Corona renderer for Blender – a promising alternative to Vray?

I found Corona a few years ago as a promising 3rd party renderer for 3d Studio Max.
I made some really quick tests, but I was busy in that period, so I just decided to go back to their site regularly and I postponed ‘serious’ testing.
I never thought that I will make those tests with Blender a few years later.
Let me to be honest, through the years I got really tired because of the fact that so much 3rd party renderers are around without any new features.
There is simple no sense in this ; most of them are average in every aspect.
I would like to see development, not just the implementation of the next shitty-slow unbiased rendering algorithms without any additional value.
Otherways,  offering the most common functions is not ‘real’ development either.
That is copying.
Except if it offers better workflow.
Speed.
Better GUI.
Speed.  …. Speed, speed, speed.

One of the things I hate in my profession since I started it 20 years ago is that I have to wait for the renders.
My PC is f…ing nuclear reactor compared to the first one (Intel DX-2-66 with 32 MB of RAM) and I still have to wait.
VRay was the first renderer what gave me the feeling that I could have a good compromise between speed and quality.
And now I have the same feelings about Corona renderer.
It could be a game changer for Blender and it could be the strongest competitor of VRay for archviz.
As I told earlier, Cycles is not production ready yet and it is slow like hell.
For all my current Blender projects I use Blender Internal for quick renders.

But the last week I was able to play with the Corona renderer for Blender for a while; moreover I helped the development with some advices and tips.
Guys, Corona will be awesome!
Big thanx for Joel D, the developer of the exporter.
And I have to say that it is quite a loss that related to some legal issues around codes and open-sourcing the developer didn’t had a chance to integrate it INSIDE Blender.

Check the gallery here!

You can download and try Corona for Blender here.

SceneMate – a recommended asset from the Unity Asset Store

SceneMate from Tim Wiese offers tools for Unity what should come with it by default: Snap, Object painting, Align, Randomization, Object Replacement and so on. I bought this because of the Randomization and the Object Replacement functions. It costs about 10 euros, so it has a very good price, even for indies.
I have some ideas how to improve it, so I will contact the developer soon.

SceneMate

You can buy the asset here.
Additional info: www.scenemate.net
(It seems that the official website is not 100% compatible with Opera browser – another reason to contact him).

BIG ENVIRONMENT pack – a recommended asset from the Unity Asset Store

I also would like to post some positive reviews related to Unity asset store items and recommend it for all the users who try to avoid  to spend their money on crappy stuff.

The BIG ENVIRONMENT PACK by Philipp Schmidt contains various Unity vegetation models (trees, bushes, etc.), buildings, particles, rocks, organized into multiple scenes and an to an inventory. To be honest, I decided to buy it because of the vegetation models.
I was lucky to get it in a 50% deal (daily deals, regularly discounted prices are one of the cool features of the Unity Asset Store).
The exported models from Unity could be used in Blender Game Engine, too (I made a quick test). Since I worked out a reversed pipeline from Unity to 3DS Max, it could be used even in Max.

You can find this asset in the Unity Asset Store here.

Videos:

Alternatives to Adobe Photoshop

OK, the title is a lie.
All things considered there are no alternatives to PS at all.
But for working in RGB there are several options.

I made my last ‘2D graphics apps test ‘ 2 years ago, mainly focused on RAW converting (I choosed and bought ACDSee Pro), but I found a pretty usable app, called Serif PhotoPlus.
It has similar GUI and features like PS has.

Serif offers a free version of the app with limited functionality (which is still pretty usable for retouching).

Unfortunately there is no trial version of the full app, but I had a chance to take a look on it and as far as I know, this is the only 2D app on Win which has comparable  layer functions and operations to PS.
Of course it was slower than PS, but still was more usable than Corel Paint Shop Pro.
It only costs 85 EUR, which is quite acceptable.

By the way, the lack of the full app trial and the stupid way of downloading the free app (you have to register, etc.) deserved to put Serif (as a developer) to the ironic ‘How to develop an app’ posts soon.
On Mac it worth to give a try to Pixelmator (I will check it when I will have access to Macs again; I heard good things about this one), and soon I will try PS Elements again (I have an old one; I’m curious what has changed).

Maybe you are surprised that I don’t consider GIMP as a choice; well, although I use it a lot, I don’t like it at all.
It needs recoding and GUI change, too (in my opinion).

A recommended RAW converter – RawTherapee

For this post  about noise removing (Reducing render times in Cycles – Noise filtering) I used the trial version of NeatImage.

Now I would like to recommend you a free app, called RawTherapee, which is primarly developed for photographers to enhance their photos, but could do the noise filtering for rendered images, too (of course).
As a photographer I have to say that it is quite OK, even compared to commercial apps.

Reducing render times in Cycles – Noise filtering

I just made a small comparison of rendered images in Cycles with different sample values, then I used NeatImage Standalone demo to remove noise with different settings (you can recognize that I used stronger reduction on the 300 samples image, so details are more ‘washed out’).
Although worrying too much about ‘noise’ is mostly typical for the ‘tech-maniac type’  CGI or photography guys, I think it could show the power of noise-filtering as a post-processing step and it could be useful for everybody.
It doesn’t just saves time; it also saves electricity (it has effects on your budget and on the environment both).

Notes:

– download the images and compare them in 1:1 ratio (on the native resolution of your screen)
– I didn’t used any filtering on the 500 sample render; I used it as a reference
– removing the noise in NeatImage required about 15-20 sec per image (could be batched).

originals

Originals

Filtered with NeatImage

Filtered with NeatImage