In the pursuit of science I have been delving into the world of Physics Based Rendering using GPU's instead of CPU's. Currently at the office I use 3ds Max for the base 3d software on which Vray has been my main render engine. In conjunction with Vray I have 12 computers I use as render slaves on a network I built which draws on the Render Que bliss of Backburner but utilizes Vray's Distributed Rendering to have all slaves contributing to a single image at a time instead of spreading separate frames to individual computers. A tutorial on setting up a render farm in this fashion is detailed in this post:
We chose Vray over Mental Ray for a few core reasons detailed in this post
A summary of the reasons why we decided to use Vray primarily over Mental Ray was because it was much faster than Mental Ray to set up scenes and get photo realistic renders pertaining to materials, render settings, and lighting. Also we felt that Vray had a crisper, sharper render quality than Mental Ray, even when Final Gather was set to maximum within Mental Ray. Lastly, the benefits of Vray's Distributed Rendering were irresistible.
In that same quest for speed and quality I am now experimenting with GPU based rendering, and the first Render Engine to test is Octane. In the past I experimented very briefly with Vray's GPU rendering but found that render quality was less than impressive. Octane was recommended to us by a counterpart in Italy who uses Blender with Octane for all of his work (which is very impressive.) The main question on our minds is- "is it possible to achieve better render quality and faster render times using Physics/ GPU based render systems on 1 or 2 computers rather than having to use 12+ computers on a Vray render farm that produces only decent render times?" WELL LETS FIND OUT!
For this study I downloaded both the stand-alone version of Octane as well as the newly released 3ds Max Plug-in Version. Using the Plug-in Version, right away upon setting up a few basic "Octane Lights" and converting some Mental Ray materials over to Octane Materials- at the click of a button, I noticed that I got a very nice looking render within a just a few minutes of preparation. I made the below render comparisons with a standard Torus. For each I used equatable Materials meant specifically for use with the Render Engines used for the test renders as well as Mental Ray/ Vray/ Octane specific lighting. They were all very close in quality and render time but Octane did stand out for the realism of the reflections and shadow fall off.