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The Future is Progressive

The Future is Progressive

Click Render, go to bed.
Next morning it’s done aaaaaand...
Looks terrible. :(

Sound familiar?

With traditional rendering, you choose a resolution, set a bunch of quality settings, click 'render' and hope for the best. Huh oh, forgot to set your Ray Threshold down to .01 for final render? Start over.

MODO has roughly 1.6 gazillion render settings, and you can spend years learning the intricacies of each one interacts with the others to create a final render. I've spent many hours plumbing the depths of the MODO rendering system for solutions to various kinds of render problems, and I still run into problems with nearly every new project.

It's an insanely powerful system. But yikes.

Here's another common scenario: run a long render overnight, only to discover that some very specific part of the image has a ray recursion problem that grinds modo to a halt, so the next morning you come in to find a half-finished render that thinks it needs another 10,000 hours to complete. Sure, go ahead. I've got 10,000 hours to spare. (Looks at watch, leans forward.)


What if you could click Render and see the entire image resolve gradually. The longer you render, the better the image. No quality settings, no waiting to find out if you forgot to set the Anti-Aliasing Samples to match the Shading Rate. Just kick back and watch as the image gets better and better, on into infinity.

Lots of renderers work this way. Maxwell, for example. With Maxwell you just hit Render and watch it chug. It will keep going indefinitely, continually getting more and more accurate as time passes. A lot of people swear by Maxwell for exactly this reason. Sure, it's slow, but it saves me the trouble, trial, and error of working with dozens of complex render settings.

Little-known fact: MODO can do it too. In fact, I use it all the time, and it gives me incredible flexibility. These days I only use the so-called "production" renderer in MODO when I have no other choice (e.g. when using a render farm). Whenever possible I use progressive rendering.

  • No need to think. Just render.
  • Buckets never hang up on problematic areas, the whole image resolves at once.
  • The renderer works to fit my schedule, not the other way around.
  • If the client asks for a preview, I can just export the WIP render and let it keep cooking. Client gets immediate gratification, and I don't lose time running the same render on multiple machines.

There are downsides to progressive rendering in MODO, of course.

  • One machine at a time.
  • No render farm support.

Next time you need to run a render overnight, try progressive. You may find you get better results, and with less anxiety.

Set Up

To set up progressive rendering in MODO 902, just open a Preview viewport (any will do), and drag the slider at the bottom all the way to the right (100%). Viola! Progressive!

You'll also want to open the Preview settings to enable fur if applicable and, most likely, tick the box for "full resolution." 

I also recommend disabling Irradiance Caching for Global Illumination, since progressive will allow the GI calculations to be far more accurate over time if you use brute-force Monte Carlo. It will take a bit longer to clear up, but the results are worth it. And, if we're going for full-on Maxwellian Glory, you might go so far as to crank your GI bounces up to, say, 8 or so. (Maxwell uses more than this, but I find the visual improvement for values above 8 insignificant.)

Now just let 'er cook. When you're happy, save the image. I recommend 16-bit EXR for general use, but that's fodder for another article.

The Future

My sincere hope is that future versions of MODO may make progressive rendering easier and more scalable. (I have no insider info on this subject, this is pure wish-list stuff.) Procedural has gotten better with each recent release of MODO, so I have high hopes for the future.



Project Nurnie

Project Nurnie