Comments by Mike Verta - ATeam member
Dear Users -
Maxwell RC 5 is slated for release on Tuesday, January 17th
- What's New?
Better than Beta?
- All materials in Maxwell are now more physically accurate than was possible in Beta. We also have a layered-shader implementation known as weightmapping, which will evolve into a traditional stacked-layer shading system, which allows us to achieve looks we weren't able to do before. Anti-aliasing has been improved. Caustics performance has been greatly improved.
Studio has seen improvements/additions and fixes far too numerous to mention, including additonal controls over Reflectance, Material Previews, interactivity, a working Camera Focus Ring (!) - point at an object and hit Auto Focus - and many others.
RC vs. 1.0
- We've seen some great renders done with the Beta version of Maxwell, but the truth is, whatever quality you get with the Beta now, is the best it will ever be with that engine. That's because the Beta engine (known as Rs1) and the original material set for Maxwell, had some insurmountable limitations, only some of which are well-known.
For this reason, a new advanced materials model, and a new rendering engine were devised. This next-generation engine is known as Rs2, and it made a brief appearance first in some eye-popping renders, and then in an early RC release. Almost immediately, Rs2 was promptly sent to its room and told not to come out until it's ready. But the advanced materials were allowed to stay, and work commenced on producing an interim engine that can take advantage of the improvements in materials while Rs2 development continues.
The result is the engine Rs1+, which is what you'll be getting with RC 5. Like its predecessor, Rs+1 has some limitations which Rs2 does not, though thanks to the new materials, outperforms Beta in some crucial areas. Certain situations, like the now infamous "sun+glass" scenario will work under specific circumstances, and not in others. Only Rs2 can handle every such situation without compromise, though a solution for Rs1+ is being researched as we speak. As a user, your choice to continue using your Beta engine, or RC 5 will depend heavily on your specific need.
For example, if your scene has mostly diffuses, metals, plastics and some glass pieces, you'll most likely want to use RC 5, but if you need Sub-Surface Scattering (SSS) you'll want to use Beta, because SSS has been temporarily disabled in RC 5. If your scene is a glass building, lit by the sun, with a 100km ground plane, seen from outside and needs extensive use of clipmaps, neither Beta nor RC 5 will be appropriate yet; you'll want to stay with your current solution.
Eventually, both Rs2 and Rs1+ will be available as render options for Maxwell. Rs1+ is still a robust and powerful engine that will actually outperform Rs2 in some simpler scenarios, while Rs2 will excel at more complex setups. They compliment each other perfectly, and the user will have the freedom and flexibility to choose whichever engine fits their specific project best.
It's Been 7 Months Since "Beta" Was Released. What Have You Been Doing All This Time?!!
- It's important to remember that RC 5 is just a milestone on the journey to 1.0. A great many features and improvements will be implemented before its release, such that it is anticipated to outperform Beta in every way. RC 5 has not been optimized heavily for speed or noise reduction, but because of its new material set, may in fact render your scene more accurately, more cleanly, and faster than Beta.
The Road Ahead
- In some ways, the RC process looks like it's playing "catch-up" to Beta, when in fact it's seeding the future of Maxwell development. A lot of people don't know that the Beta was 3 years in testing and programming. In order to go beyond the limitations of Beta, the team had nearly to start over with the new material model, and has managed to compress 3 years of development into a few short months. Add to that the simultaneous development of Rs2, and an entirely new stand-alone application - Studio - and you've got a tremendous amount of progress happening for current and future users of the Maxwell Renderer.
- NL's product development priorities are:
Because plug-in development relies largely on having a fixed set of features, not all platforms are equally developed. Currently, Max users will have the most seamless connection, and users of Maya - like me - C4D, etc., will most likely want to export raw geometry and do materials in Studio. But I'm surprised how closely my current scenes render even when exported with the current plug-in. Rest assured, plug-in development is a huge priority.
- * Core Rendering Engine
It is important not to underestimate the value of Studio as a stand-alone interface to Maxwell, however. Even now, features like its unique Focus Ring may be difficult or impossible to replicate in a host application. And what's more, the presence of Studio allows users on a much wider variety of platforms to enjoy Maxwell, as well as gives us all a common ground from which to share work, materials, and settings.
Mike's Personal Impression
- Those of us on A-Team have been testing as much as we possibly can, and now it's your turn. While we're working on versions of Maxwell past RC 5, you can help by doing just what you've done with Beta - using it. Find its strengths and weaknesses. You're one of the most vocal and passionate userbases ever seen; turn your energies towards the future and we will all benefit.
Maxwell RC 5 has plenty of quirks. A lot of them are known, and despite our wishes to have every last one hammered out before any release, it's just not fair to have you guys wait any more. We're dealing with the hiccups just fine, and getting plenty of renders out, so you can too.
- Personally, I'm done with Beta. The "look" of Beta is totally there in RC 5, and better in a lot of cases because of the improved light propogation and anti-aliasing. I don't use SSS very often, and the "hot topic" limitations scenarios just don't seem to come up in my work very often. Plus, I don't use Maxwell in my professional pipeline yet, and probably won't until 1.0. I wish the Maya plug-in was further along, but honestly, I'm working in Studio just fine for now. It's not holding up my process.
I found out that having an Undo function is a big deal. I'm not a programmer, so I was sure this was a pretty basic function. It's not. Studio in RC 5 has no undo. Save As is your friend, that's all I have to say about that.
I'm a speed hog; I wish RC 5 was faster. But truth is, I can't even get half the look of Maxwell in my current engine without tons and tons of render tests, tweaks, etc., so it seems to work out about even.
Most importantly, for me, Maxwell is fun again. Watching the guys improve the product daily, and watching them overcome challenge after challenege has given me confidence that it's truly just a matter of time. They hunt problems down like Terminators, and find solutions efficiently, with quiet confidence. The ongoing development of Rs2 and all its potential for the future keeps me optimistic, and happy to be the part of what I believe is truly a pioneering effort.
As you may or may not know, I do not work for Next Limit. I'm niether a developer, an officer, nor their public-relations department. I'm just a user, but I feel excited enough about Maxwell to place myself in the firing line, and I think that faith will be vindicated in time. I hope with RC 5 you find some of that faith as well.
Either way, I will be here, answering as many questions and providing as much information as I can. I'm happy to help you with material settings, working with Studio, or anything else you need. Just hit me up.
Keep the Faith,