Pegasus takes off!

Finally we are releasing Clarisse 3.0 codenamed Pegasus! You can already download the latest PLE and play with the updated contents. So what I can say is about this new version? Simply we’re all very proud of it! Yes, we’re very proud because we wrote a new path tracer from ground up. We’re also very proud because we have improved greatly look development in Clarisse through the new Material Editor, OSL support and advanced baking tools. We also revamped completely the manipulators including the implementation of snapping and alembic export to simplify layout. Scripting is now made simple thanks to python command output in Clarisse log. Just check out what’s new since 2.0 and remember this release note doesn’t include bug fixes! http://forum.isotropix.com/viewtopic.php?f=103&t=2293

A bit of background on this release

We started working on Pegasus core about 23 months ago. At the time we were just 9 at Isotropix and we end up releasing it with a team of over 30 people! We just tripled the company size and we keep growing!

3.0 is the result of hard work and close relationships with people from major studios such as DNeg, ILM and WETA but also smaller sized ones. The core of 3.0 is a tech that helped creating the VFX of many blockbusters including Star Wars The Force awakens, the upcoming Star Trek beyond and many more. Here is the up to date list: http://www.isotropix.com/company/feature-films

To find more information about Clarisse iFX 3.0 just go there: http://www.isotropix.com/clarisse3

Finally I invite you to come and visit us at SIGGRAPH 2016 booth #367 to see live demo of Clarisse 3.0! Hoping to see you there!

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New PBR Engine!

A new renderer and new shaders!

Clarisse 3.0 brings a new Physical (physically based) shading model which consists of a new Path Tracer renderer and new set of materials, volumes and lights.  This new physically based engine provides state of the art shaders and advanced sampling techniques. All these have been possible thanks to the years of collaboration with Double Negative R&D rendering team and specially with the help of Emmanuel Turquin! You’ll see, it is now way simpler (maybe even too simple ;)) to create photo-realistic images with these new shaders in Clarisse.

The quick and dirty test

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GGX Reflection with occlusion node driving roughness and its reflectance

Old vs New shading model

While the new PBR engine a rendering cost, (it is slower for the same amount of samples) you do get a better sampling. This means that you should need less samples to get rid of the noise. The other good thing is that now Clarisse is finally able to render caustics (both from specular and transmission) as you can see in the previous image.

Please don’t get your hopes up too high: the new path tracer is still a unidirectional one. This means that, while Clarisse resolves refractive caustics, they require a large number of samples to get noise free.

Getting started with PBR

When you start Clarisse, Clarisse will prompt you with the default shading model you wish to use. Make sure to select: Physical. That way, the default scene will be created with the path tracer and a Physical Distant light.

What are the big changes?

There are two dramatic changes to what you were used to in the legacy shading model.

First, attributes controlling the sampling are now in sample per pixel (spp). This means that you set the actual number of sample you wish to use. In the legacy model, the actual number of samples fired were the square of the input value. For example, 8 meant 8×8 (64) samples, now, 8 spp means that 8 samples are actually fired.

This is true for any attribute controlling samples including antialiasing.

Secondly, the new shading model doesn’t provide anymore a GI light. GI is automatically on by default. The quality of the GI and all secondary rays (including reflection and transmission) is set by the attribute Material Sample Count you’ll find in the path tracer. Clarisse will perform MIS and automatically distributes the number of samples (see this as a sampling budget) to the different BxDF according to the material. While that works pretty well, sometimes, you may want to add more sample to the glossy reflection for example. In that case, oversampling specific channels to launch more rays for glossy reflections for example is still possible using the per ray type multipliers.

Moreover, while sampling is now controlled directly at the path tracer level, you can still override any of these values at the material level for finer controls!

A quick word about lights

There are now two kinds of lights: infinite and area lights. Infinite lights are lights that aren’t relying on a physical geometry such as environment and distant lights. On the contrary, area lights rely on a internal geometry such as (finite) plane, sphere, spot etc… You will also note that area light now properly takes into account arbitrary scaling. The good news is that this doesn’t affect overall sampling quality.

PBR feature minitour video

Finally, please forgive us but we didn’t have the time to complete the new PBR documentation for 3.0 RC1 release. Fortunately, Yann prepared a small video to guide you through and explain you the basics of this new PBR engine.

