King of Da Hill.... Maxwell vs everyone else

For a while now, I have rendered with pretty much every package. Achieving some very realistic results… with any rendering package it all about knowing which tools get what to get you the result that you are looking for.

As with any tool, be it 3D modeler or render, every time you go from one package to the next you have to restart, thought much easier than when you knew nothing at all. It just a matter of finding out what this program calls a loft the other program might call it a Bi-rail.

Along comes Maxwell, universal adapter to pretty much every 3D program that is worth its salt, with more to come. And I dare say that anyone who looks through the gallery of what others have done (and its still only Beta) have not had their eyes pop out.

Not saying that Maxwell is any easier to get into than any other render, it just seems like the potential for what the end result can be seems leaps and bounds above what the current standard is.


I like nice renderings but have to admit I often wonder if too much emphasis isn’t placed on them. Most people can’t tell the difference. Certainly not my clients.

I like nice renderings but have to admit I often wonder if too much emphasis isn’t placed on them. Most people can’t tell the difference. Certainly not my clients.

I agree. I think that very realistic renderings are great, they are just not needed for most product design. I think it has way more potential for the 3DS Max (and many others) animation guys to use.

However with that said. I think it is great to try and built some kind of universal tool in design. There are way to many programs that people use to do the exact same thing. Once a company gets stuck on something and pay to have everyone learn it, to then change the software is a big deal. Where I work I have a couple guys on using Corel, me using Illustrator, and even a guy using Freehand. Needless to say we are all doing the same thing but we just cannot merge without problems. It is especially hard for people new to the industry and trying to find the right job. It basically goes “where do I want to work and what software do they use” I will then learn that, but what if they dont hire you, or you change firms in a year? Then you can either find other firms that use the same software, learn new software that does the same thing the original one does, or be lucky and find a firm that will get you trained on their software. Which if you think about it is a complete waste of time and money, for all parties. If I paid for school and have knowledge of Rhino in my small brain, and my firm uses Solidworks, what benefit is there? Am I just wasting brainpower holding that information… would I use it later? Probably not because my brain would turn into thinking with Solidworks lingo and eventually forget all the Rhino lingo.

And by the way calling the same function something else in different software is just plain rude.

…Anyway, yes I think Maxwell is a good thing so yeay for them.

I think it is great to try and built some kind of universal tool in design

If you have time (and today I have too much time as I wait for a contract to arrive), you might enjoy this:

I had hopes of just that sort of universal 3D format last Fall after talking to a former high-level PTC programmer. Not so hopeful anymore as he’s busy with the business he sold to IBM. Maybe someday.

This is something I don’t quite get. Designers get paid, and take great passion in, reinventing the wheel, coming up with their own variation on a chair or cutlery or what have you, stuff that the world empirically has no need for yet one more. But of course we persist.

Why would any designer expect the people who design software to not have the same sort of motivation–making software isn’t yet a “science,” we’re decades or centuries away from that, it’s a black art-- that they’re all going to get together and come up with one ‘universal’ format and let that be the end of it, let alone a universal ‘design tool?’ This ain’t word processing. It’s simply not going to happen unless one product becomes so dominant that it becomes a de facto standard(which is the case in certain markets,) and that wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing(see AutoCAD.)

Looking for a ‘standard’ is really asking the wrong question, that’s not the problem with how to exploit all this 3D stuff, I think it’s more basic, just what DO you do with it?

The person who contacted me has the credentials. He’s also now a multi-millionaire from the sale of his software company to IBM, so money wasn’t his motivation. In fact, the project he contacted me about was to be an open source modeler. That would spur adoption. It would take time, but this has to start somewhere.

CSVEN: would have to agree, in maybe regards, to the fact that such a high priority has been placed on “Photo realistic” renderings. How much is ever placed on “Hey have you seen the latest manufacturing program, it kicks arse?” But, and I think you would agree, there are two sides to design (maybe more depending on who you’re talking to)… there is the creation side of it and the selling side. Not to make what we as designers do sound trivial by any means, but the fact show that when we create something it has to be manufactured as well as sold. And the marketing/sales force could really care less about the fact that the molded injected plastic part that we are trying to make needs a 3* draft. They want to be able to walk out that door with something in hand (i.e. latest power point or marketing packet) that they can show to the potential client that this is what we want you to invest in or sell in your show rooms.

