Adobe's Project Felix was one of 2016's most exciting new creative applications. The creators of its rendering engine – V-Ray – discuss what Adobe could add from it to Project Felix in the future.
Project Felix's arrival in early November 2016 was a surprise. Alongside expected updates to the tools you already use - from Photoshop to After Effects - Adobe used its Adobe Max conference in San Diego to launch a brand new application that spans 2D and 3D content creation.
Felix is a simplified 3D application for designers, photographers and retouchers who currently work in Photoshop rather than a full 3D suite like Maya. There are no complex particle systems, character rigging tools or even modelling tools at all. Instead it works like a virtual photo studio. You bring in a 3D model, add or change the textures, place it and transform its size, position lights [and a camera], put a backdrop behind it. Then you shoot (well, render).
That’s not to say that there’s no complexity to Project Felix - it’s just hidden away from the user. Underpinning both the live preview that you see on screen when you’re working and the final render is Chaos Group’s V-Ray rendering engine – a full-spec professional renderer that’s used in a wide range of industries from architects such as the Nordic Office of Architecture for visualisations of Istanbul New Airport (soon to be the world's busiest) for CG characters, castles and dragons in Game of Thrones, to fully animated films like the Final Fantasy movie Kingsglaive.
Chaos Group has been working with Adobe on Project Felix since 2015, and the application has access to the full feature set of V-Ray – if Adobe wants it. The level of control that you have with the full V-Ray has been simplified for the intended audience, while other features haven’t been implemented yet – likely because the application is still an early beta – and could be added later.
“Adobe hasn’t reworked V-Ray,” Chaos Group’s CCO Lon Grohs tells me. “With Project Felix, they’ve made the UX as simple and intuitive as possible for people to render photorealistic images."
New tools for Project Felix?
Lon notes that there are a number of key features in the full V-Ray that Adobe could implement or tap into in Project Felix to help it more realistic results or improve overall performance. Being able to adjust the depth-of-field of the camera is one much requested on the Project Felix user forum – and something V-Ray supports.
For faster rendering, V-Ray can use your computer’s GPU (ie its graphics card or chip) as well as its CPU – or you can do the rendering on a server on your network or in the cloud. Adobe has already said it will add support for GPU-based rendering in a future version of Project Felix – but rendering in the cloud is very much a future possibility too.
Adobe will also have access to newer versions of V-Ray as they are released, says Lon – and will be able to choose whether to implement these features or not. One of these he mentions is adaptive lighting, which is complex – read Chaos Group’s blog post if you want the full background – but essentially makes rendering faster/better when you have lots of lights in a scene.
If you don’t have experience or knowledge of 3D tools such as Cinema 4D or Maya, you may be wondering why Project Felix using V-Ray is a big deal. Well, just look at the realism of the visual effects work created by Illoura on the last season of Game of Thrones (below)– the CG elements of which were rendered using V-Ray. This is many, many levels above the mediocre 3D rendering engine built into Photoshop.
When asked what the key advantages of V-Ray are, Lon of course mentions quality – but also speed and hardware compatibility. V-Ray runs on both Mac and Windows – and can work efficiently on lower-spec PCs – including laptops.
The first beta of Project Felix shipped just before Christmas - and is available only to paid subscribers to Creative Cloud. A minor update was released last week. You can download it from within the Creative Cloud desktop app.