Enjoy! 😉

Clarisse Attribute Editor’s Secrets

Clarisse Attribute Editor is truly a central piece of the workflow
This is the place where you edit and tweak your items.

Like in any other software, Attribute editor allows you to change any object’s attribute values in single or multi selection modes.

But this widget is a lot more than that. It displays a lot more information than just attributes names/values.

It can be manipulated in many different ways and is actually a lot more handy than just a key/value editor.

I prepared this little tutorial video to walk you through its subtleties. Hopefully it will give you a better vision of how powerful can be this widget.

FMX 2016 catch up!

This year again, we had a blast at FMX! You couldn’t make it to Stuttgart?! Good news, we just released two videos recordings of our awesome guest speakers presentations!

Small studio, big punch: Using Clarisse in a small studio environment to save the day. With Florian Bruchhäuser, CTO at Liga01 Computerfilm

How to make a Bogeyman: bringing a much loved character to life for TV. With Mark Pascoe, Head of 3D at DnegTV

Stay tuned, more videos will be released soon!

Clarisse 3.0 improved fur interpolate object

Clarisse 3.0 improves its fur interpolate object. It now allows to grow fur along guides using two growth behaviors that can be blended.

The fur interpolate object of Clarisse 2.0, didn’t provide any other choice than using full guide length to interpolate furs.

Now we can control fur length within Clarisse, which means that different alembic files are not needed anymore to get different fur length variations.

Fur length can of course be controlled by any map type, file or procedural. It can also be animated, therefore we can now grow fur based on one single GeometryAbcFur within Clarisse.

New texture driven Point Cloud generation!

Clarisse 3.0 (Pegasus) introduces a new point_uv_sampler  geometry that samples the UV values of the geometry support in UV space which makes it much faster and way more efficient than the point_cloud that does this evaluation in 3D space.


point_uv_sampler is not meant to replace the point_cloud.
As already mentioned the point_uv_sampler samples the UV colors of its geometry support in 2D space and as a consequence it can’t take any other scene object than a single mesh as geometry support unlike the point_cloud that can use a combiner.

This is the flip side of the 2D space evaluation but its advantage is that the point_uv_sampler will be much faster in evaluating its density according to UV colors.

Unless you really need to use combiner or any other scene object than a single mesh as a geometry support, the point_uv_sampler brings a significant gain of performance.

Picture in Picture textured area lights

When you need to light a scene with light emitting objects, the worst case scenario is when you have a VDB object. With global illumination, your scene will work but the effect will be very expensive to render.

One of our clients needed to render cannon fire effects and thus illuminate the scene with each explosion flash. They found a trick to replace the global illumination effect by area lights dynamically textured by renders of the VDB sequences, and they dramatically reduced the render time with similar results.

In this video, I’ll show you this technique based on Clarisse’s ability to use a live render as texture. You’ll see how a small render of VDB explosion could be used to texture an area light. Thanks to this tip, you’ll get similar results, compared to a GI light, with faster render times!

The same technique can be used for a lot of tricky lighting scenarios, like indirect interior lighting.

Here is a reconstruction of the setup, using a simplified geometry.

No! Clarisse Is Not Another Rendering Engine!

There are two things I’ve always found interesting regarding how the mainstream (and I include myself in), generally tackles innovation. First of all, we tend to describe new things based on what we know best and on the other hand, we tend to minimize innovation because we either fail to recognize it or we unconsciously dislike the fact that it can potentially change our daily life.

For example, a smartphone could be described as a simple mobile phone with a built-in camera displaying an incredibly small and laughable battery life… If you think about it, many may agree with this simple but incomplete description. However, if you’ve already used a smartphone, and I guess everybody has in 2016, you certainly know that they are much more than that, even if their battery life is terrible 🙂

Well, you may wonder where I’m heading to or why I’m stating the obvious here, but in fact, you can’t imagine how incredibly difficult it is to describe and define something as new as Clarisse.

