Apple has been working with OTOY since last year's WWDC to make the Octane X available to professional Mac users. OTOY has now released the Octane X for macOS. It's an unbiased GPU renderer that enables millions of Macs equipped with Apple's metal graphics technology to deliver incredibly fast ray tracing. This is important for many reasons. However, since the Apple hardware doesn't support Nvidia RTX, there's a real demand for GPU ray tracing on the Mac. Octane X is fully compatible with macOS Catalina and will be available for free to new users on Macs with the release of macOS Big Sur this fall.
The original OctaneRender started a kind of rendering revolution in 2010 – the introduction of the first unbiased GPU rendering engine. The aim is to follow the laws of physics and light exactly. With Octane, artists can create photo-realistic CGs that fit a real camera in real time. This is the key to cameraman Claudio Miranda. We spoke to Oscar-winning DOP Claudio Miranda, who is just finishing shooting Top Gun: Maverick, and Jules Urbach, CEO of OTOY.
Claudio Miranda became best known for films such as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), Life of Pi (2012) and his collaboration with American director Joseph Kosinski who acted as the cameraman for all of his films, including this latest film from Top Gun: Maverick.
For his film projects, Miranda receives a digital copy of the sets from the art department, which may be in sketch format or in a CAD file. Then he converts that to Cinema 4D on his Mac and “I'll try to light it,” he explains. For example, if he has to light the exterior of a studio scene, he will “see if we have enough throw from the walls to create a realistic sun. The great thing is that since this is a physically based rendering, I can use physically based lights that give me an idea of what is possible. “During these explorations of the set with Octane renderings from C4D, Miranda makes decisions about where the lights need to be and how the sets are arranged in the soundstage.
“It just helps me see if there are any problems. In my film, I'm using Octane right now and we're playing with some skylights, making them bigger and smaller, and working "live". You can see the skylight fill the room with more light. This exploration is possible because Octane is both an interactive display of the way light actually works. "It's nice to be able to do that Render the live feed and just downsize it or change the size, color or something, ”he adds. While Miranda doesn't claim to be any kind of 3D expert or use the tools for final shots, he does say that he's now “getting far better results than he used to … and it definitely gives us a great idea of the lighting for that Movie."
Miranda primarily uses a fully loaded Mac Pro: "With two high-end graphics cards … with 384 gig of RAM and the two best processors and the afterburner with 28 Intel Xeon core processors. Fly a lot, but despite all the performance I had , the rendering on the CPU was still sluggish, but now (with Octane) it's fully functional using the GPU and the whole. "He recently also got a new MacBookPro 16" fully loaded when he was out and about, "and Octane runs great on it," he commented. This is no surprise given that the majority of Apple Octane users run Octane on a MacBook Pro.
What benefits Miranda is the speed at which one can physically experiment and explore options in person. For example, he says, if I want to add a bit of atmosphere and then you can quickly and easily adjust it on the slider and see how the volumetry works … it's super intuitively quick to see it and be able to adjust that Fly. "While we were talking, there was a break in the production of Maverick and Miranda was experimenting on his next film, Spiderhead.
After Top Gun: Maverick, the next film by Joseph Kosinski is Netflix's Spiderhead, a science fiction film by the screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick of Deadpool and Zombieland. The film is slated to be shot in Australia and Miranda is Kosinski's DOP again. The film is based on a short story by George Saunders. Spiderhead is focused on the near future convicts who agree to become test subjects for science experiments in exchange for reduced sentences.
