Issue: Volume: 25 Issue: 12 (Dec 2002)

Brazil Rendering System

Splutterfish's 3ds max Renderer

Brazil r/s has been in development for a few years now, and anyone who uses Discreet's 3ds max regularly has probably downloaded a few of the public betas that Splutterfish has made available. Those early betas offered many 3ds max users their first taste of global illumination, a lighting technology that calculates how photons bounce around a room, and provides soft and realistic renders. The release version of Brazil offers not only global illumination, but a number of advanced shaders and additional technology that make it a formidable renderer.

Once installed, Brazil shows up as an additional renderer within max. It also has its own library of shaders, which appear in the materials editor, as well as its own light and camera objects. Overall, the interface is very max friendly. The software comes in two flavors—a workstation version that allows you to create and apply materials within max, and a renderfarm version that simply renders images with no authoring.

In addition to global illumination, Brazil can calculate the scattering of light within a room as well as the scattering of light through objects such as glass and water. Brazil can also calculate the scattering of light within a surface. Called subsurface scattering, this is terrific for materials that are only slightly transparent, such as marble, wax, and human skin.

Brazil is based on a replaceable plug-in-based client/server system. Its major components are handled through rollouts in the render dialog. The ray server controls raytracing, the luma server controls how light energy scatters throughout a scene, and the photon server gathers light for global illumination.

Brazil offers a variety of rendering options for 3ds max artists. Image courtesy Anatomical Travelogue.

Brazil can use standard max materials, but the best results are obtained using Brazil materials. The basic material is very similar to max's, but with added raytracing controls. It allows you to use most of the standard max shading algorithms, including Phong, Blinn, anistropic, and Oren-Nayar Blinn.

Brazil's advanced materials gives you a whole new palette of choices, including a Lambert shader, a Glow shader, and a semi-transparent shader dubbed Ghost. The Car Paint shader provides a nice way to calculate shiny surfaces, such as that of autos, which have paint that reflects from multiple levels of the surface. For a candy-coating effect, Brazil lets you specify different colors for each reflective layer. It also gives you the option of flakes within the paint for a sparkle paint effect. The wax shader is particularly noteworthy in that it allows you to calculate subsurface scattering. I also liked the Velvet shader, which has controls like edge fuzziness and back scattering.

These basic and advanced materials will probably suffice for most scenes, but Brazil offers a few more options. The glass shader gives you a way to quickly and accurately render glass with such features as gloss, dispersion, absorption, and caustics. The chrome metal shader again does fast reflections as well as caustics. Brazil also includes a robust toon shader.

Brazil has its own camera, which mimics real-world cameras. The camera supports depth of field and even allows you to match the f-stop of your real-world camera. Brazil's custom lights can mimic all the standard 3ds max lights, but also add the ability to create area lights. Unlike 3ds max's lights, Brazil's allow you to focus, and give you more robust options in calculating the falloff of a particular light source.

Of course, the test of a renderer is its final output. The images I created with Brazil were excellent and highly realistic. Not only that, but I found it fairly easy to get decent results the first time I used the product. This renderer produces highly realistic images and would be excellent for anyone doing photoreal work.

As for speed, Brazil is fast and productive. The architecture holds up well under a production load and seems efficient with memory. Splutterfish has several demos of scenes containing over a billion polygons rendered in Brazil on a fairly normal machine. Even global illumination was reasonably fast, and I could see using that feature in production.

In the past few years, global illumination has become a standard feature for most high-end renderers. While Brazil is a cool product, finding a place in a fairly crowded market might be difficult. For a new package, however, it has great quality and depth of features. Brazil is truly geared toward hard core production and would fill just about any animation, visualization, or visual effects studio's needs. ..

George Maestri is president of Rubberbug, a Los Angeles-based animation studio specializing in character animation.

Price: $1500, artist
bundle. $1000, renderfarm bundle.
Minimum System Requirements: Windows SE/2000/XP; 300MHz Pentium;
128MB of RAM

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