Monday, November 4th, 2013 Posted by Jim Thacker

V-Ray 3.0 for 3ds Max now available in beta

V-Ray 3.0 improves overall rendering performance from 1.5 to 5 times – Chaos Group says a figure of 2 times is typical out of the box. Existing users can now sign up to test the beta version of the renderer.

Originally posted on 4 September 2013. Scroll down for updates.

Chaos Group has opened the beta program for V-Ray 3.0. Registered users can now sign up to try the latest update – which, from the sounds of it, is a very significant one indeed.

Power, performance and production-quality GPU rendering
As well as a sizeable performance boost and improved rendering algorithms and shaders, V-Ray 3.0 adds support for Alembic, OpenColorIO and deep data.

The UI has been overhauled, and new shaders should make the renderer play nicer in mixed software pipelines.

And, perhaps most significantly, there are a number of changes that improve V-Ray’s capabilities to tackle heavy production scenes, including a new final-quality progressive renderer, and the option to export render elements from V-Ray RT GPU, formerly intended only as a preview renderer.

Chaos Group describes the latter as the “final piece in the puzzle” of generating production-quality images on the GPU, and hints that – at least in the world of episodic TV – true GPU-based VFX are imminent.

Faster raytracing, better skin and hair, robust GI
Even from the sneak preview of the headline features, it was clear that V-Ray 3.0 was a sizeable update.

Brute force raytracing speed has been improved from 1.5 to 5 times via support for Intel’s Embree kernel. Shader improvements mean that raytracing performance when rendering hair rises 5 to 15 times.

Other shaders have been improved, too: the skin shader has been rewritten to make the controls more intuitive to new users, and there is a new raytraced subsurface scattering shader.

There is also a new vertex merging algorithm, a fast GI implementation that “combines bidirectional path tracing and progressive photon mapping”.

Support for open standards
V-Ray 3.0 also introduces support for a bunch of open standards, including the Imageworks-developed Alembic, Open Shading Language and OpenColorIO and OpenEXR 2.0 and its support for deep compositing data.

Coupled with V-Ray’s existing Ptex support, that pretty much covers every major open technology used in modern visual effects productions, with the exception of OpenVDB.

Workflow improvements
The UI has been overhauled to make it approachable to novices and power users alike, introducing togglable Basic, Advanced and Expert modes, to hide or expose the more advanced settings.

Chaos Group also says that it has ‘solved’ the problem of linear workflow by opting for “an Apple-esque workflow … where people are just going to be using it from now on”.

Better integration into heterogenous pipelines
For big studios, another significant workflow change will be the introduction of VRmats (formerly Vismats): a new set of universal shaders for use across multiple applications.

Their introduction should mean that shaders do not have to be rebuilt when, say, a 3ds Max-based VFX facility and a Maya-based studio collaborate on a project; but interoperability also extends to Rhino and SketchUp.

Chaos Group is currently developing software-independent standalone material editor. The developer also tells us that is working on making .vrmesh files and proxies similarly interoperable.

V-Ray 3.0’s new progressive renderer in action. The system is designed for final-quality output.

True GPU-based production rendering?
Last, but not least, there are a number of changes that affect the rendering of large production scenes.

There is a new progressive renderer, built on the same path tracing technology as V-Ray RT, but intended for final-quality output, and including support for distributed rendering.

And V-Ray RT GPU, formerly intended only as an interactive preview renderer, now gets the ability to spit out render elements, “open[ing] the door to final frame production rendering using the GPU”.

Not every element is supported – notably, AO is currently missing – but there seems to be enough functionality for a true GPU-based production pipeline: Chaos Group says that it is collaborating with a major effects facility (unnamed, but our money would be on Zoic) on a final-frame GPU-rendered TV show.

New website, new backend cloud technologies, new production program
Chaos Group has launched a smart new website,, intended to form a repository for all things V-Ray, including documentation and training materials, formerly scattered across several sites.

The developer is also working on V-Ray Cloud, a new backend technology intended as a “push-button solution to create cloud rendering services based on V-Ray”.

Early fruits of this initiative include, Exocortex’s promising attempt to put the power of desktop 3D packages in the cloud, which uses V-Ray as its rendering engine.

And finally, there is Partners in Art, a new-ish initiative to help produce and promote independent projects that use V-Ray, with support ranging from services in kind to actual financial backing.

Early beneficiaries include Miguel Ortega’s The Ningyo, featured on CG Channel earlier this year. Chaos Group says that while the number of projects it can support is currently limited, it is accepting applications directly.

Sign up to try V-Ray 3.0 now
Registered users can sign up to try V-Ray 3.0 now. The software is compatible with 3ds Max 2011 and above, and requires Windows XP or later.

There’s no commercial release date yet, but Chaos Group has announced the new price structure for V-Ray 3.0.

Licensing will be unified across applications, with a one licence and one render node costing $1,050 and extra render nodes $350 each, with discounts for bulk purchases.

Updated 6 September: The change in licensing policy has attracted flak from the V-Ray community, with users pointing out that while the new price point reduces the cost of a single 3ds Max or Maya licence, charging for render nodes significantly increases the cost of using V-Ray across a render farm.

This comments thread on Max Underground makes the point succinctly, and includes responses from Chaos Group CTO Vladimir Koylazov.

Updated 20 September: Chaos Group has posted an FAQ discussing the reasons for its change of pricing policy. You can find it in the Q&A tab on the V-Ray 3.0 beta page.

Updated 4 November: Chaos Group has released a new beta build of V-Ray 3.0 for 3ds Max.

New features include the option to exclude the local machine from distributed rendering, a raytraced mode for multiple scattering on the VRayFastSS2 material and support for Alembic 1.5 in VrayProxy.

Read a full list of new features in V-Ray 3.0 on the new website

Sign up to join the V-Ray 3.0 beta program