Luxblend or yafaray for photorealistic animation?

Before I start I’ll quote system specs as well as expected other systems being added in the next 8 months.

C2Q 9450 @ 3.01 GHZ w/ 8 GB RAM and 9800GTX+ - have now
3x athlon 64s with 1.5+ gigs of RAM - have now

6-core system with 12 GB RAM - expected febuary
Mid-range quad core with 4-6 gigs of RAM - expected may
Quad core laptop with 4+ gigs of RAM - expected next june

So! Considering I’ll be sitting under some serious computing power in the next year, and I want to do photorealistic animation across my network (gigabit, average speed is 45 MBPS between the athlon 64s), what ray tracer should I be looking at?

Specifically I want it to do the following REALLY well:
-Fur/hair
-Cloth
-Eyes (VERY important)

As well as light cast from objects, etc.

Which should I be looking at? I’ve been trying luxrender, but have largely been unsuccessful and even with the quad core and all 3 athlon 64s cranking on it, it takes a long time for it to get a single frame to acceptable quality levels. However, I suspect this is more a case of I have my scenes set up poorly instead of luxrender being slow.

Yafaray I didn’t get working, and haven’t tried it since shortly before 2.49 was released.

You should definitely look at Yafaray again if speed is an issue, but it currently does not support particle hair.

What about the Mosaic project (prman) and using Aqsis, Pixie?

Also, if Yafaray/Lux does not support baking then I would experiment with projecting renders back onto your geometry in Blender for realistic environment lighting. Then, using the compositor, layer in your animation rendered from Blender Internal.

Compositing skills = very important.

Yafaray. Definitely.

Luxrender is a mostly unbiased rendering engine - which is not yet suited (it might never be) for animations because of the heavy amount of computation needed. It’s not a luxrender issue, it’s an issue of the rendering approach.

Yafaray does provide GI which can help a lot for realism, it can do caustics and is quite well integrated into Blender via a python script. Try it, the latest versions are easy to install and use (especially the ones after 2.49 came out).

I’d not advise to use Aqsis or Pixie unless you know what you’re doing and how to FAKE everything. That’s the strength of Renderman, not accuracy but artistic freedom. Might not be what you’re looking for, if you’re after photorealism.

But Blender’s internal is quite nice, too, especially now that Photon Mapping is implemented and speed ups are being done. It will probably be ready when your renderfarm is set up. And even though you’ve got quite some power, rendering does need it, if you want realism without faking everything.

Thanks guys!

I’ll probably be asking soon about what kind of power I need to get this stuff done, I’m not too afraid of building my own workstation with 24 threads of execution and 48 gigs of RAM, but I’m wondering if there’s another way.

Have you considered Indigo? It’s a lot faster than lux is at the moment (to be fair Indigo has been under development a lot longer) and if you are doing commercial animations it’d only cost 295€ for a gui licence and two network nodes. You can try out Indigo with the free version with as many network nodes as you need.

If you do use an unbiased renderer, remember to use camera tonemapping, not an automatic exposure method like reinhard, otherwise you’ll get too much flickering.

Wolvenmoon - have you tried Indigo? It’s a lot faster than lux and a lot cheaper than maxwell. If you want to try it out you can use the free version on your entire network. Our network rendering code is pretty robust too. PM me if you have any questions.