Wednesday, May 5th, 2021 Posted by Jim Thacker

Isotropix ships Clarisse 5.0

Isotropix has released Clarisse 5.0, a major update to its layout, lighting and rendering software.

The update introduces a new unified architecture for the two versions of the software, making structural improvements developed for the high-performance edition, Clarisse Builder, available in Clarisse iFX.

Other major changes include a new USD exporter, new set dressing tools, a new Arnold-compatible standard material, and a ‘revolutionary’ new lighting engine, enabling any scene geometry to be used as a light.

The software’s ray tracing core has also been updated, with general ray traced renders now “up to 1.5x faster”, and larger speed boosts when rendering hair and volumes with multiple scattering.

The new features were announced earlier today during a livestream to mark Isotropix’s 10th anniversary.

A hybrid set dressing, look development and rendering tool
Combining features of conventional renderers, compositors and DCC tools, Clarisse is designed to enable artists to develop heavy production scenes while interacting continually with the final image.

First released in 2012, the software has quickly carved out a niche in high-end visual effects, and is now in use at a number of major facilities, including ILM and Double Negative.

Although initially described as a hybrid 2D/3D rendering system, the software also features well-developed toolsets for shot layout – particularly set dressing and object scattering – and look development.

Clarisse 5.0: new unified architecture for Clarisse iFX and Clarisse Builder
Under the hood, one of the key changes in Clarisse 5.0 is the new unified architecture, originally rolled out in the first beta builds in 2019, back when the release was codenamed ‘Clarisse Olympus’.

That makes the core architecture developed for Clarisse Builder, aimed at large studios handling very dense production scenes, available in Clarisse iFX, widely used by smaller studios and freelancers.

The new architecture brings with it a new scene engine and new image compositing engine, and should provide iFX users with some of the general performance improvements originally made in Builder.

It also enables binaries of the software to run either as Clarisse iFX or Clarisse Builder: both for the commercial versions, and for the free Personal Learning Edition.

Layout: orthographic views, camera overlays and a new graph editor
Changes to the shot layout tools – a development priority in Clarisse 5.0 – include the option to toggle between perspective and orthographic views to make it easier to lay out large scenes.

Artists can set view clipping planes to isolate their working area from surrounding geometry.

The update also introduces a set of new camera overlays, both to identify the safe frame borders, and as composition guides: readymade overlays include rule of thirds and the golden spiral.

Other changes include a new Graph Editor for adjusting the animation of characters and scene objects, adding new options for mass-editing and stretching keys, looping animation and baking animation curves.

New USD export round-trips scenes with other VFX tools, preserving Clarisse-specific features
However, the biggest change – for pipeline integration, at least – is the new USD exporter, making it possible to export scenes from Clarisse to other DCC software that supports the USD format, particularly Houdini.

As well as scene items, instances and animations, the export process preserves Clarisse-specific features like Scatterers and Combiners, making it easier to round trip scenes with other pipeline tools.

The export process also supports kitbashed assets that originate from multiple source USD or Alembic references, and preserves the links to those original references.

The USD importer added in Clarisse 4.0 has been updated, and now supports USD variants and purposes.

Look dev and materials: new Autodesk Standard Surface material and SSS engine
For look dev work, another key change in Clarisse 5.0 is a new standard material compatible with the Autodesk Standard Surface Material (ASSM) specification.

It should enable materials to display more consistently between Clarisse and other apps that support the spec, particularly Arnold: the new material is “attribute compatible” with the renderer’s own Standard Surface.

Isotropix describes is as “the fusion between the Disney principled material and the existing [Clarisse] standard surface”, replicating a wide range of real-world materials through a small set of control parameters.

The update also introduces a new subsurface scattering engine, making it possible to toggle between conventional random walk SSS and a faster, if less accurate, diffusion-based model.

In addition, handling of transmissive materials like glass has been overhauled, with support for thin-walled geometry removing the need to model both inner and outer surfaces of transparent objects explicitly.

Transmissive materials also now support internal light scattering; and come with more advanced controls for shadowing, including presets for physically accurate caustics and faster-rendering ‘pseudo-caustics’.

Lighting: ‘revolutionary’ new system of geometry lights and light-emitting materials
Another key feature in Clarisse 5.0 is the new geometry light system, which enables artists to turn any arbitrary geometry in a scene into a light.

