Donate to the Blog

By donating you make it easier for me to post more often on more topics and give me the ability to spend more time answering your questions. If you enjoy reading or have found any of my posts valuable feel free to let me know.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Octane Render: First Impressions in GPU & Physics Based Rendering

The Back-story:

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.

Hypothesis/ Question:

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!

First Impressions:

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.

Mental Ray



Next I set off to render out a more complex object to really get a feel for render speed and quality:

Mental Ray



At this point it was obvious that we liked the quality and realism of the Octane Version even over Vray; however, the render time was in the area of 10 minutes which was even higher than Mental Ray and Vray, much higher. Octane is supposed to render at relatively instantaneous speeds right? Yeah, thats what I thought too. After some quick digging I found people in forums saying that Octane will continue to render, seemingly forever unless you tell it to stop. After the first 30 seconds there is a nice quality render appearing on the screen but the program continues to sample, and resample, and resample fine tuning the quality ever so slightly with each second. So I thought there must be a way to limit the render time without having to manually tell it to cancel right? While I couldn't find any information on this subject I did discover through trial and error that if you reduce the default "16,000" samples in the render settings down to say, 1000 you still get a very high quality render and the render finishes at about the 30 second mark. I guess setting the default sample amount so high kind of makes sense if you can still get a flawless render in about 10 minutes, but we want SPEEEEEEEEEED! and quality.... So for me, so far, 1000 samples seems to be a happy medium. Below are examples of what a render time of 26 seconds with 1000 samples looks like:

Octane, 26 seconds, 1000 samples, 640 X 480 pixels

So far so good then. Unfortunately the demo version does not support large render resolution but we plan on purchasing the full version this week. I am looking forward to pumping out a 4000 x 4000 resolution render and really seeing what Octane is capable of. First impressions are that it is BLAZINGLY fast once you get your render settings dialed in and Octane is capable of extremely high quality and realistic lighting and textures. I feel like it is still a very new technology and software, so you might want to wait until they make sure there aren't any major bugs before running out and purchasing it but for 100-200 dollars why not right?

BY THE WAY VERY IMPORTANT  If you do not have an Nvidia Graphics Card don't bother because it is only compatible with Nvidia at this point. I am using the Quadro 4000. I will keep everyone posted as I progress into the next phase of study so stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

New Website Coming Soon!

Hello friends, family, countryman! I would like to announce that within the next couple of weeks I will be launching my new website under my new company name of "Kaplan Design Labs." The blog will remain active and I will continue to post here even though there will be an integrated blog in the site as well. In the new site you can expect to see my full portfolio, history of my career, services offered, tutorials, resources, and many more surprises. I would like to thank all of my followers and viewers for your past and continued support as none of this would be possible without you. Excelsior away!

Here is a random render just for fun!

3ds Max & Vray with Depth of Field

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Illustrations, Presentation, and 3d Gallery Visualization: Apple iMac & Promo Designs

Hey now! So I finally created a 3rd illustration/ poster in the Apple Product Series. 3 Illustrations was the magic number I was shooting for to create a new project for my portfolio. The previous two illustrations were done in retro fashion, one representing the 80's and one representing the 30's. So in keeping with the tradition the newest graphic is done in the design style of 60's Rock Concert Posters. This was my first time designing in this style and it was a blast to experiment with the type deformations that made the lava lamp style of graphic design such a hit in that decade. Below are two color variations of the poster. I have chosen the first one as the graphic that will be included in my portfolio (it was a tough decision.) The below three graphics are presentation images I created to make the project more interesting and appealing. As I have discussed in previous posts, the presentation of a project is just as important as the main elements of the project itself. The first presentation image I put together in Photoshop to simulate the graphics as posters on an eroded concrete wall. The last two images I made in 3ds Max and rendered with Vray to show them as fancy works of fine art in a gallery. It was a lot of fun putting together the images and I am very pleased with the way the project flows together. If you want to check it out go to this link and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

3d Architectural/ Interior Visualization- Purple Recording Studio: Command Station Close Up

Doing some detail shots of the "Purple Recording Studio. Here is a close up of the command station equipment. I could wait until they are all ready for posting, but why deny you the awesome?

More to Come!!!

