Things that we can do better (II)

Our forum

We have finally decided to re-open our forum, which you can reach in its original location:

http://www.randomcontrol.com/forum

The sections on the forum are still viewable by the Beta Testing team only. However, we plan to open the forum publicly very soon, and we are already accepting new registrations.

We plan to keep the forum readable by anyone, but write permissions will be granted by our webmaster to legitimate customers only. For this reason, if you intend to register, please use the same e-mail and username as in the Customer Area. This way the system will be able to lift permissions for you.

Beta Program

One of the main things that we can do better is find a way to shorten the wait time between releases of our products. The best solution that we have come up with is to open a Beta Program.

This means that, from now on, we will allow our customers to download development builds that are good enough to be used in production, even if they are not finished. The Customer Area will allow customers to download the latest official Releases, and one or more Beta builds as they become available.

Note that the availability of new Beta builds will depend on many factors. For example, Betas will be released more or less frequently depending on what product we’re focused on at a given moment, and whether or not we’re in the middle of the development of new technology, or just polishing workflow or usability features.

We have created an area in the new forum to discuss the Beta builds (i.e., report problems or ask questions), and we already have issued Beta builds of Arion stand-alone and Arion for 3ds Max v2.7.0 to our Beta Testers.

We will open the Beta Program and the forum to all our customers very soon.

Thanks for watching!

Things that we can do better (I)

Dear Arion users,

We have decided to do a couple of statements that will answer some e-mails and questions that we have received lately.

Current product line

Right now our product line is:

– Arion stand-alone (Asa)
– Arion for 3ds Max (Af3)
– Arion for Rhinoceros (AfR)

We are not working actively on any other products or plug-ins as of this moment. Over time we have learnt that for a small company like ours, it only makes sense to focus on as few things as possible.

When it’s done

Every single time that we have talked openly about our intention to work on a new product or plug-in, our words have been taken as a sacred unbreakable promise. This has brought lots of trouble and we reckon this as one of our biggest mistakes.

You have to keep in mind that Arion is developed by one person (me), and also that as a product matures and features stack, releasing new stuff becomes a lengthier task. For this reason, some of the side projects that we have started in the past have proven to be too costly to be reasonably profitable.

As of this moment, you can officially say that we clear all previous announcements, since we are only working actively on the next versions of:

– Arion stand-alone (Asa)
– Arion for 3ds Max (Af3)
– Arion for Rhinoceros (AfR)

Version numbering

We generally increase the version ID of RCSDK (the Arion Core) as soon as the feature set requires a compatibility change in the .rcs/.rcm file formats. This has been the case since we released Arion stand-alone v2.5.0 and the next version of Arion for 3ds Max (v2.7.0).

Arion for 3ds Max v2.7.0 is what we used to call MAX LIVE v2.5.0 when the RCSDK was still v2.5.0.

Thanks for watching!

CUDA 6 RC

Dear Arion users,

We’re adapting the Arion Core so it runs on CUDA 6 Release Candidate, which was released some days ago. Our setups carry the run-time CUDA .dll, but your drivers may need to be upgraded when Arion for 3ds Max v2.7.0 is released.

Update: Fortunately, this time upgrading the build system from CUDA 5 to CUDA 6 has been easy!

Update: I spoke too fast. CUDA 6 has broken instancing… Been working on that for the past 8 hours…

Thank you!

About our product-line

Dear Arion customers,

We have been (and still are) working hard on the new Arion for 3ds Max release, and have also updated our website lately.

We have made some adjustments in our product-line that we would like to speak about.

1- Current product-line:

Our current product line-up is:

Arion stand-alone
Arion for 3ds Max
Arion for Rhinoceros

2- Renamings:

We have decided to streamline the names of our products so they all start by the word Arion. This way:

Arion becomes Arion stand-alone.
MAX LIVE becomes Arion for 3ds Max.
RHINO LIVE becomes Arion for Rhinoceros.

In some cases (specially internally), we will use Asa, Af3 and AfR for short. For example, the roaming folders of each product (where the license and settings are stored) are called /Asa, /Af3, and /AfR in the upcoming builds.

The term LIVE plug-in will be dropped from our website, shop and Knowledge Base progressively, in favor of the new Arion for XX names.

3- New Arion logo:

We have re-designed the Arion logo, to create a much more minimalistic and iconic image:

Thanks for watching!

ArionFX in Arion for 3ds Max

Dear users,

The next version of Arion for 3ds Max will feature AOVs switching and LightMixer editing right into the 3ds Max native VFB (framebuffer) via a custom ArionFX floating panel.

This ArionFX panel automatically docks itself next to the VFB on render-time and allows the user to edit the render AOVs, play with LightMixer controls, fine-tune the tonemapping, white-balance and vignetting (*) settings in real-time. All these operations work while the render is still in progress, and afterwards.

(*) White-balance and vignetting tonemapping controls are new to v2.7.0 as well.

We have given the name ArionFX in all our products to the set of parameters that configure what happens on screen-space before the final render is output or displayed. In v2.7.0, these include the tonemapping chain, lens vignetting, and LightMixer.

The ArionFX panel

Here are some examples of use:

The raw render




And here are some of the possible AOVs:

The diffuse AOV


The specular AOV


The glossy AOV


The direct AOV


The indirect AOV

Thank you for watching!

New IBL object (Arion for 3ds Max v2.7.0)

Dear Arion customers,

One of the main improvements that we introduced in Arion v2.5.0 was Importance Sampling for Image-Based Lighting (i.e., IBL-IS, or IBL).

IBL splits the environment image by areas of luminance and builds an Importance Sampling table so the engine spends more time sampling the brightest areas. This makes environment lighting render much faster, specially in cases where the image is very heterogeneous and features hotspots. The more the heterogeneous the environment map, the higher the speed improvement that IBL-IS brings.

The blog post [url]http://randomcontrol.com/blog/?p=1121[/url] describes the IBL-IS feature. The images below depict the advantage in terms of render speed when IBL-IS (instead of regular stochastic sampling) is used.

Arion for 3ds Max v2.7.0 features a new light object with which you add environment lighting to your scene. The IBL object gives access to all the IBL-related attributes of the Arion IBL node. These include the IBL color/map, and the scene background.

Pretty much like the Sky object in Af3 v2.7.0, the IBL object has been designed as a standard 3ds Max ‘ambient’ light which illuminates the viewport with a uniform colour and some occlusion provided natively by 3ds Max.

The image below displays the attributes of the IBL object.

Thanks for watching!

Arion for 3ds Max – New Sky object

Dear Arion customers,

The new version of Arion for 3ds Max features a new sky/sun object that wraps the Arion physical sky system.

This new object behaves as a standard 3ds Max light, and can be created from [I]Command Panel > Lights > Arion[/I]. It features a gizmo with a compass rose and the sun direction for easy visual positioning.

Importantly, the sky object has been designed as a 3ds Max directional (uniform) light. For this reason, the viewport reacts to the orientation of the gizmo, illuminating the scene accordingly, and even casting real-time shadows.

The object’s gizmo can be positioned anywhere for the user’s convenience (the position does not affect the illumination). The rotation of the underlying 3ds Max directional light, on the other hand, is locked to the attributes of the sky object through a motion controller.

The image below displays the attributes panels from where you can edit the sky object.

This is the sky object gizmo in a very simple test scene.

Note: Since the sky object features an underlying 3ds Max directional light, its behavior in the viewport is identical to that of other native directional lights. That is, for proper viewport shadowing, it is recommended that you raise the gizmo of the sky object above the scene, and pick a shadows radius that is large enough to cover your scene.

Thanks for watching!