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iray Setup & Tutorials
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3D Studio Max Studio - Introduction to the iray renderer

Iray render - Ford Focus RSThe iray render engine, as standard, has been included in Autodesk 3ds Max for the last few years. This is a powerful render engine that takes advantage of the power of the parallel processors in modern Nvidia graphics cards. It can take advantage of a simple nvidia graphics card (works well on laptop cards too), but can also be used with a group of graphics cards (with some motherboards you can link up several high-end graphics cards).

The iray render engine has now been complemented with some dedicated iray shaders that enable us to use it in a similar manner to the Production Shaders in Mental Ray. These new iray shaders include a multi-purpose, multi-layer material (ideal for metallic paints and glossy materials) and a Matte shader. How to install and set these shaders up is explained below. With these shaders setup we will look at creating a simple car scene for use with iRay.

The iray renderer has some advantages :

  • Powerful render engine : Taking advantage of your Nvidia graphics card to really boost your PC's power - and it is scaleable, add an extra graphics card for even more power.

  • Very powerful with Glossy Materials : The iray render engine can create very realistic glossy materials - like rubber, and matte plastics.

  • Relatively simple setup options : Compared to some render engines (even Mental Ray), the setup options for iray appear very simple.

  • The iray Material is very versatile : Using the iray material it is possible to create very realistic shaders. Complex metallic paints can be created.

  • Realistic, photographic quality results : The overall look and "feel" of iray renders can, subjectively, be very good indeed..

But the iray renderer has some noticeable disadvantages (some are complete deal breakers to me) :

  • NO Blend material (as yet) : The iray render has no Blend material. As shown in the other 3D Tutorials sections the Blend material is essential for realistic textures (like the blending of shiny and dusty materials on tyres) or for adding stripes and decals to a car. Without these shaders, I cannot even start to render some of my car models. This is a HUGE disappointment - to put it mildly.

  • NO Fall-off or Gradient materials : Again, these very versatile shaders can be used to create many different effects. The tyre shader uses a gradient ramp to blend between different materials (Neither the Blend material, nor the gradient shader work in iray. The fall-off material can be used for similar effects - but it is not possible to use the Fall-off shader with iray. This lack of VERY basic materials REALLY restricts how you can mix materials - or in fact makes it impossible to blend some materials

To sum up, think long and hard if you want to put any effort into learning iray, as the above limitations really hamstring any project I would like to use with iray. I think some multi-layer iray material is in development, but as a render engine that has been out for years, the lack of these quite simple basic shaders is simply risable.


Additional IRAY ShAders setup - the iray Material in 3ds Max 2013/2014

The iray material (results shown below) is a very flexible shader. It allows us to create and fine tune materials that would be very difficult in Mental Ray. Background information can be found here :

The shader can be downloaded here :

Follow the easy instructions in the help PDF to install this shader.

Ford Focus MK2 RS in Ultimate Green in a studio setup
Example scene render using the iray material (courtesy of the iray blog)
ADDITIONAL IRAY SHADER SETUP - iray Matte Objects in 3ds Max 2013/2014

The iray matte object shader can be used in a very similar way to the matte/shadow material in Mental Ray. It allows us to render an object within a backplate. Background information can be found here :

The shader can be downloaded here :

Again follow the easy instructions in the included help file to install this shader.

Ford Focus MK2 RS in Ultimate Green in a studio setup
Example scene render using the iray matte shader and iray material