Corona for 3ds Max
Corona Renderer delivers high quality, physically-based shading in production rendering. All its features are tightly integrated into Autodesk 3ds Max.
Corona Renderer delivers predictable, reliable, and physically plausible results with no compromises in quality. Realistic lighting and materials are yours right out of the box. The sections below provide great examples of the quality that Corona Renderer can produce. If you want to know more about the technology behind it, read on!
Rendering by Bertrand Benolt
Corona Renderer offers both biased and unbiased rendering solutions.
By default, Corona Renderer uses a slightly biased solution, very close to being unbiased but considerably reducing render times. This is the recommended solution and works without you having to do any setup whatsoever. Corona Renderer will always deliver crisp, realistic results without splotches, interpolation artifacts or any other visual imperfections.
Rendering by Eduard Callman
Although most users never need it, the option does exist to choose to render in a fully unbiased mode using advanced rendering algorithms like BDPT/VCM. These algorithms can enhance certain specific features in rendering, such as caustics, but with the associated performance penalty.
Traditionally, you had to choose between using unbiased algorithms with no caching and accept long render times, or using biased caching algorithms and deal with splotches, missing shadows, and sensitive input parameters. Corona Renderer merges the best of both worlds – the UHD cache is significantly faster than plain path tracing, but does not suffer from artifacts, missing contact shadows, or complicated UI controls.
The UHD cache uses only partial caching, so does not try to interpolate everything. While this is slower than a fully cached solution (such as irradiance caching), it does not create artifacts, only noise that eventually goes away.
The UHD cache is an ideal solution for animation, and significantly reduces flickering even when light sources or geometry are moving. This is especially important when the cache cannot be precomputed.
Animation by Ludvík Koutný
Usability is Corona's strongest weapon, as Corona is one of the easiest to learn render engines. Its setup is really as simple as pressing “Render”. Most new users will learn Corona in just one day, and fall in love with it over the next few.
Rendering by Dmitry Grankin
Corona Renderer's mission is to liberate users from the technical, unnatural process that rendering was in the past. The Developers are constantly trying to simplify the creative process by removing or hiding any unnecessary technical settings, so artists can focus on their vision. The era of studying manuals and sampling tweaking is over. Just press render and let Corona do its magic
Rendering by Dmitry Grankin
Corona Renderer was developed in tight cooperation with the artist community
. Its creators are former artists as well, so this collective knowledge and experience played a huge role in the design and development. This approach is called A.D.D. – Artist Driven Development
Rendering by Andre Holzmeister
Corona Renderer is extremely flexible. The developers understand how important it is to be able to “bend” physical laws to deliver the results your clients expect. So Corona supports numerous reality hacks which allow you to get exactly the effect you desire.
Abandoned House by Irakli Shubashikeli
You can make any light source invisible to the camera, as well as invisible to reflections/refractions. Shadows can be turned on/off and specific objects can be included/excluded from receiving illumination from any Corona light. Backplates can be easily created with the invisible to GI option. 3ds Max default lights are fully supported.
The Rayswitcher material and texture allow a wide range of artistic tweaks when rendering with Corona. Use them to create materials invisible to camera, to create materials that don’t affect GI, to reduce or increase color bleeding, to have an object show differently when it is reflected vs. viewed directly, and more.
You can use different environment maps for reflections, refractions and direct visibility from the camera. For example you can use a clear sky HDRI as a light source and a second cloudy HDRI just for reflections and refractions.
Caustics can be difficult to compute, especially when using path tracing. But in many cases, water or glass look plausible even without caustics, window glass panels being prime examples. Because of this, the decision has been made to disable caustics by default. This significantly reduces render times, and if caustics are needed they can easily be enabled with the “Caustics” checkbox in Corona material.
Corona implements its own shadow catcher (matte/shadow) solution. It is a single material with all the necessary controls in one place – there is no need to combine special materials with other special texmaps. It works especially well with their interactive rendering for rapid camera and illumination matching. Advanced features, such as light illuminators and matte bump mapping, are of course supported.
Rendering by Ludvik Koutny
Using a Corona Camera, you can export images in Spherical or Cubemap format ready for viewing in a wide range of VR applications.
