Monday, January 7th, 2013 Posted by Jim Thacker

Eye candy: Juan Gonzalez’s Mandelbulb animation

SolidAngle’s Arnold renderer is moving out of stealth mode, as an impressive new indie technical test shows.

Freelance VFX artist Juan Gonzalez has posted a video showing a 250-million-particle Mandelbulb 3D fractal, generated in LightWave and rendered in Arnold 4.0 via Gonzalez’s own LWtoA plugin.

The particles are calculated at render time, so Arnold does the heavy lifting.

According to Gonazalez, the Mandelbulb object “is an Arnold procedural object, built at render time by Arnold using a .dll file. In LW, you can … animate its parameters or see the bounding box of the procedural [and] also light the scene or animate the camera, but Arnold only computes the particles while rendering”.

The depth of field was generated at render time in Arnold, with Fusion used for colour correction and vignetting.

Gonzalez averaged multiple rendered images to generate each frame of the composite: “I averaged eight images for each frame to avoid particle flickering, but this is a problem of the object, not the render itself.”

The LWtoA plugin, which is intended as a LightWave analogue of the official Arnold Maya and Softimage plugins, is a personal project, and will only become available when “Arnold [officially] leaves the closed beta state”.

Arnold moves out of stealth mode
Developed over a decade ago, Arnold has long been one of the VFX industry’s best-kept secrets.

The highly optimised brute force raytracer was adopted early by Sony Pictures Imageworks as its primary production renderer, and is now in use at studios including ILM, Digital Domain, Framestore and Digic Pictures.

Not that you would know it from the developer’s website. The SolidAngle homepage displays only the product logo and a contact link, through which you can sign up to test the software.

However, SolidAngle is beginning to promote Arnold more actively outside the major studios, and we know of several start-ups and small facilities using it.

And, on the evidence of Gonazalez’ latest video, even lone artists can get great results with it.

Read a thread about the Mandelbulb simulation on the Luxology forum
(includes a little more technical information)

Read Juan Gonzalez’ posts about the LWtoA on the NewTek forum
(Includes links to other demo videos)