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Topics - spr0ckets

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Corona Renderer for ARCHICAD - general / More test renders
« on: 2020-04-21, 19:21:39 »
I realize development of the plugin has been suspended, but I thought I'd post a few more images of some more tests I've been able to run on the plugin thanks to the pandemic lockdown in place and the extra time its afforded, as well as some thoughts (in case they're useful further down the road).
I really really love this plugin and it's sad that development has been frozen, as it shows such an incredible amount of promise and potential as well as robustness for being an alpha version build.













Hard to believe that these are straight from the ArchiCAD 3D window.
Just point and shoot, and no intermediary or third-party post-processing software (other than the screen-grab from the ArchiCAD interface) necessary.
All renders between 1.5 to 4 hrs rendertime (depending on when I did them and how much time I had available to let it run. Most of them were mostly resolved after half an hour of cooking)



Thoughts.

1) As you can see, I made use of some (relatively) heavy polycount objects and entourage, which the program was able to handle only becauseI used them in limited fashion (and this is a small project/ house). However I was nonetheless impressed with the plugin's ability to handle and render them well and still manage memory in a relatively stable manner, as well as translating the geometry pretty well. Any artifacts or facetting is purely on the ArchiCAD's side and end of things due to its limitations (And my reluctance to convert most of these objects into morphs which would have allowed smoothing (at the cost of more polys).

2) You might already be aware that the interface (The VFB and the Corona render dialog) are still somewhat buggy. Whenever I went back to the plan to make a change and then went back to the 3D window, the settings would revert to some default values and I would lose all my previous settings. There's a relatively easy workaround with the VFB (just save your presets and re-load them when the settings reset) but the render dialog unfortunately has to be re-set manually.
At this stage I prefer to use the VFB as it allows adjustment of post-processing on the fly as the render is running to get a better final output.
Also, the same bug occurred when saving custom image view settings in ArchiCAD's navigator window.
It's not too unmanageable but if development ever gets picked up again I would hope this would be something that will be looked at.

3) I absolutely love the addition of the (new) Corona Light object as it allows for more control and more options (As with shape) and accurate light settings.
My only suggestion would be to add an option to use IES files with the Corona light as well (rather than using the ArchiCAD general light that accommodates the IES light files), as once again, I prefer using the Corona light over the ArchiCAD lights (even with IES files that I love using). For one thing, controlling the light direction is much easier with Corona light interactively in the 3D window rather than through a dialog.

4) The HDRI and environment issue I had with the previous build is now gone and I can use different HDRI's to light the scene and act as the background, respectively, without getting crashes as before (Thanks, Alex) - even though, I'm inclined to believe that was an issue more on the ArchiCAD side of things rather than the Corona side, as a lot of crashed and instabilities I was experiencing disappeared after Graphisoft released some hotfixes (service packs) for their various program versions.

Finally, even if you guys end up being unable to continue development of the plugin, I just wanted to share my appreciation for all the work you've put into it and into the general Corona project thus far.
You're all a model of professionalism, INSANELY crazy skill, and a pleasure to work with all around, and I hope all the best for everything you have planned going forward.
It's really been a great pleasure testing and using this plugin, and I really wanted all of you to know that for all the dedication and work you've put into it.



2
Here are a bunch of test renders I did for a project we're working on and submitting for permit and I wanted to compare how the output directly from ArchiCAD using the Corona plugin was to the same project rendered through Corona in 3ds Max was, and to basically show just how not that far apart they are in terms of usability and productivity.

The ArchiCAD renders using the Corona alpha plugin (each took between 15-20 minutes on an Intel Core i7-50H (9th Gen) Laptop with 16GB Mem):-







....and here are the 3ds Max versions (Rendered with Corona's v5 version), with assets and entourage using proxies and Forestpack for grass.











...and this is a previous version of the project also done in 3ds Max but with Corona v3 (so that should let you know how long ago it was.