Vector Illustration- Retro/ Vintage Advertisement: iPod 1st Generation

A month or two ago I created several vector illustrations of past and present Apple products such as the Macintosh Plus, the original iMac, the original iPod, the iPhone 5, the iPad, and a new iMac to use some examples. Since I made them they have been just sitting around on the hard drive with the exception of the Macintosh Plus which I created an 80's style vector illustration/ advertisement for (that is on display a couple of posts back.) This week I decided to put the 1st Generation iPod to work and I decided to do a very retro/ vintage advertisement that clashes the new-ish product with the very old school ad design. Eventually when I utilize more of the illustrations these will be on sale as a set of posters, for now enjoy!

Created with Adobe Illustrator & Photoshop-

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Monday, October 15, 2012

3d Architectural Interior Visualization Rendering: Purple Recording Studio with Lighting Effects

**Since creating these renders I have added updated HD images the following post: **

This Weekend I got the Architectural Interior Design bug and I decided to put together a new scene for my portfolio. The last scene I did was a semi-traditional brick condo/ loft living room with some cool day time lighting effects. This time I decided to go with something somewhat different and I created a purple recording studio full of musical instruments and DJ equipment. The lighting on this scene is completely indoor and I experimented a lot with neon/ blackligh techniques within 3ds Max. It is very interesting creating indoor lighting solutions/ designs in rooms where there is no external light. In the past I have always enjoyed putting windows in my scenes so this was a little outside my realm of expertise. Check out the project images below and expect to see high resolution renders within a day or two! I wanted something to post today so these were just some small resolution samples I rendered out.

Created with 3ds Max, Vray, and Photoshop.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Vector Illustration- 80's Style Print Advertisement Tribute: Macintosh Plus

I created this image as a tribute to Apple computers. I started developing this project by doing several vector illustrations of various apple products through the current and past few decades. My goal when starting the illustrations was to create a poster/ graphic detailing a brief history/ evolution of Apple. I have seen similar graphics done before but very few with high quality vector illustrations. Most were just photo collages of images found around Google. While I am in the process of developing that graphic I had the idea to take each individual illustration and make these product tribute advertisements/ posters. The "Macintosh Plus" is the first one I decided to start working on out of the series. This project was a great chance to do something in a 1980's style which I have never tried before and which ended up being a ton of fun. I had a great time researching fonts and graphic/ advertisement styles of the decade. Goes to show you how one project can develop into several different projects. If this ever happens to you go for it! Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Image created with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. If you would like to use this image send me an email at and I will send you a version without the watermark :)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

3d Architectural Interior Visualization Renderings: High Resolution Brick Condo with Advanced Lighting Techniques

A few entries ago I posted some interior renders of a condo/ loft living room with white brick textured walls and hard wood floors featuring some advanced lighting techniques/ effects. I revisited the project this week to make some minor changes to the scene and to create some high resolution renderings to improve the overall image and detail quality. I know that unless specified by a client or instructor your natural instinct would be to just leave the default aspect ratio within the 3d software when creating renders. Don't do it! And if you do make sure you go back later and increase the resolution to at least HD 720 (if you have a day to do 1 render at a time bump it up to 4000). If you don't want to post renders that large on your site it is always better to at least create the image in a higher resolution and shrink it down as needed in Photoshop. You will be amazed at the quality difference of the images. This cuts down on blur, speckles, artifacts, and all those annoying little problems that occur when creating 3d renders. Enjoy!

Created with 3ds Max & Menal Ray. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Magic Lamp: Concept Sheet, Drawing, 3D Model, & Turntable

This is a project I created a little over a month ago. For this project I used 3ds Max and Mental Ray for modeling, texturing, lighting, and rendering. This project demonstrates concept art, traditional drawing, vector art, and 3d art. The Magic Lamp was done as a skills test to showcase my ability to take an idea and develop it from concept to polished artwork. Initially I was just going to do a sketch and create a 3d Model & Turntable Rendering of it but instead I decided to do a full concept sheet featuring a variety of different spouts, tops, handles, and styles. Then I chose my favorite sketch from the concept sheet and developed it into a finished drawing including a logo to show its possible application as commercial art. From there I decided to do a stylized vector version to display my skills in not only traditional drawing but to show my proficiency in Adobe Illustrator as well. Once all of these elements were done I then went on to model The Magic Lamp in 3ds Max. After the 3d Model was completed I created a scene with emulated studio lighting to place the object in where I proceeded to texture it with a "gold" finish. I decided to add the ruby's for extra pizzazz. Once I was happy with the rendering I animated a turntable to show the consistency of the mesh and texture from all 360 degrees. I was extremely happy with the results and this project ended up being perfect to show my full creative process for my portfolio. My advice to you is when you are working on a project, push yourself as hard as you can to go above and beyond your own expectations. You may end up surprising yourself! Always be your own number one critic :)

