Questions about the Alias/PowerAnimator renderers and which renderers are similar??

tmelr

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Feb 27, 2021
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Hi. I came across a review here on Alias PowerAnimator, and found it very interesting and very relevant.

I'm currently working on a small, retro themed art project. The whole idea of is to make it look like a PlayStation 1 cutscene. I definitely found the renders made by Alias to be the best of that era (the mid-late 1990s), second best being the 3DS max scanline renderer. Personally, I find the two renderers quite different looking, but that's just as someone who's never used Alias/Poweranimator.

I'll show you a few examples to give you idea of the "look" I'm going for.




2d763701b50388966e853994593a06c7-1024x768.jpg

2988490-box_tekken2.png
115-1155462_crash-bandicoot-2-cortex-strikes-back-doctor-n-dr-n-gin.jpg




I've confirmed that these games were rendered using Alias PowerAnimator. They were even featured in Alias/Wavefront showreels and promotionals. As part of the project, I would like to produce renders similar to the ones made with Alias.


Now, there are a lot of different renderers out there, but I've narrowed it down to just three- The Maya default renderer, The 3DS Max Scanline renderer, or Vray as I've had experience with these.


Maya default renderer: A review said it was similar to the Alias renderer, but not quite as good. (what was meant by this?)

Vray: Because it's a high quality raytracer. Also, the idea of using Mental Ray was thrown out because it looks VERY different than Alias.

3DS Max Scanline renderer: A scanline renderer, but it's been virtually unchanged since the first version (released in 1996)

Which do you personally think would be the best/most similar to Alias? Do you have any tips you have besides just the choice of renderer (modeling, lighting, limitations, etc.)?

Also, do you know if gamma correction was commonly used in Alias renders at the time or not? Gamma correction (or lack thereof) has a huge impact on the way renders look.

Thanks in advance.
 
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foetz

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Feb 19, 2019
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glad you liked my review :)

Which do you personally think would be the best/most similar to Alias?
the closest "modern" renderer is renderman. it's the only one that has the same rich and deep colors the alias renderer had. that goes for both renderman versions: ris and reyes.

Do you have any tips you have besides just the choice of renderer (modeling, lighting, limitations, etc.)?
don't add small details. most of the stuff back then was nurbs based and the power of the sgis was limited, so tons of details like we see it today, made possible due to high polycounts, was not possible.
further don't use any indirect lighting and be very subtle when it comes to "reflections" (indirect specular). the latter was a heavy hitter back in the day and hence used as little as possible.

Also, do you know if gamma correction was commonly used in Alias renders at the time or not?
if you mean the colorspace used by the renderer, that was srgb. linear workflows didn't exist yet.
 

tmelr

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Feb 27, 2021
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glad you liked my review :)


the closest "modern" renderer is renderman. it's the only one that has the same rich and deep colors the alias renderer had. that goes for both renderman versions: ris and reyes.
Have you personally used/had experience with the other renderers I mentioned?? I thought Vray would be better than mental ray, because you said Alias had a somewhat warm look, and Vray renders generally look "warmer" than mental ray ones in terms of the lighting

A few comparisons:

vrayVsMr.jpg

chocolate_time___vray_vs_mental_ray_by_twinshock_d4qz80e-pre (1).jpg



don't add small details. most of the stuff back then was nurbs based and the power of the sgis was limited, so tons of details like we see it today, made possible due to high polycounts, was not possible.
I noticed that a lot of the characters had their arms (or legs) as separate objects from the torso. (Like the Gecko and most of Tekken 2 characters) Did this have something to do with nurbs?

I don't really have experience with nurbs, would it be okay to use subdivision surfaces instead and any tips to achieve similar appearance?




you mean the colorspace used by the renderer, that was srgb. linear workflows didn't exist yet.
Are you sure about the " linear workflows" not existing yet? I've used both 3D Studio for DOS and 3DS Max (the successor). Both had gamma correction and I seem to remember the gamma correction affecting both color swatches in the material editor and the texture maps. Was 3D Studio just ahead of it's time in that sense and gamma correction not common place?





Also thanks again for the info.
 
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foetz

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Feb 19, 2019
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Have you personally used/had experience with the other renderers I mentioned??
yes, plenty.

I thought Vray would be better than mental ray
yes, mental ray looks more aggressive than vray but as mentioned, renderman is the closest match.

I don't really have experience with nurbs, would it be okay to use subdivision surfaces instead and any tips to achieve similar appearance?
it's okay for as long as you keep round parts very even. always remember that nurbs models are curve based so all round parts are always very even and smooth.

Are you sure about the "linear workflows" not existing yet? I've used both 3D Studio for DOS and 3DS Max (the successor). Both had gamma correction and I seem to remember the gamma correction affecting both color swatches in the material editor and the texture maps. Was 3D Studio just ahead of it's time in that sense and gamma correction not common place?
all renderers back then operated in srgb colorspace, produced srgb images and expected textures in srgb colorspace as well. that doesn't prevent some 3d programs to offer a gamma correction or the artist to modify textures and/or renders however they want. but that's not what's known as a linear workflow today.
so yes, i am sure and no, 3ds was not ahead of its time.
 

tmelr

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Feb 27, 2021
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yes, plenty.


yes, mental ray looks more aggressive than vray but as mentioned, renderman is the closest match.


it's okay for as long as you keep round parts very even. always remember that nurbs models are curve based so all round parts are always very even and smooth.


all renderers back then operated in srgb colorspace, produced srgb images and expected textures in srgb colorspace as well. that doesn't prevent some 3d programs to offer a gamma correction or the artist to modify textures and/or renders however they want. but that's not what's known as a linear workflow today.
so yes, i am sure and no, 3ds was not ahead of its time.
Thank you.
 

tmelr

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Feb 27, 2021
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yes, plenty.


yes, mental ray looks more aggressive than vray but as mentioned, renderman is the closest match.
Hi again. Can you tell me between Vray and the Maya software renderer which looks MORE like the Power Animator renderer??
In case I can't use Renderman (for whatever reason), it would be good to have a "plan B".

Also, I decided to learn/use NURBS character modeling for this project. The patch modeling method for heads is good, but the tutorials suggesting you should create muscle definition and wrinkles in clothes by pulling around CVs on NURBS surfaces are BAD. :sick:
02fig35.jpg

02fig40.jpg

It looks too smooth and lumpy! So I thought to use maps instead. I assumed that since nurbs are tessellated at rendertime anyway, it would be a good idea to use displacement maps to "push" details out. This is a much better way of adding detail like wrinkles to clothes and muscles! In fact, that's what they probably did for the Tekken characters.

tekken2-character-art-poster.png



If there's ever another thread about where someone is considering NURBS character modeling, please let them know of this trick to add fine detail.
 
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foetz

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Feb 19, 2019
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Hi again. Can you tell me between Vray and the Maya software renderer which looks MORE like the Power Animator renderer??
sure that would be maya's built-in renderer. after all that's the direct successor to the original alias renderer.
 

tmelr

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Feb 27, 2021
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sure that would be maya's built-in renderer. after all that's the direct successor to the original alias renderer.
Hi, again. I recently found the Windows NT port of Alias 9.0. It looks like I won't have to use Maya after all. It even works on Windows 10 and unlike the modern Alias has a lot of Poweranimator's features like particles, warp lights, etc. :)

Ty very much
 

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