While stereoscopic and panoramic images can be used in any VR software of your choice, there is especially close integration with theViewer from theConstruct, allowing you to create and manage your warp points in 3ds Max without the need for an external editor.
Speed & Interactivity
Speed is an important factor in any production environment, and a renderer must always deliver results as fast as possible.
As a result, Corona Renderer is obsessed with speed! The Developers like to hunt for milliseconds in their own code, and are always looking for ways to cut down parsing and rendering times without forcing users to buy expensive hardware, by focusing on creating smart algorithms under the hood. In every released version, the Developers look to boost the speed of rendering as much as possible as well as adding new features.
Corona Renderer uses Intel Embree Ray Tracing Kernels, making the CPU–only Corona as fast as many GPU renderers but without any of the limitations of GPU–based solutions…
The denoising feature analyzes noise in the 3D space, so is not just a 2D post–process. You can use it to reduce the number of passes needed to get a noise–free image, with render time reductions of 50 to 70% reported to us by third parties in commercial usage (not in carefully crafted test scenes!). It will also remove fireflies (hot pixels) from an image, and can be used only in that mode if required.
Denoising is seamlessly integrated into the core as a one–click solution. The denoising level can be interactively adjusted in the VFB after rendering is complete, so that you are not locked in to the level set in the rendering options. This lets you check and adjust the blending between the regular and the denoised image without having to re–render. You can also calculate Denoising in the Corona Image Editor rather than at render time and without the overhead of working in a 3D application.
To learn more about it, you can watch the tutorial from when Denoising was released:
Corona Renderer aims to make you faster as well as your renders, with a workflow that is second–to–none. Thanks to its fully–featured Interactive Rendering, Corona Renderer brings you all the same advantages as a GPU render engine but without any of the drawbacks and limitations.
You can change materials, lights, and create or adjust geometry and see your interactive render respond almost immediately. It runs completely on the CPU, so it has no limitations and won’t care what graphics card you have installed.
Interactive rendering is an integral part of the Corona core and shares over 99.9% of the regular renderer code. This means that all features of Corona Renderer are supported, and that the results are exactly the same as your final render – you can render motion blur, DOF, create proxies, scatter systems and more, all with instant feedback.
Because interactive and regular renderer are almost identical, all types of geometry and proxies are supported, and the same goes for all the 3ds Max maps and third party maps. Even the advanced third party plugins, such as Itoo Forest Pack, or hair and fur from Ornatrix, and Hair Farm, work as expected. You can find a full list of supported plugins in the Resources section.
Interactive Rendering also offers as many render regions as you like, which can be moved and resized as you choose. This means that so that they can act as a “sample brush”, letting you paint–in areas which you want to refine faster or inspect at better quality.
If you want to know more about the differences between CPU and GPU solutions, you can see here why Corona Renderer is proudly CPU based.
Corona Renderer brings you state of the art, fully-featured interactive rendering.
Rendering by Andrey Minakov
Corona handles scenes with many lights without problems and with no penalty to render time, so that you don’t have to worry about trying to optimize your scene. There is no render time penality whether 15 or 1,500 lights are rendered.
This balances out the rendering calculations over the image to focus more processing power on tricky areas like shadows. By keeping noise more evenly distributed, this gives a usable image more quickly, and also allows Denoising to work its magic.
It’s time to explore the individual aspects of Corona, and this section will start where it all begins, with lights. The whole process of creating lights is designed to give artists complete control over their scene, while being fast and intuitive.
Rendering by Maxim Kagirov
There are no sampling parameters that you would have to set by trial and error. Lights will always work as expected.
There is no difference in behavior between a Corona Light object and a geometry object with the Corona Light Material applied – both of them have almost the same options and deliver the same results, so it is up to the artist to use what is more convenient!
In Corona, there is very little penalty for using mesh lights which have a high polycount. They will perform as well as low–poly ones with the same shape. Also, directional and IES lights render almost as fast as regular diffuse lights.
