Design Visualization

Caustic Series2 PC Boards Accelerate Maya, 3ds Max

19 Dec, 2012 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson

At Autodesk University 2012, held in Las Vegas in late November, Imagination Technologies — a developer of multimedia and communications technologies — unveiled its new Caustic Series2 OpenRL PC boards, which accelerate Caustic Visualizer viewport plugins for Autodesk Maya and 3ds Max 3D modeling, rendering, and animation software. The hardware–software combination is designed to enable artists to identify and resolve potential problems within their final renders from the earliest stages of modeling. According to the company, this minimizes the need for time-consuming preview renders and radically streamlines the look development processs. For use on a professional workstation, the solution boosts the CPU power of a professional workstation by 2.5 times when running 3ds Max or Maya.

Alex Kelly, director of business development at Imagination Technologies, noted that the tools “are designed for conceptualization,” for users willing to trade frame rate for better rasterization. “Eventually we will replace the raster viewport,” he said.

The hardware-accelerated Caustic Visualizer plugins deliver what is said to be “the world's first fully interactive real-time ray tracer” to the viewports of the 3D design and animation packages. OpenRL-based ray tracing hardware and software technologies support a photorealistic working viewport that provides higher visual quality than is possible for a standard Maya, 3ds Max, or mental ray scene, including globally accurate lighting, reflections, and shadows, the company reports. Artists can identify and resolve potential problems within their final renders from the earliest stages of modeling, minimizing the need for time-consuming preview renders and radically streamlining the development process.

The Caustic Visualizer viewport renderer interactively updates and responds to all edits in 3ds Max and Maya, including geometry, lighting, and shading characteristics. Selected objects in the Maya viewport continue to have fully editable wireframes and manipulators overlaid on the real-time ray traced shaded preview.

Caustic's new viewport renderer provides realistic working views, including support for accurate reflections, soft shadows, diffuse reflections, bounced light, global illumination, and depth of field.

A Porsche 918 Spyder is rendered directly in the Maya viewport using Caustic Visualizer for Autodesk Maya 2013. The rendering incorporates mental ray materials, including mia car paint shaders, and image-based lighting.

The company describes four use-case scenarios for the products, including

  • shape modeling, for accurate reflections and shadows;
  • scene setting;
  • preview rendering;
  • and “casual rendering.”

The Caustic Series2 Open RL PC boards will be available for purchase in January 2013. The Caustic R2500 ($1,495) will target the latest high-end workstations, and the Caustic R2100 ($795) is intended for the wider range of midrange and higher workstations. Each Caustic board will ship with one Caustic Visualizer plugin. The software-only version of the Caustic Visualizer for Maya ($299 standard edition; $199 education edition), which delivers results identical to using the card but at one-third the speed, according to Kelly, also will be available for purchase in January.

The company is currently accepting preorders for the three products. The Caustic Visualizer for Maya 1.0 trial version for Maya 2012 and 2013 is available free until January 31, 2013. The production version of the 3ds Max Visualizer will be available in Q2 2013, with beta trials beginning in February.

About the Author: Nancy Spurling Johnson

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