UPDATE: Now Available
As we approach the release date for our new plug-in Element 3D, I started thinking about where this plug-in started and what inspired us to make it a reality.
I’ve been working with traditional 3D programs since Ray Dream 3D, followed by 3D max over 10 years ago when it was published by discreet. (Crazy to think about how long it’s been!).
What I loved (and still do) about 3D is that there was always something new to learn! One day I want to fly helicopters, then I want to create explosions or realistic ocean waves. And what I’ve learned is that there is not a single or right way to do anything. It’s all an illusion, the goal is to create something that “looks” good any way possible. There may be scientifically more accurate ways to calculate lighting but accurate doesn’t necessarily mean better in fact it usually means slower.
The true balance was finding the sweet spot between the final look and a realistic render time because if you can’t deliver a shot then it doesn’t matter how good it will look when it is done rendering. I remember having to render my 3D at lower resolution and then scale up in After Effects to get things done on time. I was desperate, I got smarter and learned to manage my render requirements.
Then computers got better, stronger & faster and render engines pushed the limits of photo-realism with the use of global illumination and micro-triangle displacement! The quality of modern raytracing engines like Vray, Renderman & Cinema 4Ds really is spectacular. But the way raytracing works can be CPU intensive so on projects without unlimited render power, artist still have to find the right balance.
Meanwhile the video game industry was innovating with a different approach. REALTIME. Games are meant to be played so the worlds need to render on the fly. With popular game titles breaking records, the graphics card industry exploded with new innovations and developers tried to make the most realistic games as possible while maintaining realtime performance on current graphics cards. Some developers went a little too far like the Crytek game that was notoriously sluggish at maximum quality but the graphics were undeniable at the time. I personally think Battlefield 3 has the best quality rendering without affecting gameplay performance although I admit I’m more of a Doom guy myself
So what does it all mean? Well here was our idea… Video games look pretty dang good, and they render in realtime, so what if we could use the same OpenGL capabilities to create a custom 3D engine and then add professional features as well? So we did! Our early tests were promising and we kept pushing the limits while maintaining speed and visual quality.
We even added things to our engine that game developer could never do because everything in their world MUST be realtime but in the creative world, some rendering is expected. So we could add powerful features that would be too slow for a game engine but blazing fast for creative artists.
We know that OpenGL doesn’t handle raytracing, so 3D objects do not reflect other nearby objects BUT with Reflection Maps, we can still create impressive materials that still look great and still render fast! Our goal was to create a plug-in that could fill the gap between the world of 3D and After Effects so you can composite while you work.
We want Element to appeal to professional 3D artists that want to save time when possible and non-3D artists looking to reach the next level. Plus we want to put the fun back in 3D for everyone!
When I look at some of the things that Element has rendered… I can’t believe they came out of a Plug-in,
Happy Independence day too! Will Smith’s best movie!