Yes, for some people, Clarisse is a compositing software that targets the same market as The Foundry Nuke or Adobe After Effects. Odd, right? Not really when you look at the Clarisse feature set which does provide some (very) basic compositing features… For others, Clarisse is instead another rendering engine which can be directly compared to VRay, Arnold or PrMan for example. After all, Clarisse is used to render stuffs and so do the other renderers. From these guys perspective, Clarisse can’t be considered as a serious rendering engine because it doesn’t provide the same tight integration to Maya or Max, that VRay or Arnold both provide… Finally, others define Clarisse as a 3D generalist application in which you can animate and layout. These guys are clearly identifiable as they are the first ones to ask for a VRay or Arnold to Clarisse plugin.

One thing is pretty obvious, so far we didn’t succeed in explaining  what Clarisse is all about. Of course, this task is a difficult one and even more difficult because we’ve introduced a new breed of software in the CG software landscape.

Let me put things in context here (no pun intended on!). Clarisse was born from the frustration of former senior lighters/lighting TDs (Seb and I, aka the two founders). Believe me, it wasn’t for fun, for glory or for the love of a super high level technological challenge… Not at all! Here’s a fun fact: we did not intend to become software developers! The irony being that we’ve both interrupted our computer science studies to get a job as CG artists! We loved creating pixels more than writing lines of code. Anyway, it took us about 5 years working as CG artists until our frustration led us back to software development in order to try to improve our daily workflow. Then it took us almost 10 years to decide to stop pushing pixels and work exclusively on the development of a brand new application

One of the main reasons why we stopped is because we were tired of waiting. It’s pretty simple: to put things in perspective, at that time, we had the feeling that we were spending most of our days waiting. Yes, we were waiting for the application to start, waiting for a scene to load, waiting for the display to become responsive after a selection, waiting for modifications to be taken into account, waiting for our renders to start and waiting for our renders to end! The other main reason was that we truly believed we could design The Tool we, and by extension, others lighting artists, would like to use in production. A tool on which we could focus on our work: look dev, lighting, rendering, layering and pre-comping .  A tool that would, in its heart, hide complexity to artists and let them spend the major part of their day being truly creative…

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One of our design session discussing about scene management

Clarisse was born on a whiteboard on which we started the design of a new workflow. Instead of following the traditional paradigms and design behind today’s applications (understand the Generalist 3D DCC application + external rendering engine) our idea was to do things very differently. I’m going to tell you something that will surprise you for sure! Did you know that the application of choice we used as a reference during this design phase was Adobe Photoshop?

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First running proto of Clarisse back in 2009

Yep, that’s right! To design a 3D oriented application, our main inspiration came from a 2D one. You may find this awkward, but, when you think about it, we wanted to design an application with an image-centric workflow. After all, lighting, environment/matte artists work on images. Isn’t it the real purpose of this job?

So yes, Clarisse is innovative (we made it this way) and innovation is always very difficult to explain. It has to be experienced to be understood. Today, 3 years after we publicly released Clarisse iFX 1.0, we do have a demo introducing Clarisse which works actually pretty fine. I mean that, most of the time, the audience is positively surprised by what Clarisse does. And even better, it seems to exceed their expectations.

Interestingly, they usually define Clarisse as either the dream matte/environment artist application or as a look dev and lighting pipeline working out of a box. Although, this introduction works well, we can’t demo Clarisse to everyone. 3 years later, we still spend a lot of time trying to explain what Clarisse is all about and yes, we spend a lot of time saying: No! Clarisse isn’t another rendering engine!

3D View: Managing item visibility

Clarisse introduces new concepts such Images (+layers) Contexts and Groups that aren’t found in any other 3D DCC application. They are intrinsically linked to visibility management in Clarisse and as they are unique they can be confusing for new users.

“The first time I opened the content project “city.project”, there’s one thing I found awkward: each time I was picking geometry, my 3D View was automatically updated as if my camera was being teleported to another location.”

Of course, the explanation was pretty simple: my 3D View was set to Context mode. To be honest, it took me a while to completely master these different modes as they are very unique to Clarisse. It took me slightly longer to get used to the Context concept but, strangely, contexts are now so important in my workflow, I can’t imagine myself working without them anymore…

I’ve prepared a little video which gives an overview of the different 3D View display modes. Hopefully it will help new comers to grasp these fundamental concepts faster.  As a bonus at the end of the video, I introduced the brand new Isolate mode which appeared in Clarisse Pegasus (3.0) version..