3D Render Engines for iClone: Choosing The Best (Part 2)

Comparison of Omniverse, Unreal Engine 5, and Maya V-Ray for 3D Real-time Animation

V-Ray for Maya

This tutorial is going to be carried out with V-Ray for Maya. Keep in mind that although the program works in a similar way in some applications, in others it does not. The common factor is the high price of the one-year license. If you have never used Maya or a similar advanced 3D program before, be warned that the barrier to entry can be prohibitive, with a high price tag. 

We are going to import the iClone animation into Maya to use V-Ray. This time, just select the scene elements, go to the File menu and select the Export menu to save the file in FBX format.

A floating window will appear in which we will have to select the Maya 3D preset from the different presets. Then make sure to export all the frames and click on the Export button.

Export an iClone project to V-Ray (image credit: José Tijerín)

To import the FBX file into the scene, we can drag it directly into the program or we can go to the File menu and look for the Import button to find the file on the computer. As long as we don’t separate the FBX file from the folder with the rest of the textures, the model will be imported together with the materials and textures. Unfortunately, we will have to recreate all the materials so that they are all V-Ray materials and appear correctly in the render. However, in order not to repeat what I already explained in the tutorial I talked about at the beginning, I’m going to skip all the creation of the character’s materials.

I’ll just remind you of the basics of rendering the scene. If we click on the Render Settings button, a floating window will appear. In it we will have to configure the animation parameters, the size of the frames, the type of samples to be used by V-Ray (which is in the Bucket option) and finally we will have to add the Denoiser element to eliminate the pixel noise that may arise.

V-Ray render settings (image credit: José Tijerín)

Detailed Comparison of Three Render Engines

The Denoiser in V-Ray does a spectacular job, you can easily turn it on and off in the Frame Buffer window by going to the Layers menu. The rendering with V-Ray is without a doubt the one that offers the most polished result. The lighting has an incredible quality and softness and V-Ray’s handling of complex materials is also completely realistic, like the way in which light passes through honey in the glass jars. It should be noted that, unlike the previous programs which are free, Maya and V-Ray are priced.

We get a decent result in Omniverse, but it does not distribute the light as well as in the previous case. However, if we use Omniverse’s photo-realistic render, the result is quite good. Unreal gives a rather poor result which we can manage to improve with some tricks and effects. 

Comparison of 3 render engines (image credit: José Tijerín)

Continuing with the comparisons, it is clear that a big drag on V-Ray and other rendering engines is the time taken to render each frame with pixel noise removed. Thanks to V-Ray’s default Denoiser, this only takes 18 minutes.  It has to be said that this not only affects the final result but also the workflow. When working on 3D scenes, it is really useful to see the results in real-time. This can help us to spot errors, save time checking how the render is coming along, or even allow us to be more creative.

Comparison of render engines (image credit: José Tijerín)

As for fluid simulations, apart from Unreal which can only use particle effects, both Maya and Omniverse give perfect results, however, the winning edge goes to Omniverse. Unlike the tediousness of working with Maya’s fluid simulations, and the dearth of options in Unreal, Omniverse allows you to edit the simulations in an accurate, intuitive, and hassle-free manner.

Comparison of 3 render engines (image credit: José Tijerín)

We can also compare the performance of the Denoiser in the different renders. In this case we also have to leave Unreal aside, because Lumen uses a completely different system. In this detail of a larger 4K render we can clearly see how both V-Ray and Omniverse denoiser does an excellent job.

Without de-noise, V-Ray renders still hold up with a more polished result and less noticeable noise, yet in Omniverse, the noise becomes less uniform and is noticeable in the overall image. Omniverse gives the best result when Denoiser is enabled across all renderers. It has to be said that the 10 minutes it takes for V-Ray to render the scene is a big hit to its advantage in this department compared to Omniverse’s near instantaneous solution.

Comparison of 3 render engines (image credit: José Tijerín)

Personal Opinions

I will end by giving my personal opinions as a professional who uses these programmes. 

These comparisons may be more or less accurate and I have no doubt that, at the rate these engines are evolving, this tutorial will probably be outdated in a short time. However, I hope that it has clarified your doubts and shown you new possibilities to enhance your work.

V-Ray for Maya: Powerful for Large Productions

V-Ray is a very powerful render engine that is used for all kinds of big productions, but that stands out above all for offering a hyper-realistic solution in both lighting and materials, which can be configured to achieve really complex results. It does a fantastic job with integrating computer generated imagery with live-footage. V-Ray is well-prepared to deal with really challenging scenes such as forests and cities, giving a superb and hyper-realistic result. This engine comes at a significant cost, but it can be installed on a large number of 3D programs, including Unreal Engine itself.

image credit: Marvel

Omniverse: Fast and Easy for Collaborative Workflow

Omniverse is a tool that is becoming essential for productions with tight deadlines. In my case, jobs that used to take days to render, I can now deliver with Omniverse on the same day. The fact that it is free and very easy to learn to use also makes it the best engine to start learning 3D and get good results from day one. Although it is new, the programme is constantly being updated, adding new functions and possibilities for free, which indicates that it is a programme with a lot of potential and a great future. These updates have made it the program that works best with Character Creator and iClone.

Having a direct link between both programs allows us to work better, without worrying about the compatibility between formats and materials, so we save a lot of time. So it is highly recommended to bring our characters and animations to Omniverse if we want to get amazing results in a short time. 

The biggest problem with Omniverse is that it is not as flexible as other programs. This is because it was designed to work closely with other programs. It is better to create and assemble the scenario in another program and then export it to Omniverse. Fortunately this is easy given NVIDIA’s facilities for importing work, for example, directly from Maya. 

This makes it even more advisable to work in Omniverse together with Character Creator and iCone, so that both complement each other and benefit from each other’s advantages. Many of the difficulties I encounter when rendering in the program could be solved if the program included, in addition to progressive rendering, a Bucket system like V-Ray; Something I hope they will incorporate in the future. The rendering problems that can be found in the program can be avoided, although it is advisable to always render at a higher resolution than the one we need to get a higher quality image.

image credit: NVIDIA Omniverse

Unreal Engine 5: Made for Video Games

Unreal Engine 5 Lumen and Nanite systems have revolutionized the world of real-time graphics. There are now film productions using this software in real-time because of its versatility and turn-around. The way it works with iClone in real-time is arguably what makes Reallusion the best choice for animating any production using Unreal. And this also applies to the world of video games, for which Character Creator and iClone have been designed from the ground up.

Working with iClone and Unreal Engine at the same time saves a lot of time and trouble, allowing us to be more creative. It’s great that even textures and materials can be passed to Unreal seamlessly, giving an amazing result. Metahumans can also be animated in iClone with the same degree of realism thanks to its incredible graphics allowing the scenes to translate well to other render engines. Having taken into account various important factors of production, I believe Reallusion presently has the best solution for giving life to digital characters.

If you are thinking of making a hyper-realistic video game, even as a beginner, this is the program for you. Not only because it is free and easy to use thanks to its node-based system, but also because of the ease of use with other programs and the great number of tutorials and features that it has to offer.

If that wasn’t enough, we can finish by saying that in recent times several of the main video game developers are developing their most impressive titles in this programme. Learning to use it can facilitate access to these studios or, at very least, come close to the quality of these blockbusters. 

image credit: Unreal Engine

I hope you like and enjoyed this tutorial. Remember to watch the video so you don’t miss any detail in the process that was covered here. Don’t forget to visit Reallusion for more online video tutorials and go to Steam to add “Dear Althea” to your wishlist.

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