There’s no need to set up an object to act as a dome light for HDR image–based rendering – just put your HDRI into the 3D software’s environment and you are done! There is also no need to put downsampled / blurred versions of the map into a GI override slot – HDRIs in Corona always work fast and without splotches, regardless of resolution or complexity.
Corona Renderer was the first production render engine to implement the most accurate sky system available today – the Hošek-Wilkie sky. It is currently selected as the default whenever sun and sky is used, so adding those to your scene will get you instant realistic daylight.
With just a single click, you can set up the Interactive LightMix, a feature unique to Corona Renderer that lets you change the color and intensity of lights during or after rendering.
You can then save your LightMix setups for reuse from any camera or render location within the scene, letting you render just one time and save versions of the render with different lighting. With this, one render can give you a daytime scene, a nighttime scene, different lights turned on and off, and more.
You can also save the separate light passes for compositing or animating later in post-production, which means a single frame can be turned into an animation where the lighting changes.
Take a look at the Interactive LightMix in action in these tutorial videos:
Rendering with multiple computers at once is essential for any real production. Corona facilitates this in multiple ways. It has its own distributed rendering system, and it is compatible with the Backburner and Thinkbox’s Deadline render farm management systems. It is also supported on a number of commercial render farms.
Setting up Corona Renderer’s distributed rendering (DR) is easy. Just make sure all render nodes have Backburner and Corona DR server installed on them. The search process is automatic and Corona Renderer can even search for render nodes during rendering – render nodes will connect and disconnect automatically as you turn the computers on or off, without stopping the render!
When using Corona DR, you don’t have to give a second thought to where your assets are located – slaves will automatically gather models and textures before rendering.
3ds Max is spawned immediately on slaves after the DR server starts, letting them begin rendering much faster. Corona DR works with adaptivity, respect VFB render regions, while the UI keeps you informed of the status of all the slaves, how much memory they are using, and how many passes they have contributed to the current render.
Powerful Workflow Tools
As former CG artists, the Corona Team knows that the output quality and speed are not the only things that make a great renderer. That is why Corona Renderer comes with many powerful tools to accelerate your workflow that will make you faster as well as your renders!
Extensive Post–Processing, Inside the VFB
Save time (and money) by reducing or even removing the need to use third–party software to carry out post–production work on your renders, thanks to the extensive range of post–processing tools available directly inside the Corona VFB. All of these can be adjusted before, during or after rendering, and settings saved for instant re–use in any scene.
Take a look at how much control you have over your final render with the list of effects below:
- Exposure – Controls the overall exposure of the image.
- Highlight Compression – Compresses highlights in the image to reduce/remove burned–out areas.
- White Balance – Controls the white balance of the image.
- Contrast – Adjust the contrast of the image.
- Saturation – Controls the overall color saturation.
- Filmic highlights – Controls a subtle highlight compression without loss of color saturation.
- Filmic shadows – Controls the richness/saturation of shadows in the image.
- Vignette intensity – Applies a subtle, realistic vignette.
- Color tint – Adjust the overall color tint of the image.
- LUTs – Allows quickly changing the overall look of the image by applying one of many ready–made LUTs. The strength of the LUT effect can be controlled using the LUT Opacity so that it is not “all or nothing”. A variety of LUTs are provided along with Corona.
- Bloom & Glare – Bloom is a large, soft glow around bright areas in the image, while Glare is a small, sharp glow with adjustable rays around bright areas. The color of these effects can be adjusted using the Color Intensity and Color Shift parameters.
- Sharpening/Blurring – This first blurs an image and then sharpens it, useful to remove “pixel–perfect” noise and give a more photographic look to the final image.
- Denoising – If Denoising was enabled, this allows you to blend between the fully Denoised image and the raw render.
A quick example is given below of applying all the above effects to a finished render (although the effects can be applied and adjusted before or during rendering too):
Animation by Ludvík Koutný
The Corona Image Editor, commonly referred to as the CIE, is a standalone tool for working with your images. Its user interface is inspired by the Corona VFB, sharing its look and feel, and it offers rich and fast post–processing options for Corona EXRs saved from the VFB such as LightMix, full–featured denoising, tone mapping, LUTs, bloom and glare, curves, blur / sharpen, vignette, etc.
