156 hours of rendering…gone!

156 hours of rendering…gone!

My latest image was busy rendering – estimated to take a whopping 156 hours to render (after the initial radiosity pass) that is 6 ½ days! I was using Vue 9 (64-bit) as a render engine. Bryce 7 wouldn’t handle the file (over 2.5Gb big) and it is limited to 32-bit address space so it can’t use all my 8Gb of memory! The render started last Tuesday and when I checked last night at 11pm there was only 4 hours left and a thin strip remained to complete, so I went to be happy in anticipation for the results for the next morning.

So this morning (it is now a full week later) I got up all excited and instead of being greeted by a completed render, I was greeted by the Windows 7 welcome screen! My PC had rebooted in the night, and 156-hours solid of rendering was gone! Even Vue’s famous “Resume Render” function didn’t work becuase the machine had simply shut down!

Needless to say I was more than slightly irritated…I was furious! What caused this reboot? It certainly wasn’t a powercut. I have a nice little UPS that will keep my system going for a couple of hours should the power go down.

Then a little notification popped up that revealed the guilty party. Windows ***ing Updater! By default it seems Windows 7 updates regularly and reboots the system once the update is complete!

After much cursing andsmashing my forehead into the keyboard, I discovered how to prevent this potentially disasterous occurance from happening every time Microsoft patches its operating system! This will work with any version of Windows 7 – Professional and above. It might even work with XP.

  1. Click the Windows 7 orb
  2. Type “gpedit.msc” in the Search field to find and start the Group Policy Editor
  3. Go to Local Computer Policy -> Computer Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> Windows Components -> Windows Update
  4. Double-click on “No auto-restart for scheduled Automatic Update installation”
  5. Enable it!
  6. Reboot the computer

In Vue I also set the Rendering to render to a file rather than the screen and to backup the render file very hour. I will report back next week – at the same time – with the results of my looonnnggg render!

[After this posting I recieved a note from David Brinnen informed me that Bryce can be made to see more than the default 2Gb limit for memory. Techpowerup has a link to a little utility “LargeAddressAware” that can allow Bryce to have a 3Gb limit – Thanks David]

Speed up preview rendering…

Speed up preview rendering…

Any user of Bryce with common sense will tell you that the “nano preview” postage stamp isn’t worth a damn! It is too small to see any meaningful detail in it, and you cannot really use it for the “tweak-check-tweak-check” method that most of us use when using Bryce, especially with big files.

Add a HDRI file for lighting or switch on “soft shadows” and then you will see your render times jump from minutes into hours. (or days) A bristlecone pine’s growth now becomes fast compared to Bryce’s rendering speed!

I often use the Light Lab’s Render Options and change the settings in the drop-down menu (that appear when you click on the small white arrow below the Preview Window) and change it to “Render in Scene” to see how my file will look. The preview is double the size of the useless Nano-preview in the Main Editing Window, but you still have to jump back and forth between the Main Editor Window and the Light Lab, and if you have Bryce 7, then prepare yourself of random crashes when you jump between Labs too quickly!

But with the frustrations of using Bryce 7 (a good, but still a Beta product in my mind and opinion) I have discovered a useful little trick that allow you to reduce the render time of your main window to handle quick tweaks.

Take  look at a normal render time…36 Minutes! (Time to leave the computer room and go make some coffee, or do some washing or take an afternoon powernap!)

You would have to wait 36 minutes each time you move a light or an object. By switching off the Textures in the render, the render time is reduced.

You can switch on the Fast Preview mode too. This will show you a more complete picture sooner rather than rendering line for line.

The rendering speed is reduced considerably from 36 minutes down to 1 minute 15 seconds! You sacrifice the rendering of textures, but when you are tweaking and changing settings back and forth, time is important, textures are not! Later when you have set your lighting and atmospheric settings just right, you can switch the textures on again for the final renders.

The discovery of this little setting certainly has done my impatient nature a ton of good!

Keep on Brycin’

Speed up preview rendering…

Bryce 7 – What Vue 8 should try to be like…

Passion is the singlemost word that best describes a Bryce enthusiast, and judging by the comments on this blog and the e-mails that I have received it on part 1 of my latest posting “Vue 8 – What Bryce 7 should have been…” it seems that that passion is still alive and living.

I have been with Bryce since the beginning, when it first was ported over to Windows back in 1997. It was as unstable as a Klingon female with PMS, slow as molasses, but it gave me access to the world of the 3D artist, and it was fun, and it still is fun!

So consider my previous posting as the lecherous fantasies of an old married pensioner: His wife is no longer the attractive, energetic girl he married, but is now a weathered old woman, wrinkled and somewhat slow and saggy in places, but she is a familiar comfort to him. It doesn’t disqualify him from looking at the young, flirtaceous models that pass him by in the streets. They look very pretty and remind him of a time long ago when he was attractive and active himself, but his thoughts always return to the familiar and faithful woman at his side!

Bryce is that faithful old woman – slow and saggy in places but still fun!