Now a days pretty much everyone can pick up a rendering package, give it the ole college try and get back some decent results.

JimC5: The head on the nail was definitely hit, “This ain’t word processing.” when it comes to these 3D modelers. But then I think the question begs to be asked, what would happen if we had a UI that took advantage of the best of what all of these programs have to offer?

The refresher: I think, in regards to your question about “if I learn one program and I screwed for not knowing the other?” I think the answer is becoming less and less no. If only because it is really only been the last 10, maybe 15 years that we have had access to this much 3D in the design field. Not that there weren’t any before, just cost was such a factor $$$ wise that you weren’t seeing studios with 2 or 3 different programs. In the design industry there are what, 4 programs that dominate Alias, Rhino, Solid works, and Pro/E. I think the longest learning curve in any of these programs in when you first learn it, not in the transfer of it. Once you know how to model, you can pretty much model across the board on any program, it’s just a matter of associating what you know already as one tool and transferring that over to the new program. (Of course it’s not a 1to1, but it’s a much easier curve that starting fresh)

I mean how is transferring from one program any different than, if me as a designer who has been doing watches for the past 5 years switches over to doing cars or sneakers or house wares? It’s you as the designer, who has been trained to, IMO, goes into any situation and adapt to its surroundings.

I don’t want any of you guys to think that I am on some high horse or anything; to me this is just a dialogue that we are having.

Absolutely. But the difference between a Mental Ray and a Maxwell is tough to tell. I think we’re at a level where we can step back and be happy with the selling side (until, that is, we have to start doing animations - see this WC entry to see what I mean: ). The creation side could use some work imo.

But then I think the question begs to be asked, what would happen if we had a UI that took advantage of the best of what all of these programs have to offer?

What that guy I mentioned proposed I’d never considered and probably would said was improbable. But he was pretty nonchalent about it. What he described was a modeler that merged 3D polygon modeling and regular parametric modeling. When he told me, ideas for how I would use it poured out and I outlined a whole set of functionalities that I wanted that his modeler would allow.

It can (apparently) be done. And when I checked out his background, I was as impressed as I’ve ever been with someone’s credentials.

But to Jim’s point, there are good reasons it doesn’t at this point. It really does take a very specific set of circumstances to get it kicked off.

I agree that the Maxwell renders are beautiful, but unless they have made some serious progress with new beta versions the render times are equally as astronomical. I can’t wait hours for single renderings on a daily basis.

Some of the earlier render times were the same as a RP machine would take to print out a 3D model.

I disagree on the impact of really good renderings. I’ve been using Photoworks for years, and it puts out decent stuff, but it’s clearly still computer generated, even to a casual eye. I’ve recently started using Maxwell, and it’s photographic. Normal people are astonished when you tell them it’s a rendering. With a good room environment and accurate textures, I can easily pass it off as product photography. In fact, that’s what I’m starting to do. We spend thousands of dollars having furniture photographed- I can replace a lot of that with renderings now.

It is slow, but it’s still a lot faster and cheaper than having prototypes built in Asia and airfreighted over. I’m not using a particularly fast machine (Dell M70 laptop), and I can get a good image in 2-3 hours. Granted, that’s at least 6 times slower than Photoworks, but my setup and tweaking time is much less with Maxwell. The product has its flaws, but I’m pretty happy with it so far. If I build a dedicated fast rendering machine, I will be even happier.

Maybe I could get 90% of the quality using Vray or something, but everything I’ve seen makes it look like the workflow between that and SW would be very cumbersome, and I also can’t afford the tweaking time and learning curve. I was adequately proficient in Maxwell after a day or two of playing around, and the images are stunning right out of the box. More than once I’ve spent an entire day dicking with Photoworks settings and test renders trying to dial in a complex scene.

I’ve been using Vray and it seems to produce even higher quality than Maxwell can, less grain in the final shots.