The benefits of the Corona Image Editor are:
- The CIE has lower system requirements than working with an image inside any 3D software – it is not necessary to have a scene loaded while you are working with your images, so you can denoise Corona renders outside of the rendering process for example, reducing the memory requirements significantly.
- All LightMix and post–processing settings can be easily shared between the VFB from any host application (such as 3ds Max and Cinema 4D) and the CIE.
- No need to copy settings manually: CXRs from the VFB are automatically loaded with their associated settings.
- It also works with regular, non–Corona EXRs (in Float format). It is possible to add bloom and glare to them, apply your tone mapping settings or a LUT, etc. Denoising and LightMix are not available for such EXRs because they miss the necessary “hidden” auxiliary data.
- It is a portable application, which works with just unpacking, no installation necessary.
- Free with a regular Corona license.
Artists can use a realistic camera model which incorporates all the common parameters, such as f–stop, shutter speed, ISO, sensor width, and aperture shape (blades/custom). This allows close matching to live footage. On top of that, you then get access to all the Corona Renderer post–processing options, panorama / VR options, the ability to set focus distance via a static or animated object in the scene, and more.
For older scenes, the legacy CoronaCameraMod modifier has been maintained, to ensure any existing scenes will still work as expected.
Corona Renderer comes with its own scatter system. Corona Scatter is designed to give a complete solution for distributing millions of high–poly meshes or proxies across geometry surfaces. A typical use is the distribution of vegetation such as grass, forests, etc.
Thanks to Corona Scatter you can create scenes with a virtually unlimited number of objects or polygons, while enjoying the luxury of a low memory footprint and high performance. It contains advanced functions like distributing and scaling objects by a texture map, distributing objects along splines, collision detection, etc.
A Scatter Lister plug–in is included, to list and control all Corona Scatters objects in a scene from one easy dialog.
Corona comes with its own proxy format, .cgeo. The format is cross platform (you will be able to use it in 3ds Max, Cinema 4D, Corona Renderer standalone, or any other future platform). It uses compression, so it is small and fast to save, load, and to upload to renderfarms. Proxy models are always converted to millimeters and properly scaled when loading into scenes that use different units.
The proxy contains human–readable metadata at the beginning of each file, for example the name of the source object and its material, making them friendly to your pipeline.
3ds Max UI Remains Unblocked While Rendering
Ever started a render, then minimized 3ds Max to get at something else on your desktop, only to find you can’t maximize Max again until the render is done? Ever started a render then wanted to check a setting in a different tab in Max, only to find that Max is locked? Those annoyances become a thing of the past, as rendering in Corona does not block the 3ds Max UI!
The UI has tooltips for most parameters, activated automatically when you hover over the controls. There is also an automatically generated online GUI manual you can consult when you do not have 3ds Max opened.
Creating masks in Corona Renderer is an easy process. You can create monochromatic as well as RGB masks simply by specifying Object ID, Material ID or by directly picking objects in the scene. You can combine different selections as union or intersection.
Render Elements Only
Waiting through a final rendering just to discover that you forgot to set one mask can be very annoying. Usually you would have to create a copy of the scene, turn off lights and GI or set up material overrides to speed things up, and render again. Corona has a better solution: simply set up the missing mask and check the “Render only masks (disable shading)“ option to render only the masks and other render elements without the time–consuming beauty pass.
Creating masks in Corona Renderer is an easy process. You can create monochromatic as well as RGB masks simply by specifying Object ID, Material ID or by directly picking objects in the scene. You can combine different selections as union or intersection.
Not Visible in Masks
The Corona Material can be made invisible to masks, while staying visible in the beauty pass. This is a very useful function, for example when you want to create masks for objects behind glass panels.
At any point during the rendering process, you can save the contents of the frame buffer into a single .CXR file. This includes all the rendering passes as well. You can then open another scene or even close the application, and later resume the original render right where you left of.
With one click you can enable the Autosave function, which will save the rendering progress every few minutes in an .exr file. So if your render or computer crashes, you have the latest progress saved. You can either use the .exr as it is if the render had progressed far enough, or resume the rendering from it if needed.