"There's a night scene in Spiderhead and I wanted to show the director how I could possibly use more pin-head lights to light the scene," he comments. "We're going to be shooting anamorphic so I was able to add some spots and then use a little post-processing to add a little flare and give it the anamorphic look in a very simple way." Aside from features, Miranda also uses it when shooting TV commercials. He thinks it's easier to sell the idea not just to the director but to the commercial's client when he can produce images that really illustrate what he wants to do. “They have something difficult to look at instead of just basing their decision on something that is all theoretical. "
Miranda began exploring using computers using 3D to examine footage many years ago, initially with Director David Fincher using Strata 3D. "I got tired of it and switched to Vectorworks because my crew works on set layouts in Vectorworks, but Vectorworks has never been a great lighting tool," he adds. He then switched to Cinema 4D because we wanted more accuracy in terms of lighting and realism with the 3D lenses. "I was excited to learn that Octane was going to be made for the Mac because all of my work is done on a Mac." In addition to using Octane, Miranda uses his Mac Pro with a variety of other programs such as DaVinci Resolve. "It is a platform that I feel very comfortable with," he emphasizes. "I use it for films and presentations," he concludes with the words. “When you have an idea that you want to convey to the director, it's easy to sketch something and say, 'Wouldn't it be great if the window is so small and we have some volume, with a little bit of atmosphere here, right You want to do some projections on the wall and have rain that creates a caustic effect, … I'm not perfect at it, but I can quickly get an idea of how cool it would be. "
When the Octane X was unveiled to the world during the opening speech at Apple's 2019 global developer conference, it met with great interest, and the first public preview (PR1) of Octane X for macOS Catalina 10.15.6 does not disappoint. It was built from the ground up using Apple's Metal Graphics API and fully optimized for performance on AMD Vega and Navi GPUs in the Mac Pro, iMac Pro, iMac, and MacBook Pro product lines.
Octane on Mac Pro
Because Octane has been completely rewritten, its mesh geometry engine is optimized for AMD GPUs and supports hundreds of millions of unique primitives per mesh instance at high performance. It has near-perfect linear rendering speed scaling with multiple GPU configurations, including eGPUs connected via Thunderbolt 3 in the Mac.
Octane X as anRNDR server on a Mac Pro can act as a rendering node: By using 20 Gbit / s dual interconnect, the Mac Pro achieves the InfiniBand connection speed. The Octane X on Mac Pro supports up to 400 GPUs via network rendering. On the high end, 56 Xeon CPU threads with up to 1.5TB of out-of-core storage (by far) surpass the maximum scene capacity available on even the most expensive GPU rendering nodes in the public cloud.
"Like so many Octane artists, I started my journey into computer graphics on the Mac," said Jules Urbach, CEO of OTOY. “I founded OTOY to democratize content creation, and I imagined that one day artists could render 3D graphics with the same fidelity as Hollywood blockbusters – but on any budget, in real time, from anywhere in the world. Natively integrating OTOY's rendering technology with Apple hardware and empowering hundreds of millions of potential new developers is a huge step in realizing this dream – which we have been working on for almost a decade here at OTOY. "
Octane X offers over a dozen built-in plug-ins for the most popular tools for creating macOS 3D content in the fields of motion graphics, design, product visualization, and VFX – including Maxon Cinema 4D, SideFX Houdini, and Autodesk Maya.
At Greenscreen, we've used Octane on PC in the past, and we're migrating and testing Octane on the new macOS and the new powerful 27-inch iMac, which is cheaper than the MacPro, but works well for Octane X with Metal's GPUs the Radeon Pro 5000 series. It also has the brilliant Retina 5K display with the nano-texture option (which admittedly makes everything look great). The unparalleled viewing experience on the iMac OTOY has come a long way in the past few years. The new Octane for Mac will be ready for production by the time macOS Big Sur ships. At the moment the software works, but there are some problems with OSL shaders, especially due to UE4 direct exports which are then carried over into the standalone Octane renderer. This is due to problems related to the shader export from UE4, the fix of which actually makes the UE4 export remarkably seamless.
On PC, one of the problems with Octane for some users was out-of-core memory. OTOY has run out of core memory for almost 2 years, which is brilliant as your scene no longer needs to fit in video memory but the current system is managed by Windows and Octane doesn't control memory allocation and management can mean that even on a 32 -Gig pc computers run out of storage space for some things. OTOY is addressing this issue and will address the issue in an upcoming release that will support a complete rebuild of Octanes' storage management system.
On the Mac, the OctaneX is almost entirely comparable to the CUDA version, and things will only accelerate from here. "When macOS11 goes golden (ships), we have fully optimized feature parity – Octane will work identically between Apple Metal and CUDA," explains Urbach. “We actually have things in our Octane X today that are not in the CUDA version. There are some new storage features. Some memory optimizations are already included in the metal version. One of the things we're going to add early next year is to get both versions up to date, and then you actually have the option to network those two together and mix and match CUDA and Metal cards, at least for the network rendering, which will be interesting. “Even our tests show no difference between the two renderings, the difference is under the hood, the images are identical" pixel-perfect ". With AMD cards in the Mac, the storage format differs from that when working in CUDA on Nvidia cards. That is, if data is to be sent from one to the other over the network, the data must be completely duplicated. "We don't want that. We basically want to develop a format because we have AMD, Intel and Apple GPUs on one format and Nvidia on the other. We want to develop a single optimized version for both of them. And then the same can be Sending data to an Nvidia card or AMD card vendor, but currently there is a different geometry format. "The superior geospatial format used in Octane X will be migrated back to the CUDA version very soon to address this.