Geometry lights provide the same controls as conventional 3D lights, but can have deformation, displacement or motion blur applied to them, and can even be scattered throughout a scene.

Isotropix describes the system as enabing the the software to “virtually render billions of textured lights”.

The technology was first previewed in 2018, and was originally due to ship in Clarisse 4.0, but was held back due to problems preserving both interactivity and render quality in complex production scenes.

It is complemented by Emission Importance Sampling (EIS), a new technique for resolving light emission from materials.

EIS is physically accurate, and is not confined to a special emissive material: it works with conventional materials like the Autodesk Standard Surface and Disney Principled material.

With it, artists can light scenes by making the materials used for objects like lamps emissive, rather than by placing conventional 3D lights – without the noise that this traditionally introduces into renders.

Isotropix describes the combination as a “revolution”, replacing conventional lighting techniques with a more intuitive new workflow that “blurs the line between look development and lighting”.

New AOV-specifid Light Path Expressions, and improved handling of area and IES lights
Changes to conventional lights in Clarisse 5.0 include new readymade Light Path Expressions (LPEs) for rendering the contribution of individual lights to a scene only in specific AOVs.

They are intended to simplify set-up of alternate light sets, or extra fill lights that can be adjusted in comp.

The update also adds new options to control the intensity and saturation of lights independently for direct and indirect light paths; and improves sampling of area lights and volume rendering of IES lights.

Rendering: new ray tracing core improves render performance, particularly for volumes
Clarisse 5.0 also introduces a new ray tracing core, which Isotropix claims makes general ray traced rendering “up to 1.5x faster”, and rendering of volumes with multiple scattering up to 3x faster.

In addition, a new hair engine makes rendering of hair and fur “up to 4x faster”.

Renders are now generated with current denoising workflows in mind: Clarisse can now use importance sampling instead of splatting for anti-aliasing, resulting in better results when using the OptiX denoiser.

Isotropix tells us that Angie, Clarisse’s upcoming hybrid CPU/GPU rendering engine will also feature the new ray tracing core and importance sampling system when it is released later this year.

Workflow: improved Attribute Editor and support for VFX Reference Platform 2020
Clarisse 5.0 also streamlines the software’s Attribute Editor, as shown in the video above.

In addition, users get more control over when the software stores render snapshots or re-evaluates a scene, reducing the need to wait for data to load after making edits.

The software also now supports the CY2020 spec for the VFX Reference Platform.

That makes it the latest VFX application to support Python 3.7, after Python 2 was deprecated last year, although the old Python 2.7 engine will continue to be supported through the entire 5.x release cycle.

New indie rental options for Clarisse iFX and new pricing for Clarisse Builder
Isotropix has also introduced new subscription options intended to respond to the “market need … for more flexibility” due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

Solo artists qualifying for the firm’s Indies pricing can now rent Clarisse iFX for 30 days for $59, and rent CNode – the GUI-free edition of the software for use on render nodes – for 30 days for $33, down from $99.

Freelancers and solo artists can also now rent five licences of CNode for $599/year.

In addition, users can now run CNode on any computer licenced with a Clarisse iFX for Indies licence – including ‘fair use’ on a second machine for perpetual licences – rather than consuming a CNode licence.

The price of Clarisse Builder has also fallen: perpetual floating licences now cost $6,599, down $900 on version 4.0; while one-year subscriptions cost $3,999, down $600/year.

Pricing and system requirements
Clarisse 5.0 is available for Windows 10, RHEL and CentOS 8+ Linux and macOS 10.12+.

For studios, a node-locked perpetual licence of Clarisse iFX 5.0 costs $2,299, while a perpetual floating licence costs $2,999. Rental of floating licences costs $1,549/year.

A perpetual floating licence of Clarisse Builder 5.0 costs $6,599; rental costs $3,999/year.

Additional perpetual floating licences of CNode cost $549; rental costs $379/year.

Solo artists can buy single perpetual node-locked licences of Clarisse iFX 5.0 for $999, or rent single node-locked licences for $499/year. See more rental and education options here.

There is also a free Personal Learning Edition (PLE) of the software for non-commercial use. It isn’t watermarked, but it’s resolution- and feature-limited, and partially export-disabled.

At the time of posting, Isotropix is offering users 10 free one-year floating CNode subscriptions with every new licence of Clarisse they buy. The offer runs until 31 December 2021.

Read more about the new features in Clarisse 5.0 on Isotropix’s website