Thea Render - Thea's Blog
Chameleon is Out; What 's Next?
Monday, 10 October 2011 11:50

Our Thea Render v1.1 edition (codename "Chameleon") is out since the end of September, so what is next? First of all, let us point out the big steps that we have made so far! Thea has grown to be the most versatile engine with exporter plugins for most modeling applications. The material system is unique in both terms of visual management and achieved quality. The render core has some "details" that cannot be found even in renderers - so called - acclaimed for their quality and accuracy; sun-pool caustics, terminator artifact treatment and true unbiased volumetric scattering to name a few. But besides quality, Thea speed has improved vastly and in the last edition, it is as fast as it can get on a CPU-based render solution.

There are two main directions that we will be moving on; the first is adding a GPU-based render method. There is already some work on a prototype and such solution will be based on the OpenCL standard; following the standard has the benefit that the solution is vendor independent. And this key feature, was of crucial importance for us when choosing between OpenCL and the alternatives. The second is tighter integration on modeling applications; work has already begun on certain modelers and more info will be disclosed later on.

So, how do we see the future of Thea? With a dedicated development team, a supporting community and a network constantly increasing, the future can only be bright!

Root of all Evil
Friday, 26 November 2010 09:28

"Premature optimization is the root of all evil", that said Donald Knuth, a key figure in computer science. So, when are the circumstances mature enough to go for full optimizations? The answer is, at first glance, simple: it is when no algorithmic design changes can happen, it is when we are essentially finished with our development. Making conceptual changes after full brute-force optimizations have been deployed, means that the developer should either revert to older - unoptimized - code or make them along with reapplying the optimizations already introduced.

The former will probably mean losing work and features, the latter is both difficult and dangerous, stability-wise. Adding new features may be quite challenging as well. I will go one step further; looking the other way around, we could loosely say that deploying full program optimizations may mean the end of product development! I came across on a renderer's update where it is mentioned that there is a significant boost compared to its first release. That's indeed very nice, we can all agree that (render) time is precious.

Unfortunately, brute-force optimizations may have a direct impact on development speed. It is actually something that could lead easily to a dead end. How easy is it to make now conceptual improvements? How easy is it to add new features?

From Thea point of view, we are always making the optimizations that cannot harm code readability, software design and maintenance. We ensure this way, that conceptual changes can be done easily right now and in the future. Instead, as our first priority, we always seek for conceptual optimizations that lead to sophisticated and superior algorithmic designs. That is why, for example, Thea's unbiased core is superior in many scenes with difficult indirect lighting; brute force optimizations of 20%-50% boost are just not enough in these cases! The concept itself has to change. And this is our philosophy behind Thea development, to research and develop the most robust and superior rendering techniques.

Fully Pregnant
Monday, 30 August 2010 09:48

Sometime ago, I saw an advertisement of a render engine describing it as "fully unbiased". It seems that a lot of renderers are trying to make a statement these days about their quality by being unbiased (which always helps deliver accuracy without fighting with settings). But... "fully unbiased"? And is there accordingly "partially unbiased" as well? These terms simply do not exist, it's the same like saying fully and partially pregnant. Talented programmers were always fond of developing a ray tracer, but they occasionally suffer from lack of scientific background, or so it seems.

On the other hand, the unbiased approach is only a means of rendering (accurately) an image. The quality comes from other elements though; materials, textures, geometric complexity and of course user skills and artistic talent. It looks like that the unbiased term is rather abused in the context of an aggressive marketing strategy.

Even if a technique is theoretically unbiased, this does not mean that it will resolve to 100% correct results. I am going actually to insist here that there is no unbiased technique that will deliver you 100% accuracy in practice. What? you didn't know? That's right, there is no truly unbiased technique in practice. And this is due to one plain reason; finite calculation accuracy. No matter what you will use, your processor does not have enough bits to avoid adding a small bias there, negligible many times but important some other times. You may now understand why some unbiased renderers cannot resolve sun-pool caustics; yep, even if you leave them running for a year they will never converge to the right result!

So, perhaps it's time to ask the right question, which sounds like an oxymoron at first; could we say something about unbiased renderers according to their practical bias? Yeah, we could! But unfortunately, this requires some very complicated analysis on the technique and its custom implementation. Nevertheless, in most cases, the general methodology used plays the most vital role in characterizing the accuracy of the technique. And for all those praising a path tracer as "fully unbiased", the fact is that path tracing is the method with the worst practical accuracy and robustness when resolving global illumination.


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