The program begs one to play and click and drag and use all manner of key-combos to discover “Easter Eggs” hidden in its musty old code. Take the “new” particle emitter for one. Pretty and exciting and hidden! From what I read up on various forums, the particle emitter has been there for a while but never “activated” – what a shame!

But be that as it may. Bryce still has a lot going for it. Price for one thing! The new version cost me less than $10 for the upgrade – complements of DAZ3D’s generousity, some forgotten vouchers and my Platinum Club.

Now look at Vue 8: Getting a good package like Esprit or Complete and you will get a fair amount of models included in the “Extras Disk”, some Atmospheres, Materials, and some Trees and Plants.  When you scroll through your oodles of Trees, for instance in Vue and choose one, the chances are you will be greeted by a message from Cornucopia3D (e-On ‘s store) saying that the tree you want has to be purchased from the Cornucopia Store.

When I encountered this for the first time (and being a faithful DAZ3D store frequenter) I proceeded to go to the store and see what the cost would be. Shock and horror. $14.95 for one tree!

OK, I thought, if a tree is expensive then perhaps I could create one from scratch using Vue’s tools. Sorry, you can tweak existing trees, but you cannot create one from scratch and what’s more you cannot export that “updated tree” into the SolidGrowth format. There are no tools for creating SolidGrowth pants from scratch inside Vue.

This is where Bryce (I should rather say DAZ3D) leaves Vue choking on its dust. Bryce and its library of extras is cheap enough to be accessible  to the hobbyist, the freelancer, the kid with the computer, the cashstrapped pensioner. The extra libraries are not expensive. I see whole forests (25 different trees) selling for under $7.00. Of course everybody has turn a profit, but e-On is way too expensive for me!

The other niggle I have with Vue is its poor support of OpenGL 2.1-capable video cards. If you have an NVidia graphics card you will have no problem, but if you dare to use a ATI graphics card (anything under a Radeon 4000 series) you are up the creek without a paddle! You will have to deactivate most of the OpenGL hardware settings like “background draw” and “antialiasing”  to prevent the program crashing and fall back to software OpenGL rendering. When I checked on the various Vue forums I see that this issue has been around since Vue 4 Esprit! That is an awfully long time to cut out 25% of the world’s desktop graphic cards.

So my flirting with Vue hasn’t been without its caveats. Vue 8 might be pretty and fast and oh-so-friendly, but she is a high maintenance model and can break your wallet with a wave of her expensively manicured hand!

Speed up preview rendering…

Vue 8 – what Bryce 7 should have been…

I feel completely unashamed to say that I have been looking at another 3D package other than my beloved (perhaps that should be in the past tense) Bryce. I have been looking at Vue 8 (formerly Vue Esprit and now available in 11 different versions/packages) and I am impressed with what I see. In a nutshell the title of this posting says it all… “Vue 8 – what Bryce 7 *should* have been”.

Working in my “real” life I run the computer centre for the students of the medical faculty of a big university in South Africa. Medical students have a lot to do with anatomy and detailed data about human physiology. Running a computer centre means that I have access to wonderful programs used in the training of the medical students. Poser is one of them – as an example. The university provides a mechanism for me to look at and *play* with all sorts of toys and that is where I encountered Vue 8.

Vue 8 looks and acts a lot like Bryce. As an example the user interface:

Definitely some simarlarities! I admit, I disliked the Vue interface at first. I have been with Bryce now since Bryce 3D – too long! But now, after a couple of weeks of actually using the program, I have to confess that I enjoy it very, very much. The only way to describe Bryce’s interface is “a kid’s box of toys”. You always have fun with it and play with it, but Vue’s workflow is better and I can get the effect I want far more easily. The visual feedback is far better than the incessant guesswork you are subjected to, with Bryce. Have you ever tried to see what is really going on in the nano-preview and when you finally resign yourself to the “watching paint dry” render time, you are often disappointed by the disparity between the postage stamp preview and the final render…

But what about the plop render of Bryce, I hear you say? Sorry, Vue 8 has it too in the “Render Selected Area” option, and Bryce’s “Spray-can” rendering tool is just a useless gimmick that doesn’t deserve the space in the code it gets!!

What about Poser imports? (my favourite use combining Bryce and Poser.)

Bryce is royal pain when importing Poser .pz3 files, (even with DAZ Studio 3) and the old tried-and-tested .OBJ import is equally traumatic and is responsible for more crashes and “out of memory” errors than any other problem on my computer. Over the years I have developed tricks and tweaks to get me through the process but still, the whole process remains a drag…

I found that Vue imports Poser 4 files directly and doesn’t require any re-texturing. It even recognizes some of Poser’s older  .bum bump maps. Simple and painless! The imported figures appear almost exactly as they appeared in Poser, and you can send the file back and forth between Poser and Vue to tweak poses and setting! This is a real winner for me!

But now after singing Vue’s praises and making my good name in the Bryce community mud, I have to deal a hard knockout blow to Vue – it’s price!

At worst – Bryce 7 Pro  will cost you $99.95 – that is with no sale discount, Platinum Club discount and no upgrade discount, and DAZ3D are going out of their way to make Bryce 7 accessible to anyone, so I don’t know if I am being fair here regarding the price!