EmberGenFX and Sculptron
In addition to Octane X, OTOY and JangaFX are jointly releasing EmberGenFX, the real-time GPU simulation tools for generating fire, volume, smoke and particles for all OctaneRender subscribers.
The release of Octane X marks an important milestone in OTOY's ongoing work and collaboration with Apple. However, OTOY's GPU technologies on OSX include RNDR, Brigade, Sculptron, and EmberGenFX for new Octane users using Apple's Metal API.
Currently, EmberGenFX is a standalone tool that allows users to run simulation work in real time and then incorporate it into Octane and even other renderings. OTOY works with JangaFX and licenses source code for the joint development of EmberGenFX. EmberGenFX is available to anyone with an Octane subscription; H. Anyone who is already on the newest Octane. Sculptron has also been licensed. This is a GPU based sculpt animation application. The main goal of Sculptron is to provide artists with a powerful sculpting tool designed to work with 3D animation. It is not a substitute for ZBrush, but is intended to focus on sculpting as part of an animation workflow. For example, Sculptron can convert any formed mesh / animation into an OpenVDB volume frame or sequence.
Currently, both Sculptron and EmberGenFX are stand-alone tools on Windows. Users can export OpenVDB or geometry from either to Octane. OTOY wants to do two things with this special application, explains Urbach: “We want to move this to the same compiler toolchain that we used to create OctaneX. That way we can take some code written in GL compute and then spit out CUDA or dump Metal or Vulcan or even x86 code and that works perfectly for Octane right now. “Your second goal is to bring both tools deeper into the core of Octane itself. Urbach sees Octane as more than just a rendering: “It has extensive functions for scene diagrams and other important elements with which you can carry out simulation and procedural modeling and the like. So let's say you are in Unreal and want to use Sculptra as a tool or EmberGenFX then the tools that would work right in the application. "This should happen in the next six to nine months.
A full commercial version of Octane X with one year of maintenance will be made available free of charge to all new users who activate Octane X on Mac Pro, iMac, and MacBook Pro models with MacOS Big Sur from 2019 onwards. On the high-end Mac Pro, that means the full enterprise suite, which, as you know, includes network rendering. The corporate-level Octane is needed on the Mac Pro as it is the only Apple computer that runs more than 2 GPU cards. OTOY is also trying to find out if Octane can work on all Macs with integrated Intel graphics.
Octane X | PR1 ships with full support for RNDR – the first distributed GPU rendering platform – that allows artists to easily scale their rendering jobs by leveraging the massive computing power available through decentralized GPUs.
Octane itself isn't the only renderer that OTOY will actually use in all of its Octane integrations. "We're adding Brigade, another faster, real-time version of Octane. It's super cool. In outdoor scenes, the quality is almost the same as Octane, but it runs 60 frames per second in HD on a single 2080Ti card. It just works It's about getting the most out of the RTX hardware, with simpler shaders than Octane, but in many scenes quality is more than good enough, "comments Urbach. The user can switch between Octane and Brigade with a simple switch from any OTOY integration.
Last month OTOY posted this clip which is about Brigade running on a single 2080 TI, full path tracking at 60 FPS, no baking, and no rendering, no cheats that Urbach believes are not from Octane too are different (for scenes like this).
There is no RTX ray tracing hardware on the Mac. Since AMD is displaying a customer version of the chip-level ray tracing hardware in the new Playstation 5, it is to be expected that Apple or AMD will have chip-level ray tracing special hardware for some time, if not soon. Though OTOY wouldn't comment on this speculation, apart from the common belief that AMD hardware ray tracing seems like a reasonable thing to do in the future, Urbach added, “I think ray tracing hardware is a safe bet and Brigade to be honest future-oriented hardware is designed for this. "
Octane X allows users to switch between Octane and Brigade, but they can also add any Hydra render delegate, so Pixar Hydra, UE4, and Unity3d will soon be available on macOS as well as iOS and iPadOS devices.