Why Redshift is Our Favorite Rendering Engine

We’ve been asked a lot about the different software our team uses. As a 3D design studio, the rendering engine we use is particularly important.

The FUSE team has used and experimented with a lot of 3D rendering programs over the years. For high-quality production work, our preferred renderer is Redshift (as you may have guessed by the title). Why? It’s the fastest rendering software we’ve used and plays well with our third-party plugins.

Actually, there are a lot of reasons to love Redshift. But first, let’s start with the basics.

What is Redshift and How Do We Use It? (A Rendering Primer)

For those of you unfamiliar with Redshift or the process of 3D rendering, here’s a quick rundown. For those of you super familiar with it, you can go ahead and skip this section.

Rendering is the process of creating images based on three-dimensional data. It’s where everything comes together to produce a final, photorealistic product.

Close-up image of a Kenmore vacuum product on a hardwood surface

How does a rendering engine work? After we create our 3D wireframe models, we run them through a rendering engine (like Redshift). The rendering engine takes the data from our 3D models and builds a three-dimensional image.

From there, it calculates light, shadow, materials, reflections – everything that makes an image look real.

Redshift’s object ID feature lets us isolate and tweak individual objects after rendering, including things like reflections and refractions. It’s a handy feature. We can adjust these elements in real-time, then bring the finished rendered product into a post-production program like Photoshop or AfterEffects.

Why is Redshift our favorite rendering program?

First of all, because it’s crazy fast – the fastest rendering solution we’ve found.

But that’s not the only reason Redshift is our #1 3D renderer. In the last five years or so, our team has used four rendering engines in production and experimented with about three others. Out of those seven, we had a clear favorite. Here are some of the reasons why:

It's so much faster than other rendering engines

Okay, we already said it, but it’s worth repeating. Speed is one of the biggest reasons we prefer Redshift over other rendering engines.

16 oz can of Insight Brewing beer called "Royal Nuisance" rendered using Redshift

Redshift is a biased GPU rendering program, meaning it renders using the graphics card (GPU) instead of a standard computer processor (CPU). It can calculate those elements we talked about earlier all at once, rather than one after another.

Biased 3D renderers make approximations during the rendering process. These estimations let users create realistic images much faster, like this image of Insight Brewing’s Royal Nuisance 16 oz can.

Unbiased rendering engines, on the other hand, calculate as much as possible to create a 100% realistic image. But all those calculations means these images take a long time to render.

There’s been debate over the years about the benefits of unbiased versus biased rendering. Early versions of biased renderers were error-prone, forcing users to make more adjustments after the final rendering.

However, advancing tech has closed the gap. Biased renderers now can render images faster and more accurate than earlier versions. And Redshift’s default settings offer pretty good realistic images. Speaking of which…

It comes with solid out-of-the-box functionality

Redshift is set up to deliver pretty solid out-of-the-box results. You don’t need to fiddle with controls or endlessly scroll through menus looking for the right settings. It’s undoubtedly made with artists in mind, with intuitive lists of settings and a toolbox of favorite commands.

“Redshift is set up by default to give you pretty good results. But you can also dive in and change a whole bunch of settings if you want,” says Senior Rendering Specialist Levi Krippner. “The real-time viewer makes it much easier to understand what settings you’re changing and what they do.”

Other 3D rendering engines, like V-ray, offer full control over these settings but it’s a little more tedious. There are tons of settings, checkboxes, and dials you have to tune just right to get the image how you want.

It plays nice with most third-party plugins like X-Particles and Turbulence FD

Many people rely on third-party plugins, and of course, all those elements need to be rendered. Redshift does a great job keeping up with the most popular and useful plugins. We use a lot of these plugins in our daily work, so it’s essential that we use software that integrates well with all our tools.

Gray drone flying above clouds with the words 'Integrator Extended Range - Group 4 and 5 capability in a Group 3 UAS'

Recently, we rendered 3D clouds for a project with Insitu using a third-party program. When we brought them into Cinema 4D, Redshift had no problem rendering them.

It has an incredibly responsive real-time update viewer

While Redshift’s out-of-the-box functionality sets you up for photorealistic success, its real-time update viewer also makes it easier to adjust settings as you go. The program’s fast rendering means no long downtime waiting for new scenes to render.

“It’s exponentially faster. I can have a live preview of my scene open, change lights and move stuff around, and adjust anything on the fly. And I can get a real-time representation of what that’s going to look like,” says Senior Animator Ben Lodge.

With the work we do at FUSE, there’s an obvious benefit to fast, real-time rendering. In fact, over the past five years or so, it’s become standard to render in GPU for that reason.

While working with clients, real-time rendering lets us quickly adjust our work based on client feedback or product changes. We don’t have to wait hours or days to present a new image (with updated color or lighting). Instead, we can make the necessary updates, quickly render with Redshift, and send back.

Exploring Real-Time Rendering in Redshift

In the video below, Levi demonstrates how Redshift’s real-time viewer (on the right) makes it easy to adjust an image’s color, lighting, or other settings (on the left). Artists can tweak the image and see how it will render right on their screen.

Our Work with Redshift

So, you can probably see why Redshift is our preferred rendering engine. It offers fast and reliable 3D renderings with a real-time viewer. When working with a client, it’s important to be able to make adjustments with a speedy turnaround time. And Redshift helps our team run smoothly and meet deadlines.

For more examples of our photorealistic 3D work, you can head over to Our Work page where we regularly post new projects.

We also blog a lot about the different projects we’re working on in-house, playing around with new programs or trying out a new technique. Recently, in anticipation of the new X-Particles release, we wrote all about what we’ve been up to with this amazing particle engine.

Interested in learning more about the different programs we use? Drop us a message on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. We’ve got links to our profiles below.

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