Next Limit’s Maxwell Render has always adopted a physically correct approach in delivering photorealistic scenes. Now with version 3 released, the unbiased renderer has now unleashed several new features. We take a look at some of the main upgrades.

Sun radius examples. Image credit: Mihai Iliuta
Sun radius examples in Maxwell Render V3. Image credit: Mihai Iliuta. Click image to enlarge.

Maxwell Render V3 includes a ‘Custom Sun Radius’ to provide for dramatic sun effects. The company says there is now also a physically correct approach in Maxwell for controlling shadow softness via the sun radius or distant emitters with parallel shadows.

Maxwell emitters now have the ability to project light by using any bitmap or a procedural texture. “Supporting them with point lights (as in traditional renders) is straightforward,” admits Cañada, “but due it's physically based approach Maxwell just admits real emitters with non zero area so implementing them while keeping correctness was more tricky.”

A further new addition is the presence of a Subdivision modifier which implements Pixar’s subdivision modes to subdivide low-polygonal objects into smooth surfaces. “It's a full implementation of the HBR part of OpenSubdiv,” says Juan Cañada, the Head of Maxwell Render Technology. “We have tested with the tests included in Pixar's package and also many models provided by our testers. OpenSubdiv is still young and has some limitations but having a common framework between all the CG applications will bring a lot of advantages to users, that is why we have decided to move to it.”

Image credits: Credits : Tom Rusteberg (www.wanderplay.com) (truck model and shading) and Mihai Iliuta (render).
SubD example in Maxwell Render V3. Image credits: Credits : Tom Rusteberg (www.wanderplay.com) (truck model and shading) and Mihai Iliuta (render).

Of course, Next Limit’s other key product is RealFlow, and Maxwell V3 integrates even more closely with the fluid sim software. “First,” outlines Cañada, “particle rendering with motion blur is much faster than before. Second, we have updated to the latest version of the RealFlow render toolkit, which is embedded in the Maxwell engine. Third, we have moved part of the surface generation algorithms of RealFlow to Maxwell so now you can create sea surfaces in a couple of clicks within Maxwell plugins. And fourth, RealFlow already has Maxwell inside (it works in interactive mode in the RealFlow viewport) and in their next version they will update to v3.”

Version 3 of the renderer is also able to provide ‘deep images’ in which both color and depth information per pixel is stored. Depth information can be stored in either .EXR or .DTEX formats, in rgba or alpha.

Above: see the new deep images features in Maxwell V3.

Full list of new Maxwell Render features in V3

Volumetrics: Participating media (fog, dust etc)

Lenses: Spherical - great for making HDR environments or virtual walk-throughs, Fish Eye, Pinhole (creates no depth of field effect), Cylindrical, Orthographic

New lens support in Maxwell Render V3. Image credit: Mihai Iliuta
New lens support in Maxwell Render V3. Image credit: Mihai Iliuta

Procedural textures: A collection of procedural textures that can be used alone or in combination with other textures to produce a range of effects. Being mathematical fractals, they are 100% seamless, customizable and cross-platform.

Back-faced materials: Separate materials can now be applied to the back-face of a polygon surface - making it much easier to create bottle labels, translucent paper, or add more variation to leaves etc.

Materials Assistant: Maxwell materials assistant is a new, easy to use material editor which builds the basic material characterisitcs for you - leaving you with a simple selection of parameters (applicable to that material type) to tweak by eye.

Image projectors: Emitters in Maxwell can now project light using any bitmap (or even a procedural texture!), much the same as a slide projector projects an image onto a canvas.

Deep compositing: Maxwell Render 3 can now render in "deep image" format, which stores color as well as depth information per pixel, making it much easier to composite rendered objects together as well as eliminating troublesome edge artifacts. You can save the deep info in either .EXR or .DTEX formats, in rgba or alpha.

Alembic support

Improved volumetrics tools. Image credit Mihai Iliuta.
Improved volumetrics tools. Image credit Mihai Iliuta.

Subdivision surfaces (Pixar Open subdiv): The Subdivision modifier implements Pixar's subdivision modes to subdivide low-polygonal objects into smooth surfaces. The main advantage of using this modifier is that you can keep your MXS scenes light, and thus they will open faster, take up less space on your hard drive and also transfer faster over your network (for coop render jobs).

Clone Scatter tool: The Maxwell Scatter extension allows you to distribute instances of an object across the surface of another object randomly, while providing control over the random distribution. The object may even be an MXS Reference.

Custom alphas: A long awaited feature, now you can create unlimited "layers" of alphas and add any object(s) to those layers letting you isolate exactly the objects you need.

Exclusive emitters: Customizable illumination for individual objects in a scene

Fast, full screen, Multilight display (GPU accelerated)

Fire (render preview): smart/faster voxelisation (only has to revoxelise the area of scene where changes have occurred, making the preview immediate)

Render booleans: An objects bounding box/sphere/plane can now be used as a "cutting" object, which works in a similar way to the cameras Z-clip feature, except now you are no longer limited to the cameras near/far planes.

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Want to know more about Maxwell Render and RealFlow from NextLimit? See fxguide's new iBook - From Sim to Render: The Next Limit Story available for free to download.

Custom sun radius: The sun in Maxwell's physical sky system is now customizable in size and color allowing for dramatic sun effects, as well as introducing a physically correct approach to controlling shadow softness (via sun radius) or distant emitters with parallel shadows.

Maxwell Sea: Maxwell Sea creates realistic ocean surfaces and waves based on the Ocean Statistical Spectrum from RealFlow. It takes various environmental parameters into account, such as water depth and surface dimensions to produce a convincing water surface from swimming pools to open ocean. The meshing is only done at render time, meaning it takes up almost no extra space in the .MXS file.

Object opacity: You can adjust the overall opacity of an object using this parameter, regardless of what material is applied to it. It can be applied at Object level (affecting all the materials applied to it) or at Group level (affecting all the objects included).

Improved Motion blur: Speed/acceleration in slow scene

OpenEXR 2.0 and half float support


Find out more at Next Limit’s special Maxwell Render V3 site: www.maxwellrender.com/V3/


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