Overall, I would say that this plugin is not that far from being production ready, and with just a few tweaks and additions it could easily fit into any office's workflow and pipeline with the least effort even on the learning part.
The obvious suggestions would be getting the proxy solution for large geometry objects and entourage like plants and 3d people, and an in-built scatter solution that can allow for grass (A big deal for architects and designers. Don't ask) and plant and tree scatter capabilities (in conjunction with the proxy files).

As for some notable issues, I did have a problem with the background, HDRI usage in some cases.
Choosing to use a separate HDRI or background image as an override (while using Corona/ArchiCAD sky and sun to light the scene) quite a few times caused a crash in ArchiCAD.
Also some HDRI's that worked fine in 3ds Max weren't showing at all in the ArchiCAD plugin or would show wrong. I'm not really sure what the issue there was. And I still think there might be a discrepancy between the color mapping currently in ArchiCAD's Corona plugin and how it shows in 3ds Max. Hard to describe exactly, but there was some more tweaking necessary to get the images to look as close as possible to how they would render in the 3ds Max version. Perhaps it was just a LUT/Gamma setting in 3ds Max (which we obviously don't have on the ArchiCAD side, but honestly I don't believe that would be the issue).
Lastly, the ability to transfer materials or use a common material library (with at least a basic template) in ArchiCAD would be a big plus - as materials are the only other current drawback of the plugin in its alpha state.

But overall I would say this is pretty close as one can get to a production-ready solution for the first draft.

Great work, guys!
Keep it up, and really looking forward to the next release and to see what's ahead.

3
Okay this is a two-part request, of issues that are partially related, and which admittedly might be fixed or somewhat sorted by the next Alpha build release.


The first is the ability to have the renderer autosave (either the cxr orimage file format) at pre-selected intervals or pass numbers (whichever option you choose to render by) for the renders that take really long time, and also to pre-empt any crashes or program freezes by ArchiCAD itself.
Since cxr files can be reloaded and the renders resumed, this would be an invaluable feature for those mornings you wake up and find that the computer crashed or froze when it had about 30 minutes let to go to complete the render and you've lost everything.
I believe Maxwell renderer had this feature and ability and it saved my bacon on more than a few occasions.

The second (which is the one I think might have been sorted), is the ability to save the final result as cxr from the ArchiCAD save as dialog when you render straight through the ArchiCAD render setting rather than Corona's VFB.
Currently the only way to render the image and keep the pre-selected image size and aspect ratio is through the ArchiCAD render dialog and not the VFB which either distorts the image for images that have ArchiCAD's 2-point perspective turned on or with which you have to stretch the window and "guess" the image size.

Naturally I would prefer to do the render straight from Corona's VFB since that gives me all the options and benefits of Corona with the interactive adjustmens of tone-mapping and whatnot and also saving out render elements as separate layers, Lightmix and most importantly saving as CXR which allows on to continue to edit the image in Corona's image editor.
But until the 2-point camera perspective issue and the image size issue is sorted, we have to render through ArchiCAD's dialog to keep the same image size, but that does't give you the option to save as CXR (Which I assume would them allow me to access the render element layers from Corona's image editor).

It's possible one or both of these issues have been sorted out already in which case disregard, but otherwise they would be greatly helpful - especially for a progressive renderer like Corona.

Oh, and one other thing:-

In 3ds Max it's possible to clone the VFB image into a 3ds Max image buffer and that's also useful in a lot of ways that people use the renders.
I'm not sure if this ability would be possible with Corona's VFB onto an ArchiCAD 'image tab' but that would also be useful particuarly if the VFB issues I mentioned above were fixed, but also in helping evaluate changes between different settings as we're working along.
This one might be more complicated  I admit, but if there's any possibility it would be greatly useful

4
Okay so I've done a few tests with the plugin so far and I have quite a number of thoughts, request and suggestions, so I decided to group them all in one thread instead of splitting into separate threads.
I hope this isn't a problem or an issue and if so, let me know and I'll split them up.
I placed them into sub-categories to help organize my thinking.

