Thursday, August 16th, 2012 Posted by Jim Thacker

Imagination unveils Caustic Visualizer for Maya

Updated 7 July 2014: Since this story was posted, Caustic Visualizer for Maya has been discontinued.

Imagination Technologies has unveiled Caustic Visualizer: a new interactive viewport rendering plugin for Maya, developed using the PowerVR Brazil SDK.

Caustic Visualizer viewports display progressively refined raytraced renders of Maya scenes, while objects within those scenes remain fully editable.

The plugin supports most standard rendering features, including GI, DoF and soft shadows; and “all major parameters” of the mental ray mia, car paint and metallic paint shaders.

“Will do for rendering what ZBrush did for modelling”
According to beta tester Gavin Greenwalt of Straightface Studios: “Interactive raytracing will do for rendering what ZBrush did for modelling. I’ve tested and tried just about every preview tool that’s been released; Caustic Visualizer for Maya is the first solution that I can actually use in production.”

“It is so rapid I can leave the raytraced view open all the time now, which has revolutionized my workflow. I can’t imagine going back to trial and error now.”

First in a series of releases
Caustic Visualizer for Maya is the first in a planned series of releases based on PowerVR Brazil: a new SDK based on the technology behind the now-defunct Brazil r/s renderer.

Imagination technologies is working on a 3ds Max release of Caustic Visualizer, due out later this year. The SDK has also been used independently to create the Neon plugin for Rhino.

Caustic Visualizer for Maya is available now in open beta for Maya 2013.

Imagination Technologies, a leading multimedia technologies company, announces its ground-breaking Caustic Visualizer™ viewport plug-in for Autodesk® Maya® 2013*. Imagination will be demonstrating Caustic Visualizer’s highly interactive full-frame performance on the new PowerVR low-power ray tracing hardware reference platform.

Imagination’s Caustic Visualizer family revolutionizes the performance and functionality of the interactive visual look development process by making ray-traced photorealistic rendering, from the start, an integral part of the content creation work flow.

Caustic Visualizer is built entirely on the Imagination PowerVR OpenRL platform. Through OpenRL’s highly optimized CPU implementation, Caustic Visualizer can deliver an interactive photorealistic viewport experience on a CPU-only desktop that was previously only possible in competitive solutions based on expensive quad-GPU hardware configurations.

Furthermore, when coupled with OpenRL running on the new PowerVR ray-tracing hardware reference platform, Caustic’s Visualizer software can deliver true full-frame (1024×1024) resolution imagery up to 15 photorealistic frames per second, without the need to de-res the image or add significant noise during interaction.

Inside Caustic Visualizer
Caustic Visualizer gives artists a new way to interact with content created in Maya, using an interactive, fully ray traced viewport, complete with accurate global illumination, shadows and reflections. By providing users with high-quality real time visual feedback from the earliest stages of modelling, potential issues with the look of a scene can be identified and resolved much earlier in production, minimizing the need for time-consuming preview renders.

Developed using Imagination’s PowerVR™ Brazil SDK and fully utilizing Imagination’s PowerVR OpenRL™ ray-tracing API, Caustic Visualizer plug-ins are designed to offer complete platform independence – so no matter what operating system or hardware configuration an artist uses, these plug-ins will provide a consistent, high quality, easy to use interface and workflow.

Caustic Visualizer for Maya 2013 is now available to users as a free download via the company’s open beta program.

Leading ISV partners are also developing plug-ins for popular tools using the PowerVR Brazil SDK. Robert McNeel & Associates, which is developing the Neon plug-in for its popular Rhinoceros® product, has already seen unprecedented interest for the Neon beta plug-in, thanks to the performance of the OpenRL and Brazil SDKs.

Key features of the Caustic Visualizer Maya plug-in include:

  • High-Quality Visual Feedback
    Caustic Visualizer for Maya provides an interactive, fully ray traced viewport complete with soft shadows and diffuse reflections, enabling artists to view their scenes with an unprecedented degree of visual fidelity.
  • Versatile Material Set-Ups
    The plug-in supports Maya’s Hypershade render nodes and mental ray® shader nodes.
  • Geometry Independence
    Caustic Visualizer supports a full range of standard scene geometry types, including polygons, NURBS and subdivision surfaces.
  • Lighting Flexibility
    The plug-in is compatible with Maya’s Point, Spot, Directional and Area Light types, providing complete flexibility when creating lighting set-ups.

Continues Greenwalt: “Caustic Visualizer for Maya’s interactivity eliminates the guess work that has always hampered CG lighting. Now I’m free to explore new ideas and variations as fast as I can imagine them. It’s an instant classic.”

The beta version of Caustic’s Visualizer for Maya is available now for Maya 2013 64-bit and may be downloaded for free from the Caustic Professional website.

Read more about Caustic Visualizer
(Includes download link)

Full disclosure: in my other life as a freelance writer, I helped draft the Caustic Visualizer press release.
CG Channel and the Gnomon School of Visual Effects have no connection with Imagination Technologies.