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FREE Vray Tutorial - What is Vray?

Please don't translate or copy these tutorials elsewhere. I don't like the tutorials to float around in 10 different versions and places on the net. Feel free to link to this page of course! (see also Terms of Use)

Before you start

This tutorial is a brief overview of what you will be able to do with Vray, one of the most popular rendering plugins for 3D Studio Max.

First learn 3D Studio Max, then start with Vray. It is an extension to 3DS Max, not a replacement! For example things like the material editor, creating and manipulating objects, modifiers etc should all be familiar before trying to learn Vray.

What is Vray?

As you probably already know, Vray is a render plugin. It's a plugin, which means that it adds functionality to an existing program. Vray's features mainly aim at creating photorealistic images, together with improving rendering speed. Currently, Vray exist for 3D Studio Max, Maya, Rhinoceros 3D, Sketchup, Softimage, Blender and there's even a standalone version available. Please check out the Chaosgroup website for information on compatibility and pricing.

This tutorial is made with Vray for 3dsMax, but the plugins for the other packages are generally very similar.

Most of Vray's features can be found in the render setup dialog (F10), but many other additions are distributed across the complete program. For example Vray adds its own materials and textures, light types, a fur generator, a toon style effect, displacement modifier, frame buffer, effects, etc...

Vray is created by Chaosgroup, a European company based in Bulgaria. Click here to visit their website.

Free Vray 3.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?

Vray 3.0 Features - Full scene anti-aliasing

Anti-aliasing is directly related to image quality. Take a look at the image below to see the difference between anti-aliasing and no anti aliasing. It deals with smoothing out object edges, texture details, blurry reflections, area shadows etc...

Because it affects so many aspects in your image, it is very important to understand how to control it. Changing anti aliasing settings has a huge effect on render times, it can bring a render from 5 seconds to a few hours by altering a setting from 0.1 to 0.001.

In Vray you can control the quality of the image with only a few settings, which makes this perfect for switching from a quick preview render to a high quality final image. You just have to learn and understand the effect and importance of each setting, so you know what to expect by changing a parameter.

Here's a tutorial on optimizing render speed vs. quality!

Free Vray 3.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?

Vray 3.0 - Standard V-ray Material

Vray adds its own material types to 3DS Max. The most important one is the Standard V-ray material, this will be the base for most of the materials you will create. There's also a blend material, which can be used to blend several other materials together to create more complex, layered materials.

The normal Vray material is the one you will be using most. With only this type you can create anything like glass, plastics, metals, wood, and so on.

Read a basic vray materials tutorial here.

Below are a few examples of simple materials you can create by altering just a few parameters in the standard V-ray material.

First some plastic and metal materials:

Free Vray 3.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?

But also glass or transparant plastics are super easy to create and render:

Free Vray 3.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?

Besides the normal Vray material, there are some more specialized materials like the VrayLight material, VrayBlend material, Vray2sided material, VrayfastSSS, vraymaterial wrapper, Vray Carpaint, and Vray Flakes. You can create every material you can imagine with these types (or a combination of these types or in combination with Max's texture maps).

Here's an example of the VrayLight material in action. You can assign it to any object to turn it into a light source. There's even an option to make it a real direct light source so it casts sharp raytraced shadows.

Free Vray 3.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?

Another example, this time the VrayCarpaint material. It adds a subtle 'flake' effect to the base layer of the material, simulating the look of metallic paint. But it's also a layered material, so you can change the diffuse and reflection parameters for the base and the 'coat' layer individually. For example, note the subtle glow around the sharp reflections of the coat layer.

Free Vray 3.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?

Vray 3.0 Features - Displacement mapping

Displacement mapping is mostly used to add fine detail to your objects at render time. You can use any kind of map for the displacement, and vray will 'displace' your mesh according to the grayscale info in the map. For example black pixels will not be displaced, white pixels will have the highest displacement.

This is similar to bump maps, but with displacement the actual mesh is displaced, so even at the edges of your object you can see the 'bumps'. You can even use displacement to turn a flat plane into a rough mountain landscape!

