior to anything I have ever experienced, and for a Substance Designer like myself, it is the only rendering engine I know of that directly loads a "substance archive" with all of its user adjustable features. So, you can tweak you materials while live in the rendering view. And, its fast - damn fast! Essentially, you are working "real-time."

So, my main point here is that there really is no longer a single rendering engine that can be all things to all people. Instead of advocating for our favorite renderer to all newcomers, maybe we should be trying to share information with each other about the key differences among rendering engines - to the extent that we know them - so that we all can learn more about these very expensive tools.

So, my first impression/thought is that all the current crop of rendering engines can be sorted into the three groups I mentioned above. With the traditional "big guy" rendering engines purporting to be excellent at all things, that not being actually true, and with those big guys slowly becoming unable to be remain excellent for all rendering needs. That's the first group, in my mind, and it would help if we knew better what the strengths and weaknesses of thesee big guys actually are. I don't have this knowledge. Do any of you reading this question?

And then there are the newer rendering engines on the scene. What would you recommend for what kind of purpose - such as JaguarBeastProduction did with D5 Render for architecture, and as I did with Maverick Render for product visualization? ?????????????????????


Posted 9 days ago

Please forgive my typing errors.

Posted 9 days ago

If you find this post tedious, inapproriate here, or irrelevant to anyone's real concerns, ...blame JaguarBeastProduction. He provoked me!

Posted 8 days ago

Light Tracer Render ( in my opinion is also quite an interesting rendering engine.

Forester wrote
Good to know. I'll take a look at that one also.
Posted 8 days ago

It would be interesting to compile here a list of all the new, worthy rendering engines. I'll start.


D5 Render
Maverick Render
Light Tracer Render
Blender Cycles (I think we have to add this to the list)

Posted 8 days ago

Regarding real-time rendering of architecture projects of course should be mentioned such megalodons of the industry as Lumion and Twinmotion.
In addition to rendering engines that are not very popular can add Bella Render and Indigo Renderer (

Posted 5 days ago

Some general descriptions of the new rendering engines, as I have time to play with them.

Maverick Render -

This is a complete, general purpose rendering engine, that seems aimed at product visualization, although it handles large scenes and architecture quite easily. Importantly, there is a full-featured Material Editor that handles PBR types of materials with ease. This seems to be the most full-featured Material Editor on the market, and currently is the only one that allows direct use of Substance Designer archive files. There are two types of lighting arrangements in Maverick: both HDRI and an extravagant studio lighting facility. Maverick Render imports a wide variety of file types. When a complex scene file in *.fbx or *.obj format is imported, the individual pieces of the scene file are exposed and any associated materials is automatically loaded with them. Any sub-component can be transformed (moved, re-scaled, etc.) and any of the materials for that component can be edited or replaced as desired.

I mention these latter featues because some of the new rendering engines lack these abilities.

D5 Render -

This rendering engine plainly is oriented to architects, and not to product visualization artists or model-builders of small props. This rendering engine lacks a material editor altogether. It does have a reasonably large library of pre-built materials (more than 2000 materials are claimed for the Material Library), but in general, D5 Render depends upon your having built and assigned materials to your "buildings" in the application that you used to create your models. In fact, D5 Render really only works well for Autodesk Max, Sketchup, Archicad, Revit, Cinema4D, Blender, and to some extent, Rhino. It is next to impossible to build a scene with multiple parts in an application like Maya, bring this into D5, and successfully apply any materials to the individual components of the scene. Files in *.fbx and *.obj format are stripped of their material associations. Lacking a material editor, you really cannot assign unique materials to the components of your scene. However, if you brought in a scene constructed in Autodesk MAX, for example, you can easily replace any original Arnold materials with D5 materials. As to lighting, D5 Render uses a "native HDRI" image for lighting, and you can replace this file with another, although it is somewhat difficult to do so. D5 Render does had excellent overall scene lighting for outdoor-type scenes, and there are good controls over this light. Plus, you can have moving clouds passing overhead - on top of your buildings. Camera controls and field of vision are extensive. Rendering speed is quite good. The best feature of D5 Render is the apparent depth of field and depth of view. In general, this rendering engine seems optimized for large outdoor scene development. However, it would be a poor investment for model-builders using any other than the architectural applications listed in the beginning of this paragraph: it is NOT a general-purpose rendering engine.

Light Tracer Render -

This rendering engine seems more aimed at product visualization than at large scene builders - kind of the opposite of D5 Render. It has fantastic clear lighting for small and medium-sized objects. This rendering engine WILL import complex scene files in *.fbx and *.obj formats, and it does expose the individual elements of the scene file for material editing and for transforming. Light Tracer does recognize any associated PBR materials, but it only recognizes the base color, roughness, metallness, opacity and normal properties of a material. If you have a plant leaf that requires sub-surface color and amount, neither of these properties is recognized as a shader property by Light Tracer, so your ability to work with plants in an architectural scene is significantly limited. Light Tracer also has a reasonably large library of pre-built materials. Light Tracer, like Maverick allows you to use many different HDR images as your light source and bring in separate images as backplates. It has good facilities for rotating those images, although not for controlling their light strength. The camera controls in Light Tracer are decent, and rendering speed is very good. Light Tracer is a decent rendering engine for product visualization artists, and would be useful for almost everyone, if you can live with the not-too-severe limitations in the material editor. This would not be a good rendering engine for architects or people with complex scene files.

Posted 5 days ago

Some other features of Maverick, D5 and Light Tracer --

Maverick (kind of benchmark here) costs 40 Euros/month; 34 Euros a month if on a yearly license, and 500 Euros for a perpetual license. Annual upgrades are free for the first year, but cost 300 Euros per year after that.

D5 Render is free in a "community version" which differs from the Pro version only in terms of lacking a bunch of models and particle-system models. The Pro version costs $360 USD for a Perpetual License or $38/month if paid on a yearly basis. D5 Render includes an extensive library of pre-built models for decorating your architecture (everything rangeing from chairs and light fixtures to fish and birds) and some particle systems. Meaning, fire, one rain, some clouds, and several kinds of falling leaves. I believe there is one flock of flying birds.

Light Tracer is $9.00 USD per month, or $6.00 USD per month if paid on an nauual basis --- or just $99.00 USD for a Perpetual License.

Posted 5 days ago

OK, one error in my description of Light Tracer. You CAN control the intensity level of the HDRI image. The more I play with it, the more I like it. For one-fifth the cost of Maverick, Light Tracer is a worthy rendering engine for general purpose product visualization. One note, there seems to be no way to control the physical position of the camera. At least, I could find no way to do this. Therefore, I couldn't create an exact match between Light Tracer and Maverick.

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