One of the more interesting demos online at the moment is the OTOY Octane 3.0 demo. The demo was launched at SIGGRAPH, but the full version is only now about to get into the hands of artists.
The demo itself is really worth exploring for 2 reasons. Firstly, it shows the new Octane 3 renderer interactively rendering a set of possible scenes including a wavelength dependent scattering render of smoke. The second reason is that the whole demo runs remotely in your browser. The whole of Octane 3 is streamed to you so even on your old Mac Powerbook, you get the fastest GPU going.
Unlike some demo software that one needs to download, when you go to OTOY’s web site and click on the Octane 3 Demo it opens up a pipe between your computer and a virtual computer on the cloud. Your laptop does nothing much other than display the results, the entire UI and all the rendering is interactive but it is all happening somewhere else in the world.
At the moment the servers are distributed globally allowing fast access from almost anywhere from Australia to Russia, currently only South America and Africa are not fully covered.
A while ago OTOY came up with the plan to allow you to have a virtual PC on the net. The idea being that as individuals we could have a virtual PC and upload and run anything as if it was local. This proved not as popular as allowing OTOY to provide a developer service and allow any maker of software to have their product on the cloud.
In reality, OTOY is most keen to offer its own products on the X.IO service, and Octane is the perfect option. Of course one could download Octane and run it on your computer with say C4D or any other number of products from Nuke to Houdini, Motionbuilder to Maya. The renderer is a GPU production renderer that can be used for VFX to VR. It also supports offline baking tool chains for game engines such as Unreal Engine and Unity, heck there is even a Photoshop plugin…but these standalone applications or versions of Octane all run on your local GPU – the demo is a pipe to your own virtual PC or Mac with the world’s latest GPU.
The demo version and (very soon) the full OctaneRender 3 itself will run via the cloud. This is not a renderfarm option – although that third option is completely available and supported. The online version sits between a standalone or plugin renderer on your PC and a cloud render farm version. With this interactive renderer everything including the menus are happening offsite and yet you are seeing all of the power of the Octane 3 – Deep Pixel/ Deep Comp support, full spectral rendering, volumetric rendering, etc are all there, and when you have the scene looking as you want, as it is already in the cloud – just render the scene via the cloud renderfarm.
The actual product is powerful as it is a fully spectral renderer – allowing the correct scattering of light based on wavelengths. In Octane 3’s case the wavelength of visual light is evaluated over 8 segments, and this provides great material such as gold as well as volumetric scattering and SSS. Octane has always been built from the ground up to be a full raytraced spectrally correct renderer. The new version also has very nice participating media for the entire space you are in, prior to this version that needed to be modelled and added, but a lot of such things are easier in version 3 of Octane. The system now supports OpenSL and Open VDB.
Already Octane has had “10s of thousands of demo sessions,” explained Otoy founder Jules Urbach. “It’s been a great thing for us to have people easily experience on the net before even having to download it onto their own computer. The whole thing has gone really well for us, people all over the world have been using it.”
The bottleneck for any such virtual PC would normally be the assets. After all, many people have faster download than upload. To solve this OTOY offers links to 4 major data cloud storage facilities. This is because the underlying cloud storage bridge is all coming from X.IO. Using Otoy’s X.IO you load your assets to your existing Dropbox, Box, Google Drive or OneDrive account. The Octane 3 is then ‘file’ accessing to material already in the net, already on the cloud and just displaying the interactive renders to your browser. From what fxguide understands Google Drive is on the faster end of the spectrum and Dropbox towards the slower end, but this is very geographically specific to your location. The drive access is not heavy, as the program is designed to load the assets into the GPU memory anyway.
If the connection fails or you kill the browser window, everything – completely everything – other than what you have stored in your own cloud file storage is deleted. There is no chance of someone accidentally finding your renders or even a single texture file. This does make the initial session a tad longer to start up, but security of assets on the net is a major concern to many users.
The Octane 3 Demo shows the responsiveness of the virtual PC which is effectively one major GPU piped to you, in addition to that the cloud render farm is as powerful you need it to be. (By the way the Octane Renderer demo is on a timer, so the demo will close after 5 minutes right now).
The approach is of interest to many companies, not least of all is Autodesk. While Autodesk does not currently run their aps on the OTOY system, the company has invested in OTOY and clearly it sees this approach as one possible model to explore – perhaps the ultimate extension to their current subscription model. Imagine if Flame could run on the fast GPUs from any tablet or laptop you had, with no need for massive local storage or serious GPU configuration issues.
Autodesk is not the only application provider talking to OTOY, the company is exploring roles and plugins with many companies including Adobe. While these companies are perhaps obvious business partners, OTOY has also recently partnered with Jon Stewart and HBO for an undisclosed project said to be spanning at least 4 years, commenting only that “In his first project for HBO, Stewart will view current events through his unique prism. Working with the pioneering cloud graphics company OTOY Inc., he is developing new technology that will allow him to produce timely short-form digital content, which will be refreshed on HBO NOW multiple times throughout the day.”
OTOY is also a leading company in the VR area as we have covered here before, especially in the developing area of Ligthfield technology and the Octane 3 renderer is specially suited and developed to support very high end – cutting edge VR rendering projects, for example it is moving double the size of their spherical cube maps to 24K to deal with 4K VR screens coming out next year. X.IO takes care from all back-end and OTOY will be providing more with more from Octane but then also Brigade and ORBX viewer with light field support. There will also be more seamless integration between Octane and Brigade with the OpenSL support.
OctaneRender 3 also introduces the new version of the ORBX media format which the company first introduced in OctaneRender 1.5 to enable rock-solid exchanging of scenes, materials, lighting and more. The new ORBX media format performs a similar function for rendered output, beyond Open-EXR, with support for movies, audio, spectral render caching, light field caching, baked FBX caching, complete compositing and deep pixel metadata, and navigable scene controls without the need of sophisticated real-time engines. OTOY’s founder Jules Urbach believes this will be a critical authoring format for VR and AR applications. He also points out that “Octane 3 is huge for VR anyway, the baking in Octane by the way is awesome – it is super fast, super good, we are really targeting integrating that nicely into Unity and Unreal – and I think that is going to really change how people develop VR games.”
OctaneRender currently supports 21 third-party applications through plugins, enabling seamless GPU-based, unbiased rendering in the most popular 2D and 3D graphics applications. As before, there are OctaneRender plugins for The Foundry’s NUKE, Side Effects Software’s Houdini and Autodesk’s MotionBuilder are currently in broad public betas and are set to be released shortly. Plugins for Adobe After Effects and Adobe Photoshop will follow shortly afterward, followed by a plugin for Pixologic’s Zbrush, the company outlined.
All of the scene above, including the background, was rendered in OctaneRender 2.0 with Motion Blur.