Project created with 3ds Max & Mental Ray. For commercial or non-profit use please contact for details.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Apple VS. Droid: 3d Cartoon Illustration Apple Logo Versus Android Logo

Today I created this illustration in honor of the Apple iphone 5 release. This 3d cartoon is the first of many I have planned for the tablet/ smart phone sector. It is going to be interesting to see what Android manufacturers will respond with especially in light of the recent court decision against Samsung for copyright infringement. Personally I have a droid device and love it but I haven't yet had my own iphone so I can't be sure which is better. Between iOS6, Ice Cream Sandwich, Jellybean, and all the other operating systems that apple and droid have available it is getting hard to keep track of which is which but I will make an illustration/ infographic this week to explore the evolution of the iPhone and Android devices so make sure to check back soon. Let the games begin!

 ** If you would like to use this image or any other image posted on this blog for commercial or non-profit use please email for info.**

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Green Energy: 3d Renderings of Wind Turbines and Solar Panels in Natural Landscapes

Hello internet! I am very excited to be posting my newest 3d artwork. Recently in my free time I have been working on projects that are relevant to current issues, emerging technologies, news stories, nature, and politics. I created (modeling, texturing, lighting, and rendering) this series of 3d landscapes/ illustrations with a focus on "Green Energy" as I felt that there was a major lack of high caliber artwork for such a rapidly expanding and viable industry. For this project I used 3ds Max with Vray to create the images and Photoshop for post production. My goal when creating this project was to produce stunning 3d illustrations that would accentuate the beauty and importance of renewable energy. Enjoy!

(posting description: 3d Renderings & Illustrations of landscapes depicting sources of renewable, green, and alternative energy including Wind Turbines on a green grassy hill with a blue cloudy sky, solar dish mirrors in a desert during sunset surrounded by cactus and boulders, an aquatic wind turbine farm in the ocean on a bright clear sunny day with a shipping boat and Cessna plane in the background, and a solar panel powered energy array in the mountains on a semi sunny day.)

***If you are interested in using these illustrations for non-profit or commercial use feel free to contact me at to discuss the terms of use. Hi Resolution images are available upon request without the water mark.***

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

3D Legal Illustrations- Supreme Court Steps

 As you know from previous posts I have been doing a lot of 3D illustrations at work. These were done for the Law/ Legal sector. It is very hard coming up with original content for this category because symbolism of the judicial sector is very limited. I made these as images replicating the steps of The Supreme Court. Although they are great on their own, if they were cropped down as a header or used as a background for a website they would be great additions in creating a visually pleasing web design. My tip for the day is that when brainstorming ideas especially for images/ illustrations with no set specific purpose think of all the different ways an image could be used (for example as a website header, editorial picture, background, asset to a collage, etc. ) and think about who will be the possible consumer for the content you are creating. This will help you to broaden your range of ideas when brainstorming projects.

Programs used: 3ds Max, Vray. All Images in this post are property of Extensoft and Commercial use is prohibited.

Monday, August 20, 2012

3D Medical Illustrations: Cancer, Bacteria, & Blood Cells

A couple of months ago we were doing medical illustrations at work. I always see cool 3d illustrations of cells, viruses, diseases etc. while browsing sites like Web MD or health magazines and I thought I would give it a try. I am very happy with the results. Below are three 3d illustrations. The first one is a mix of cancer and bacteria cells, the second is an illustration of what red blood cells look like floating/ flying through veins, and the third is bacteria on its own. The last image is a collage of some of the assets I created to make the compositions. I always thought that these kind of illustrations would be very hard to create but with a little bit of thought and planning it actually was not too difficult. I created the assets individually in 3ds Max then composited and added some blur and filter passes to give them a realistic feel in Photoshop. My tip for anyone thinking of attempting illustrations like this, or for any other subject matter, is to never be intimidated by the complexity of the idea. If you plan carefully and be thoughtful in the development process then you can make the hardest projects look effortless.

Donate to the Blog

By donating you make it easier for me to post more often on more topics and give me the ability to spend more time answering your questions. If you enjoy reading or have found any of my posts valuable feel free to let me know.