The Corona Material
The design goal for Corona materials is to make them physically based, yet intuitive, flexible, and easy to set up, without having to tweak unnecessary sampling values and other confusing parameters. You also won’t have to choose between 10 or 20 different material types, you can pretty much do it all using the single Corona Material.
GGX & PBR Workflow
Corona Renderer uses the GGX microfacet model to deliver realistic–looking metals and other glossy materials. The implementation of the GGX model fully conforms to the industry standard physically–based rendering (PBR) workflow. This model produces much more plausible results compared to legacy models such as Blinn, Phong, or Ward. Because of their state–of–the–art implementation, using this model does not incur any speed penalty unlike in other microfacet models.
Rendering by Victor Naumik
The materials also allow for easy import from third–party applications such as Allegorithmic’s Substance tools, and Quixel’s Megascans.
The new Material Library provides more than 300 ready to use materials, each with a high quality preview. The library includes easy to use functionality such as:
- Drag and drop materials into the viewport, Slate, and Compact material editors
- Materials can be viewed by category
- Can set and view only favorites
- Assign a material to the objects selected in the scene
- Select all objects in the scene that use a certain material
- Many don’t need UV mapping, as they use the Corona Triplanar map
- And more!
Material previewing uses the same rendering engine as the final frame rendering. The default 3ds Max material preview scene is replaced with a custom, more representative Corona scene, so you get a genuine “What You See Is What You Get” material editor. The example below shows the material preview on the left, and the material in a rendered scene on the right:
Volumetrics and Subsurface Scattering
Corona Renderer also features a powerful approach to Volumetrics and Subsurface Scattering.
Fully Ray Traced Solution
Historically, there were many algorithms for volumetric rendering, most of which relied on interpolation, fakes, and heavy bias to compute the result. Fortunately with modern CPUs in combination with their research, it has allowed the Developers to ditch all of these outdated options and go straight for the most accurate, 100% ray traced solution. Even the Corona Team was surprised by how fast the unbiased, un–interpolated solution could be!
Dedicated Skin Shader
Skin is one of the most complex materials to render, with many unique properties that cannot be covered in an all–purpose shader. The new CoronaSkinMtl shader makes it easy to control and adjust the look of the skin, and renders fast and efficiently with realistic results.
Even if you have never tried rendering realistic skin before, you’ll find it easy to use and will get great results with the default settings.
Simple Setup for general SSS materials
Setting up volumetric scattering or SSS is often especially challenging, but Corona Renderer’s implementation in the all–purpose Corona Material makes it simple. It doesn’t need any sampling controls, as all sampling is done automatically. This makes its UI extremely simple: just set up the scattering and absorption properties for Volumetric mode (for liquids, glass, clouds, etc.) or the Amount, Radius and Scatter color for SSS mode (for skin, wax, food, etc.), and press “Render”.
Dedicated Hair Shader
You can’t have a great skin shader without also having a great hair shader! Corona Renderer’s dedicated hair shader keeps with their philosophy of delivering physical realistic results, fast rendering, and a simple UI. Once again, even if you have never rendered hair or fur before, you will get great results even from the defaults.
Edith by Markus Skibinski
Corona Renderer also supports native 3ds Max hair and fur, and Ornatrix and Hair Farm, so that the Hair shader will work for you, whatever plugin you use.
Some refractive materials bend light by a different amount depending on the wavelength of the light. This is called dispersion and creates a rainbow effect in the refracted light. Dispersion can be enabled in the standard Corona Material, and is controlled by the single Abbe number parameter. Enabling it adds realism to gemstones, glass, liquids and other materials.
By default, 3ds Max treats bump maps differently, so that some maps do not work as inputs to bump mapping. The Corona Bump Converter resolves this, allowing you to use any map as an input to the bump map channel in a shader. It also lets you use the 3ds Max native Output to apply adjustments to your bump map and get the results you would expect.
Many Maps to Choose From
Corona Renderer comes with many useful maps that you will soon find indispensable, such as Ambient Occlusion, UVW randomization, Multimap, Triplanar mapping, and more. Next we will take a look at just one here, the Corona Distance map.
