Overview: ProWalker GPU (formerly Podium Walker) now uses NVIDIA Iray as its primary render engine!
- Iray is a physically-based, progressive pathtracer that simulates the behavior of real-world light and materials to generate photorealistic imagery. Visit the Iray page to learn more.
- GPU acceleration: Iray is more computationally "expensive" than previous versions of Podium Walker, but can harness the power of supported Nvidia graphics cards to speed up rendering. Read about recommended hardware for Podium Walker here.
What hasn't changed?
- The animation workflow is untouched. Setting keyframes, animating the camera, importing scenes from SketchUp, and recording the viewport are the same as before—in other words, everything in the Presets dialog.
- Camera/navigation options - Navigation and camera synching between Podium Browser and SketchUp works exactly as before.
- SU Podium materials integration - ProWalker still supports and relies on all of SU Podium's material settings (reflection, refraction, transparency, and all Podium artificial light types). If you have not already done so, it is strongly recommended that you install SU Podium to make the most of ProWalker's ability to render materials realistically. Alternatively, ProWalker will work with all of Podium Browser's materials and lights which are render ready.
ProWalker GPU UI/Workflow Changes:
The lighting dialog, render preferences, export settings, render modes, and general UI have all been modified to accommodate the new Iray rendering workflow.
Above is the new UI for ProWalker GPU. For now, we can ignore the "Presets" dialog and camera navigation icons, as they work exactly the same as before. If you are new to Podium Walker, please read here for an overview of camera navigation and here for camera animation.
The preview image continuously updates as Iray progressively refines the image. The number of samples that have been completed is shown in the bottom left. Podium Walker runs continuously until you stop it manually, or until a frame reaches the maximum time/sample count set in the render settings dialog. Making a change to the model or moving the camera will reset the sample count to 1 and restart the process.
1. Render Modes
ProWalker GPU includes four rendering modes, which are and explained below:
- Nav - This is the lowest quality setting, and is meant to be a "performance friendly" option for navigating in the Podium Walker viewport. Nav mode should be used for setting up camera angles, or making quick tests, but never for final renderings.
- Qck - This is a fast render mode, optimized for fast performance at the expense of quality; final render quality is somewhere between Nav and Id mode. Qck can either act as a preview setting, or as a fall-back for users with slower hardware, or without Iray supported graphics cards. Qck uses "screen-space Ambient Occlusion" to simulate indirect lighting instead of fully calculating global illumination for every frame.
- Id (Iray interactive) - Id mode uses the "Iray interactive" biased rendering algorithm to reach an efficient compromise between quality and speed. Render quality is vastly improved from Qck mode and also improves upon previous versions of Podium Walker. This is now the default setting, and the most efficient way to render animation in Podium Walker with Iray.
- Ph (Iray Photoreal) - The highest quality, but slowest setting. Iray Photoreal is an unbiased pathtracing algorithm, and produces a very high quality image. Photoreal mode is suitable for producing high quality still images, nearly approaching the quality of SU Podium. "Ph mode" is less efficient than Id for rendering animation, but possible on top-spec workstations.
2. Render settings Gear icon
Iray is a "progressive pathtracer," so the render quality of an animation depends on the number of samples/iterations that Podium Walker is allowed to perform per frame.
Iray renders are noisey at low-sample levels; as samples are added the render engine progressively refines the image, eliminating noise and artifacts with every new iteration. So a frame with 100 samples is going to be noisier/less refined than a frame with 500 samples.
Podium Walker gives you three ways to set the image quality, shown in the image opposite.
- Time: Sets a maximum time limit per frame. When that limit is reached, Podium Walker moves to the next frame whether or not all noise has been resolved.
- Samples: Sets a maximum number of samples per frame. Use this if you've done test renders and know how many samples are required for your desired image quality.
- Automatic: An automatic solution that attempts to find an efficient balance between speed and quality. Move the slider to the right for higher quality but slower rendering.
3. Background settings dialog Cloud icon
Podium Walker with Iray has an updated selection of background settings, including five sky simulations for exterior rendering, and 8 HDR background textures including two additional exteriors, and six HDR light studios for image based rendering. These examples show four of the five simulated sky options:
Click the "Texture" radio box in the background dialog to use one of the 8 HDR backgrounds instead of the sky simulations.
4. Render mode sample frames
These images demonstrate the three Podium Walker render modes for a medium quality level. All use identical material settings, and similar lighting settings, and were rendered using approximately 500 samples:
1. Qck - Ambient Occlusion 1
2. ID1 - Iray Interactive