• Price: 820

  • Company: Nvidia

  • Pros: pros Fast when using NURBS, subdivision surfaces, raytraced reflections/refraction, and motion blur. Superb image viewing and fast re-lighting rendering option.

  • Cons: Polygon models render much more slowly and global illumination can also be slow compared to Mental Ray.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 7 out of 10 We rate this 7 out of 10

Most commercial 3D rendering solutions such as Photorealistic Renderman and Mental Ray use the computer’s CPU to do offline rendering. nVidia’s Gelato is different because it combines the processing power of the system’s CPU with the processing ability of the graphics card.

With graphics chip technology developing faster than CPU technology, Gelato’s approach makes sense and paves the way for the possibility of real-time photoreal rendering at some point in the future.

However, there are some complications. While it makes sense to harness the otherwise dormant power of your system’s graphics card, it’s not as useful for a company who have already invested in a CPU-based render farm. Gelato may require an entire reinvestment in rendering hardware that may outweigh the benefits it could offer.

Gelato is a standalone renderer but it comes with Mango – a plug-in for Maya that enables translation of geometry and shaders to Gelato for direct rendering. Mango supports most Maya functionality but there are obvious limitations such as for Fur, Cloth, and Hierarchical subdivision surfaces. All the bread-and-butter features are supported though, including motion blur, depth of field, displacements, and most light types. Support for 3DS Max comes via a free third-party plug-in called Ameretto.

 border=0 /><p>Image Courtesy of Ethan Summers and Shiew Yeu Loh.
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<p>
We tested Gelato in Maya 7 on a dual 3GHz machine fitted with a high-end nVidia Quadro FX4500 card. Our initial test was a scene containing 584,000 polygons and raytraced area shadows. 
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<p>
Mental Ray computed the 1k square image at its preset Production Quality setting in 12 minutes 24 seconds, and required 1.16GB of memory. Gelato took over 21 minutes to render the same scene, and required 1.65GB of memory. 
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<p>
The interesting thing is that Gelato seemed to be using only one of the system’s CPU (plus the GPU), whereas Mental Ray was maxing out both of them. The same scene without raytracing took Mental Ray one minute to render, while Gelato took over six minutes.
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<p>
Switching to a lighter all-NURBS scene of 100 objects gives a dramatic change. Mental Ray took 59 seconds, while Gelato took just 32 seconds. 
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<p>
It seems Gelato does not like to render polygons. To confirm this we tessellated the scene to the rendering tessellation level and this time Mental Ray took just over a minute, while Gelato takes just over three minutes. Finally, a scene <BR>
using Maya’s subdivision surfaces took one minute to render in Mental Ray, while Gelato took 44 seconds.
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<p>
If you work with NURBS, Gelato works out twice as fast as Mental Ray. If you model with polygons then Gelato can be dramatically slower than Mental Ray in Maya, while subdivision surfaces are approximately a third faster. 
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<p>
Gelato is great if you feed it the right kind of scene. However, this isn’t always an option, and its methodology means you might have to change your hardware set-up to suit its needs.
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Image courtesy of Frantic Films.
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