This flexible map can be used with Corona Scatter to easily achieve effects like keeping paths, roads, etc clear of plants and trees, and can also be used for creative effects such as adjusting materials based on distance to place ripples around an object in water, to cause objects to start glowing as they move close to each other, and more – it really is only limited by your creativity!
In the example below, the ground (with water included) and log were brought over from Quixel Megascans. The “Corona Distance map disabled” image looks a little unnatural, as the water appears completely still.
By using the Corona Distance Map to add extra displacement around the log, blended with the original displacement from Megascans, the effect of ripples can be given, specifically around the log. Best of all, since this is procedural, if you move, scale or rotate the log object in the scene, the displacement effect will update automatically.
Proudly CPU Based
Corona Renderer does not need any special hardware to run. It uses the CPU and you can run it on any processor from Intel or AMD released in the past decade.
CPU by Eduardo Diez Viñuela
Why Only CPU?
By rendering only on the CPU all bottlenecks can be avoided, problems, and limitations of GPU rendering, which include the unsuitability of GPU architectures for full GI, limited memory, limited support for third party plugins and maps, unpredictability, the need for specialist knowledge or hardware to add nodes, high cost, high heat and noise, and limited availability of render farms. Read the in-depth look at the advantages of CPU-based rendering.
Using GPUs for What They Are Actually Good At
The Developers not anti–GPU in any way, they just believe in using them for what they are good at! In the future, you will see the GPU put to use by Corona Renderer, but in the areas in which the architecture excels. This will be in things like post–processing, e.g. bloom & glare, where the predictable, self–similar nature of each calculation can be shared between the processors in an efficient and effective way.
Rendering by Beso Mzhavandze
It Doesn’t Have to be Either / Or
There’s no doubt that both GPU and CPU approaches have their advantages and disadvantages, which is why you still see strong products on both sides being developed and used for commercial work.
While completely switching to only a GPU–based solution is just not worth the risk at the moment, you and your company don’t have to be on just one side or the other – with Corona’s pricing options, you can always have a CPU–based approach at your disposal to use based on the needs of each project, whether or not you also have a GPU–based alternative in your pipeline.
And in the Future…
The Developers are always watching and researching existing and upcoming technologies whether that is CPU, GPU or other coprocessors. If things change with the hardware, changes can't be ruled to the software – but right now, and for the foreseeable future, the hardware just is not at that point.
Intel Embree Ray Tracing Kernels
Corona Renderer uses the Intel Embree ray tracing kernels, the fastest CPU ray tracing primitives on the market. Since they mesh well with the Corona architecture, they are an important factor in its performance.
Bugs by Antonio Peres Filho
The Corona Renderer Team had the luxury of being able to do things differently right from the start, and took advantage of that not only in development but also when creating their licensing plans.
The Corona Renderer Team has two simple goals:
- to make Corona Renderer affordable for as many users as possible, and
- to secure reliable funding for the development of Corona Renderer so that it keeps improving.
The Global Reach of Corona Renderer
Corona is actively used in 143 countries around the world, and that means the average wage for the users can differ by a factor of 20. Even with today’s internet, most CG artists work for local customers, and that means at local prices.
The Corona Renderer Team wants to offer their product to the broadest audience around the globe for a fair price that would suit everyone. Traditional perpetual license models don’t fit this concept as they require a large up–front investment, which is unaffordable to many. That’s why they came up with the solution called FairSaaS licensing.
This is a subscription–based model without the common problems and hassle that
come with the traditional SaaS/subscription options. It is paid monthly, so it completely
eliminates any upfront investments, and can be cancelled, resumed, upgraded, or downgraded
as you go, without any additional penalties.
We are also offering student licenses with massive discounts. More details are provided in
a separate article.
Corona 1.7 for 3ds Max - New Features and Improvements
Autodesk 3ds Max x64 version 2012-2017
Windows 7, 8, 8.1 or newer
- Currently Microsoft Windows only
- Corona is x64-compatible only.
- 3ds Max version: Autodesk 3ds Max x64 version 2011-2017, Microsoft Windows (7, 8, 8.1 or newer).