But that said, producing photorealistic renderings became an obsession of mine and I’ve been able to produce things that are unreal compared to other built in renderers, but that quality comes at a price.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to simplify renderings or convert them to black and white because the realism overwhelms the client. They see this thing that looks like a finished, fully manufactured product and assume that the design process has ended. If they don’t like what they’re looking at, it’s hard to convince them that you can still make changes.

One tool that I’ve had to start using for 3D Studio is called Illustrate! which converts renderings into vector art or cartoon like images. It is great for dumbing things down on initial presentations and I would recommend it to anyone in a similar situation.

My understanding was that the comparisons were between Maxwell and those others producing “very realistic results”. Mental Ray. Brazil. VRay. Renderman. aso. I’d not put any of the renderers that ship with CAD products in that category.

I also think mmjohns point is well made.

When it comes to render time, unless you have a farm, time decrease will not be happening anytime soon. I think we would all agree that 'Quality to render" Time is some what relative in each and every program. And that is something that would be interesting to see. Create the same geometry and throw it at the different packages and see what the net result would be.

Could we then begin to find out who the king is? Would that be a fair comparison? (i.e. same material, lights, and rendering time) If all things created equal I think we could argue both sides.

If you say yes, that would lead to that side saying “how else can one truly measure the differences unless all is equal?”

If you say no, that might lead that side to saying “what is a light in my program, your program treats differently and there for cannot be equal.”

Lastly, and I guess just to bring it back to the beginning, lets say that all packages can get to the same level, imo, Maxwell still edges them all out if only because it is a universal plug in.

The problem is Maxwell is still essentially in a Beta form. I’ve played with several of the betas and Release candidates and have always found it gives me trouble with what I want it to do, as well as a large number of stability issues (that are fairly documented on their forums).

Maxwell isn’t just about nice renders. What is nice is that in theory, you can take a model you’ve built, apply realistic materials in a way that makes sense, and have it lit exactly how you would in real life. I use Mental Ray for my renders and although the quality is usually good, there is always a fairly long amount of time placed to get final gather settings right, etc.

Vray also can produce near photos, but in a bit more time.

Of course one of the tradeoffs is that an optimized render in Vray/Mental Ray/Brazil can be done in 15 minutes while still retaining very good quality. Maxwell doesn’t have that option currently.

Great software, but I’m waiting for it to become a refined product and not a buggy beta that’s been rushed to market because of all the bad press they recieved from their users.

Actaully I think that its full blown now, beta is over…

In name, you could say that.

Having read through peoples reviews who are using it on the Maxwell forums, there still seems to be quite a few bugs and stability issues.

Show me a commerical program on the market that is 100% full proff ie Never blows up, goes wrong, or is just plain FUBAR…and I have a bridge that I can sell you for $.50. The comment was just to simply to point out that it is not beta any more. Thats all.

I use Vray with Max all the time and it is damn near bullet proof. The only time it ever crashed on me was when I tried to render too many reflections in a GIGANTIC scene that the client just had to have. But even then it wasn’t really the fault of the program - the computer ran out of memory.

We plugged in an extra stick of 1GB RAM the next day and completed the project.

I would recommend it to anyone looking to create high quality renderings.

May I just advise anyone considering Maxwell to be aware of NextLimits (the manufacturer) very ugly customer relationships. Delays, no explanations, buggy plug-ins, no refunds, just silence and nasty comments from NL employees.
I would certainly not buy this again, especially considering the current price of 1000 or so US$. If you can avoid it, do it. In fact at the moment it is still close to unusable and the image quality has decreased from Beta over the “RCs” up to the current “V1.0”.
I suggest using VRay instead, especially regarding customer support but also the images it produces are quite stunning, and faster!

Wheres the bridge? I’m not much one for real estate but it sounds sweet.

I’ve used nearly every commercial 3d package on the market. There is a different between software crashing, and software not having half its advertised features coded.

And on that regard, I’ve used Alias software since Power Animator 8.5 and I’ve never had an issue with the software that was due to the software. Running out of memory happens plenty of times, but thats a hardware, not software issue.