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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.

This tutorial was created with Vray version 2.0. Please do not email me with questions about this tutorial if you are using a Vray version prior to V-ray 2.0, since the answer to your question is most likely that you're using a older version.

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 a lot of 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 and Google Sketchup. This tutorial is made with Vray for Max, 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 smaller items are distributed across the complete program. For example Vray adds its own materials, light types, a fur generator, a toon style effect, a displacement modifier, etc...

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

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?

Vray 2.0 Features

You can read all of Vray's features on the official Chaosgroup website. I will list some of the most important ones in the next paragraphs.

Vray 2.0 Features - Full scene anti-aliasing

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

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 changing from a quick preview render to a high quality final image. You just have to learn and understand the effect of each setting, so you know what to expect by changing a parameter.

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?

Vray 2.0 Features - Advanced materials

Vray adds its own material types to 3DS Max. You have the choice between a normal Vray material, 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 combination of these types or in combination with Max's texture maps).

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.

The images below show a few of the many possibilities with Vray materials, created in just a few seconds. The top image is some kind of brushed metal, in the second one I turn two teapots into light emitters, and the third one is a blurry transparent plastic or glass object.

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?
Free Vray 2.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?
Free Vray 2.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?

Vray 2.0 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 is the same object as the glass one from the previous step, but it is displaced with a cellular map. So without any modeling at all, the object looks extremely detailed.

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?

Vray 2.0 Features - Physically accurate global illumination

Global illumination is one of Vray's strongest points, which is why many archviz people are using it. It's a term used for the correct calculation of how light behaves in the real world. When light hits objects, it gets partially absorbed, and partially bounced off again. In traditional renderers, 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 in shadow will be black (see first image below).

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?

So you have to add more lights to brighten up these dark parts etc... In Vray, because light bounces off surfaces, the shadowed parts are not completely black, some of the bounced light will reach these parts and brighten them up. This makes up for extremely realistic lighting. The second image is with global illumination turned on. Notice that the light hits the teapot and floor, bounces of and illuminates each other. It even reveals some small teapots that were not visible at all in the first image!

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?

In Vray 2.0 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 or an animation you're creating.

Calculating global illumination is very 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 trade off.

Please find a tutorial on different GI methods here.

And a tutorial on the Irradiance Map here.

Vray 2.0 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.

For example you have full control over 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 2.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?

Most of the features are also available when you prefer to use a normal max camera. You just have to control the settings in a different place instead of on the actual camera settings (there is a vray:camera rollout in the render setup dialog).


Vray 2.0 Features - Sun & Sky

Vray 2.0 has a special 'sun & sky' setup to easily create outdoor lighting. You create a 'sun'light, and a vray 'sky'map is automatically created to mimic the light coming from the sky.

You can control lots of settings to change the color tint of the sun and sky, how the horizon should look like, the size of the sun to control the blurriness of the shadows, etc...

The Vray sun/sky system works best in conjunction with a Vray Physical Camera.

Here's a tutorial on rendering an exterior scene with Vray's Sun & Sky system.

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?

Vray 2.0 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. (like with the displacement map).

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.

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?

Vray 2.0 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 2.0 Tutorials | What is Vray?
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