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The ART Renderer Explained


There’s a new kid on the block when it comes to comes to physically-based renderers and it comes from none other than Autodesk themselves. The Autodesk Raytracer Renderer or “ART” has been designed for use across several Autodesk products, including 3DS Max. You can also use it with Revit Inventor, Fusion 360 and more.

One of the main advantages (or disadvantages depending on your view) that ART has is that is it video card agnostic. Whereas the ray tracers from Nvidia leverage CUDA-based features to massively accelerate rendering, ART stays mainly CPU-based.

Head In The Clouds

The other really interesting thing about ART is that it provides cloud-based rendering. If you don’t know, this is not the same as distributing a render job across your network or render farm the way we are used to, but getting a cloud centre cluster to render your work somewhere out in the world, without leaning on your own hardware.

Cloud rendering services are becoming more and more common now and can be a fast and cost-effective alternative depending on your business needs. ART is not the first to bring cloud to the table, but it is one of the first to let you render animation in the cloud, as opposed to just stills.

Of course you still have the option of rendering locally on your own hardware, but it is nice to have the option.

Architect of Revolution
While Autodesk is marketing ART as a direct alternative to both Iray and Mental Ray, the company is specifically framing it as a renderer best suited for photorealistic engineering and architecture renderings. Not so much for high-end CG work in the film or gaming industry, where both the Nvidia renderers have found a home.

This is reflected in the fact that ART does not have the sophisticated level of control over every aspect of rendering compared to the other two. Instead it has a simplified set of quality settings that let you quickly get to the business of rendering your model.

But is it ART?
The big question is whether ART is for you? This is still a very new product, not something that almost three decades old like Mental Ray. On the one hand this means it is a lightweight and relatively simple package. On the other hand it means it does not have the depth and powerful levels of control you get from the established renderers.

ART also doesn’t claim to be the ultimate in quality like Iray and Mental Ray. Rather, it is a big step up from frankly ugly rasterized rendering we’ve seen so much of for Autodesk and other CAD software. Ray tracing is a superior rendering method when it comes to quality, but it is not in reach of everyone. By making the requirements modest and allowing for a cloud rendering service ART puts raytraced render quality in the hands of everyone.

So if you don’t want to invest a fortune in hardware, don’t want to fiddle with renders on a deep technical level and are looking to upgrade from CAD rasters rather than compete with Pixar, ART may be just what you’ve been hoping for.