The image below shows the difference between a simple bump map and Vray's displacement modifier. Both use the exact same texture map.

Free Vray 3.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?

Vray 3.0 Features - Fur generator

Vray fur is a special object type which lets you place fur strands on any type of geometry. The fur is not heavy on the viewport as it is generated at render time.

Fur can be used for thins like hair, grass, cool looking trees, rugs or even a cactus. The latest Vray version has lots of options to create quite realistic fur, and with todays computers it's not impossible to achieve decent render times too.

Here's a quick example, adding some hair to our fish model:

Free Vray 3.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?

Vray 3.0 Features - Physically accurate global illumination

Global illumination is one of Vray's strongest points, which is why many archviz people choose V-ray as their preferred renderer. Global illumination is the simulation of how light behaves in the real world. When light hits objects, it gets partially absorbed, and partially bounced off again. Without GI, this behavior is not calculated.

When you add a light source, it casts light onto the other objects and that's it, everything that is not directly lit by the lightsource will be black.

Free Vray 3.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?

Now with GI turned on, light gets reflected from the groundplane and the fish model, and everyhting not lit directly by the light brightens up.

Free Vray 3.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?

In Vray 3.0 You have the choice between various methods of calculating the global illumination, depending on the quality and speed you're after, or if it's a still image or an animation you're creating.

Calculating global illumination is heavy on the CPU, but Vray has loads of clever optimizations built in to speed things up. You have full control over the speed vs quality.

Here's a tutorial on different GI methods.

And a tutorial on the Irradiance Map here.

Vray 3.0 Features - Area lights

V-ray also adds its own light types, one of them being the planar light (or area light). As you can see in the image below, these lights act like big light panels, as you would see in photo studio's. The larger the light, the softer the shadows will be (or vice versa).

Free Vray 3.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?

Vray 3.0 Features - HDRI / image based lighting

Another feature of Vray lights is that you can map a texture to it. When used with the special HDRI texture maps, you can light your entire scene with only one light, and get very natural lighting and reflections out of it. The image below is lit with only one light, casting very nice shadows and lighting the model from different directions.

Free Vray 3.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?

Vray 3.0 Features - Sun and sky system

V-ray also adds a complete sun/sky system to 3dsMax. With this you can easily setup a sunlight with a corresponding sky texture. The sky texture automatically adjusts its colors to the chosen position of the sun. This is very usefull for architects to make sunlight studies on their buildings.

Free Vray 3.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?

Vray 3.0 Features - Physical Camera

Vray can also mimic real world camera properties, when you replace the standard max camera with a Vray Physical Camera. This will add a lot of features to control every aspect you can control on real cameras like shutter speed, aperture, depth of field, motion blur, lens distortion, vignetting, color balance, iso, and so on...

Below is an example of depth of field: objects out of focus will become more blurry. And of course like everything else, you have full control over every property that defines the DOF.

Free Vray 3.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?

Another feature related to the camera is motion blur. Vray can calculate raytraced motion blur, resulting in very realistic blur (much better than with any post method). For example, the green fish in the image below is moving quite fast from left to right, while the red fish is spinning.

Free Vray 3.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?

Vray 3.0 Features - Lens effects

Another great addition are the Vray lens effects. This effect is added in post through the Vray Frame Buffer, and can be adjusted to your needs after the render has completed.

This is especially usefull when you have bright light sources or very bright reflections in your scene. The image below show the effect, exaggerated a little bit to make it more visible.

Also note how this effect solves anti aliasing issues that will always be present in situations like this! (see second image without lens effect)

Free Vray 3.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?
Free Vray 3.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?

Vray 3.0 Features - RT (real time)

Since version 2.0, Vray comes bundled with Vray RT, which is a realtime renderer! You can assign a viewport to Vray RT, and it will constantly show it in rendered mode. Change any setting like a material or light source, and the render will update immediately.

This is very useful for placing lights, so you can see the effect of it on the fly, without having to wait long for a new test render.

It also uses your GPU to render the image, so with the right gear this can really speed up render times!

Free Vray 3.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?
Back to Vray tutorials page

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