…when Element 3D v2 is released. Yepp, finally you can grab and buy it here and since the price is still ridiculously low despite an ass-ton of features having been added, it’s almost a no-brainer to get a license or upgrade. As usual, I’m gonna spare you the marketing speech and only give you the short version of the features. And before accusations here on this blog run wild again: Yes, I have used and tested the plug-in more than you can possibly imagine. So what’s the lowdown?
- Shadows. Yes, those cities from the Metropolitan pack definitely look more real with those as do many other things, obviously.
- Geometry-based raytrace ambient occlusion. While the SSAO wasn’t bad as a start and also has been improved in v2 of course there are limitations in deriving this stuff from depth info like it sometimes just disappearing on fine details, the radii looking too big or too small and requiring lot of keyframing as you move around the camera and get closer or farther to and from objects or things just looking flicker-y. The new method should eliminate many of those problems, though admittedly it is a considerable performance hog.
- Dynamic reflections. Similar to the shadows, this adds a whole new level of perceived realism in many scenes. not necessarily cityscapes since in those a global environment map will work just fine, but a shot with a car driving through town comes to mind as do things like this little logo experiment that would have been so much easier back then.
- Physically based/ plausible materials. While personally I had no issues with the standard Phong materials (after all, before Reflectance appeared recently in Cinema 4D I had years of experience tweaking the “plastic” renderer there), I’m always welcoming things that make my life easier. It takes a bit of getting used to since inevitably things like glossiness behave exponentially and subtle adjustments can make quite a bit of difference, but you get the hang of it pretty quickly.
- Deformers. Seems trivial on first sight, but you only realize that they have been missing once you start to use them. Not so much for the crude, obvious, graphically abstract stuff like curving logos or creating pulsing triangulated meshes, but one cool use I found is using the Animation Engine to blend between different levels of deformation with a dose of randomness to create organic motion like swaying fields or leaves on plants.
- Aux Channels. Yepp, that’s another biggy that makes you slap your hand against your face and think “How could I ever live without it?”. It allows some nice tricks with counter-rotating gears being the simplest one and on a more complex level allowing you to create constraints or rule-based layouts for your particles.
There’s of course tons more like built-in geometric primitives making it unnecessary to always import even the simplest sphere, enhancements to the editor, sub-surface scattering and of course the unified renderer now allowing you to stack instances of the plug-in for nearly unlimited rendering in the same 3D space. Good stuff all round. The bad news? I quite literally have nothing to show or give away for you to play around. Since bugs were being fixed until the last minute I haven’t finalized any of my stuff and the projects from v1 on my site are broken due to the changes. Now that it’s out of the door I’ll try to finish up some of my experiments, so stay tuned and come back one of those days…