Cameras : -

- I don't know if this is a bug or just a feature to be added or resolved later on, but Corona doesn't seem to recognise ArchiCAD's "camera-straightening" (2 point perspective option) command to straighten views, and a fix for this would be great. (unless  I missed the setting somewhere in which case disregard this)
Alternatively, you could go the 3ds Max route and way of doing this by making camera-straightening a value or checkbox you select of click in the Corona render-settings panel under "Camera" (like the 3ds Max Camera modifier that allows you to do this)

- Somewhat related to that, the ability of the VFB or render window to stick to the image size settings in the ArchiCAD's render settings panel to keep the size consistent with the ArchiCAD 3d Window if we need to composite the Corona render with a Sketch render, for example.
At least, the ability to lock the image aspect ratio to be the same or linked to ArchiCAD's value and to stick that way.
I don't know if this is related to the camera specifically, but I just stuck it here.

- I don't know if this one would be possible in this version of the plugin but the ability to hide objects or make objects invisible to the camera in Corona through a value in the object setting or a render-panel setting, would also be immensely useful.
In 3ds Max it's in the object's properties where you make it invisible to GI, I believe. A similar-type capability in ArchiCAD would also be useful in some situations.


Lights:-

- IES files and values for Corona lights or at least the ability to control the light geometry values ( radius of light spread, etc)

- Portal light option particularly for the rectangular light option to use in Windows  or openings (if this speeds up renders instead of using environment lighting)

- Grouping Lights to allow control as a single element in the LightMix option so we don't end up with 100 lights to turn on or off.
How this would work is a bit hard to explain now since ArchiCAD does not have instancing of objects like 3DS Max (not that that helps there either), buteven if we set it that if we grouped a bunch of lights they show up as a single element in the LightMix set-out, that in itself would be a HUGE help in controlling the light(s).


Materials:-

- A copy/paste capability to copy material values from the material tabs (like reflection/refraction/bump etc from the glass material) to paste on other materials

- Possibility of an AO (Ambient Occlusion)  material to select or create in the material editor and use in the Render Elements set-out for post-processing.
It could also work in the same way as the Material over-ride setting to render as a separate image if the Render Elements option isn't viable.

I thought of Wire or Edge Texture material too, but this one isn't as important since it's possible to just composite with a sketch render from ArchiCAD's sketch-renderer.
However the ability to composite a Wire-render in Corona's image editor can't be discounted either.

- Material Wizard that allows one to build materials from scratch from a template of basic commonly used architectural materials (Metal/Wood/Concrete/Painted surface/Glass/Emitter/ <- could be more and each has a sub-category like for example, "Wood" would have "matte" or "Glossy", Floor tiles, etc just like the Corona Library in 3ds Max) and then adjust the individual values from there to fit the scene materials).

Alternatively instead of building from scratch select an ArchiCAD material - either from the ArchiCAD library or one you had built before - and have the option to replace the Corona values with a material from the Material wizard template but keeping the textures and maps. mapping values and sizes, etc. (so choose ArchiCAD floor material -> select "Wood" Template from the Material wizard with basic template of floor tiles, and it replaces the reflection values for glossy or mat floors, and the option to replace the diffuse texture and bump/displacement values or keep the basic maps you had).

This would allow a lot of customization and flexibility while leaning on pre-selected core values that keep the output result very professional looking, instead of the
stereotypical 'amateur renderer CGI repeated mapping' look.



General Settings :-

- I don't know why ArchiCAD itself doesn't have this capability in any of it's render engine options, but the ability to shoot off a batch render and set of views to render in sequence (while you go to sleep or go for lunch or coffee) would be great.
It could work through the ArchiCAD's View Map where you select views and save them with the render settings (including image size, environment settings and whatnot) and then you could just specify where to save the rendered views when each is done.
Super-useful.

- I haven't had the opportunity to test it with proxies, but I'd be curios to find out if it's possible to work with proxies and proxy files created in another program (3ds Max)

Otherwise this is a great job so far guys.
It performs as expected; is surprisingly stable (for an "alpha" version); very versatile with tons of room for potential and growth.
I haven't had any issues so far, with quite a few bunch of tests done, (fingers-crossed/ knock on wood) and  I can't commend you guys enough.

If I get any other ideas or thoughts or issues, I will post later.

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