Choosing the Vue product that is closest to Bryce 7 Pro is difficult but I would have to settle with Vue 8 Esprit, although this product is sadly lacking in some “essential modules” like Botanica (equivalent in some degree to Bryce 7’s TreeLab) LightVue (equivalent to Bryce’s Light Lab – but on steroids!) and HyperVue (Bryce’s answer is Bryce Lightning)

Vue 8 Esprit goes for $199.00, and if you want the next step up with the TreeLab/LightLab/Bryce Lightning functionality you are looking at a hefty $399.00! This puts this product out of the reach of most gifted amateurs like myself! Very, very expensive! Translate that into South African currency and you are looking at R2900.00, a third of my monthly salary!

So I will have to save and count my pennies very carefully before jumping ship to Vue 8, while at the same time rueing the fact that Bryce 7 Pro should have been what Vue has been since version 4 and earlier!

I just have to pluck up courage and return the Vue install CD to its rightful owner and return to Bryce somehow!

Speed up preview rendering…

Sculptris – intuitive 3d sculpting software?

[Update: Thanks to Rosemary Regan, for the heads-up on the latest news about Sculptris. It seems Sculptris has been taken under the ZBrush wing:  “…an Alpha version of Sculptris for Windows – a unique, very ‘cool’ artistic modeling application still in raw baby stage and now incubating at Pixologic HQ. The current version, formerly known as Sculptris 1.02, will be renamed under Pixologic banner as Sculptris Alpha 5.

Sculptris is the brainchild of the bright programmer Tomas Pettersson. Sculptris has captured the hearts of artists with its fun, intuitive and user-friendly interface – indeed a perfectly sweet companion to our big monster ZBrush! Tomas will be moving to California, from Sweden, to join the Pixologic team.”]

Many times I have been asked why I prefer to use the Bryce software in preference to something like Carrara for instance or even something open source and free like Blender.

My answer is rather uninspiring – I guess. It is certainly not the cheapness of the software. Bryce 6 is cheap compared to something like Vue 8, and not as cheap as Blender. (inside joke)

Nor is it the features of the software: Bryce 6  is somewhat sparse – these days – on some basic features like displacement mapping and ambient occlusion, making use of multiple CPUs or 64-bit support, and it is as slow as molasses when rendering, and cannot currently see more than 2Gb of RAM to work with – hugely frustrating!

It is its intuitiveness that makes the program shine for me. Ever since Bryce 3D (the first version of Bryce I ever used) I have been able to work easily with the software without fighting the interface, searching for obscure functions and getting the program to mimic the creative flow in my own brain! A program must work with me, I don’t want to read through a 500-page online help PDF to find out how the change the reflection value of an object. It must be there – easily found – and not buried 3 or 4 levels down in a requester with no visual feedback and lots of numbers to type in. (remember I never got past Grade 9 in math)

That is what Bryce does for me. It works with me! It doesn’t fight me! That is what software should work. Imagine for a moment using a computer mouse that didn’t mimic your hand’s motion on a flat surface. Clicking on a single button would be a taxing, tiring waste of time.

At this moment that is what Blender, Vue 8 (which I could never afford), and Carrara are to me. They are a heavyweight wrestler in my ring. They don’t belong there.

[Confession time: I bought Carrara when it was fresh in DAZ 3D’s growing arsenal of 3D tools. I even had a copy of its early predecessor Ray Dream Studio on my computer at one time. I bought Carrara 6, installed it went one round with it in the wrestling ring, trying to read the manual and gave up. When a free version 7 upgrade was offered to me by DAZ3D, I took it – why I don’t know – and it was stored on a DVD backup somewhere and forgotten – I simply didn’t have the time or the resources to learn this new and difficult bit of software.

This was in contrast to Bryce – I could still get the aged software to go in the direction I wanted it to go, and although I might not have all the wonderful tools and “bells & whistles” offered by other programs, I could spend an hour or so a week and make progress with my art projects. Often an hour was all I could manage – remembering that art is my hobby – something to do in my spare time when the demands of being an IT Manager, the father of a child with a relatively severe learning disability, and a devoted husband.]

I like modelling in 3D, and Bryce doesn’t model, so I have to resort to other software. Hexagon works OK, but it is crash prone and more unstable than Amy Winehouse on crystal meth, and it doesn’t do what zBrush does at $600 a hit!

Now I am looking at a new product I strayed across in one of the Blender forums – Sculptris – its main feature is dynamic mesh tesselation that will provide additional detail where necessary, without the you needing to worry about it. (one way to kill your PC with Hexagon to to subdivide or smooth your mesh one step to far)  and that fact alone makes it definitely worth a look. One comment from a user on the Blender forum was: “This is what the sculpt tool in blender should have been like…” (Hmm, didn’t even know Blender had a sculpt tool!)

Sculptris is an early Alpha version, and weighs in as a 1.7Mb installer (yes, you read correctly – not even 2 Mb!) It works only on Windows at the moment, but has been reported as being able to run in Linus via WINE.

Give it a try. I am impressed so far and am getting to grips with its somewhat different interface.